It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.
We’ve all sat in our drab office on a Friday afternoon and daydreamed about our next vacay; reclining back on a sun lounger by the beach in the Caribbean, sipping on a cocktail underneath a swaying palm tree.
Maybe a beach getaway isn’t your thing, and you’re picturing yourself hiking up a South American mountain, reaching the summit and seeing a view that (quite literally) takes your breath away. Or perhaps you’re more like me, and prefer to spend your TGIFs getting mentally lost in the maze-like cobblestone back alleys of Italy, powered by a belly full of delicious pasta.
Whatever your vacay fantasy, chances are it doesn’t involve volunteering your time working in healthcare in a developing country. And that’s because, where you live, serious health issues like cervical cancer probably aren’t even really on your radar, aside from those 10 mildly uncomfortable minutes in your doctor’s office once every couple of years, when it’s time to go for your regular pap test.
But the horrifying reality is, cervical cancer, a highly preventable cancer kills more than 270,000 women each year – 90 per cent of whom live in developing countries where testing isn’t readily accessible.
It’s an issue which is promoting many regular women to forgo their traditional cocktail-sipping holidays for ‘voluntouring’; an altruistic new travel trend that’s all about getting your vacay high out of giving back…
What is ‘voluntouring’?
‘Voluntourism’ is all about visiting another country with the intention of doing humanitarian work. (In case you missed it, it’s a hybrid term formed from the words ‘volunteer’ and ‘tourism’, which is exactly what the entire enterprise is about.)
The Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) is one organization tackling the issue of cervical cancer through its voluntouring adventures, which give people the chance to visit the work in developing countries that’s providing life-saving screening and vaccinations for cervical cancer.
Voluntouring adventures truly provide a ‘best of both worlds’ situation – most of the programs dedicate a chunk of time to the volunteering side of things, but there’s still plenty of time for playing and exploring on your own touristy terms.
So, what are the benefits?
Cervical cancer is largely preventable through a combination of vaccinations and regular screening – and this is why the ACCF is dedicating voluntouring adventures to areas where women are unnecessarily dying from it.
A lot of us travel to experience a completely new culture, but leave having really only experienced big, commercial tourist attractions. Actually getting a chance to volunteer in the community helping local women have access to life-saving healthcare, however, offers a new perspective simply unattainable in most other travel scenarios, and more importantly, provides the money-can’t-buy feeling of knowing you’re making a meaningful impact in the world.
The complete cultural immersion of voluntouring also means you can form a real connection with the place and people you’re volunteering to help, too. Essentially, voluntouring provides all of the benefits of regular travelling, but adds a completely unique experience, and the positive aspects of volunteering as the ultimate cherry on top.
Okay I’m sold. How do I help?
Finding a good voluntouring program is key, not only for guaranteeing you’ll fully experience the country and make a difference, but also for ensuring the program you’re undertaking isn’t exploitative of the people in the community.
The Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation’s voluntouring adventures provide people the chance to help stamp out the issue of cervical cancer in developing countries like Nepal in a completely safe environment with fully accredited tour leaders whose sole intention is to provide life-saving healthcare to women in need.
While women like you and I have the luxury of getting a convenient Pap Text-TEXT to remind us it’s time to get our next potentially life-saving cervical cancer screening, women in Nepal don’t even have access to a doctor a lot of the time.
So if you’re passionate about women’s health, and want to step outside the box on your next vacay by rolling up your sleeves to help make a real difference in the world, voluntouring with the ACCF might just be the perfect ‘two birds, one stone’ situation for you. Start packing.
Images via giphy.com, theodyssyonline.com, tenor.com.
Comment: Would you ever go voluntouring?
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