If you type “Voluntourism.com” into your browser, it will take you a while to find any information on “voluntours”. Instead, you will be taken to a site that screams out in garish red and yellow, “Travel Around the World! Thailand Travel! San Diego Hotel & Conventions!” Adding to the confusion is a split screen on the left announcing “The Signature Group” of Internet Marketers. Apparently, these professionals provide websites for various organizations, one of which must be Voluntourism. Scroll your way past the various hotel convention links and you will be rewarded with the heading, “Voluntours.”
If you click on the first link, Travel with Purpose, you finally hit a website that explains Voluntourism, which is just what it sounds like: a combination of volunteering and tourism. This site, while slightly out of date (references are to 2000-2003) focuses mainly on opportunities in San Diego. Visitors to the area can get involved in community service for a few hours or a few days. “This short time commitment allows VolunTourists to still experience the wealth of discovery via local attractions, arts and culture, and the finer amenities of shops and restaurants,” according to Travelwithpurpose.com.
The next link, video volunteer, will take you to a website with sponsored links to volunteering opportunities from the Peace Corps to nonprofit jobs, but most of the links are purely commercial. If you were truly seeking ways to volunteer or even voluntour, a standard web search would yield more relevant results.
The next link, Volunteer tourism, takes you to another site that has the exact same information as Travel with a Purpose, but the pictures are different. This site’s URL reads: http://www.volunteertourism.com/. To add to the confusion, someone has added hundreds of keywords at the bottom of the homepage ranging from volunteer management software to Tennessee Volunteer; surely an invitation for people looking for something other than opportunities to volunteer while touring San Diego.
If you’re interested in “voluntouring” outside the United States, the fourth link will take you to http://www.voluntour.com/ (note the slash at the end it’s important.) If you click on the link to get to the main site, you will be taken to something that looks suspiciously like travel with a purpose; this time with a new header, but the same written information. Skip that and look at the tiny links below. The first one, called “Voluntour programs” will finally take you to a site that offers information on a rich variety of volunteer opportunities from caring for elephants in Thailand to working with orphans in China. Click around these links for a general overview, but click to the specific organizations for current information. The most recent events on this site are from 2005 and there are references to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 so it’s hard to know how active the links will be, but the site also offers snail mail, e-mail, URL and other contact information for those who finally make it that far. To go to this site directly, try http://www.voluntour.com/voluntour_voluntour-programs.htm#United. At least, that’s what showed up in my browser when I finally got there.
If you’re still interested in San Diego, the voluntour.com/ (with a slash at the end) website has the best specific information. The “toolkit for local action link” lists activities that families or even conference-goers can do as voluntours in the area. For example, participants can assemble bikes for their favorite children’s charity, beautify a beach or local school, work with kids or youth, or create works of art for area hospitals. Each description includes an estimated cost, how many people can participate and what to wear.
Going back to voluntour.com, you will find a list of links to: VolunTour Africa, VolunTour Agency, VolunTour America, VolunTour Asia, VolunTour Europe, VolunTourism, VolunTourist, VolunTour Mexico, VolunTours, VolunTour San Diego, VolunTour Thailand. Clicking on these will take you to one of the sites mentioned above, so I wouldn’t recommend wasting your time.
It’s unfortunate that such a worthy cause is so hard to find by typing in “voluntour dot com.” Most people would never think to add that all-important slash at the end. Without it, you will have to do a lot of clicking before you finally find what you’re looking for. If you want information on “voluntouring” be sure to add the slash at the end. Or easier still, enter “voluntour” in a Google search and the first link will take you to it directly.