Traveling and volunteering simultaneously is the perfect way to see the globe and help make it a better place. However, what many people don’t know is that volunteering can sometimes do more harm than good if not done in a sustainable way.


What does “sustainable” mean in this context?


To put it simply, sustainable volunteering means that, long after the volunteers are gone the community can keep implementing resources, education, and more to improve their lives and the environment. It means that the good work propagates itself, and that the nonprofit projects answer a real need in the community in a successful way.


This, after all, is the point of volunteering — not to provide help that fades, but to give assistance that keeps on giving.


For instance, in South America, gorgeous scenery delights the senses, but in reality, much of the environment is in danger from logging, poaching, and pollution. It is the home of myriads of culturally diverse people, but many of them live in poverty. In this way, South America offers much to travellers, but it also needs much in return.


This is where volunteering in Peru and other countries comes in.


With these important factors in mind, here is how to have a successful and sustainable volunteering experience in South America.



Sustainable Volunteerism: How Travellers Can Donate Their Time Responsibly


Before heading out on a Sustainable volunteer trip to South America:


Preparing ahead of time is the key to starting a sustainable volunteering journey the right way. Here are some simple tips to consider before heading out.


  • Learn the Language


Brushing up on Spanish is a good idea for trips to South America. Learn key phrases for basic communication. If the locals speak a different dialect or language, learn key words from this, too. Being able to communicate with the locals, at least rudimentarily, is not only polite, it’s helpful.


  • Check the Weather


Study up on the specific climate for the destination. Check weather patterns, temperatures, and averages. According to World Travel Guide, Peru alone has some of the most varied weather in the world. Travellers will need to pack accordingly.


  • Understand the Organisation and Requirements


Actively research the nonprofit, directly communicate with the organisation’s members, research the volunteer work, and what is required. Volunteers need to understand the work they will be doing, the goals, what to bring, what the organisation provides, and lots of other little details. For instance, will there be a fee? Will meals be provided? What skills are required for the job?

By thinking ahead about these three factors, you can be sure to arrive at your volunteer opportunity prepared and ready to go.



During the Trip:


Travellers should be aware of how they interact with the community. They also need to understand how the project they are working with is sustainable beyond their contribution.


  • Listen More, Speak Less


At the outset, volunteers should keep their ears open. Listening to the locals and holding back personal opinions is vital to establishing understanding and respect. Volunteers also need to have a good knowledge of their surroundings and who they’re working with in order to fully appreciate the impact of their work.


  • Think Critically About the Project


What makes the project sustainable?

The indicators for this are varied. For instance, how long has it been running? Who benefits from this project? What are the mission and goals? Is the purpose being fulfilled?


  • Think in Sustainable Terms


If the project is new, how can the work be passed on and continued? Who can take up the work and keep it running? Can the project be passed on to other locals or new volunteers? This needs to be determined before the volunteer(s) leave(s).


After the Trip:


After the trip, there are many activities volunteers can form into a habit in order to further promote the organisation. This helps keep the project alive.


  • Use the power of Social Media


Travellers should use social media to promote their volunteer organisation. They can post about their experience on Facebook, Twitter, a blog, or other social channels. They can also write a review about their experience to give other travellers a great resource for choosing a sustainable volunteer organisation.


  • Connect Online


After the trip, volunteers may want to continue to offer their support or skills to the organisation in other ways. They can do this by connecting with the nonprofit online.

Online volunteering lets people lend their skills to grant writing, fundraising, networking, and web-building — all great ways to contribute to a cause remotely.


  • Make a Donation and Spread the Word


Finally, an obvious way to continue to support the organisation is to make a donation. As a previous volunteer, travellers will have the benefit of knowing exactly what their money will support, or how it will be used. Additionally, they can tell their family and friends about the cause and get them involved as well.



Sustainable Volunteering Benefits Everyone


Global volunteer opportunities are a wonderful way for travellers to donate their time and skills while they travel worldwide.

When these initiatives are sustainable, everybody wins.

Sustainable volunteering means that giving back doesn’t end when the volunteers go home. Instead, these projects continue to benefit the environment and local communities.

In short, sustainable volunteering should be the only way to travel. It’s ethical, responsible, and helps communities reach their fullest potential for growth. It also ensures that travellers are good world citizens, giving back as much as they take away from a journey.



To join the movement and become a sustainable volunteer, check out Giving Way for trusted causes and organisations that are devoted to enduring initiatives. These provide results for positive change well into the future.


9 Ways to Have a Sustainable Volunteering Experience in South America




6 thoughts on “9 Ways to Have a Sustainable Volunteering Experience in South America

  1. This was a great post to read as I have been thinking about doing some volunteering again. I have read a few horror stories in recent years about companies getting volunteers to do exactly the same things that ones before you have done, i.e. teaching children the same things over and over and thus not bringing any real benefit to the communities. I totally agree, it’s so important to research properly to know what you’re getting into and to be sure that you will be doing something to really benefit the community.

    Thanks for a thoughtful article.

    1. Hi Louise! This is Aviv from GivingWay.
      It is true that there are some volunteer companies who do not have the local community’s best interests at hearts, and that is always so terrible to hear.
      At GivingWay – we totally believe that volunteering, when done ethically and mindfully (and with direct communication with the local community), can really go a long way!

      Like you said – research is imperative!

  2. I love this article. Great tips to make sure your volunteering experience has a positive impact. Unfortunately so many organisations have made voluntourism their business and are sometimesw causing more harm then good. Researching the organisation you plan to volunteer for is so important.

    1. Hey Ellis – you are totally correct that researching the local organization is incredibly important! Direct communication with local nonprofits helps you to truly gain insight and see if this is a cause and project you would like to participate in.

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