A holiday traditionally means sun, sea and cocktails of some sort. Sure, we all require a little RNR every now and then, but consider donating your time on your next trip for a very rewarding experience. These Australian women did just that.
“My boyfriend Chris, sister Amelia and I had been travelling for over six months when we decided to do some work with Helpx. The Helpx deal is that you work in exchange for food, board and life experience. We were on the farm for a month.
Our daily routine was getting up at sunrise, feeding the sheep, then we’d have breakfast (usually Italian cake and coffee) and then we’d work (moving/stacking logs, clearing the land, planting vegetables). Then we’d have lunch (pasta, risotto) then we’d sleep for two hours before going out to clean the horses and get cleaned up for dinner.
I was 24 at the time, so it was eye-opening to see the world from such a different perspective. Their farm was really old -- we had to think about the water usage, making sure no scraps of food went down the sink,and we had to use as little chemicals, shampoos etc, as possible. We had to consider how much food was eaten-- making sure we used everything we had, but had enough to last, cooking only with what’s in season and what we had a lot of. There was only 30 people in the whole town, so life was very slow and also totally dependant on the weather and what needed attention. They made their own rules which was very different to the structured and routined life I had led with school and working in a city. It made me more aware of the world, and more appreciative -- do you know it takes seven years from planting asparagus for it to be ready to eat? I now always eat all my asparagus.
The whole time I was there I didn’t know where my wallet was -- it was so strange not to need money. They traded a lot of things too. Eggs for milk from the dairy farm for example.
It was also enlightening to think about the very real worries they had. Wolves were taking off with a calf from the dairy farm, and their sheep were in danger. They had dogs for protection, but it was really dangerous and worrying -- it risked their livelihood. They also couldn’t leave -- they couldn’t holiday because they needed to run the farm. This seemed quite exhausting and daunting.”
Alex and her partner Chris on the farm
“I was in Peru for five days with my girlfriend Petra and the charity she started ten years ago, Happy Hearts Fund -- which builds schools in disaster affected areas all around the world so that the children living there can have access to an education and a brighter future.
Although she, another girlfriend of ours Juhi and I were in Haiti a few months earlier working in an orphanage, on this particular trip we were in Peru to open a new school. Given I had just joined UGG as the head of Global PR, UGG donated 800 pairs of shoes as part of a global philanthropic initiative we are about to launch called "The UGG Foundation". Not only do the children now have a new school to go to, they also have shoes to walk to school.
Although I have been involved in many charities throughout my life, every charity and every experience changes me -- no matter how big or small. It simply isn't possible to not be affected when you meet the smiling faces of these sweet little children who are just so grateful for the most basic of needs be it food, shelter, an education or even shoes.
I remember my photographer and I were traveling to the school, and we stopped off on the side of the road to talk to a young mother and her son. They were sitting in the dirt playing with an empty plastic bottle and he was enthralled by it. It was so simple and yet so beautiful.
Traveling the world and seeing the world through other people's eyes makes you incredibly grateful, humble and lights something within you to want to do more."
Alice with the schoolchildren in Peru
Karina Findley, global mobility coordinator at Sirva, volunteered at an orphanage in Madurai, India, through Projects Abroad.
“I was only there for two weeks which is quite short compared to others, however it was something I had always wanted to do and I did feel it was enough time to get a real sense of achievement.
We would work Monday to Friday 8-12pm and then 4-6pm. During the mornings we would bathe and dress the children, followed by making and feeding them their bottles. For the remaining time we would hug and play with the babies -- some that were older so we would help them to crawl/walk, and play ball games. We had four of us volunteering at the same time, some preferred the baby duties whilst others preferred to play with the older children, which worked out well for all.
We all took gifts over such as stickers, which the children were amazed by, and also bubbles. A lot of the children didn’t speak English, however a few spoke it well and we would teach them more english. From 4-6pm we would feed the babies again and help the older ones with their homework.
Weekends we had to ourselves. The other volunteers would travel around, however as I had such a short amount of time, so I chose to work to allow me to spend more time with the children.
The experience has made me more appreciative of what I have and that when times “feel tough” there are always those that are less advantaged, yet are the happiest of people you will ever meet. I really enjoyed the Indian culture from the madness on the roads ( how I survived a rickshaw is beyond me) to sitting on the floor only being allowed to eat with your right hand, followed by the power cutting out, which was “totally normal”.
It was very heartbreaking hearing each child’s story -- mostly there were girls there as girls are not wanted. There were also two girls who had down syndrome that were not wanted, and dumped because of this. It was a complete eye opener as to how the other world live yet are so grateful for what they do have. This is something I would most definitely look at doing again. Next time I would like to visit Africa on the HIV/Aids programme.”
Karina with the children at the orphanage