A couple of weeks ago, I caught the end of the movie Invictus with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. It’s the story of how Nelson Mandela used the Rugby World Cup in South Africa to unite a team and country to help heal the country of its racism issues and the divide between the blacks and whites.
I write a lot about sports and travel and how the two can work together to unite people of different cultures. This movie was a perfect example of that. However, it also made me think about my travels.
My first international flight led me to the country of Estonia. This trip was a with a church group in college so while our volunteer work there was different than other types of volunteer travel, it pushed me out of my comfort zone to reach out to people and learn more about them.
My first real travel experience allowed me to connect with the local culture with a desire to help people.
Admittedly, not all of my travels are about that. I haven’t I still haven’t forgotten that experience. The movie Invictus reminded me that there are lots of people who need help in various ways. And travel is a great way to do that.
South Africa still has racism issues. These go much deeper than many people realize. Once again, I was reminded how travel can help people.
Recently, I learned a little more about Lattitude Global Volunteering. After watching the movie on South Africa, I was moved to go back to where it all started for me.
Here’s a closer look at volunteering in Africa and other places around the world. For me, this is just a good reminder how travel can change the world.
Lattitude Global Volunteering – volunteer travel can change the world
Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Lattitude Global Volunteering, this past month celebrated the 40,000th volunteer who set off for a life changing experience. Now the charity is in search of more volunteers between the ages of 17 and 25 to help with projects in South Africa.
Lattitude originally launched under the name “GAP Activity Projects” in 1972. In the early 1970s traveling outside of your own country was uncommon in comparison with today. Most of the trips that were taken abroad were in search of sunshine and tourists weren’t all that interested in local culture.
But that wasn’t the case for everyone. The hippies of the 60s and 70s had been going on spiritual quests to places such as India and Ibiza (before it gained its current reputation) for years. There were other groups of people also looking to expand their minds through traveling.
They didn’t just want to see a new part of the world and soak in its sunshine. They wanted to mix with the local community and even leave a positive impact on it.
GAP Activity Projects was founded to provide these young people with an opportunity of doing good work for others while getting to see some of the world. This would be beneficial to both the host community and the volunteers.
As the charity grew, representatives from it would go to schools to talk to students in their final year about the possibility volunteer work they could take part in over the following year. Derived from the charity’s name, the idea of having a year of volunteering after school and before university became known as a “gap year” in the UK. The phrase is now growing in usage in other countries.
Over time, the phrase “gap year” began to take on a wider meaning of simply having a year between school and a career or further education. GAP now runs under the name Lattitude Global Volunteering. The new name better reflects the volunteer and travel aspects of the organization as opposed to just taking a year off to travel.
Lattitude now offers volunteer work in countries around the world including Argentina, China, Ecuador, Fiji, Ghana, Vietnam and other exotic locations. This year, with their 40,000th volunteer under their belt, Lattitude are particularly focused on increasing the number of volunteers they have operating in South Africa.
Placements in South Africa are available in Johannesburg and Cape Town as well small town and rural areas. There are a number of positions open for school assistants, teachers, activities’ instructors and carers. The placements are suitable open minded and resilient individuals who are mature and culturally sensitive. If you are interested, volunteering in South Africa lasts between 5 and 6 months.
Travel with a purpose
I appreciate the work that Lattitude Global Volunteering is doing. However, I’ve had to question my own travel desires. A number of travelers are doing some great projects around the world. Gareth Leonard has been working on a project to support literacy in Bolivia.
Then I think about the movie Invictus again and wonder can we really make a difference and heal the hurts between people, bring cultures together, and provide for those in need?
Take a look at an organization like Passports with Purpose to see how they’ve used travel to raise money for projects like building a school in Cambodia, a village in India, and libraries in Zambia.
All of this has made me stop and think – how much of an impact can volunteer travel have on our world today?
After Adam’s travels around the world, he is currently doing his best to let everyone know about the work of Lattitude Global Volunteering and the great opportunities they provide. So if you know of someone who is approaching the point in their life where they need to make the big decision about what to do after school life ends, it might be worth suggesting getting involved with a volunteer program such as the ones offered by Lattitude. It could change their life!
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