Have you ever been on a holiday that was so eye-opening, you vowed to make some changes — or at least, make a donation to a relevant charity — when you returned home? The good news is, you can make a real difference on your next holiday by planning some activities that will not only create life-long memories, but that will also add massive credits to your karma balance.
It can be a real shock to the system when you realise how some other cultures live and survive, and how lucky we have it in Australia.
Case in point: In Fiji, the standard income that most people working in five-star resorts live off is around AU$5,000 per year. Of course, their cost of living is a lot less than what we experience in Australia, but they also live their lives with far fewer creature comforts than we are used to.
If you’re feeling inspired to combine your next holiday with some karma building, then consider one of the following charitable options.
Support local businesses
There are plenty of ways to support the local economy directly when you’re on holidays, which helps to give back to the community. You can bypass tacky tourist shops in favour of buying locally handmade souvenirs direct from residents, or you could donate cash to local environmental parks or reserves. In Fiji, for instance, for the princely sum of FJ$20 (AU$12), you can “sponsor” a primary school classroom to visit Kula Eco Park, the country’s largest environmental awareness and conservation centre. For your donation you’ll receive a letter from your sponsored class, explaining how their trip went and what they learnt.
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Volunteer your time
Interested in visiting a foreign country, but you’re keen to use your time effectively by helping people or communities that could benefit from your skills? Organisations such as Projects Abroad will help you plan a trip to destinations such as Argentina, China, Morocco and Thailand, with placements including all food and accommodation, airport transfers, travel insurance and 24-hour back-up support. Programs are priced from $1,800 and upwards for a two-week stay, to $4,000-plus for three-month adventures.
Donate clothes and toys to local kids
When planning a recent trip to Fiji, I contacted Peter Hopgood, the general manager of our resort, to ask his opinion on what donations the local community needed most. He quickly replied that kids clothes, toys and sporting equipment were in high demand, so I asked friends and family for donations. Within a week, I had a full suitcase of goodies to donate to the local community. When we had settled in at our resort, Peter arranged for us to hand-deliver our donations to a local school where we got to meet the local kids and teachers and see what local school life is like. It was incredibly eye-opening and amazing to see how these schools operate with so few resources; for instance, the school we visited was about to have plumbed running water installed for the first time!
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Visit a community you support
If you’ve ever supported a child or donated regularly through a charity such as World Vision or CARE, you can arrange to meet your sponsored child or visit the community you’ve supported through the organisation. This is an incredible opportunity to experience a new culture and see where your donations are going and what impact they’re having on others. World Vision confirms, “Meeting your sponsored child is an experience you’ll never forget! But please note, we require at least three months’ notice to arrange a trip to visit your sponsored child.”