Feature: Global Help Swap
This is the first time that I am featuring authors of a travel site. You see, traveling and community service are some of the passions I have. Browsing through the worldwide web for leads that can somehow help me fulfill these passions, I chanced upon the site Global Help Swap, which shares stories and tips for memorable and meaningful travel.
I immediately hit their “Contact Us” tab and sent them an e-mail inquiring about project areas for volunteer activities. Paul and Karen, the couple behind Global Help Swap, were kind enough to accommodate my inquiries. Although I still have to try some of their projects someday, I wanted to do something to support their work as I, too, share in their passion for travel that makes a difference. At some point in my life, while I was a full-time staff of Hands On Manila, I also handled our Volunteer Vacations program and Global Help Swap seems to mirror that longing I have to involve others to responsible traveling.
So, I emailed Paul and Karen once more and asked them if I could feature them in my blog, to which they readily agreed despite their busy schedule. Here’s the online interview I had with them.
(Claire of First-time Travels:) When and how did your passion for volunteering start?
(Paul of Global Help Swap:) We travelled for 18 months a few years ago and wanted to help out in the communities we visited. We eventually volunteered on a boat in Malaysia, a school in Thailand and an Ashram in Australia.
Was there a particular incident where you were inspired to combine traveling and volunteering and come up with Global Help Swap?
It was really hard to find free or low cost volunteering opportunities when we were on the road. Most agencies charge thousands of dollars to volunteer with them. Most backpackers can’t afford those fees yet they are the ones with the time and inclination to help. So we decided to provide a free service for volunteers to find small charities that are looking for help.
What were the challenges you faced in setting up Global Help Swap?
The website costs us a lot more than we envisaged. Getting the word out there has also been tricky. Trying to make a living from the website has taken longer too.
What was the most inspiring moment you had in your travels?
Hmmm, that’s a tough question. We have had some many amazing encounters with people, animals and nature on our travels. For me (Paul – ed.) it would be sitting with Orangutans in Sumatra and for Karen it would be watching sunset on the sand dunes in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
How many countries have you visited where you did volunteer work and what are these countries?
We have visited 50+ countries and have volunteered in Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and Mexico.
What are the achievements of Global Help Swap to date?
We have been rated as a top travel site by The Guardian newspaper. We have been featured in The Sunday Times and Rough Guides and we were recently nominated for best Roaming Romantics in the UK blogger awards. (We did not win dammit! ) 🙂
If you visit their site, you will find that there are volunteer opportunities in South Africa, Nicaragua, Nepal and other countries all over the globe. You can tutor children in an orphanage, build homes with families in need (I’ve been doing this a lot when I was fully involved with Habitat for Humanity!), help out in farms and gardens, or become a volunteer tour guide.
Whatever you do, you will be able to enjoy the destination, bond with the locals, and help people in need. But in the end, when you do community service as you travel, you realize that you leave behind a piece of you that inspires others while you bring with you memories, learnings and connections that touch your heart and transform your life.
Hats off to Karen and Paul for doing what they are doing. And I’m grateful to find such good souls at the other side of the globe with whom I can relate with.
Note: All photos in this article are provided by Paul and Karen.