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Vacationing on fantastic coasts and doing good, like clearing coral reefs from waste – that is the simple but ingenious idea of Volunteer World. Since 2015, Duesseldorf-based Meaningful Travel GmbH has been offering this new way of travelling. Just like when we introduced the „Northdrift“ movie, this article of our Valdivia Future Series deals with the state our oceans are in – this time in combination with a hot tip for a very special kind of vacation.
Mixing Purpose with Pleasure
Oceans cover two thirds of the earth’s surface and they are of fundamental value for life on our planet. Yet, as gigantic as these water expanses are – as a resource they have already reached their limit. It is mostly the way they are misused as a waste dump which has reached shocking dimensions. But there is some good news, too: more and more enterprises and projects are striving to contain this influx of garbage. The waste is collected at river mouths, on beaches, out in the open sea, or under water and then recycled, if possible.
Volunteer World’s idea is an especially creative one: Why not join a good purpose with pleasure, thought founder Pascal Christiaens, who was awarded the title of „Meaningful Business Leader“ for this in 2022. Volunteer World today offers this combination of holidays and volunteer work in 78 countries and is part of a network of more than 200 projects. Ocean protection projects all over the world have been part of Volunteer World’s program right from the start. Further holiday activities in their catalogues include not only animal and environmental protection, or charity and educational work, but also humanitarian aid.
Worldwide, more than 140,000 people are registered with Volunteer World. In 2022, close to 1,150 volunteers were active in ocean and sealife protection only. Today, the organisation places volunteers with almost 150 projects entirely or partly committed to ocean and sealife protection. Even if their goals differ in some aspects, disposal of waste found in the seas is always an important part of their activities. Costa Rican NGO MareBlu’s clean-up program is a prominent example for this: they collect, sort, and dispose of waste found along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast on a daily basis.
Volunteer World’s success is not a coincidence. Whoever joins in will learn first-hand that they can do so much more than just watch the developments in dismay. You will not be missing out on the holiday feeling, though, since you will be spending time at the most gorgeous places in Mozambique, Indonesia, Costa Rica, on the Bahamas, or at the Great Barrier Reef off Australia. The program also has European projects, e.g. in Portugal, Italy or Spain.
Diving into a Wonderful World
The field of ocean protection has a large number of jobs, some on land, some in the water. The latter will obviously have to do with diving. Mind you, this is not necessarily an obstacle: At an extra charge, you can still obtain the required diving qualification right where the project is. Courses range from “PADI Open Water” to Divemaster and a variety of specializations. What is more, an experienced supervisor will always be with you under water. So, from beginner to experienced diver, everybody is welcome to join these projects – with or without diving experience!
This year, Volunteer World is offering 58 of such projects and they are not limited to collecting waste or removing damages caused by waste. It is about preserving the ocean’s ecosystem as a whole, in other words the different underwater habitats and their creatures. Of course, each program has its own focus. Potential activities include:
A Beach Holiday With a Special Benefit
In order to improve the health of the oceans and their populations, there is, of course, a lot to do on land as well. Preserving coastal vegetation, for instance, is important to bring to a halt erosion of beaches and on-going loss of habitats. Further jobs include uncluttering beaches or instructing coastal residents on waste prevention as well as environmental and ocean protection. At times, it is also necessary to gather scientific data. This helps to better understand local issues and convince decision-makers of new approaches and solutions.
Participants in the program have to be 18 or 21 years of age, have a basic command of English or Spanish as well as a good level of physical fitness. Otherwise, there are hardly any restrictions – and many extra benefits: Giving concrete and useful help is in itself already a valuable experience. Moreover, you will meet interesting people, get in close touch with the host country’s culture and have the chance to boost your language skills. And an especially interesting thing for university students: Many universities will allow for this volunteer work to count as an internship or a study course.
Meaningful Travel GmbH — Volunteer World