How Footprint Travel’s Volunteer Tourism Connect Cultures and Support Community

How does Footprint Travel select the destinations for the volunteers to work on?
Due to their travel needs, we normally select destination / community not too far from the travel hub, where is also cost friendly to include in the whole travel package.

Besides, we often choose the community or village that has the potential to develop further after the volunteering activities, we feel that the development should be in continuity, where there will be other chances for the community to carry on and our support was not buried like many project where they choose very remote destinations to support but after they left the destination, the development process will only appear on their papers.

After seeing the potential to develop, we start talking to the community representatives to see their action plans in the next 3-5 years of development, the main purpose here is to see what are the gaps (something they have not planned to do yet), so that we can fill in the gaps to make a good development.

Do you give support by yourself or is there a joined work to run the project?

All projects and supports must be approved by the leaders and the villagers before we start, and the most important things is that we do go there to work ourselves, it’s a win win process that the locals / communities have to get involved in the work from the beginning until the end of the project, whether they put their money, labour and other resources into making the project that they will respect, they will use, and they will take care of it for a long time.

What have been some of the benefits to the local community and volunteers that you’ve seen?
Volunteer tourism creates a mutually beneficial relationship between the host community and the volunteers. While the most obvious benefit to the community is increasing manpower and financial support. Other indirect benefits include improved facilities and cultural exchange.

With volunteers, they have opportunities to combine their travel with local community project by staying and working amongst people from societies and cultures very different to their own. This not only helps increases cultural understanding, social awareness but also challenges themselves physically/mentally.

What kind of projects or supports you have worked with the communities?
Volunteer tourism has great impact on the local community, particularly in more remote, rural areas due to the high local development needs. This can be a short term or a long time if we do it widely from village to village at one community. Our projects include building traditional ovens, local bridge, village paths, fixing schools and/or its amenities, farming irrigation and community based tourism.



What was the most meaningful project that Footprint Travel worked on?
Walking path was built in Phu Mau village, Na Bai commune, Van Ho district, Son La Province. One of our 2014’s summer groups requesting to offer 1 week volunteering on their travels to Vietnam, they have raised the budget of 2,000 pounds to donate and asked if this money can be spent in a good way to support a poor community.
What are your top tips for volunteering in Vietnam?
Volunteering, as for me, is to share. It is a lifelong commitment, not just something to do on your trip to Vietnam. If you can do it, you can become a valuable volunteer by:

– Bring a positive attitude and learn some basic Vietnamese phrases.
– Don’t show up unprepared! Learn culture etiquettes beforehand.
– Know your role in effort of reaching the long term goals. Every big changes starts with a small help.
– Embrace a culture of sharing by being open to learn and share with your hosts
– As you step out of your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to try new things and let yourself grow


Author: Hong Anh

Hong Anh is a true story-teller. For her, travelling is about stepping out of your comfort zone. Each of her stories is a unique travel experience that is told and illustrated by her own distinctive style.

Hong Anh