With the A-level results in and university plans either scrapped or confirmed, the gap year exodus is soon to begin. Many young people will be seeking out character building volunteering projects in third world countries, determined to 'give something back' before years of hard study (and hard partying) take centre stage. But how informed a choice can anyone make about the volunteering trips on offer?
Everything about the experience was amazing and so different from life in England. The best parts for me were teaching and spending time with the children as it was very rewarding. Travelling at the weekend was amazing as I was able to see such things as waterfalls, national parks and tame crocodiles.
My last week at the school went beyond English lessons, playing soccer, and teaching the students how to play Knockout. A few students opened up and shared their stories with Valerie and me. Their stories were full of disappointment, life realizations, changing circumstances, and faith.
Culture shock is defined as 'the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes', and can be particularly affecting if travel itself is an unfamiliar experience. Yet travel is a means of experiencing new things and meeting new people; it's a way to find yourself as well as a discovery of the unknown.
Madagascar has many different faces. There's the wealth of biodiversity and endemic species such as the famous lemurs, but then there is also the extreme poverty and political instability. Before I arrived on my volunteering placement, I didn't really know what to expect; I'd never been out of Europe before so everything was a new experience.
Pledging to take shorter showers, using a smaller amount of water for baths, and doing the washing up in a bowl in the sink are all easy ways to reduce your personal water usage. Families have been taking pledges together.
Responsible travel that includes volunteering can the most rewarding kind, allowing the traveller an extended period of time to get to know and give something back to a community or cause.
From looking into the eye of a whale shark as you scuba dive in the Indian ocean, to reaching the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, or capturing the perfect photograph of Angkor Wat - adventure travel means something a little different for everyone.
I've worked in charities of differing sizes and different incomes. I haven't, hand on heart, seen much in the way of waste. So why do we give charities such a hard time for spending money on 'administration'? It's worth looking at what administration actually is.