At Hands on Journeys we don’t say Volunteer Tourism, we say Empowerment Tourism.

But what does that mean?

Let us try to explain the power we believe in this and why we want to get the future of travel following the #EmpowermentTourism movement…

In countries like Cambodia and India, you can see the face of poverty and for many, you can’t help feeling sorry for them.

The problem, though, is how to help them?

As outsiders, it’s not up to us to tell them what they need. If we can’t understand their life, and if we haven’t lived it, we can’t tell them how to “make it better.” Our privilege tells us otherwise, but that’s the reality. If we truly want to make a difference, we have to have compassion.

Therefore, we ask questions, we open a dialogue, and we listen.

Just a normal ‘day off’ for #HandsOnJourneys founder Simla: “So uncle, tell me what do you enjoy doing the most?” I can fix little little things “Have you ever built a bench or do you think you can do it?” Maybe, but I dont have the materials or tools to do so. “You see uncle, there is a school nearby where the students are having to sit on the dirty floor as they don’t have money to purchase the benches. How about HOJs provide you the tools & materials and I teach you how to make one. Afterwards, you are on your own to make the other 20 benches and we will cover your labor cost.” He thought I was slightly crazy but a big smile and a hug were given to me when he realised I meant business. Provide a fishing rod before teaching the man how to fish. This is what we do. #changemakers #givingback

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“What do you need?” becomes the most important question of all. “What can we do to help you?”

This is something that is often lacking with Voluntourism. Gathering a bunch of travellers to go build a school or a house – let alone being something they have never done in their lives but also doing it because that’s the project in place, is that always helping the locals?

We don’t dispute the fact that they do need a roof, a shelter or schools but there are other ways of handling the task.

The trick with volunteering is sustainability. It rarely exists because our privilege tells us to save these people. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

But, of course, it’s not quite that simple. So often we forget that, when a person is starving, that’s not the time to fill their head with knowledge. First you must give them a fish, banishing their hunger, and only then can you teach them how.

We cannot save people—that’s not up to us. But we can help people to create something for themselves. Sometimes, all a person needs is an opportunity and a little bit of support. Through providing a small opportunity to the villages, and working with them, if only to let them know that they had not been forgotten. We give them hope and that’s empowerment tourism.

Empowerment is about handing on skills, knowledge and tools. The end focus has to be how these communities and people survive and grow without help. Whether that is through job creation, a helping hand or ongoing support over a pre-planned set of time – the end result must be the same.

The school built, will they be able to fund their own books eventually? The business provided, will they be able to market and sell successfully? The new toilet, will they be able to service it down the line if needed?

Our aim at Hands on Journeys is to never leave too soon or pull out support from a community until we both agree they can be sustainable. But the key is to always aim for that day, not just focus on fixing the present but paving the way for a brighter future with celebrations of self success.

Help us spread the word, #EmpowermentTourism is here to stay!