Khaya on Wheels – finding new volunteer projects in Africa

January is always a time to take on new challenges. For Khaya, January 2018 will be the time to find unique and special places and people around Africa, who could use our help.

We will then be able offer these experiences to those adventurous souls willing to jump into something different. Get ready for something new and fantastic!

Going to new destinations, and adding projects to our offering can be a huge adventure – and a huge challenge. In 2011, I went to Zanzibar for the first time to visit a range of people and programs I had made contact with, online.

Reality kicked in, as it always does, and it showed me that not everyone is to be trusted in the world of travelling for volunteer work! Luckily, we met other people along the way that we put our trust in and started working with. We now help to run some great projects on this tropical island off the coast of Tanzania.

I then spent several weeks on a small motorcycle driving through the north of the beautiful and friendly country along the shores of Lake Malawi. None of the projects I contacted before visiting ended up as our partners. It was the random meetings, such as with our coordinator Justin Banda, at a backpackers’ hostel in Lilongwe, that made us finally settle in Mzuzu to work closely with several programs there.

justin malawi volunteer

The time I spent in Malawi, meeting people in the street and talking to anyone who wandered into my path, was the best way to set up a new volunteer destination. You can fly to a new country, spend 10 days and see what you can, but that does not always allow enough time to find the hidden gems.

The most important factor in finding a new volunteer destination in Africa? It’s the incredibly passionate people we like to work with the most. We want to work with people with a true need, where volunteer travelling isn’t just another safari company adding “volunteering opportunities” to their portfolio. We want to work with local people who can create a new income out of hosting volunteers, coordinating their time in the host country, and working hand-in-hand with the local projects to create a win-win situation for all involved. 

One of the strengths of Khaya Volunteer Projects, I believe, is that we have our own projects in destinations like South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi. These are projects that only we provide for and run, where (with or without volunteers) we have an ongoing relationship with them, and where the concept of volunteering is used for the benefit of those in need. 

What better way to find new destinations than to spend time in a new country not actively LOOKING for projects, but actually allowing them to come to us? It’s possible to spend 4-6 weeks in a country traveling around and meeting and speaking to as many people as possible – this will show us new opportunities to collaborate with new partner projects who need support, and to whom international volunteering is too big of a challenge for them to reach themselves.

volunteer teaching uganda

The worldwide web can be a daunting thing, and how will a small project in rural Burundi find volunteers from overseas, if they would like to use experience travel as a form of self-funding? For most of these projects it is an impossible task as resources are slim, and there is so much out there on the internet. How do they compete with big companies and organizations spending huge marketing budgets to reach a public that won’t look beyond a good fast website where a new experience can be booked and paid for with the click of a finger?

Khaya provides that opportunity for local projects, and serves as their presence online to show their need and that experience travel can actually benefit all those involved in a fair way. 

So for that reason, and the personal wish to spend some time traveling the continent I love so much, I will be taking off a year to go out and find those hidden gems in new destinations like Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Uganda and beyond.

I will be doing this in my house on wheels; Khaya. Named appropriately after Khaya Volunteer Projects, but also because Khaya means “home” in the local isiXhosa language, so there it is, a home on wheels!

camper van khaya

A 1986 Toyota Hilux Campervan has been lovingly refurbished and fixed up to withstand anything Africa can throw at it – hopefully! Solar panels, new suspension, engine overhauls, exhaust system, built-in compressor, inverter, a new interior and much more has been done to truly make it a home on wheels for me the next year.

To follow my journey, you can find me on Instagram as Khaya on Wheels where I will be sharing pictures of the incredible people and places I will encounter. In time the projects Khaya will be working with will provide new and exciting destinations for those that are looking to travel with a difference  - where their time, hands and resources serve a purpose bigger than just their own.

See you in Africa

Martijn

 

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