African Impact is one of the biggest voluntourism organizations in Africa. They offer foreigners the opportunity to stay in a particular place where they can help a project on the ground in a very structured way. Each year, more than 2,500 people are involved in various projects which have an impact in conservation, healthcare and education. Greg Bows, co-founder and managing director of this social enterprise, helps us to understand its model.
Interview conducted in April 2014.
Why African Impact was created?
Greg Bows, “African Impact was created in 2004 because we saw the need to give people amazing experiences and in the same time help them to make a real tangible difference to the conservation, communities and people of Africa. Voluntourism is a perfect combination of all of that.”
What is the concept of African Impact?
“We run 60 to 70 different projects. If you want to volunteer, the best thing is to have a look on our website to get information about the different kind of volunteering projects, and find the project that appeals most to you. Then, you can talk to our destination managers to prepare your trip… and let’s go!“
Can you give two examples of projects on the ground?
“One example is Stelucia in Kwazulu Natal where we run three projects. It is a touristic town with a national park and we work with the communities around it in different fields like healthcare, HIV/AIDS education, literacy, family support or community gardening.
In the Masai Mara, in Kenya, our volunteers are based just outside the reserve and work on conservation projects. We provide assistance to researchers and conservationists on what is happening in the reserve: erosion, animals, migration patterns, weather… “
Why do volunteers choose African Impact?
“We want all volunteers to have a great time, so they always have a really good fun when they are working on the projects. They meet like-minded people in a place that is very nice to stay. In the same time, they make a tangible difference. Moreover, African Impact run and manage all the projects, so we know what we are talking about.”
What is for you the real impact?
“They key impact is about people, about what they can do with hands, hearts, minds. The impact is not necessarily financial, as volunteering is not the best way to distribute financial wealth in the world. If you want to make a financial contribution to Africa, you would probably have a bigger impact if you stay in your country and send the money to an organization. We provide a structured way to take people who want to do good. Their impact is not always about building a classroom, but it can be cultural exchange and one-to-one learning for example.”
Can you give three words to define the spirit of African Impact?
“Fun, responsible, and adventurous.
What was the biggest difficulty since the creation?
“The biggest difficulty is to balance the expectations of all the people involved with African Impact, mainly communities and volunteers.”
How do you see African Impact in 10 years?
“I think that we will carry on providing volunteer opportunities, and we will also specialize ourselves to push the boundaries where volunteering lies. We have the idea to incorporate holidays into volunteering, to help school trips to make a difference while they are visiting Africa, and do the same with tourism in general. I also think about how to use skills of volunteers on the ground in the best way.”
Today, a lot of young South Africans want to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure to help society. Do you have a piece of advice for them?
“One of the key things is to know the expectations of the people you want to help. If you are over-promising and not delivering, it will create a lot of problems for your organization. Start with something that you do really well, and try to grow from that.”
Responsible tourism is something growing in the world?
“There is a growing demand for it, and people expect more from it without paying more. The tourism industry is reacting to that. Unfortunately, it is often a marketing tool, like the term ‘eco-lodge’ which can be over used. The tourism industry is trying to regulate itself a little bit better to avoid this kind of misunderstanding.”
Source: SA – The Good News via SparkTour Africa