Is volunteering abroad helping or harming the developing world? Is there a way for us to contribute to development while also critiquing it? What’s the best ice cream flavour, really?
In 2006, we boarded a flight to Accra, Ghana to find answers to these questions. When we touched down, we were hit with a barrage of sights, sounds, and smells that shattered our preconceived notions of the developing world. Rather than stumbling into a destitute wasteland, we were greeted by a beautiful, bustling city, rich with culture and hospitality.
At the same time, however, we were confronted with extreme poverty that could not be ignored. We wanted to understand why global poverty plagues much of the world while billions of dollars are poured into development projects around the globe. We learned that governments, charities, and international institutions often push their agenda without consulting the communities they are ‘developing.’
We realized that a project has significantly higher impact if it is undertaken in collaboration with the community. Not as a handout, not as charity – but in solidarity.
We began talking to local NGOs and community leaders about what their real needs were. We created partnerships with local charities, community leaders, and local governments. We began building a program that didn’t just plop a volunteer into a project. Instead, we combined community service with an educational program that taught team members the context needed to understand local challenges before solving them.
From one pilot program to West Africa, we’ve grown to run a total of 162 programs to 18 countries around the world. We bring cool, caring people together who want to explore the world while actively shaping it. We’re sparking a movement of globally active and socially conscious backpackers. We call them backpacktivists. Wanna join?
The year OG hit the ground running
Countries we've explored
Experienced program leaders all over the world
Backpacktivism is at the heart of all that we do – both abroad and at home. But what exactly does that mean? Crafted collaboratively by our family of alumni, program leaders, and community partners, the Backpacktivist Manifesto serves as our compass.