3 Travel Volunteer Groups Every Traveler Should Join

January 8, 2017 7:00 pm by Marky Ramone Go

After numerous travel experiences, there will come a time when one realizes that traveling doesn’t need to be limited to ticking off a checklist of places to see, things to do and food to eat. A realization ushering the desire to elevate one’s wanderings into something rewarding and on a more personal level will come to fruition. Fortunately for the curious and caring souls out there, there are groups that collaborate immersion with local communities, championing an advocacy and off the beaten path exploration, into one memorable travel experience.

Think about achieving a dual purpose on the road. These are the travel volunteer groups with a cause, that every traveler should join at least once – or better – support in a continuous manner, in order to learn how one can lend a helping hand while enjoying the best parts of traveling.

1. Juan Portrait

Juan Portrait is composed of a diverse group of individuals who share a passion for photography. They express their love for still and moving images by paying it forward through community outreach, immersion and photography workshops.travel-volunteergroups2

Juan Portrait volunteers on their way to bring donations to another remote community. (Photo courtesy of Lawrence Del Mundo via Juan Portrait)

Juan Portrait  “aims to, not only use photography, but also the various skillsets that we have in order to organize, fund, and eventually deploy community-enriching projects that either assist existing partner-projects or spur development through technology and professional expertise.”

Their endeavors have taken the group all over the country including the highlands of the Cordillera region, where they taught kids how to handle and shoot a camera.

“We taught them the basics of photography, such as composition, camera handling, framing and exposure,” JP founder and lawyer Christopher Linag tells Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.

Juan Portrait also organizes “Community Frames” exhibits as an avenue for the kids to showcase their photographs and to further deepen their interest in the world of photography.

If you love both traveling and photography and have the generosity to share your knowledge behind the camera, then Juan Portrait is the perfect group for you to join and volunteer for your next trip. Find them on Facebook.

2. Meaningful Travels PH

After a successful career in the corporate world, Ann Marie Cunanan found her true calling after a foray into the realm of social enterprise. Exhibiting a fondness for travel, it didn’t take long before she started conceptualizing ways of making traveling more meaningful.travel-volunteergroups3

#MeaningfulTravelsPH volunteers distributes school supplies in one of their trips to Mountain Province in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Meaningful Travels FB Page)

Cunanan shares the direction she is plotting for next year: “Meaningful Travel PH aims to have at least one trip per quarter next year and plans to explore beautiful communities in Visayas and Mindanao in 2017. We look forward to having more ‘travelers with a heart’ on board our future travels and to discover more remote communities inhabited by kind hearted people”

Just recently, she led a group of volunteers in a remote community in Barlig, Mountain Province where they not only explored the beautiful landscapes of the highlands, but also visited a few elementary schools and brought along with them packs of school supply kits. Before the trip itself, Cunanan and other #MeaningfulTravelsPH volunteers helped out in raising funds, school supply donations and packing the school kits as well.

If you love mixing adventure in the great outdoors with community immersion and outreach, then you should sign up for Meaningful Travels PH’s next trip! Find them on Facebook.


Another volunteer group reaching out to help remote communities is TREK or otherwise known as ‘Trails to Empower Kids’. Founded in 2007 by a small group of mountaineers that include Kelly Austria, TREK has made numerous incursions into isolated communities enabling kids to further embrace education by bringing school supplies, backpacks and other leaning materials.travel-volunteergroups4

The kids, mostly belonging to the Hanunuo Mangyan Tribe, gather at an elementary school in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro to welcome the TREK Volunteers during their outreach visit. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Austria of TREK.)

2016 has been a busy year for TREK and it will only become more eventful next year as Austria shares her group’s plan for 2017. “It’s our 10th anniversary next year, and we decided to celebrate by going back to ten communities we helped before. It has been our practice to keep in touch with the communities we serve. We are just doing ten next year because it is our 10th, and we plan to make it memorable also for the kids. We will bring gifts again. We have new backpacks for them manufactured by a known local outdoor brand, so it is guaranteed to last many years. These backpacks will be filled with school supplies, art sets, hygiene kits, and other surprises. Hopefully, we’ll also have raincoats and slippers for them. We will also start repairs of some of our projects with the community like water systems, and start new ones like libraries.”

Every mountaineer follows to heart the “leave no trace” principles, but TREK makes sure that in every community they visit, they leave behind heaps of inspiration and an assurance, that if there is a strong will to help others, then there is no place too remote or too far away. Mountaineers with a heart should volunteer for TREK’s next trip in 2017. Find them on Facebook.


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