Tourism can bring great economic and social benefits to local communities. Jobs are created, infrastructure improved, new niches open up, tax revenues increase and so on.
But it isn’t always a force for good. It can also cause problems.
Tourism can displace locals to make way for hotels, erode traditional cultures, negatively impact the water supply, increase pollution and distort the local economy.
We can say that’s just the way it is. But as travelers, we are part of the tourism sector. We’re the ones who buy the hotel rooms, use the services of local business, enjoy the natural resources and interact with local people.
Mass tourism hasn’t reached San Juan del Sur and we like it that way. But as the region starts to emerge on the tourism map we’d like to help make a positive difference.
Give and ye shall receive
If you’ve spent any time on this blog you know we’re big fans of volunteer tourism.
At its simplest it’s an exercise in creating a win-win situation. You arrive ready to give something back to the local community and you get a vacation that’s more fun and a lot more interesting.
Not only do you get to go beyond the usual popular tourism spots and immerse yourself in experiences not found on regular trips, but you also connect with people you’d otherwise never meet.
To get you started, here’s a list of organizations in San Juan del Sur that work with volunteers. They all have strong backgrounds for service and community development but you may not get the best results if you simply show up whenever the mood takes you.
Get in contact well before your trip to see how you can best serve and bring the donations they specifically need. Consider fundraising before your vacation to make a donation to one of these organizations. Or if you’re interested in a focused tour that introduces you to these great local projects and the wonders of volunteering, check out Vacation with a Purpose.
- Jean Brugger Foundation – committed to improving the educational opportunities for the young people here in San Juan del Sur.
- Comunidad Connect – striving to protect the environment, educate youth and generate future employment for local people.
- Biblioteca Movil – A mobile lending library sends staff and volunteers to distribute books to far fetched schools throughout the region.
- Barrio Planta Project – A non-profit corporation established to provide free access to English Education, Arts, Communication and Job-Training
- Casa Llanta Fund – providing English classes and University Scholarships in El Carizal, and financial support to students with disabilities in San Juan del Sur.
- Newton – San Juan del Sur Sister City Project – providing clean water systems, smoke-free cook stoves and buildings with minimal carbon footprints to families in need.
- The Free High School for Adults – providing education to students of all ages.
- E.A.R.T.H Fund – assisting on a number of fronts including construction of schools and sports parks, establishment of an education fund and support to the local recycling program.
Still unconvinced about the benefits of volunteer tourism? Here are 8 great reasons to volunteer on your Nicaraguan vacation.