Travel AND Make a Difference in the World: The Muskoka Foundation

A travel focused lifestyle can be incredibly rewarding and life-changing. It is great to experience exotic cultures, unwind on tropical beaches and party in funky bars and clubs. However, something more is needed. Even paradise can get boring if you are not working on something meaningful and challenging. Wouldn’t it be great to travel the world and make a real contribution to the communities you visit? The Muskoka Foundation was created to offer those volunteer opportunities. This guest post is a short introduction to their organization.

DO GOOD Muskoka Foundation

The Muskoka Foundation

The Muskoka Foundation is a non-profit foundation based in the USA. Their vision is to have a world where ethical and responsible traveling is a standard part of every traveler’s itinerary, with the hope that it will create a fleet of intentional explorers that leave a wake of positive change.

The foundation was founded by Jay Shapiro and Alice Gugelev, who are overlanding-enthusiasts. When they were living in South East Asia they were unable to find volunteering opportunities suited to overlanders that wouldn’t cost any volunteering fee. Right there and then was the birth of the vision and the foundation.

The Muskoka Foundation

The name “Muskoka” itself is the name of a region in the northern Ontario, Canada. Muskoka is known for their unique sculpture, the inukshuk sculpture, and that is what The Muskoka Foundation uses as their logo because it symbolizes how they seek to achieve their vision. The inukshuk resembles a little person and it was traditionally used as a road marker by travelers, to show other travelers where they can find a nearby community, watering hole, and other things. The concept of by-travelers and for-travelers is how Muskoka seeks to expand their network of travelers.

Muskoka believes that everybody can do something meaningful and contribute positively to the local communities, and Muskoka invites everybody to do good together.  Muskoka also encourages travelers to connect with each other, to tell each other about opportunities to do good along the way.

Muskoka also invites travelers to expand the network of partners world wide, where travelers can help Muskoka find and screen reliable local partners to send volunteers to.

If you are a traveler wanting to contribute your skills and time to do good, you can contact Muskoka. Jay and Alice know that volunteering can be costly, so they are committed not to ask volunteers to pay any volunteering fees. Not only do they not charge you to volunteer, but they will also provide the training, curricula, and equipment you need to make this happen. There are various degrees of involvement to choose from. You can volunteer with them (programs available include: photography, business / entrepreneurship, gardening, IT, education and science, etc), you can find local organizations that are in need of volunteers where Muskoka can potentially send travelers to, you can help Muskoka inspire others to do good as they go, and so on.

Support The Muskoka Foundation

One example of the positive impact travellers can make is the annual Muskoka Foundation Calendar.

Muskoka Foundation 2012 Calendar

Every year the Muskoka Foundation runs photography workshops with youths in our partner communities spread across the planet. Our volunteer travelers deliver the digital cameras, printers and supplies donated by the foundation, together with 1 week of their time to teach the kids the basics of photography and expressing themselves through imagery.
The results of those workshops are then printed in annual calendars to share with you and yours. 100% of the proceeds above costs from the $12 calendar sales are sent directly back to the youths and/or their communities.

The calendar is for sale on Muskoka’s website.

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My name is John Bardos. My wife and I gave up our business, house and possessions in Japan to search for more meaning and fulfillment in our lives. We've discovered that a satisfying life is about rich experiences, quality relationships and meaningful contribution, NOT consumption.

3 Responses to Travel AND Make a Difference in the World: The Muskoka Foundation

  1. Brittney says:

    How can I get involved in volunteering, the opportunities listed are all things that I am extremely passionate about. I would love to get any guidance possible on volunteering. Thank you


    • John says:

      Hi Brittney,

      Actually, it’s not that easy to find good volunteer opportunities. Many organizations have turned it into a business where they charge the voluntourists.

      I think the best bet is to travel to the country you want to volunteer in and ask around. The expats you meet there will have a much better idea than general internet searches.

      I hope that helps.

    • Hi Brittney,

      If you are still interested in volunteering, you can visit our website (link in this reply) and follow the link to sign up on our Getting to Know You form. The Muskoka Foundation charges NO fees of any kind to its volunteers. Volunteering with us is for FREE.

      Looking forward to hearing back from you!

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