It was my first time on a cruise. I mean, why would any millennial have the interest and money to go on a cruise, when clearly they can spend more time and lesser money exploring the four corners of the world, and probably experiencing it in a more authentic and local way (also known as free-and-easy travel). When I think of cruises, I picture casinos, infinity pools, water slides, buffet meals and more. You get my drift. Basically, eat, sleep, gamble, play, repeat. That’s what cruises are for right?
You get to be away from work and wifi (unless you decide to get the not-so-affordable wifi package) to do nothing but enjoy life in the middle of the big ocean. I usually prefer my holiday itineraries to be planned with experiences and activities but I was pretty excited for the media trip as Genting Dream Cruises had just launched a voluntourism voyage to Penang and Phuket, and that sounded like a meaningful experience to me. Within the span of four days and three nights, we travelled to Phuket and Penang to experience the on shore voluntourism activities that were complimentary for all guests.
Cruise voluntourism Stop 1: Penang
Visiting the Eden Handicap Service Centre
We reached Penang on the second day and headed straight to Eden Handicap Service Centre for our voluntourism activities. Since 1991, the non-profit Christian-run organisation has been aiding the disabled in leading a self-sufficient life. The centre also caters to children with disabilities, enabling them with daily life skills like eating and dressing themselves. Makaton Sign Language is also taught at the centre so that the children can communicate with each other and express themselves better.
That afternoon, we interacted with some of the locals and children at the centre, and helped them with their daily activity of stuffing toys into capsules for sale. It was a humbling experience for me to work together with them in doing something that seems simple and small to us but significant to them. The smiles on their faces made this entire trip valuable.
Cruise voluntourism Stop 2: Phuket
Painting walls of a rebuilt school destroyed by the 2004 Tsunami
The next day, we arrived in Phuket, the island known for some of Thailand’s most popular beaches along the clear waters. Situated right across Kalim Beach is Baan Kalim School, a rebuilt school which was destroyed by the Tsunami in December 2004. Our task for the day was to help repaint the walls of the classrooms and library. Though it might seem that we aren’t professionals in painting walls, every help counts. Through simple efforts like painting walls of the rooms, all the volunteers hoped to support the school in terms of their needs and providing the students with a better environment for learning.
Should you do Cruise Voluntourism?
Filmed on DJI Osmo Pocket from Leasany
Though there are a fair amount of criticism on voluntourism and its impact, I feel that the motive behind the activities and the types of activities play a big role. It may seem to some that volunteers are stepping in to help on a superficial level, but if it aligns with the community’s needs and it supports them in practical ways, then why not?
It’s true that we won’t be able to resolve the problems faced by the community with such small efforts, but it goes a long way when everyone puts in a little help. For those who are already on a cruise holiday, why not make your trip more meaningful by supporting local communities in practical ways with your time and efforts.
So here’s my takeaway from the voluntourism trip. Think about their needs, not your wants.