About Us

BWA’s Inspiration and Ethos

About Us

Who are We?

Better World Adventures was formed in 2018 with a goal of providing extremely high quality, fully-inclusive international voluntourism opportunities for school groups. Tours must be very affordable in comparison with other companies, and without any compromise in safety or support. We have put a tremendous effort into devising itineraries that offer the fantastic cultural experiences that the places we visit are famous for, and also have unique points of difference. We continue to seek out ethical project partners and to plan new programs, not only for high school students, but also for other other groups looking for high quality, ethical and innovative voluntourism experiences.

BWA

The Beginning

Brett Muir’s life of travel started in his last year of high school. He joined a student volunteer group to the Kingdom of Tonga, where he worked on a project renovating a school in a small community. The experience was an inspirational one for Brett, who quickly discovered that charitable community service in a foreign country goes hand in hand with personal growth, and increased self-confidence and independence. Brett also discovered that volunteering while travelling enabled him to make a much more significant connection with the local people he met, and aroused an intense interest in other cultures.

Fast forward forty years and Brett has travelled and explored almost 100 countries.  As a young man, he backpacked and worked throughout the world for 11 years, designing itineraries and tour leading student groups, teaching English, and managing an Immigration Consultancy. For the past two decades, Brett’s career has focused on international marketing and the management of the international student experience for universities, institutes of technology, and private institutions in New Zealand. He continues to spend up to 4 months of each year travelling the globe from Scandinavia to Mexico, from Bhutan to Libya.

Brett believes that everyone would benefit from an international experience that combines inspirational travel with altruistic community service. However he has discovered that the high-profit margins and administrative costs of most organisations providing voluntourism expeditions for students have made the opportunity too expensive for many young people.  Better World Adventures has set out to change that, designing programs that are accessible to a wider student audience.

Our Mission and Vision

To provide young adults with affordable and adventurous international volunteering opportunities that result in cultural sharing, personal growth and global awareness.

Our Core Values

Better World Adventures was created to offer high-quality international volunteer abroad expeditions for New Zealand senior high school students. The students on these adventures are directly involved in sustainable grassroots humanitarian and wildlife conservation projects in developing countries, in partnership with renowned and credible volunteer organisations.

Better World Adventures programs are kept as affordable as possible, with an all-inclusive cost structure that eliminates financial surprises and enables more students to participate. 

Better World Adventures itineraries are designed to facilitate cultural interaction and humanitarian experiences through volunteering. It has been proven many times that transformative change occurs through personal and selfless participation in charitable causes. At BWA we endeavour to ensure that while in-country, our community volunteering enables a lasting bond to be forged between the volunteering students and those they help.

Better World Adventures program destinations offer geographically unique travel experiences, the ability to provide a range of new life skills and meet a genuine need for charitable assistance that does not take paid work away from local people.

Better World Adventures are highly inclusive, welcoming and respecting everyone, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, orientation, or any other defining characteristic, whether participant or host. Any concerns will be focused on a participant’s character, motivation and integrity.

Better World Adventures respects the environment. We are committed to providing opportunities for participating students to learn and experience best practice in regards to sustainable and ethical interaction with the natural environment and wildlife, and whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Better World Adventures students live and volunteer in local settlements, interacting and sharing directly with people who share similar values. We encourage acts of creative cooperation and collaboration between our students and other volunteers and our host community as these are proven catalysts for positive personal growth in young people. Participating students discover that they are part of a community of global citizens whose individual actions can make a lasting impact on the lives of others.

Program Affordability

Better World Adventures wants as many young people as possible to be able to benefit from the meeting and sharing of cultures that is the cornerstone of our international programs.  One of the most significant ways in which we can save money, and pass those savings on to our group members, enabling more students to participate, is by partnering with high quality and highly experienced local organisations in the countries we visit, rather than investing in offices and in-country staff.  The local staff of the organisations that host our volunteers and assist with our travel logistics are experts at arranging quality group volunteering activities and ensuring the safety and smooth running of our programs.  They know the local situation, speak the language, and are a fantastic resource. But we don’t rely on in-country organisations alone.  All of our groups are escorted, so while you are on one of our programs, you know that as well as the local staff, you have someone from home accompanying the groups at all times.

Ethical Voluntourism

Combining travel with an opportunity to help others is often called voluntourism. Amongst ethically conscious travel providers, voluntourism has both advocates and detractors. Common reasons that some travel organisations do not support voluntourism is the belief that

  1. voluntourism perpetuates a dated Western colonial notion of “saving the developing world”,
  2. short term placements do not provide tangible benefit within a community, and may even create problems,
  3. that volunteer projects may take away paid employment from local people,
  4. that the work done is often unskilled and unnecessary.

Better World Adventures takes these considerations very seriously, and is very rigorous in its selection of partner organisations in each program country to ensure that their values and goals match our own. We communicate these concerns to in-country organisations when arranging volunteer projects to make sure that the projects we do are worthwhile, appropriate, and sustainable.

Too often, volunteering is portrayed as a means of saving the disadvantaged or poverty-stricken in the world, the new colonialism of a Western rescue mission to a developing country where the people are sad and desperate and in need of help from strangers. Our experience indicates that this is far from the truth.  The vast majority of people in the world appreciate what they have and live their lives utilising the resources that they have at hand.  While people in the communities we visit may live “in poverty” relative to the standards of wealth and provision that we might be used to, theirs are often simple and happy lives, and they may be much more connected to their community, their extended families, their land, their history and their religion than we are.  

As our group members are students, we do not volunteer on projects that we are unqualified for. We let our in-country partners select appropriate projects that are worthwhile, sustainable, and where our contribution will add value. We primarily provide unskilled labour to community projects that do not have the budget to employ a similar number of local labourers (skilled or unskilled) for the same duration, and on projects where there are no funds available to employ labourers whatsoever.  We also volunteer on wildlife conservation projects that operate on very small budgets and rely on the assistance of unpaid, unskilled volunteer labour to enable them to prioritise spending on the animals in their care.  

Better World Adventures will never promote voluntourism as a way of “saving” the poor, or tackling poverty. This is not the definition of voluntourism that Better World Adventures supports and it is not the objective that we want our student volunteers to believe they are working toward. Instead we focus on providing young people with opportunities for personal cultural exchange through positive community service. We want our tour participants to discover for themselves that people whose ethnicity, religion, skin colour, or economic status  are really no different to themselves, and not targets for misguided fear, suspicion, discrimination or hate.  Our primary goal is to provide international cross-cultural experiences that help young people learn to celebrate cultural diversity and  to appreciate  differences between people in a positive, rather than negative light. 

If there is one overwhelming impression that we want you, our travelling students and volunteers, to take away from your volunteering experience, it is the humanity of the community that you joined.  We want you to discover for yourself, how delighted people are to have you come and share their daily lives, contribute to the tasks at hand, and gain as much as you give.  This positive, rather than patronising, form of voluntourism is completely win-win. The community you are assisting will appreciate your personal gesture and interest in their lives, and will gain exposure to your new ideas and ways of approaching and solving problems.  As a volunteer you will benefit from this cultural exchange and experience a new and refreshingly different approach to life.

Your positive and ethical voluntourism experience should be much more about caring and sharing than it is about repairing, more about developing empathy than sympathy, more about your contribution than it is about being a solution.

Child Protection

Better World Adventures believes that all children should be safe from harm, abuse and exploitation. Children living in orphanages or residential facilities without parental care, in poverty, in rural environments, in areas suffering from civil violence, and in areas with high level of tourism are particularly susceptible to abuse including child labour, child trafficking and sexual exploitation. 

We support and follow World Vision’s Principles of Child Safe Tourism, and believe that we have a part to play in creating a safer environment for children, and a responsibility to do no harm in the places we visit and projects we volunteer on.  For more information, go to www.childsafetourism.org

Recent global research indicates that there are up to 8 million children living in orphanages throughout the world, despite the fact that up to 80% of these children actually have living parents or family who could care for them if they had the right support. ReThink Orphanages is an Australian based organisation that aims to prevent the institutionalization of children by discouraging volunteering in orphanages or residential childcare facilities where children live separated from their families. For more information, go to www.rethinkorphanages.org

Rather than attempting to stop volunteering with children, ReThink Orphanages encourages volunteers to participate in projects and organisations that work to keep families connected.  Better World Adventures acknowledges the ethical and child protection concerns that are associated with orphanage voluntourism and endeavours not to participate on orphanage volunteering projects where children are institutionalised and removed from their families. This enables our student volunteers to interact and share cultural experiences with the children, without the attachment and separation anxiety that can become arise when the children depend on their caregivers for all their needs.

In developing countries o,ur groups will regularly encounter children begging for food, money or selling goods on the streets, particularly in popular tourist areas. Children who live and work on the streets are especially vulnerable to physical, emotional and sexual abuse and may be exploited to beg or work on the street by adults. Buying from these children or giving them money perpetuates their unsafe daily working life, preventing them from attending school or training, trapping them in a cycle of poverty. Our tour group members are actively discouraged from giving money directly to children begging or selling food or souvenirs.

Better World Adventures tour participants are required to always ask for permission before taking photos of children.

Better World Adventures tour participants are forbidden from taking a child anywhere without the supervision and permission of their parents or guardian. While it may appear that interacting with local children is a special experience, it actually has the potential to be detrimental to them. It teaches children to socialise with strangers, who may not always have their best intentions in mind.

If Better World Adventures tour participants are concerned about the welfare of any child, or witness a situation where they feel a child is being exploited or harmed, they are encouraged to inform tell the group leader, tour guide, or volunteer manager immediately.

Animal Welfare

Better World Adventures’ volunteer projects with wildlife have also been chosen on their proven commitment to the ethical conservation and management of various animal species. We accept that wherever possible, wild animals should be viewed in the wild, without hindrance, and that captivity is only acceptable when it is in the animal’s best interests and where the highest possible standards of care are given to the “captive” animals.

When volunteering on projects or with organisations that work with domesticated or captive animals, or on wildlife conservation projects, Better World Adventures only endorse sustainable and ethical animal experiences that support the globally adopted Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare. These ensure that animals are provided with:

  • Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
  • Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  • Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
  • Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering

In keeping with the ethical treatment of animals, Better World Adventures pledges the following:

  • We will not patronise game parks or wildlife reserves where animals are bred as game, or where wild animals are sedated to permit human interaction.
  • We do not encourage activities that use or exploit trained animals.
  • We do not encourage or endorse the purchase of souvenirs made from animal products including skin, horn, ivory, turtle shell.
  • We do not encourage the feeding of stray animals.
  • We do not permit riding on the backs of elephants using seating equipment such as the howdah.

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