• Use of Local Guides: Hands Up Holidays is committed to using local guides, and we are committed to the training and mentoring of local people with the potential to become guides. Our guides are trained in responsible tourism and will help our travellers to be both culturally and environmentally sensitive.
• Retention of trip costs in local communities: Hands Up Holidays is committed to investing in local communities, and we aim to retain a significant portion of our travellers’ trip cost in the destination country. We contract with tour operators that use, wherever possible, locally owned and operated hotels and restaurants. We offer opportunities for travellers to purchase local crafts and food, and our guides will provide guidance on appropriate places to shop for these.
• Hands-on community development work: All of our trips involve a component of community development work, and as such, travelers have an opportunity to contribute directly to the local communities they visit.
In addition, a portion of each traveller’s trip cost goes to support the development project for that trip. For instance, where our travellers are building a house, the cost of the materials required is included in the trip cost.
In other areas, the trip cost includes a donation to the charity supported by that trip. Our development projects are carefully selected in conjunction with local charities to ensure that our travellers’ work will be of maximum benefit to the local community but are also ones that involve travellers working side-by-side with the local people to improve their circumstances – part of our philosophy that our help should be a “hand up” and not a “hand out.”
• Hands Up Foundation: In addition, Hands Up Holidays has established a charitable trust to support our community partners on an ongoing, sustainable basis; we hope that this will provide our travellers with an opportunity to maintain a vital link with the community development projects in which they participated. Hands Up Holidays is committed to investing a portion of our profits into this charity, and we cover 100% of the administrative expenses associated with the charity so that donations from our travellers go directly towards the projects.
• Carefully thought-through projects: Our volunteer projects are designed so that even if you have no specific skills, you can make a difference, but if you do have specific skills, we will match those wherever possible and put you to good use!
• Sustainable travel: Hands Up Holidays is committed to sustainability, in the communities in which we operate and in the ecosystems we encounter. We seek to minimise the impact of our trips by minimising and properly disposing of waste created, by conserving energy and water, and by ensuring that endangered wildlife and environmentally compromised areas are treated with respect.
• Environmentally-focused community development projects: In a number of destination countries, the community development aspect of our trip is directly focused on improving the natural environment. These projects include gardening, planting trees, harvesting crops, or helping preserve endangered animals.
• Small group size: Our independent travel options and small group sizes help us to tread lightly and to use more environmentally sound forms of transport, minimizing impact, and ideally enriching the environment.
• Carbon Neutral: A way we seek to conserve the environment is by including an “eco-contribution” costing the price of our tours. Hands Up Holidays pays for this on behalf of you, our guests. The amount of this eco-contribution is based on a calculation of the carbon dioxide emissions from the flights required to participate in our tour and will pay for the planting of the equivalent number of native trees that will soak up the carbon dioxide emissions – where practical, travelers will even have the option of planting the tree/s themselves.
• Environmental training: Many of our guides are trained in principles of environmental sustainability and will offer travelers tips on how to conserve water, reduce waste, and otherwise minimize the environmental impact of their trip. We hope that our travelers will be able to take some of the conservation tips they learn from our guides home with them.
• Corporate recycling/energy policy: Wherever possible, Hands Up Holidays employees use recycled paper and recycle waste created in the office, as well as attempting to minimize waste created and be a “paper less” office. We also work to minimize energy and water consumption in our offices, and we encourage our partners to follow similar waste management and energy philosophies.
• Pre-Trip Information: We send each traveler a pre-departure pack, describing the destination country, its history, cultural norms, and general health and visa requirements. We also provide important practical information such as how to pack and dress appropriately, what to expect when encountering the local populations, how much money they will need to bring, etc.. We encourage travelers to try to learn a few phrases in the local language(s) before they arrive. Most importantly, we encourage all of our travelers to arrive with an open mind and to be prepared to have their world-views gently challenged by the new cultures they will encounter.
• Cultural Sensitivity: An important benefit of using local guides during our trips is the training they can provide to travelers in cultural sensitivity. Our guides will coach our travelers in general best practices (e.g. how to avoid encouraging a “begging” mentality, how to be sensitive in photographing local people, etc.) as well as specific tips on how to avoid running afoul of local customs. Wherever possible, we schedule the community development component of our tours in the middle of the trip, so that travelers will have a chance to acclimate to their new environment and learn how to behave in a culturally sensitive manner prior to this part of the trip, where the interaction with the local community is particular intense.
• Protection of Child Welfare: For those community development projects that involve interaction with children, we require a police check to be carried out by the traveler, in order to project the children from physical, emotional, or sexual harm.
• Homestays and Language Immersion: On some of our itineraries, we are able to offer travelers a chance (entirely optional) to stay in the home of a local family, thereby achieving a unique level of cultural exchange. Travelers wishing to participate in a home stay will receive special instruction from their local guides to prepare them for the experience. In addition, through our tailor-made trip offerings, we are able to offer interested travelers a chance to participate in an intensive language immersion program in either Spanish (Latin American destinations), Italian, Indonesian or French (Morocco and Rwanda).
• Community Development: In addition to the community development component of each of our trips, Hands Up Holidays also encourages its employees to volunteer in their own communities and we offer each employee 5 days per year to participate in such projects. In addition, we encourage our staff to participate in our community development projects through partially subsidized holidays for staff and their families.
• Volunteering where you live: Part of our vision at Hands Up Holidays is to enable our guests to experience how fulfilling and rewarding volunteering is, and to inspire our guests to volunteer for longer periods of time, and to volunteer where they live. We have information on suitable volunteer projects in the USA and UK, such as teaching English to refugees, which we make available to all our guests.