Friend seeking to travel around Africa for a good cause
December 6, 2007 1:57 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine wants to travel around Africa on a mission to raise money for a good cause. She is 22 but is quite level-headed, fit and enthusiastic. Anyone have some suggestions for a good cause likely to be able to attract sponsorship?
posted by zaebiz to Travel & Transportation around (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You don't give a lot of information. How long is she going for? Is she raising the money within Africa or are people at home sponsoring her to go on a trip to Africa on a mission?

Without having enough information, I would say that Africa itself is a good cause. She could go on a working vacation where she volunteers her services in Africa. There are dozens of programs out there that do this.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:15 AM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: It's really just at the concept stage at this point in time. I would say the trip would be a few weeks or a couple of months. I guess she would raise the money from back home? I'm just trying to drum up more concrete ideas for her.
posted by zaebiz at 3:14 AM on December 6, 2007

Surely you'd "travel around" an affluent country in order to raise money for Africa?

Anyway, how about Fair Trade?

If one of you has a Facebook account, there are 583 results for Africa in the "Causes" application. Wait a moment, I think it's run from somewhere else... Hmm, can't find a website, just this Facebook link.
posted by krisjohn at 3:19 AM on December 6, 2007

Try using websites like or place these in a blog or facebook page and ask friends and neighbors to pass the info along to as many people (family, friends) as she can to get exposer. I know of several Fundable users that have raised money for their own projects. Good Luck!
posted by johnd101 at 5:20 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm in Africa working with World Vision - they're a great org doing great things here and I am of course biased to suggest she look into that.

That said, she can have her pick from the myriad of issues that are in constant need of more funding:

HIV / AIDS (being the go-to one, even though its not the biggest killer)
AIDS Orphans (ton of them here in South Africa)
Clean Water
Child Soldiers
The nightmares in Sudan, Zim, etc.

But it sounds to me more like she wants to travel around Africa (full stop), rather than wants to travel around Africa raising money for a good cause. The second part is great, but as krisjohn pointed out, if you want to raise money, there's not a lot of it in Africa to be raised - sounds rather counter-productive. So I guess I'm seconding the volunteering thing...
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:27 AM on December 6, 2007

Not to rain on your friend's parade, and somebody can go ahead and delete this if it's not appropriate, but: I'm in business general management in a relatively small city, and I get two or three letters a month from people who are ostensibly raising money for some worthwhile purpose, but in reality they're raising money for their own trip. After a while, I decided that every one of these was going in the circular file. I would suggest that your friend not inflict another project on friends, neighbors and local businesses to "sponsor my trip to Africa and some of the money will go to XYZ orphanage", or whatever.

If she's interested in helping people in Africa by personally doing something, she should offer her own services somewhere and pay her own way. Or join the Peace Corps.

If she's interested in raising money for people in Africa, she should go ahead and do that, but omit the trip.
posted by beagle at 5:34 AM on December 6, 2007

people who are ostensibly raising money for some worthwhile purpose, but in reality they're raising money for their own trip

Color me cynical, but I assume the same thing. Every year or so I am startled when I read about someone who has managed to raise serious money for some cause this way, but usually the amounts are fairly small, and mostly the person gets a feel-good vacation out of it. If the goal is really the fundraising, there are more efficient ways than going off to climb Mt Kilimanjaro or whatever.

I guess what I would rather see her do (and, if I were approached, would be more likely to help fund) would be for her to first go and travel around some part of Africa as a conscientious tourist, doing some volunteer work or something to get her deeper into some issues. And then second to come back and raise money for something specific that she saw and felt most strongly about. Not "AIDS orphans" as a general issue, but instead the East Kinshasa Children's Home. Not "Child Soldiers," but instead a specific rehabilitation program that she worked at for a month. Something where she can promise that the money she is raising will help real people whom she has met, and where there is an ongoing commitment of help -- where she intends to return to continue and deepen her connections.

Yes, this is a lot harder, slower, and a lot less flashy than "travel for charity," but I think it is a lot more honest and effective, and definitely more respectful of the places and people in question. There is a humility in first taking the time to learn something first-hand that brings with it real knowledge and integrity; the simple solutions generally aren't so simple, and almost never very effective.
posted by Forktine at 6:28 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

beagle and Forktine: the problem with doing programs that require us to pay our own way is that it's EXPENSIVE. Hence the fundraising. What if we can't make the initial journey because we can't afford it? I've been in a similar situation to hers and it's really a "rock and a hard place" kinda thing. You really don't want to bother people for money because of the attitudes you've brought up, but you don't know what else to do.

More context would be useful though - I'm also confused on where she plans to raise the money.
posted by divabat at 6:56 AM on December 6, 2007

Oh yeah, I've got a friend who's passionate about Fair Trade and was in Africa recently for a few projects. She's going to co-write a book with someone (her professor I think??) about her experiences. Contact me and I'll put you in touch with her.
posted by divabat at 6:57 AM on December 6, 2007

Short term projects like this do have an advantage, not so much for all the $ or goodness that the person will raise/do on the trip itself, but in that they will likely be a lifetime advocate (and donor) themselves.

I spent six weeks in Kenya when I was a student on other peoples' dime. We built a dam, spent time with the people, taught in schools, etc. When I got back, I met a couple who were moving to Kenya full time, and I jumped at the oppotunity to be on their support team. My wife and I can't live in Africa ourselves, but we are able to be a part of what this couple is doing.

Short term trips like this are quite inefficient, and there likely will be minimal short term payoff in the strictest sense. But don't overlook the long term effect that it could have.
posted by jpdoane at 7:41 AM on December 6, 2007

What if we can't make the initial journey because we can't afford it?

You are conflating two very different situations. Raising money for "my trip to Africa where I will do some volunteer work" is great -- in the last two years, I've given money to at least five individual students who were going on those kinds of trips, plus one church group and one high school class. If you have a trust fund, great, good for you. Otherwise, like the rest of us, you work two jobs plus fundraise, and then you make sure to treat your donors well -- write them thank-you notes, send them emails while abroad, and give them nice photos and follow-up "what I did on my trip" letters when you get back. Those donors are the ones you will want to first approach when you get back and decide that you want to raise money to support some local women's health center or whatever.

What I and others are objecting to are the "hiking the Rift Valley for cancer," or "bicycling across Mali for malaria" trips that you see so many of, and that the original question seemed to be asking about. Those are the trips that leave a bad taste in my mouth, because they so often are more about the exciting adventure trip than about the cause that they are ostensibly promoting.
posted by Forktine at 7:45 AM on December 6, 2007

What I and others are objecting to are the "hiking the Rift Valley for cancer,"

Ah, agreed.
posted by jpdoane at 7:59 AM on December 6, 2007

Forktine hit it on the head. Go, live/intern there and then come back to the US, and then fundraise for causes that you are interested in. There's a lot of ways to raise money for that, and if you find an organization that works there directly, you can avoid the issue of paying the administrative costs of a US-based office.

Also, to have any sort of real impact or make connections, I would stay in one place for the most part. Not travel.
posted by waylaid at 9:02 AM on December 6, 2007

posted by 4ster at 9:26 AM on December 6, 2007

Forktine: ah, I see what you mean. I do have a question though: supposed they paid for the actual logistics of the stunt (getting to the mountain, training, getting gear, etc), and all of the money raised goes to charity. Would that be better?

A lot of established charities run fundraisers that way. I shaved my head for cancer, I raised $2k. Some people do walkathons, marathons, whateverathons. How would that be different from scaling a mountain?
posted by divabat at 1:30 AM on December 8, 2007

I personally don't give money to those sorts of fundraisers (except when it is someone's kid doing it, and I feel socially obligated to give $5), but as you note it is a common and effective fundraising technique.

Were you going to shave your head anyway, and just added a charity component on to give the headshaving more meaning? That is how a lot of the big trip fundraisers feel to me -- that person was going to take the bike ride / climb the mountain / swim the river anyway, because it is fun and exciting; the charity component is tacked on and isn't actually very integral to the event. Now, that isn't bad if you are the charity who is receiving the money, and it isn't bad if you are the bike rider who now feels a sense of purpose. Just because I think it's tacky doesn't mean that it doesn't work, you know? But I'm still not interested in it, and have chosen to give my charitable donations differently.
posted by Forktine at 8:41 AM on December 8, 2007

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