For this edition of Vicarious Volunteering we travel to Sucre, Bolivia, home of the two street kids who inspired this blog. When a friendly guide from Condor Trekkers asked me on the street if I’d like to trek, I said thanks but no thanks. Trekking was the last thing I could think of doing after climbing Huayna Potosi. Now, learning more about this generous organization and seeing their pictures of the beautiful countryside, it’s a decision I’d like to reconsider.
Thanks to volunteers Geordon and Elise for telling us more about Condor Trekkers:
More than just a tourist: Trek for a cause in Sucre, Bolivia
Contrary to popular belief, it is rarely the case that visionaries have a clear idea of their life’s work from the beginning. For Randall Howlett, founder of the non-profit hiking outfitter, Condor Trekkers, “all” it took were three and a half decades and an around the world trip. Stumbling upon Quetzal Trekkers in Guatemala, what was intended to be a three month volunteering stint turned into an eight year love affair with the organization that would go on to inspire his life’s direction.
From his involvement with Quetzal Trekkers, a bird of a similar feather was hatched. Convinced to divert from an African-bound journey, he stopped by to “check out” Bolivia and, true to his form, stayed. Four years later, Condor Trekkers is an established organization that has made an undeniable impact on the people of Sucre and the surrounding communities.
Condor Trekkers was founded in 2008 and operates on the premise of socially conscious travel. This organization provides travelers with the unique opportunity to experience the real Bolivia while at the same time allowing them to support development projects in the surrounding communities. Blending tourism with philanthropy, Condor Trekkers allows travelers to “Be More Than Just Tourists.”
For socially conscious travelers, Condor Trekkers provides an avenue for individuals to make a greater difference than would be feasible independently. The impact of trekking with Condor Trekkers is maximized due to the organization’s long-standing relationship with the surrounding communities and their familiarity with local issues and needs. Moreover, while on trek, people get to see the schools, families, and communities supported by the organization.
In keeping with its ethos of social and eco-consciousness, Condor Trekkers relies as much as possible on local resources – from transportation to locally-sourced food. Meals are prepared fresh the day before a trek using ingredients found entirely at the nearby market. While this may add a kilogram or two to the overall backpack weight, the deliciousness and environmental-friendliness factors make it more than worthwhile.
When it comes to the day to day operations of Condor Trekkers, Randall is by no means without help. Besides his own permanent presence, a steady stream of volunteers cycle through the Condor Trekker family on an ongoing basis. This revolving door of involvement poses undeniable organizational challenges, mostly relating to institutional continuity. However, few other initiatives are so readily able to capitalize on such a continuous source of new people, skills, and enthusiasm. “There’s not much you can achieve on your own,” admits Randall; and besides, “there are no stupid ideas.” Each new volunteer contributes unique talents and, most importantly, their time.
Volunteers play a myriad of roles within the Condor Trekkers organization. They cover office hours, propose new recipes, build outdoor composts, spearhead social media promotion campaigns, and most significantly, they accompany each excursion. However, Randall always ensures that Condor Trekkers “will never give a foreigner a job that could be filled by a local.” As such, every single outgoing trek is led by at least one Bolivian guide. Partnering with Fundación Guia, Condor Trekkers provides employment for Sucre-based guides. Besides familiarity with both the region and the locally-spoken dialect of Quechua, Bolivian guides give clients the opportunity for an interactive learning experience.
According to Condor Trekkers’ non-profit mandate, neither Randall nor any of the volunteers are paid a single boliviano. This means that no foreigners receive salaries or living subsidies. Local Bolivians are the only employees who receive financial remuneration from Condor Trekkers.
In keeping with its agenda to provide assistance to the people of Bolivia, plans are well under way at Condor Trekkers to open a non-profit cafe. With a bit of luck and some cooperation on the part of the Bolivian bureaucracy, Condor Café should be operational within two months time.
As the father of Condor Trekkers, Randall often likens his projects to his children. Like a parent, he has remarked on their eventual need to “leave the nest.” When that time comes, far from settling down, Randall has spoken of moving the successful Condor Trekkers model to his native Australia. Visitors to Alice Springs may one day be able to trek with local aborigines. In addition, despite being waylaid for a half decade now, he hopes to one day realize his trip to Africa.
Ways you can help:
- The easiest way to contribute to Condor Trekkers is by going for a trek with them in the gorgeous Andean landscape.
- If you have the time to spare, Condor Trekkers is always looking for volunteers to help out with everything from trek prep to accompanying hikes.
- Condor Trekkers is present and active online. A “like” on Facebook and a “mention” on Twitter are always appreciated. Word of mouth promotion is also extremely effective – tell your friends!
- While Condor Trekkers is funded entirely by tourism dollars raised through its treks, when you sponsor Giving Vicariously for $3.50 / month a portion of the money is donated to other worthwhile non-profit initiatives featured on this blog.
Feel free to contact Condor Trekkers by any of the following methods: