volunteer tourism

Forget Beach Holidays – Try Sustainable School Building!

Make an impact on a community in a sustainable way with your time off. Although a beach holiday is a great way to relax, you could be making a difference instead – by helping to build a school in Africa.

Building a school has a lasting impact on the local people and can be an unforgettable volunteering experience. For those conscious of the environment, it’s an opportunity to take part in something sustainable too.

Green living

The Need for Schools

Lots of people in rural communities in Africa don’t have access to a school. Whether it’s a difficult journey to the nearest one, or a lack of money for supplies, Africa (http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/education-index) has some of the lowest school attendance in the world.

Addressing this problem begins simply with building more local schools, so more children have access. Removing the obstacle of a long and tough journey to school means that the pupils can spend more time learning. They’ll also be able to attend year-round, not just when the weather is good enough to safely make the trip!

Ghana Group Baking Bricks in  Sun

Making it Sustainable

When you’re choosing a volunteer project to get involved with, think about whether they’re building the school in an environmentally friendly way. One example is using mud from the local terrain to make bricks. Mud bricks are sun-dried, which is free and has no impact on the environment – and they don’t cause pollution when they’re disposed of.

Find out if you can add a water harvesting and filtering system to the school, if it’s not already planned. Water harvesting systems can help to reduce contamination of groundwater and provide access to clean water. Adding simple toilets can also keep the local area cleaner, possibly helping to reduce disease.

Building Group

Being Socially Responsible

If you’re going to build a school, think about the social impact as well as the environmental one. Check that your project is going to be using local resources, like locally grown wood, rather than mass-produced. Not only does this reduce the carbon footprint of the build, but it also helps to sustain local businesses.

Remember, more schools lead to better education and higher literacy. This means that people can take charge of their careers and improve their communities, including better farming practices. So higher levels of education in itself can impact both the community and the environment in a positive way.

Ghana Painting School

Why Volunteer?

Volunteers are needed to take part in school building projects, because the small rural communities can’t afford it otherwise. Plus, many people in these areas are farmers and fishermen so don’t have the time to take on the build themselves.

You can get involved in different aspects of building, like making bricks, laying floors, planning, and decorating and even installing water supplies. So, there’s a good chance you’ll be doing something new and exciting however long you’re volunteering for. The bonus: new skills look great on your resume!

Ghana Classroom

Volunteer Organizations

There are many organizations which can help you organize a worthwhile building experience. Original Volunteers (https://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk) offer year-round building opportunities in Ghana for all levels from C$172 per week, excluding flights. Or try using do-it-yourself databases like Workaway and HelpX where you can find a host or project independently.

If it sounds like hard work, you could still take that beach holiday instead. But knowing the impact you made on a community is so much more fulfilling.


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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