Get Your Hands Dirty on Your Next Vacation with Zuvy

Do you love to travel and experience new cultures? Better yet, do you have exotic travel plans for this holiday season? If either answer is yes, Zuvy is a start-up you need to know about. Zuvy matches travelers like you with hand-selected and meaningful in-country service experiences at organizations working to change the world. If you’re visiting a country and want to get involved in a more intimate way than your hotel, guide book and rental car permit, Zuvy can organize a full day cultural engagement experience for you with a trusted organization.

I sat down with Sonsoles Navarro, Zuvy’s CEO, to learn about Zuvy’s take on volunteering, which acknowledges that the impact is not limited to the work done by volunteers, but rather broadens to include exposure for the organization and enlightenment for the traveler.  So Zuvy’s social impact is twofold: travelers become more engaged and aware of what its like in another part of the world, and organizations benefit from the exposure to their work as travelers may tweet, talk and otherwise promote the organization. Zuvy refers to its services as “experiences” rather than “volunteering” as Zuvy works with the organizations to find innovative ways for travelers to engage that will be valuable to the travelers as well as the organizations.

The most important impact Zuvy aims to have is raising awareness about the conditions around the world. Remember when your wealthy and sheltered friend returned from their first trip into a poverty stricken part of the world? I’ve seen it over and over again – the shift in energy and consciousness that happens when we realize just how lucky we are. Zuzy is designed to create that enlightened-and-brought-down-to-earth at once feeling in all its travelers. It’s about making travel more meaningful than a tour of museums and cathedrals.

Some of the Zuvy experiences on offer as of yet include:

  • Supporting Quechua women weavers in Peru
  • Immersion in the unknown Vietnam
  • Advising entrepreneurial street youth in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Innovating in community work in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Experiences range from an afternoon to a few days and are meant to be integrated into your travels. Travelers pay a small fee – 60% of which goes to the organization as a donation, 40% of which covers Zuvy’s costs. Some might object to paying to serve, but I think its extremely valuable to signal commitment, lest they may take it too lightly and flake. Zuvy is also working on complete experiences which would combine service with local fun activities.

Launching at the Haas School of Business in June 2010 and based in Madrid, Spain, Zuvy has served 10 groups of people so far and offers experiences in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Kenya, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Next time you’re planning a voyage, consider adding a Zuvy experience. There’s nothing better than getting your hands dirty.

How have you made your travels more meaningful?

Amie runs Cobblestone Solutions, LLC, a consultancy focusing on business development, marketing, communications and strategy for mission driven companies. Previously, Amie served as Director of Business Development for Viv (a Bay Area environmental start-up), Program Manager for Social Venture Technology Group (a boutique consulting firm focused on measuring social and environmental impact), and Associate Consultant at Bain & Co (a global management consulting firm). She is particularly interested in innovations that reduce waste, altering consumer behavior for good, and leveraging the power of business to solve the climate crisis. You can read more from her on her blog, on, and on JustMeans.

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