What is Responsible Travel?

We take our claims of responsible travel very seriously and lead the field in ethical best practices.

Why responsible travel matters

There are many issues to consider within the scope of traveling, volunteering and studying in the developing world. Many of these issues relate to your own actions, our responsibilities at Kaya and ethical concerns. These impact the communities in which you live and work, the projects we support, and the environment. It is not only the means by which you chose to travel and the activities that you participate in, but also your actions (and reactions) which can have a great effect.

At Kaya we have identified many areas that are important to us through our experience in the fields of international development, education and travel. These are issues that are also important to our projects, the communities in which we work, and many have been raised in the international arena. While we cannot overcome every problem, we believe that awareness and discussion of the issues can help us strive to become more responsible travellers. To learn more about our commitment to responsible travel click through our information sections below and discover what you can do to become a responsible traveller and why you should choose Kaya! ALL KAYA PROGRAMS OFFER:

Option to participate in social & environmental initiatives
Commitment to sustainable, locally-led projects
Real world experience & cultural immersion
Evaluated & risk assessed placements
Support for participants & hosts
Focus on identity & self-awareness


There are some responsibilities that we, the Kaya team, commit to, to ensure we provide the most ethical, responsible and successful programs, keep our participants safe and honour our mission.



There are some responsibilities that we ask all our participants to commit to. These are in place to help and protect you, the projects, the environments and the communities we work with. Learn more about your responsibilities here.



Learn more about Kaya’s stance on key ethical issues relating to travel, volunteering abroad, international development and education.



The fastest way to get to know a country, culture and people is through its food! Taste and try everything and never turn down an opportunity to share dinner with locals.


Kaya’s mission is to promote sustainable social, environmental and economic development, empower communities and cultivate educated, compassionate global citizens through responsible travel.

About Kaya – How it all began

My name is Heilwig Jones, and I set up Kaya in 2008 after my own volunteering experiences and many years’ involvement with community projects.

During a gap year journey I took in 2004, I was fortunate enough to make a last-minute change to my itinerary which resulted in me not being on the beaches of Thailand, as planned, for the Christmas holidays – and instead, arriving just 2 days after the world’s most deadly tsunami killed 230,000 people.

I worked for the next 4 months as part of a group of amazing volunteers in a Thai NGO in the town of Khao Lak – one of Thailand’s worst hit regions. Of the 2 years I spent travelling, these four months was the most emotional, memorable, impactful and immersive travel experience of my life. I met some of the most amazing people, learned so much about the local culture and came away with some life-long friends, inspired to do more good in the world. From this experience, I wanted others to have the chance to do the same, and Kaya was born.

The idea behind Kaya is to bring together the quality and impact of grassroots projects with the breadth of choice, quality of structure and organisation and level of service that enables everyone the opportunity to contribute to positive action and enjoy traveling the world more responsibly. Our commitment to supporting our local projects while ensuring volunteers are matched to the right placement is at the heart of everything we do.

People often ask me “what does Kaya mean?”. Kaya is a word which has many meanings in a number of the communities we work with. In the Filipino Waray language, it means “I can do it!”, in South African Zulu, “my spiritual home” or “the place where I belong” and in Buddhism  “the enlightened body” – with the trikaya symbol we use as our logo representing that.

Find out what we stand for.

Hear the Director of Kaya talk about the origins of Kaya.


At Kaya , we operate as a social enterprise.  This means that we are a business with primarily social objectives, whose surplus profits are mostly reinvested into our social cause. We operate in a manner that maximises the amount invested in our projects while carrying out the necessary operations of a sustainable business.  One of the differences between a charity and a social enterprise is that charities most often fund their missions through grants and donations, where a social enterprise funds the social mission through trading activities. The social enterprise model is, especially in these times of financial austerity, considered one of the most sustainable models to support social improvement.

Responsible Travel tips from the Kaya team

Travel tipStaff Member ImageJackie WallProjects Director
Travel tip
Support street children by donating to reputable local NGOs focused on long term solutions rather than quick fixes such as buying meals or giving out money.
Travel tipStaff Member ImageAriel SticklesGroup Programs Coordinator
Travel tip
Do it locally! While onsite make sure to buy locally sourced products and support the community. Use local tour guides, visit local shops and shy away from anything imported.
Travel tipStaff Member ImageHeilwig jonesManaging Director
Travel tip
Pack an insulated water bottle! It is cheaper to buy a big bottle and top up yours, it reduces waste from lots of small bottles and keeps your water cooler!
Travel tipStaff Member ImagePreetam Placement Advisor
Travel tip
If you’re staying relatively long-term, find people who practice a hobby that you enjoy. It can provide you with a solid support system during your time away.
Travel tipStaff Member ImageMira MoorePlacement Manager
Travel tip
Learn a few words of the local language - the effort is always appreciated!
Travel tipStaff Member ImageTom GorePlacement Advisor
Travel tip
When buying souvenirs, buy responsibly - don’t buy items that are made from products or by-products of species that are endangered or threatened.