5 Ways to take a volunteer vacation
Relaxing for a week in an exotic location sounds pretty great, but what if you want to get more out of your trip? A volunteer vacation might be the answer. Voluntourism, as it’s known, is growing in popularity as more and more organizations have sprung up to pair volunteers with causes in a variety of locations in the United States and around the globe. Those who choose voluntourism often return home with a deeper cultural understanding of the developing world, and they might form attachments to the people, animals, the community in which they serve as well as the other volunteers they work with. Before you commit to an organization, make sure it’s legitimate by looking it up on CharityNavigator.org, which is a watchdog for non-profits in the U.S.
If voluntourism sounds like something you’d like to do, here are five possible volunteer vacations you could choose to take.
- Teach. This is one of the most popular forms of voluntourism, and you don’t have to be a teacher to do it. Through Global Vision International, you could teach English to Buddhist monks in Laos or underprivileged children and adults in Costa Rica. Projects Abroad can connect you with opportunities to assist local teachers in English, French, physical education and information technology in locations such as Bangladesh, China, Madagascar, Romania and Senegal.
- Provide health care. Rural communities around the world often lack basic medical services. Edge of Africa places volunteers in small medical clinics in Madagascar to help residents with how to care for small wounds to burns, prenatal care and nutrition. Volunteers stay in the villages on work days and are transported to the main towns on rest days. Another possibility is to work with disabled children in Thailand, leading lessons on basic health and hygiene education. Anyone from laypersons to medical professionals could sign up for these volunteer assignments.
- Help wildlife. If you care about animals and the environment, enrolling in a conservation program might be a good fit. Numerous organizations are dedicated to conservation efforts to protect endangered species, such as sea turtles in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. You could also help to collect scientific data while doing field research on bottlenose dolphins in Croatia and entering the information into a database. There are even opportunities that involve caring for elephants rescued from the tourism industry in Thailand.
- Tend a trail. If you’d like to stay closer to home, the American Hiking Society has opportunities for volunteers who enjoy the outdoors. You can search for volunteer jobs based on difficulty level and location. Possibilities include replacing rotten wooden stairs on a trail in Minnesota’s Frontenac State Park, pulling weeds along trails that run through the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington State, and rebuilding trails destroyed by wildfires inside the Stanislaus National Forest in California.
- Restore art. Art lovers might be interested in a voluntourism experience that combines art restoration with education. Through an Italian organization called Messors, you can work with art historians on restoring frescoes (watercolor paintings done on wet plaster on a wall or ceiling) as well as canvas, wood and stone paintings from the 8th to 12th centuries in Southern Italy. Participants can also create their own frescoes using traditional techniques and materials.
Six Volunteer Vacations [Huffington Post]
How to Take a Volunteer Vacation [Travel and Leisure]
How to Plan a Volunteering Vacation [New York Times]