Volunteer Vacations: Where There's a Will, There's a Way
Have you been looking forward to your vacation for months? Going to a new place in the states or to another country?
As of right now, we’re not planning to take a vacation unless it’s a weekend trip nearby, but I would love one day to do a volunteer vacation. You can go as an individual, group or even as a family.
Like any vacation, you get to see a new place but with volunteer vacations you can also make a positive impact on that place. The opportunities range widely, from tapping maple syrup at a Native American reservation in America to constructing a health center in Kenya.
The Volunteer Family provides a list of companies that give families an opportunity to do a project together. That’s the kind of trip I would really like to take.
Another good source is Volunteer Guide because it categorizes the type of projects so you can choose between animal welfare, helping children, community development, environmental protection, health and safety or poverty and homelessness projects.
Each project includes lodging and food expense, but often you are responsible for getting to the place where you will do your project on top of the project cost. Some include travel which of course greatly increases the cost if you are going out of the country.
However, some projects are in the United States, which cuts down on the travel expense. The Sierra Club has national volunteer trips of its own as does the American Hiking Association. The sources I’ve listed above have American trips as well. If you’re looking for a bargain, VAOPS provides information on volunteer vacations that are low cost or free.
The International Volunteer Programs Association has a great list of questions to explore to help you determine which program is for you. At the least, you need to ask about cost, the type of volunteer organization for which you will be working, skills needed including language and the best time of year to go. Accommodations also will range from tents to hotels, so ask questions and be sure you know what to expect.
If you’re interested in doing a “green” vacation, check out the Daily Green’s 15 Eco-Friendly Volunteer Vacations. It showcases projects in Greece, Israel, Costa Rica and other places working with sea turtles, dolphins or on a kibbutz but also has American opportunities in the Rockies, Montana or on the Hudson River.
I have talked with members of our church’s youth group who have gone to other countries to build houses or teach Vacation Bible School. They come back much more grateful for what they have after seeing the living circumstances of the world’s poor. They also have renewed energy for charity work because of the gratitude of those they have helped.
The range of projects available is astounding and with a little research you can find one that will suit your pocketbook as well as your dreams. If you are working eight hours a day helping others on these trips, you can take a tax deduction on the expense. You can also reach out for funding to others. As they say, where’s there’s a will, there’s a way, in this case, to travel and to make a difference.