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What do you know about volunteer vacations?

Volunteer vacations or ‘voluntourism’ are exactly what they sound like; individuals spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of months working on social and environmental projects.

Oct 18, 2016, 04.26 PM
Source: Moneycontrol.com

Would you rather spend your annual two weeks of vacation sipping sangrias on a tropical beach or building greenhouses in the mountains? Would you opt to spend your time on a luxurious Caribbean cruise or teaching school kids in a remote area? Today more and more people are signing up for the latter options, in line with a rapidly burgeoning tourism trend known as volunteer vacations.

Volunteer vacations or ‘voluntourism’ are exactly what they sound like; individuals spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of months working on social and environmental projects.

What do you know about volunteer vacations

What do you know about volunteer vacations?

These can include building houses, bathrooms, and other amenities, teaching children as well as the underprivileged important skills, studying the environment or animals and even typing up data; an exercise which may seem dangerously close to your regular job.

Why are more and more people choosing to spend their vacations working, rather than indulging in some well-deserved relaxation? Perhaps society is developing a stronger social conscience; in a world where celebrities are quick to pledge themselves to causes, and educational boards demand their students get involved with social work, several individuals prefer spending their free time improving the lives of others to make a difference.

Aside from the feel good factor, volunteer vacations are the perfect way to experience a particular place in an entirely unique way. Travelling in the 21st century is no longer about following a structured itinerary that takes you through all the regular tourist traps in a city. Today, travelling is more about authentic experiences – volunteering vacations allow travelers to interact with locals in an organic way teaching them more about their culture than any regular resort stay would. While travelling is always an opportunity to broaden your horizons, volunteer vacations will introduce you to entirely new approaches to life and ways of living.

When it comes to ways of living, be prepared to rough it out should you decide to take a volunteer vacation. As most organisations which take volunteers for short amounts of times are non-profit groups, they’ll offer humble digs which one may have to share with other volunteers. Food is typically simple, and while most volunteers do get leisure time, the work can be tough and challenging. Additionally, most volunteers are required to pay the organisation for the chance to volunteer; the payments are used for boarding, supplies and sometimes partially as a donation to the cause.

Despite these considerations, people across the world – especially the youth – are getting on board with the concept. There are various organisations to look to if you’d like to explore the idea of volunteer vacations yourself; WWWOOF India, for instance, aims to improve the practice of organic farming in India while Dakshinayan in Jharkhand asks volunteers to teach health education as well as basic Maths and English skills to the local population.

If you’re looking to volunteer overseas, Projects Abroad is a platform for a variety of organizations which require volunteers in countries like Italy, Romania, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya, Morocco and Fiji. Global Aware is another international organization which offers international programs as well information about volunteer vacations.

These organisations are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to commit to their cause; if it seems up your street, there’s no nobler way to spend your days off.
Tags  Caribbean cruise vacation

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That one-of-a-kind special volunteer vacation

August 23, 2016

Wisconsin State Journal
By LISA M. DIETLIN For Lee Enterprises

Are you always in search of that one-of-a-kind special vacation? Are you constantly trying to find time to do good?

There’s a tremendous opportunity to have a very special vacation, meet amazing people, visit places you’ve never been all while making a difference by taking part in voluntouring or in a do-good vacation.

Volunteer vacations

Volunteer vacations offer countless benefits and opportunities

Voluntouring is a chance to  participate in programs around the world that make a difference within a short time frame – anywhere from one week to about three months, while vacationing!

Because you’re donating your time and effort to a nonprofit organization, a significant portion of your vacation costs may even be tax deductible.

Here’s how voluntouring works:

You will be working side by side with a community and its residents.

Voluntouring vacations are available around the world in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia.

The projects cover many important areas, such as children, the environment, health care, education, historic restoration, animal conservation, senior care, construction and others.

Voluntour participants often speak about building tremendous new friendships that last for many years.

While some trips are for adults only, there are many that are appropriate for families and young people.

Voluntourism has become both a big and global business primarily supported by the increasing desire of travelers to take worthwhile and meaningful trips while trying to do some good.

Examples of voluntouring vacations

Through Projects Abroad, a two week program offers voluntourists the opportunity to work in archaeological ruins of ancient pre-Inca structures in Peru. Anyone 16 years or older can participate. The work would include preliminary investigations, excavations, analysis and registration of cultural materials, site visits, office registry work, working at museums, archaeology presentations, classification of ceramics and community activities including working at an elementary school. The group also organizes social events for volunteers.

Another example of a trip takes place with Greenforce (www.greenforce.org); for approximately $3,900 you can work to save the endangered orangutans in one of the oldest and most beautiful rain forests in Borneo.

Other types of trips include voluntourists working on restoring temples by spending half the day cleaning paintings or building walls with the monks. The rest of the afternoon they spend their time sightseeing.

Or a penguin rescue and rehabilitation program in South Africa with accommodations and a meal allowance during six weeks of catching, feeding and cleaning up after penguins and other seabirds. But you also have two days off per week to sightsee.

The possibilities and opportunities are truly endless.

Alternatively, you might also want to consider a do-good vacation, which includes travel to more common holiday destinations in places like Ireland, Italy and Spain. These vacations are different from voluntouring in that you will be working with a nonprofit to raise money for a cause and not be working in a local community.

Often travelers create their own trip by raising money or awareness on behalf of a cause or organization that is near and dear to their hearts. Work with your favorite nonprofit organization to create a plan of action that includes doing good on your next vacation.

Tips for voluntouring

  •     Find an organization that matches your passion and has a proven track record.
  •     Select a trip that suits your abilities and interests and be prepared to work!
  •     Speak with people who have been on the excursion before or worked with the company you choose.
  •     Learn about local customs – even a bit of the language – before you go, but be prepared for a trip that may be tremendously different from what you might expect.
  •     Expect none of the comforts of home, in other words, you will be “roughing it.”
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Volunteer vacations take many forms

Travel Pulse writer Janeen Christoff explores the many forms and partners volunteer vacations are available. 

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship
Carnival’s new social impact cruise line, Fathom, debuted with much fanfare in April — and has continued to garner accolades from the traveling public throughout its inaugural sailings. One of the keys behind the experience that separates Fathom from other cruise lines is its dedication to voluntourism.

Fathom's shore excursions are designed to give travelers the opportunity to interact with the local communities in an impactful way. (photo courtesy of Fathom)

Fathom’s shore excursions are designed to give travelers the opportunity to interact with the local communities in an impactful way. (photo courtesy of Fathom)

Fathom provides cruisers the chance to immerse themselves in the cultures of Cuba and the Dominican Republic and make a difference by participating in a variety of volunteer projects offered as shore excursions by the cruise line.
Its success speaks to the growing popularity of social impact in the traveling community. Voluntourism is one of the fastest-growing trends in travel at the moment and research from the Family Travel Association suggests that it is a trend that will be on the radar for a long time.

Ten percent of families surveyed in the Family Travel Association’s U.S. Family Travel Survey said that they had taken a volunteer vacation. Maybe more importantly, 29 percent said that they would be interested in this type of travel. Of those who had taken a volunteer vacation, 72 percent said that they would do it again.

If any parent has been searching for schools for their children lately, they will recognize the buzz words “raising global citizens,” “citizens of the world,” and “fostering a sense of global awareness.” There is an increasing focus in education to create meaningful experiences for children that give them a greater worldview.

But Voluntourism goes beyond just multigenerational groups. It’s a growing trend among boomers and millennials as well. According to a recent survey on Huffington Post, Americans age 60-plus were the most likely to have taken a volunteer trip in the last year and retirees were actively seeking out ways to volunteer and give back, especially while traveling.

You don’t have to sail with Fathom to have this type of experience — although it’s a great way to give back, if you do. There are a surprising number of hotels, tour operators and even other cruise lines that offer these opportunities. There are also entire organizations that are devoted to helping people organize trips that are focused on voluntourism.
Here are some of the many ways that travelers can give back while on vacation — and even some that you can incorporate into an existing trip.

Globe Aware
Globe Aware is an international organization that offers travelers the opportunity to participate in weeklong projects in a variety of destinations around the world.

Together for Good
Together for Good is a nonprofit organization that serves as a go-to resource for finding voluntourism trips and opportunities for giving. It is run by family travel expert Nancy Schretter and provides a list of opportunities within a variety of destinations, at resorts and on cruises as well as anecdotal experiences and news on the impacts of voluntourism.

Ritz-Carlton Impact Experiences
Ritz-Carlton’s Impact Experiences provides its guests with a memorable and enriching addition to the resort experience by offering opportunities for its guests to contribute to the local community. Impact Experiences are social and environmental impact activities that are unique to the destination in which they are offered and designed to have a lasting and authentic effect within the communities that they serve.

Sandals Foundation
Sandals Resorts’ Sandals Foundation provides a number of opportunities for families to give back, including its Reading Road Trip, which enables guests to visit foundation-adopted schools and help kids learn to read.

Pack for a Purpose
If you already have plans for the summer but want to include some form of giving abroad, contact Pack for a Purpose. The organization helps travelers select and deliver items that are needed in the communities that they are visiting abroad.

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