Emma Sarran Webster writing for Teen Vogue explores how to turn spring break into a truly worthwhile, beneficial vacation through volunteer vacations with Globe Aware and other working vacation facilitators.
6 Spring Break Ideas That Allow You to Give Back While You Vacation
From a Kindergarten in Argentina to the health campaigns in Ghana.
This Spring Break, take the opportunity to travel and help others, through a volunteer vacation. The combination of volunteering and travel is growing in popularity as an increasing number of companies offer the chance to explore and make a difference. You can take your pick from working at orphanages in Africa, assisting in wildlife conservation efforts in South America, or protecting natural environments right here in the States. “Volunteering overseas is, without a doubt, one of the top experiences anyone could hope to undertake in their lifetime,” Dr. Ken Dorman, a board member of service travel organization Globe Aware, wrote on their website. “Even a short-term volunteer adventure can change your life and world perspective. Few things can give you a greater sense of meaning.” So as you plan your Spring Break, consider gaining perspective through one of these six companies that offer service trips at home and abroad.
Globe Aware offers 8-day, Saturday-to-Saturday international volunteer vacations — perfect for a full and fulfilling Spring Break. The company focuses not on giving charity, but on helping host communities build renewable, sustainable programs. “The goal is not for volunteers to change the host communities, but rather to help them in the needs that the host community has identified as important,” the Globe Aware site states.
As a Globe Aware volunteer, you can travel to places like Cambodia to help with reforestation efforts; Brazil to help build a community center; or Romania to help teach English. And fear not: You don’t need any special skills or prior qualifications to join; the volunteer coordinators will help you throughout the process. Book your trip as a solo traveler, with your family, or even a group of girlfriends.
Projects Abroad, a company that sends more than 10,000 volunteers overseas every year to work on service projects, offers week-long Alternative Spring Break Trips designed specifically for college students. Sign up to volunteer at a kindergarten in Argentina or Fiji; help with public health campaigns in Ghana; participate in renovation work in Morocco; or help protect sea turtles in Mexico, among other options. Not in college yet? Check out Project Abroad’s High School Special programs.
Fathom gives travelers the chance to head out on a cruise — with a purpose. Depart by sea from Miami to one of two Caribbean destinations: the Dominican Republic or Cuba. While on board the ship, you’ll get to know your fellow travelers, learn about your destination and its customs, and participate in orientation activities and lessons that will prepare you for your on-land experience. Sail to the Dominican Republic to serve the local communities through projects like working with a women’s collective on their successful artisanal chocolate business, or helping locals gain access to clean water. Or immerse yourself in Cuban culture through visits with Cuban professionals, entrepreneurs, and family business owners to learn about education, economics, the role of government, and more in this country that was, until recently, mostly off-limits to American travelers.
Sierra Club Outings
Sierra Club is the country’s largest grassroots environmental organization, on a mission to “explore, enjoy, and protect the planet.” As part of that mission, Sierra Club Outings offers environmentally friendly, outdoor excursions throughout the year — among them, inspiring and adventurous service trips. Head to Big Sur State Park to help with trail improvements; to New York City to assist with maintenance and invasive species removal in the Thain Family Forest; or to Florida to work on restoring the ecosystem on the island of Cayo Costa.
Earthwatch Institute gives adults and teens alike the chance to work with scientists on various expeditions focused on protecting the planet and its species. As a “citizen scientist” on an Earthwatch Expedition, you can explore the impact of climate change on the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park; research ocean health as it pertains to whales and dolphins in Costa Rica; or learn about wildlife and ecosystems as you help conserve river dolphins and monkeys in Peru’s Amazonian forests.
American Hiking Society
American Hiking Society (AHS), a national organization that promotes and protects foot trails and the surrounding natural areas, offers volunteer vacations focused on building and maintaining trails throughout the country, with a healthy dose of backpacking or day hiking. Explore AHS’s Project Guide to find a trip that’s right for you, whether that’s assisting with boardwalk maintenance at Virginia’s Kiptopeke State Park; protecting the sand dunes at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; or helping construct a new trail at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Tennessee.
AHS also offers Alternative Breaks, open to groups of 8-15 students who sign up together and are touted as “part volunteer work project, part kick-back outdoor vacation” on the website. Though the Spring Break trips are full, summer trips to places like Texas, Florida, and California are open — perhaps a sign to get a head start on your summer break planning?
Great news article by By Erika Miranda, writing for The Latin Post, on how youth can be inspired to give back to their community through a volunteer vacation.
Teach youngsters to be grateful for their blessings and give back to the community while enjoying their Spring break vacation in Latin America.
Nowadays, youngsters look forward to Spring break because it is a chance to get away from all the toils of studying and spend time with family and friends out of town or overseas.
While that sounds like fun, there may be better ways to enjoy the vacation while doing something to better the lives of others.
Globe Aware can help your teenagers tap their inner altruistic self by going to Costa Rica where they can stay in a village near one of the country’s most diverse biological reserves: the Carara Biological Reserve.
They can also visit the popular “cultural and natural paradise” in Orosi Valley where they can help create sustainable members of small communities in the locality.
Here is a video description of what’s in store for volunteer vacationers from Globe Aware.
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
The International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) founded by Dan Radcliffe in 2007 promotes literacy in Guatemala where vacationers can teach residents how to speak English and Spanish as well as proper care for children and the elderly.
The program also includes teaching about Lake Conservation, Animal Care and Animal Rights, Construction and Renovation, Eco-Agriculture Conservation, and Special Needs.
The program period ranges from one to 24 weeks, depending on how long the volunteer wants to stay.
Of course, the organization will provide training for volunteers prior to their departure to ensure “an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program.”
Volunteering Solutions (VolSol)
Founded in 2006, this international volunteer organization opens popular tourist destinations like Peru to volunteers who want to spend their holidays and vacation days helping others.
VolSol’s Peru-Cusco program promises an unforgettable experience with the country’s ancient ruins, history, customs and traditions as well as an awe-inspiring tour of the enigmatic Machu Picchu.
Volunteer work with VolSol in Peru includes dental, medical and teaching programs as well as child care for normal and differently abled children.
Already catering to over 10,000 volunteers every year, Projects Abroad presents a chance for tourists to help young children of Argentina earn kindergarten knowledge with their “Care in Argentina Alternative Spring Break Trip.”
Set up in Cordoba, volunteers will be assigned to assist local kindergarten teachers by playing with the children and helping them with homework.
Volunteers would also be assigned tasks to help with general maintenance of the school and the kids’ homes.
American Hiking Society (AHS)
As its name implies, the American Hiking Society is composed of a group that protect and promote foot trails as well as the surrounding natural areas.
While they mostly do hiking and backpacking with adults, AHS also has a special program for youngsters that allows them to do “part volunteer work project, part kick-back outdoor vacation.”
With a group of 8 to 15 students, the AHS combines hiking, exploration, trail work and crew camaraderie into one fun experience and gives them the choice of camping out or staying in lodges, bunkhouses or cabins during the course of their week-long vacation-slash-volunteer stay.
Volunteer vacation recipient takes flight
Adan Gonzales was one of Globe Aware’s first recipients of the Global Wings initiative. Gonzalez grew up in Oak Cliff, a predominately Mexican-American community in Dallas that is mostly known for crime and socioeconomic strife. As a child, he sensed a disconnect between his surroundings and the American dream his parents had believed in when they immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. Street violence was an everyday concern for the family as well as what seemed to be a series of never-ending financial blows. Adan was inspired by his parents’ work ethic and perseverance and at the age of eight, began to sell movies and snacks at the local flee market to help afford school uniforms for him and his brother.
As his parents worked multiple jobs to provide basic needs for the family, traveling was an unattainable luxury. Adan and his parents rarely traveled outside of their city or state, unless it meant the rare trip to Mexico to visit relatives. Even exploring his own city was out of reach for much of his childhood.
In high school, Gonzalez realized that through academic success and community involvement he could make life better for himself and his relatives.
“That’s when I started doing well in school. I saw how proud my dad would be when the teachers told him I was smart or that my grades were really good,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to show my parents that their sacrifice and hard work was worth it.”
Adan also became involved in local community service and began to seek ways in which he was able to give back on a Global scale. Through the Global Wings initiative, individuals such as Adan, who have the desire to serve, but may not have the resources or know how to do so are empowered with the tools, knowledge and means to make it happen. Through events, raffles, and donations, Globe Aware was able to send three graduating seniors to Costa Rica to work on turtle conservation efforts. They also had the opportunity to work with a local school by teaching English and working on projects to improve the infrastructure of the school.
His fellow volunteers were so impressed with Adan’s desire to learn and serve, that they were inspired to fund a second trip for him to volunteer in Cambodia.
“Cambodia was an experience in my life that I still have a hard time putting into words. It made me a better person,” Gonzales said. “The things I saw, and people I met helped me understand more the concept of being alive, to understand that as people, even if we do not have wealth, more than anything in this world we can give to someone…is our ‘time’.”
For Adan, his volunteer trips to Costa Rica and Guatemala helped prepare him for new experiences and has further driven his desire to give back. Adan went on to attend Georgetown University and founded the Si Se Puede Network. The network promotes his simple philosophy for success to ambitious but disadvantaged students: Great students keep up their grades, perform community service, and develop leadership skills.
We are so proud of Adan and look forward to seeing all of the amazing things he has set out to accomplish.