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Reasons to Take Your Teenager on a Volunteer Vacation

Looking for ideas and adventures to inspire a teenager? Why not take them on a volunteer vacation, suggests travel writer Sucheta Rawal in The Huntington Post. Not only do others benefit, but the teenager engaging in voluntourism is almost certain to experience some personal growth:

8 Reasons to Take Your Teens On a Volunteer Vacation

By Sucheta Rawal

Travel Writer

Posted: 06/09/2014 4:27 pm EDT Updated: 06/09/2014 4:59 pm EDT

Huffington Post, Travel Section

Volunteer vacationing, or voluntourism, is a relatively new phenomenon that includes a service component built into a short-term vacation. Don’t confuse it with a mission trip, which is a trip designed specifically to work on a charity project or spread the philosophy of a religious group, or with the Peace Corps, which offers an opportunity to live and volunteer abroad for extended periods of time. The idea behind a volunteer vacation is to give back to the community you are visiting while having fun and learning about the local culture.

This type of a meaningful summer getaway can be especially useful for teenagers. Imagine a real-life lab where teens are learning as well as contributing. Choose any topic of interest to plan your themed trip, including the environment, health, education, micro lending, crafts, firefighting, sports, animals or construction. Most organizations require no prior experience or special skills but may not admit children less than eight years old.

1. Learn the real culture

International travel provides the opportunity for a great learning experience, but if you only take group tours and do solely tourist activities, you never really learn about a place’s true culture. Volunteering makes you get out there and meet the locals, as well as talk to and work alongside them. When you are forced into a situation where you are interacting with the locals everyday, you start to pick up on their cultural nuances and understand their culture on a deeper level. The recipients also feel grateful for your contributions and may invite you to private dinners, family gatherings or festivals that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

2. Strengthen family bonds

Traveling is a family bonding experience, but doing projects while traveling builds a sense of teamwork. Kids of all ages can work together building homes in villages, sowing seeds at community farms, taking care of animals at sanctuaries or engaging street kids in sports. Grandparents, uncles and cousins who don’t get to spend time with each other outside the once-a-year Thanksgiving or Christmas get-together can hang out as well as feel good about making an impact.

3. Be a positive role model

When your kids see you working hard to build toilets for village schools versus sipping margaritas on the beach, they develop a deeper admiration for you. As a parent, you become a positive role model who encourages them to think beyond themselves and to lend a helping hand to the global community. You empower your kids to be responsible, compassionate and good global citizens by leading by example.

4. Prepare the leaders of tomorrow

Working abroad as a volunteer helps teach greater tolerance and understanding towards people from diverse cultural backgrounds, lifestyles, ages and income levels. It helps young people break down stereotypes at a young age and grow into responsible, caring leaders. According to certain studies, adults who volunteered as kids were twice as likely to be involved in community service as adults who did not. If you expose your kids to volunteering at a young age, they are likely to become contributing members of society and future change agents.

5. Get a break on your taxes

Many volunteer vacations are tax deductible. If you are traveling with a registered charitable organization and the main reason for your trip is to do volunteer work, you can deduct all or most of the expenses you incur. For a family taking an international trip, the savings can amount to thousands of dollars.

6. Leave a positive footprint

Going on a volunteer vacation as opposed to a regular one will always leave a positive footprint. When you depart a destination, you bequeath something of value to the locals that will help them in their future. Weather you teach English to women or bring smiles to the faces of little kids, it is certain that the impact of your visit is much more than the dollars you spend at the hotels and restaurants.

7. Build your teen’s resume

Any volunteer work adds value to college applications. Teens can draw references from their experiences of traveling internationally, seeing how people live in different parts of the world, and helping make a positive impact. It provides them with great content that is relevant in class discussions, interviews and term papers. It also boosts their confidence and social skills.

8. Make them appreciate what they have

Perhaps the greatest benefit of a volunteer vacation experience is making your teens appreciate the lives they have and halting the trap of overconsumption. Witnessing how the majority of the world’s population lives without 24-hour running water, electricity, down comforters and overstocked pantries is truly an eye-opening experience for which no textbook or documentary film can substitute. After making friends with others of a similar age who live with very little, they will probably not demand the latest electronic gadgets next Christmas!

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Volunteer Vacation Peru: A Student’s Journal

Volunteer Vacation Peru

peru-volunteer-vacations

Volunteer Vacation Peru

Founded in 1913, The Hockaday School is an independent college preparatory day and boarding school for girls, pre-kindergarten through 12th Grade.  Located on an expansive campus, Hockaday is in the residential area of north Dallas, Texas.

For generations, girls from Texas, from across the United States, and from around the world have lived at Hockaday, learning, gaining friendships, pursuing ambitions, and creating warm memories that last a lifetime.

Among the many good work, community-oriented and educational projects the students are participating in in 2014 is a volunteer vacation with Globe Aware to Peru. This is Hockaday School student Ashna Kumar’s daily account of her journey and experience. Enjoy!

Day 1

Hola everyone!

Although our trip got delayed by an hour we finally reached Lima at 2 in the morning. We got settled in at the hostel, Mundo Albergue de Aeropuerto. After eating a delicious breakfast at the hostel, we, along with our third chaperone, Federico, went to the grocery store to get the necessary supplies for San Pedro. Our next stop was for lunch at a traditional Peruvian restaurant, El Paraiso Huanca. They cooked the food, wrapped in aluminum foil, in fire pit in the ground. They served us chicken, beef, pork, corn, green beans, tamales, cheese, rice, salad, and corn. We also got to taste the national drink (we think) of Peru called Inca Cola. After a fulfilling lunch, we danced with some locals and played on a playground. Then we piled into the bus again and headed towards San Pedro. The bus ride lasted around 2.5 hours and we saw many exquisite views including the monkey bridge and stopped at many small towns. We found it humorous that we had to pay 30 cents to use the restroom. Through many bottles of water and some nervous breakdowns because of the steep cliffs, we finally landed in San Pedro de Costa. We settled in our rooms and found out the heartbreaking news that there was no hot water. Welcome to Peru I guess. Then we explored the town (wasn´t hard because it is so small) and had dinner at this lady´s restaurant. She served us amazing food including rice, french frys, fish, and salad. We were astounded by the freshness of the tomatoes and the exquisite flavor of the rice. We hurried back to the hotel, dead tired. There we had a quick meeting where a cute college kid named Jeff explained what our project would be for the next week. We will explain next time we get internet. right now we are embarking on a journey back to the lady´s restaurant for the next days dinner.

see ya next time,
talk to you later,
the peru crew

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