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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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Global Wing’s volunteer vacation recipient takes flight

ag2Volunteer 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 tag4rip 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.

ag5

Adan Gonzales with Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN.

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’.”

agFor 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.

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Empathy, Patience and Being Aware of Your Globe

Globe Aware founder and executive director Kimberly Haley-Coleman wrote an article for Everyday Ambassador’s “Wednesday Wisdom”, a weekly series curated by Everyday Ambassador Partnerships Manager Anjana Sreedhar. In her article, Kimberly highlights central values such as empathy and patience, and how they all relate to building a comprehensive cultural understanding about our environment.

kimberly-hockadayAs a high school student in Dallas at Hocakday, I was fortunate to be able to travel internationally and to be involved in many lo­cal community service projects from candy striping at hos­pitals to working in women’s shelters. I was interested in other cultures and languages from a young age, and perhaps most specifically how cultural conditioning dictates such a great amount of our behaviors. It is something we don’t often examine, that our actions are often largely LEARNED. It may be something as simple as how much free time is considered a humane and normal amount to have in one’s life. The answer is hugely divergent even based on the country in which one was born, or the culture to which one is attached. I find this important because it also shows how a person can change their perspective. The kind of message that has the ability to completely change your life – to be happier, healthier and to have a greater impact helping others achieve their goals – which in itself has a coronation to happiness.

After high school, I went to Emory University and continued educa­tion in international cultures and held many jobs that re­quired multi-cultural skills. I then went onto receive my Masters in French and Art His­tory and my MBA in inter­national business then worked for a variety of corporations. Like many, I saw my pocket book expand, but felt my soul shrinking. I would find myself in a country like Brazil over the weekend on business, and looking to fill free time. Beyond tourist activities, I wanted to connect to the local communities by volunteering. I found that most organizations simply do not want to accept anyone short term, as the amount of time and resources it takes just to organize fro or train someone for a few days is more trouble than its worth. I did understand. But my appetite grew. I called every organization I could and kept coming up against the same response. Eventually I started organizing my own short term programs and found there was a huge response by others to join me. Once I was able to live on the income from my spouse, I left prior work and set about creating these experiences full time.

Globe Aware’s objectives are two-fold. One is to promote cultural awareness; essentially to allow the participant to get a more complete understanding of the real beauties and challenges faced in a different culture, rather than just a tourist, post-card view. The other goal is to promote sustainability, which is to say to help people stand on their own two feet. To that end, we work side-by-side with locals, as equals, working on projects that are important to them. They choose the projects, the materials, and how we go about doing it. The experiences are all one week. not because that is the ideal amount of time to spend to get to know a culture, but because it is what is feasible for most North Americans. I am frequently asked if working with the Peace Corps for 2 and a half years might not be a better experience. Of course that length of time will give you a much deeper comprehension and allow significantly more time to make a meaningful contribution.

My hope is that our one week experiences light the lamp of inspiration for participants to want to come back and discover and give back to more and more cultures. We have programs in 17 countries around the world and are always expanding. In Cambodia we assemble and distribute wheelchairs for landmine victims, in Peru we build adobe lorena stoves that greatly reduce deforestation and decrease smoke inhalation inside the home, in Guatemala we install concrete floors in the homes of single mothers, we have built schools, homes, hygiene stations, the spectrum is large and each program is very different. We spend about 40 hours a week working, and still have 3 to 5 planned but optional cultural excursions. We purposefully do not work in orphanages. A quick google about “orphanage tourism” will explain why. We do, however, work with and for needy children in many of our programs. It’s a wonderful, organic learning process.

Occasionally people will ask if it’s really a good thing when volunteering abroad benefits the volunteer. Our feeling is that is a full 50% of why we exist – YES! To expand the minds of the volunteer so that they understand the real challenges of the world and return home reinvigorated to make a difference and continue giving back. While we definitely want to provide for those in need, we are not heroes. We are not coming in to save the world. Usually the locals are faster and better at every activity we take on, which in itself provides a wonderful learning experience. The goal is that our work benefits the community where we are working and the volunteer doing the work. I think it’s critical that in order to be a really involved, successful person, one should also be a globally aware. citizen. We want more people who are able to care about the globe, who are trying to help find resolutions, on a global scale, to conflicts that are im­portant, whether it’s political peace or bringing groups and different nationalities together to find a solution to problems that we all face.

Last but not least, participating in a travel abroad program can be a huge source of joy for someone for their whole life, to have those wonderful moments of cultur­al understanding.

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Volunteer Vacations: Be Part of the Solution
Kimberly Haley-Coleman

Globe Aware founder Kimberly Haley-Coleman

Globe Aware founder Kimberly Haley-Coleman was offered the opportunity to explain the attraction of volunteer vacations with Globe Aware to Perrault magazine readers. Kimberly uses her not-for-profit company’s Thailand destination to illustrate her points.

READ THE ARTICLE – perreault_magazine_March_2015

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