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Category: Volunteer vacations
Globe Aware named a Top Sustainable Voluntourism provider for 2017

Sustainable Voluntourism places volunteer travelers in ecotourism activities

Globe Aware named a Top Eco-Travel provider for 2017

Globe Aware named a Top Eco-Travel provider for 2017

In its annual list, GreenMatch, an online service which provides you with quotes for green energy products from multiple providers, identifies sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways of travelling and recognizes Globe Aware for the work done in many countries around the world:

Traveling is an exciting and eye-opening adventure that many individuals and organisations like to partake in. However, many travelers are unaware of the carbon footprints that they leave behind when they visit, and that can be harmful to these communities and countries.

Fortunately, as environmental awareness and engagement gain popularity, there are a growing number of individuals and organisations that travel sustainability. This means that they are engaging in ecotourism activities, giving back to the environment in community projects, reducing their overall carbon footprint and much more!

After extensive research by the GreenMatch Team, we have nominated and selected the Top Eco-Traveling Enthusiasts of 2017.”

Globe Aware is recognized for “Sustainable Voluntourism”

Learn more here

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Five volunteer vacations to take with your family

United Airlines Hub
By Matt Chernov
February 14, 2017

Though some might imagine the typical volunteer as a college student gaining valuable life experiences in a far-off country, the truth is that all types of people generously donate their time and energy every day. More than ever, this includes families volunteering together while on vacation.

Beyond the benefits that volunteering can have on the community, the values it instills in young people are priceless. Children and teens who volunteer learn life skills, develop empathy and gain a feeling of self-respect and confidence that will last well into the future. To help you plan a volunteer vacation, here are five destinations and programs that you can share with your entire family.

Globe Aware – Orosi Valley, Costa Rica

Since 1990, the nonprofit organization Globe Aware has been creating short-term volunteer opportunities around the world for people who want to give back, regardless of their experience levels. Though they regularly assist solo travelers, church groups and corporate clients, family volunteering has become one of their most popular categories. The program they offer in Costa Rica’s stunning Orosi Valley is particularly suited for families with children. All projects are designed for unskilled volunteers and include tasks like teaching English, installing road signs, building recycling stations and constructing chicken coops. Volunteer vacationers in the Orosi Valley can stay in one of several mountaintop houses, complete with electricity and laundry facilities onsite and healthy and delicious Costa Rican meals.

When you’ve decided which volunteer vacation is right for your family, visit united.com to book your trip.

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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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Five Latin American Destinations Worth a Volunteer Vacation

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

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.

Projects Abroad

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.

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Difference Maker: Alexis Hurd-Shires helping Syrian refugees

Globe Aware was featured in the October 29th issue of The Christian Science Monitor: People Making a Difference. As part of The Christian Science Monitor’s efforts to Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life®, the publication regularly features NGO partners. The Christian Science Monitor also uses social media to continually inform readers about how they can get involved with the NGO partners.

Difference Maker

Alexis Hurd-Shires found her calling helping Syrian refugees

She headed to Lebanon with the general aim of doing some good. Finding a struggling refugee community badly in need of a school, she decided to open one.

Beirut, Lebanon — When Alexis Hurd-Shires decided to leave the United States and move to the Middle East, she didn’t know which country she would be going to or exactly what she would be doing. She only knew that she was going to try to make a positive impact.

Globe Aware Volunteer Vacations


Alexis Hurd-Shires stands with some of her students on the campus of Middle East University, outside Beirut, Lebanon.

The daughter of a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, she was accustomed to traveling. While working on a master’s degree in social work, and after graduation as well, she found short-term opportunities to work abroad. Still, she dreamed of finding something more permanent.

In 2013 the door opened for her to be part of a project sponsored by the Adventist church in Beirut, Lebanon, and Ms. Hurd-Shires jumped at the opportunity. But after she arrived, she found that the work she would be doing wasn’t clearly specified.

“It was actually almost like someone handing you a blank check and saying, ‘Go imagine something and do it,’ ” she says. “Basically, the Adventist church here in the Middle East felt like their church was very inwardly focused and not really reaching out … and they said to themselves ‘this is not healthy for any organization.’ ”

Hurd-Shires immediately began to assess what she could do to make a positive impact. As she explored Beirut, she came across the Bourj Hammoud community, a traditionally Armenian suburb that in recent years has seen an influx of migrant laborers, as well as refugees from the ongoing civil war in neighboring Syria.

Many charitable organizations were already working in Bourj Hammoud and providing for particular needs. But as Hurd-Shires began to talk directly with community leaders and the directors of various local organizations, she found that the Syrian refugee community in particular was in need of a great deal of support.

Educating their children was one of their biggest struggles.

Officially, Lebanon welcomes Syrian children into its public schools. The reality, however, can be less inviting. Along with Arabic, the curriculum is largely taught in French or English. Yet even if the Syrian children show competency in one of these languages, schools often still turn them away.

“Sometimes they say it’s because of the ratio. If there are 20 Syrian kids, they say, ‘We don’t want to accept them if we only have 10 Lebanese kids [in the class]’ because they don’t want to throw off the equilibrium of the school,” Hurd-Shires explains.

Lebanon’s entire population before the huge influx of refugees hovered around 4 million.

Because of the number of Syrian refugees fleeing into Lebanon – the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees listed 1.3 million registered refugees in Lebanon as of early 2015 – discrimination against Syrians has become commonplace.

Hurd-Shires recognized that her “blank check” project could help to alleviate some of the challenges facing the refugees. So, in the fall of 2013, she opened the Bourj Hammoud Adventist Learning Center – just a few months after her arrival in Lebanon.

Hurd-Shires already had been collecting the names of refugee children who had been out of school for two to three years.

“By the time we were ready to open [our school], we even had a waiting list,” she says. “And it’s always been that way ever since.”

The school, now entering its third academic year, is able to accommodate 70 students. With a curriculum taught in both Arabic and English, it is run by a mix of full-time staff, university students, and a few volunteers from abroad.

Even before the school opened its doors, Hurd-Shires began working to meet the needs of the refugees by providing medical supplies and food. Through a steady stream of donations from other countries – and from the local Adventist community – the center has been able to provide support.

The school also works to build lasting relationships with those it serves.

“Three days a week after school, the teachers go out and they spend time in the homes, just visiting with the families, talking with the families, befriending the families,” Hurd-Shires says.

In addition to these home visits, the school also holds regular weekly gatherings and arranges outings that bring the refugee families together.

Last June, during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, Hurd-Shires and other staff joined refugee families for iftar dinners, as they broke their fast. The school has also organized iftar meals for the families at the school.

Such gatherings have not only caused the refugees to see Hurd-Shires and her staff as extended family, but also have helped to bring the Bourj Hammoud refugee community itself closer together.

During this year’s Ramadan, “Everyone was sharing what they felt blessed for,” Hurd-Shires recalls. “And one mother said, ‘I was really dreading Ramadan this year because for us Ramadan is a time for family, a time where everybody goes to cook food with family and neighbors. But here, who do I have? Even though I don’t have my real family here, I came to this iftar on the first night of Ramadan, and I am with my family.’ ”

Tragedy struck earlier this year when a student at the center died. But Hurd-Shires again saw how the community had grown together.

“As we were at the mom’s house, grieving with her and the family, one by one the other parents started coming to support her and be there for her,” she says.

Now, when the Bourj Hammoud Adventist Learning Center teachers and staff visit with a family in the evenings, it’s normal for other families to show up as well.

At the center of this budding community is Hurd-Shires herself.

“Alexis is trying her best to be friendly and helpful. She is always the shelter they come to whenever they have any problem,” says Noor al-Masery, a university student who works at the learning center.

“I’ve seen the impact of the center in the children’s lives … through making them feel that they are not alone in this world [and] allowing them to think about a better future through education,” says Christine Watts, another university student who has worked at the school.

Ayat Hariri, a 13-year-old student, says Hurd-Shires has become more than just a teacher. “She helped me very much, and I love her not just like a teacher, [but] like my friend.”

Hurd-Shires says she feels blessed by the support that the school has received thus far. But she has even bigger dreams. She hopes that the school someday will be able to expand to accommodate more students, or that perhaps she can open a second school elsewhere in Lebanon.

The gratitude of the refugees has been shown in some unusual ways.

“One day I came in and this one particular family was so excited to see me,” she says. “They were saying, ‘We have something for you! We have something for you!’ ”

They gave her a dried piece of skin, which they told her was the umbilical cord of their newborn baby. In their region of Syria, she learned, it’s traditional to put the umbilical cord in a place that signifies what you want for your baby’s future.

“We don’t have big dreams of what we want him to become or do in life,” they told her. “All we know is that we want him to be like you.”

How to take action

Universal Giving helps people give to and volunteer for top-performing charitable organizations around the world. All the projects are vetted by Universal Giving; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the listed cause. Below are links to three groups that help children in need:

  • The Shirley Ann Sullivan Foundation provides educational opportunities and seeks to protect children from exploitation and physical harm. Take action: Empower children through education.
  • World Food Program USA (Friends of WFP) supports the work of the United Nations World Food Program, the world’s largest hunger relief organization. Take action: Provide relief for Syrian refugees.
  • Globe Aware helps people and communities prosper without becoming dependent on outside aid. Take action: Volunteer to build a school in Ghana.
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