Spring Break a Chance to Give Back

Toronto-based freelance journalist Aaron Broverman examines how volunteer vacation opportunities are helping redefine how we view Spring Break.

Spring Break a Chance to Give Back

By Aaron Broverman

Thanks to Joe Francis and movies like The Real Cancun, when people think of Spring Break it’s all about beer, beaches and breasts, but what if it could be about something more?

If you’re not into the typical college vacation scene, the break provides an excellent opportunity to give back, lend a hand and ‘Be the change.’
Volunteering abroad can be an excellent way to make a lasting contribution to an under privileged community, while still kicking it in the sun and sand of exotic locales. Below are just a few of the destinations with a social conscience you may find yourself in during your week away from school.
Start with Your School
Alternative Spring Break [ASB] is a matter of course in the U.S., with close to every college and university offering some kind of international and community exchange program with the focus on lending assistance to communities in need.
Universities in Canada, particularly those in Ontario, such as Carelton, Ryerson and the University of Western Ontario also offer great opportunities. There are also programs offered from Concordia and the University of Winnipeg. Whether it be within the local community or at destinations abroad, the ASB projects change every year.
In 2011, Ryerson students are building a school, teaching students and feeding the homeless in Columbia. Carelton has decided to aid both the local Ottawa community and organizations in Mexico and Guatamala focused on poverty and homelessness. Concordia will be teaching at orphanages in Peru and the Dominican Republic, building houses with Habitat for Huminanity in Louisiana and stocking food banks at home in Montreal. The University of Western Ontario offers the most varied number of locations, including initiatives in Costa Rica, London, ON., Winnipeg, Peru, Dominican Republic, Louisiana and Nicaragua. The University of Manitoba is partnering with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) to help refugees and new immigrants.
All of these programs run during Reading Week in the last week of February at varying costs from $200 to $800 for the trips within North America and $1,500 to $3,000 for the international trips. These fees cover meals, accommodations and flights. But if you cannot afford them, don’t worry. Financial assistance is available with every ASB project. Also, most of these schools offer a second program in the summer, so if you miss your opportunity during spring break, you can apply for the summer program.
Eligibility requirements vary between each university, but for all of them you must be a student of the schools running the program and students who have already been on the trip are ineligible for a return. However, they can apply for leadership positions on their trip.
Organizations Offering Opportunities
Though the Alternative Spring Break movement is primarily an American one with organizations like Break Away hosting trips with schools exclusively in the U.S. Other non-profits like Free the Children and travel agencies like Globe Aware specialize in volunteer vacations abroad all year. One could simply schedule a trip near their Spring Break respite.
Global Aware destinations include countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, The Caribbean and Eastern Europe, with trips leaving from February to December. They come at a varying cost between $1140 and $2100 U.S. and could be booked by parties of any number — though groups of ten or more from corporate offices, to schools and others, receive a discount.
Though travelers pay for their week-long vacations, Globe Aware’s status as a non-profit organization means the cost of their vacation is a tax deduction. 12% of your expenses go to administrative costs and overhead, while the rest goes to meals, accommodation, on-site travel, donations to the various community projects, your orientation package, volunteer coordination, program development, country manager expenses, community team recruitment, logistical support, medical emergency evacuation, medical insurance and project consultants. Airfare is not covered and is an additional expense. However, Globe Aware will help with finding flights.
Free the Children offers Me to We volunteer vacations for those wanting to give back during the summer in places like Kenya, China, Ecuador, India and along the Arizona-Mexican border.
Trips are available for adults, families, youth and school groups for prices among $2400 and $4995. This covers flight, accommodation, meals, transportation and the cost of the program itself. Free the Children also offers a Joe’s Dream scholarship, named for Joe Opatowski — a former trip leader who was killed in a car accident in 2001, for those young people who don’t have the financial means for the trip.
Beyond these organizations, you can always turn to religion for opportunities to give back through missionary work. Many churches and individuals choose Habitat for Humanity on one of their many builds around the world. Most build trips cost $1,650 for airfare and the rest of the living essentials and insurance, plus another $1,200 for what is known as R&R. These are the cultural activities and tourism that fit between the build days. Only the build – half of the trip cost actually gets a tax receipt — the rest is just a vacation.

Experienced Volunteer for Cuzco Children

Travelocity`s Travel for Good voluntourism grant competition is underway. If you are interested in applying for one of Travelocity`s $5,000 voluntourism grants, click here, to learn more about Travelocity`s eight Signature Trips and choose the volunteer vacation that inspires you.

In 2011, Travelocity is committed to supporting these special projects and helping each achieve its goals. You are also encouraged to vote on the video submissions made by individuals who explain which Signature Trip inspires them and why.

The $5,000 Travel for Good voluntourism grant gives individuals a chance to give back to the communities they visit on vacation–either for just a few days or even for a few months. This grant will fund up to $5,000 for the transportation to, as well as the cost of, a voluntourism trip. Just choose a Signature Trip from one of Travelocity`s partners, including Globe Aware, make a video of two minutes or less, upload it to Travelocity`s site, and then send it around to friends and family for voting.

Contestants must be legal residents of the United States to win the grant.


Teen heading to Africa

Teen heading to Africa

OIL SPRINGS — A 17-year-old with a passion for travel and helping others is preparing to volunteer in Africa for eight months.
Josephine Ethier, a Grade 12 student at LCCVI in Petrolia, says she wants to work with homeless children in South Africa and Kenya and help them improve their quality of life.
She leaves in September for Capetown, South Africa to work with a group known as International Volunteer HQ based out of New Zealand.
“I’m always on the lookout for unique volunteer opportunities,” Ethier said. “It’s all about character building for me.”
Last summer, she went to Costa Rica for a week with an organization called Globe Aware. While there, she painted schools and learned about the culture.
“I was testing it out before planning something a lot bigger,” she said. “I learned that I’m interested in other cultures and I want to live in their shoes.
“I’ve volunteered in Oil Springs with a youth group and now I want the opportunity to go other places.”
In Capetown for four months, she’ll assist with sports programs that engage street kids and try to cut down on crime.
In Kenya, the outreach work will involve some house building as well as teaching.
“We’re told we’ll work with kids in the orphanages too,” Ethier said.
“I get an amazing feeling when I know I’ve done something good.”
To participate in the program, Ethier is raising $4,000 for transportation and accommodations. She’ll be billeted while in Africa.
“I’m working 30 hours a week right now and I’ll take another job when I’m finished school,” she said. “But I’m hoping I can get some financial help with this.

Service vacations for spring break make for rewarding getaways

Georgina Cruz, a special correspondent writing for the Orlando Sentinel, offers an interesting perspective on the growing trend of taking volunteer vacations during spring break. She examines a number of vacation options, including those offered by Globe Aware:

Service vacations for spring break make for rewarding getaways

February 14, 2011
Spring is synonymous with renewal: a time when we clean house, put away our coats and sweaters and dust-off our shorts and lighter wear, and a time when we plan a spring break getaway. Some of us may wish to spring into service this season, opting for a “voluntourism” (volunteer tourism) vacation. Participants in this type of trip have opportunities to mix with the locals in many countries, living and working in communities on a variety of projects and activities "from teaching English to caring for youngsters in orphanages to taking part in community building projects.
Trips are generally short-term: one-, two- and three-weeks in length, though some companies can arrange for longer service periods. Typically, no prior experience is necessary to participate.
Here are some offerings for those who would like to volunteer during their vacation to make a difference in other people’s lives. Prices for the trips vary; contact the organization for details.
Globe Aware Adventures In Service is a nonprofit that has been developing short-term volunteer programs internationally for 15 years. The trips provide opportunities for people to immerse themselves in a unique way of giving back. Activities are intended to promote cultural awareness and/or sustainability. Recognizing the beauty and challenges of a culture and helping others to stand on their own two feet, teaching them skills rather than reliance. The organization’s criteria for choosing projects include trips that are safe, culturally interesting, genuinely beneficial to a needy community, and that involve significant interaction between participants and the host community. Optional cultural excursions are available on every program. Among the organization’s many trips this season are programs to Peru on Feb. 19-26, March 5-12, March 12-19, March 19-26 and April 9-16; and trips to Mexico on Feb. 19-26, March 5-12, March 12-19, March 19-26 and April 9-16. Visit www.globeaware.org.
— Global Volunteers " This organization has been offering assistance trips worldwide for 26 years. It leads a variety of programs in the U.S., Latin America, Africa, Europe and other destinations. Their trips seek to promote education (particularly girls’ education), labor and community infrastructure, health care, childcare and food and nutrition. Among the many offerings this spring are trips to Costa Rica from March 19 to April 2 and from April 30 to May 14; a trip to Ecuador from March 26 to April 9 and three trips to Peru on March 12-26, March 26 to April 9 and April 23 to May 7. For those who would like to make a difference in the U.S. during their vacation, there are two trips to West Virginia available this spring, March 26-April 2 and April 16-23.
— Projects Abroad " College students looking to spend spring break in a meaningful way while exploring a new destination may wish to check out opportunities with Projects Abroad Alternative Spring Break Trips. These one-week volunteer projects align with most major U.S. universities’ spring breaks and are offered in the following destinations: Jamaica Community Building Project (Feb. 20-26, March 6-12, March 13-19 and March 20-26); Costa Rica Care Project (March 13-19 and March 20-26); Mexico Conservation Project (Feb. 20-26, March 13-19 and March 20-26; Morocco Culture and Community Project (March 13-19 and March 20-26). Projects Abroad was founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Slowe, a geography profession, as a program for students to travel and work while on break from full-time study. The program had its genesis in post-USSR Romania, where students had the chance to teach conversational English. Afterwards, the company expanded to sending volunteers of all ages around the world on a wide range of projects in 25 countries.


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