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Voluntourism opportunities abound

Once the exclusive domain of Peace Corp. and, in Canada, the Katimavik program, voluntourism has gone mainstream.

No better was this point illustrated than in a recent syndicated Washington Post news article by Nancy Trejos:

Even cruise ships and hotels now offer guests the opportunity to volunteer.

Trejos explains how Holland America now offers a cruise that stops in Juneau, Alaska, letting passengers boarded research vessels to collect water samples and record ocean-temperature readings to try to predict the success of Alaska’s salmon run season.

Meanwhile, the Ritz-Carlton arranges half-day volunteer activities at 74 locations: in Cancun, Mexico, guests travel to a Mayan pueblo to help renovate a school. In Jakarta, Indonesia, they cook and clean at a shelter for street children.

Globe Aware is a leading non-profit that organizes volunteer trips for caring, concerned and paying travellers. According to research firm Y Partnership‘s 2009 National Leisure Travel Monitor, nearly one in 20 U.S. travelers has taken a trip to help the less fortunate or support a humanitarian cause – and that number is growing in Canada and in the U.S.

Trejos quotes Genevieve Brown, executive director of the International Volunteer Programs Association, a group of nongovernmental organizations involved in volunteer work:

“There’s just much more interest in reaching out and helping people in poverty.”

With growing demand there a growing supply. Now, with so many voluntourism and volunteer vacation opportunities available, how is a concerned traveler to choose?

A great place to start is to sort through the offerings of volunteer vacation firms such as Globe Aware and see how they mesh with personal skills, temperament and aspirations.

Washington Post reporter Trejos notes:

“Prospective volunteers should assess their skills to figure out what they can offer. There are many different types of volunteer opportunities: educational, environmental, research-oriented, humanitarian, cultural. Volunteers should decide what kind of work they want to do and what they’re qualified to do. Setting realistic goals is important.”

For some it will mean a day off a cruise ship or a day trip from a five-star hotel. For others, it is a week living and working in a Costa Rican village or a Peruvian village high in the Andes.

Investigate, find your perfect match and then enjoy the vacation of a lifetime.

Globe Aware

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