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Booking a Volunteer Vacation
09 February, 2012 10:17
It can be hard to relax on a vacation when you feel you are spending all of your hard earned money. A new form of vacation seeks to heal your wallet, and your soul. A "volunteer vacation" allows you to work for a non-profit in a unique location. This combines your chance to get away with a lower price tag and the good karma of doing a good deed.
Not convinced? Here are the top 3 reasons to consider spending your vacation time altruistically:
- Feels Good! The first reason is the most convincing for people who participate in a volunteer vacation. The ability to spend time giving back to a community or place that needs help can be a life changing experience. These experiences delve much deeper into a new environment, offering volunteers a way to know a place and a people in a way that would be impossible for tourists. This can be a chance not just to enjoy, but to make yourself - and the world - a little bit better.
- Save Money. These volunteer experiences usually offer discounted (or free) accommodation, meals, and possibly excursions. Though these savings differ between assignments, and some experiences require significant fees, most are eligible for tax write-off to a charitable contribution. Make sure to search the government registry to ensure the organization qualifies as tax-deductible. Your airfare, Visa, and travel-related expenses are also tax-deductible if you volunteer an average of eight hours a day.
- Increase Skills. Volunteering is an incredible adventure that offers the chance to learn a language abroad, gain valuable work experience, become TEFL qualified (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), or any other combination of skills. This means that taking a vacation can help you boost your resume/CV and increase your life experience.
Search Engines and Organizations for a Volunteer Vacation
Habitat for Humanity: A US organization, this group has grown into an international program. They build homes for the disadvantaged and volunteer trip costs vary depending on the length of the trip and its destination. Most countries have standard budgets for each volunteer team trip. The standard one week trip to Europe and Central Asia is from €900 to 1,450.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms - Get back to nature, working on a farm in return for free board and meals. Opportunities exist around the world from the rustic to exotic.
Sierra Club - There are almost 100 service trips a year logging 27,000 work hours with the Sierra Club. Service trips range from research projects to assisting with archaeological site restoration. The organization usually covers accommodation, food, and materials.
Light in Leadership Initiative - This non-profit organization in Peru allows volunteers to teach children and carry out building projects. Room and board is about $300 a month.
National Park Service - Volunteering at US parks is a great opportunity to support the parks and go for an inexpensive vacation. The work is usually trail clearing and maintenance with free camping spots, park entry, and the ability to write off transportation cost.
American Hiking Society - Hiking is a popular pastime and what better way to enjoy a vacation in the beautiful outdoors. Work consists of trail improvements such as constructing steps or transporting vegetation. Members must pay a $245 membership fee, but everything else is free including meals, boarding, and park fees.
- Earthwatch - Earthwatch's mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education in order to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.
- Global Volunteer Network - This organization has connected over 15,500 volunteers with over 20 partner organizations. Opportunities include locations in South America, Africa, and Asia.
- Idealist: This massive database of volunteer opportunities allows you to find non-profits from around the world.
- Kaya Volunteer - Range of international volunteer projects including language courses and adventure tours.
- STA Travel - Students and teachers can use this site to find and book a volunteer vacation. These include more exciting opportunities, for a higher price.
- Transitions Abroad - This site offers personal stories and information about working abroad, as well as volunteer opportunities.
- VAOPS: Easy-to-use site that links volunteers directly with charities.
- Volunteer Guide: Offers opportunities for 1, 2, 3, or 4 weeks in the fields of Animal Welfare, Helping Children, Community Development, Environmental Protection, Health & Safety, Poverty & Homelessness. Some of the few (longer-term) projects pay a stipend to volunteers, most volunteer vacations will actually cost you money.
- World Teach - A nonprofit organization that matches volunteer teachers with overseas assignments.
What Questions Should you ask a Volunteer Organization?
It's important to ask questions of an organization to make sure their mission and openings fit your needs and interests. Understand exactly what you are getting into, before signing up.
- How long has the organization been conducting programs?
- Does the organization hold adequate domestic and foreign liability insurance?
- Can you detail what exactly the fees go to?
- Are the full-time employees part of your organization? How many would I be working with?
- How many volunteers will be with me in the program?
- What kind of accommodations are available?
- How will my friends and family contact me if there is an emergency at home?
I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.
There's another FANTASTIC organizatoin that organizes specialty in one week programs - Globe Aware - very surprised not to see them on yoru list, i went with them to assemble wheelchairs in Cambodia - experience of a lifetime!!!