By Rebecca Bloom
It’s that time of year again—when everyone makes a list of resolutions to better themselves and others in the New Year. One way to give back is to choose a charity-focused vacation instead of the typical lying on a beach for a week. A volunteer-based trip will allow you to see the world while helping others.
Overall, some things to consider when researching volunteer-based travel are costs associated with different programs—whether they are “full-time” or “drop-in,” whether costs can be defrayed by scholarships or sponsorships, size of the cohort, special requirements, etc.
One way to combine volunteer work and travel is with Workaway:
Workaway is a cultural exchange for travelers—you offer a few hours of volunteering each day in exchange for food and housing.
If you want to travel and get off the beaten track and are willing to spend a few hours helping your host in exchange for room and board, this is a good option to explore.
This opportunity is great for slightly older travelers, as previous years of experience could be an asset as you use your skills to assist hosts throughout the world. It’s possible to travel with your spouse or partner and many hosts also welcome families. Every Workaway experience is unique. Generally you will be expected to volunteer around 5 hours per day. Situations vary depending on the skills you can offer and the requirements of each host. Workaway has hosts in the U.S., as well as throughout the world, but wherever you go, you’ll live like a local. And even better, you won’t break the bank paying for hotels!
The best way to find success with this program is to research ahead of time and find a position that aligns with your interests and skills. You can see the Workaway Blog for stories from participants. It is also important to keep the lines of communication open with your host to ensure that expectations are aligned.
The jobs you will work on vary—it could be painting or landscaping, but some hosts welcome people without specific skills. Even if you aren’t able to do physical work, some hosts want to learn a new language or need help taking care of children.
To find a position, visit Workaway to learn more and sign up. You can sign up as either a volunteer or a host. Be sure to carefully read the host descriptions so you know any requirements for a volunteer position.
Another option for philanthropic travel is Give a Day Global.
This opportunity is perfect for people who want to get off the beaten track while traveling but don’t have much time. With this program, you can volunteer in a community you’re visiting and make a difference in as little as just one day.
If you are going on vacation in Asia, Africa or Central or South America, and have at least a day to spend volunteering, Give A Day connects you to short-term volunteer opportunities at vetted nonprofit organizations. You can often volunteer for longer than a day if you want to; many of the organizations welcome volunteers for 2-3 days or even a week or month. This is a great way to meet locals and become entrenched in the local culture on your travels.
You can check out the Give A Day Blog for volunteer stories. Visit Give a Day Global to learn more and sign up. Some recent options included sea turtle conservation, planting trees, teaching arts and crafts, and leading language lessons. You can also read some reviews from travellers who have volunteered with Give A Day Global.
One last option is Global Volunteers.
You can help create, nurture and sustain the well-being of the world’s children on a meaningful volunteering vacation with one, two, or three-week Global Volunteers programs. If you’re committed to something bigger, consider a vacation from typical vacations and make an impact.
Global Volunteers has been around for over 35 years, serving communities in need all over the world. Their projects are sustained by successive teams of volunteers, year after year, in partnership with community leaders. When children are able to reach their potential, they can become contributing members of their societies. Every Global Volunteer participant can be part of the effort to nurture children and communities by working with inspirational community partners who have the vision and local support to direct volunteer abroad projects. Volunteers provide essential services by sharing skills and expertise that are often not otherwise available. Potential projects include teaching conversational English, literacy and numeracy, caring for at-risk infants and toddlers, repairing community buildings, planting container gardens, providing prenatal support, health and hygiene education, and much more.
There are options for a broad range of people. Couples, retirees, students, working professionals, families, individuals and groups have previously participated in Global Volunteers service programs.
Everyone, including teachers, artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, nurses, bankers, homemakers, lawyers, administrators help form strong teams in this environment.
The areas this program reaches include: China, Cook Islands, Cuba, Ecuador, Greece, Italy, Nepal, Peru, Poland, Portugal, St. Lucia, Tanzania, Vietnam and within the USA Appalachia, Blackfeet Reservation and Rosebud Reservation. Some of the most pressing current needs are in Peru and Tanzania.
If you want to check out other organizations that offer volunteer travel opportunities, read this article or check out these highly rated volunteer travel opportunities.
Rebecca is a writer, editor and writing coach, volunteer patient advocate, former attorney, tutor, mentor and mother of two daughters. She enjoys the purposeful, mission-driven work she does at Amava.