If you want to make a difference and lend a hand, here’s how to volunteer on vacation. I promise you, you will never be the same. Philanthropic travel is a life-changing experience.
You might teach English to children in Brazil, do art projects with Nepalese orphans, help African women learn to use computers, or live for free in exchange for work on a vineyard or help a family in Australia and beyond.
To volunteer or not to volunteer? Join a group? Do it on your own?
You won’t have any problem finding dozens of volunteer opportunities (see below) with U.S.-based nonprofit organizations that send volunteers aboard for as little as a week or as long as a year. Traveling with an organization is safe and is a way you’ll meet other volunteers.
Join a group.
Here’s the surprising part; volunteering isn’t always free. Most of these nonprofits charge a fee. The fee is usually tax-deductible, but you will have to pay for your transportation expenses and in-country costs. Organized volunteer trips can cost $3,000 for two weeks and upward, not including your air transportation. Check out this site for ideas: Online Resources for Volunteering,
Organize it on your own
Last year my 25-year-old daughter worked in Australia for four months, living with families, farmers and an organic cook. She organized the entire trip through www.workaway.com and www.helpX.com and had to pay for her own transportation, in country travel and incidentals. In exchange for X hours of work a week she received room and board. Her tip: to find a great situation and family, talk to other volunteers who worked for the person or family. Past volunteers can be contacted through the website. Do your homework to find a work experience and host that is perfect for you.
Help local people after a natural disaster
United National Volunteers (www.unv.org) offer opportunities worldwide to help our, from healthcare to economic development. Many of the positions offered by the UN are open only to experienced professionals, however, the UN links to hundreds of international Non-governmental Organizations that are looking for help in similar fields on a less formal basis.
Go green and be a conservation volunteer
Sign up for a short-term project, in one of a few international locations and work with a team to protect habitats and promote ecotourism. Google Conservation Volunteers.
For ideas to find and fund a volunteer abroad experience, check out www.volunteerforever.com
Transitions Abroad is a well-respected travel guide to paid work, summer jobs, study, living and volunteering abroad. www.TransitionsAbroad.com
Volunteers for Peace can help with finding short-term international voluntary service programs in 70 countries. Its programs are like the Peace Corps, but short-term. www.vfp.org
Organized Volunteer Trips
Some programs even cover language classes, weekend outings, and daily cultural activities. Most volunteer organizations send you orientation packs to help familiarize you with the country you’re going to, and they’ll also pick you up at the airport and bring you to the neighborhood or town where you’re volunteering. The experience, I can assure you, will be priceless.