Volunteer vacations

Not everyone’s idea of an overseas adventure consists of traipsing through museums or photographing cathedrals and monuments. Some travellers are looking to dig a little deeper — for a unique experience, or a way to become immersed in the everyday life of a culture. This goes to the very essence of travel, as opposed to sight-seeing: the magic of discovery.

Increasingly, people are looking to “volunteer vacations” as a way to do this. Travellers on a volunteer vacation, for instance, might find themselves working alongside community members to build home for a Tsunami victim, providing a child in an impoverished village with learning and medical assistance, or helping a farmer in a Third World country to upgrade his farming techniques.

Hundreds of short and long term volunteer trip opportunities exist for people of all ages, including students, families, young, middle-aged and retired adults. These opportunities range from health care, construction, and environmental conservation to teaching. Some organizations such as Habitat for Humanity specialize in one particular type of volunteer work – construction of homes – while hers such as Global Volunteers offer a range of opportunities including caring for orphaned or disabled children, teaching business skills to entrepreneurs in developing countries or working for women’s empowerment.

According to its website, Global Volunteers’ far-reaching program encompasses six primary categories:

Teaching English language conversation skills:
Volunteer programs are available in China, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Romania, and Tanzania, and USA: Minnesota

Caring for the disabled or orphaned children:
Volunteer programs are available in Ecuador, Greece, India, Peru, Poland, and Romania

Building and repairing homes and community facilities:
Volunteer programs are available in Australia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Greece, Ireland, Jamaica, Peru, Tanzania, and USA: Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia

Tutoring and advancing literacy:
Volunteer programs are available in The Cook Islands, Ghana, Greece, India, Poland, Tanzania, and USA: Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, West Virginia

Improving basic health care services:
Volunteer programs are available in The Cook Islands, Ecuador, Ghana, Jamaica, Romania, and Tanzania

Vacation packages are generally broken into travel groups ranging from five or six people to several dozen. The duration of each stay varies as well, from a week to several months with prices varying with each program. Many volunteers choose to add sightseeing days onto their program.

Costs for a volunteer vacation may be tax deductible as a charitable donation. For those looking for a means to finance their trip, many organizations offer suggestions for fundraising.

For useful links for Canadians looking for volunteer vacation opportunities, visit www.citizens4change.org

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