I’ve always been told that when I give back, I have three resources I can share: time, talents, and treasure. While it’s great to support organizations and ministries through donations, there is nothing more influential than actually digging in with your own two hands and helping a worthy cause. If you search blogs, you’ll find a number of people who have given up time from work to serve in a community at home or abroad. Some of my favorites include:
- Partners for Peace – a husband and wife duo serving with the Peace Corps in Ecuador
- Soulshine Traveler – a woman who left her job to volunteer in Latin America and Russia for the past year
- Clearing Customs – a recently returned missionary figuring out the transition back into American life
Unlike these great bloggers, unfortunately I am not in a place in life where I can go abroad for a long period of time and serve, but I do have some vacation time. This is where the volunteer vacation comes in. Whether you go with a religious organization or a secular non-for-profit, there are some incredible ways to get back abroad and serve. Volunteer vacations are ideal for young professionals, families with elementary through high school aged kids, recent retirees, and really just about anyone. As I’ve worked with students to help them figure out their “beyond study abroad” experience, here are some of the organizations that I think provide quality and culturally conscious volunteer vacation opportunities:
- Global Volunteers: one of the pioneering organizations of volunteer vacations, this organization is ideal for the volunteer who may only have a week off from work.
- GlobeAware: another good org providing week-long volunteer vacations working in schools, teaching English, building, and skill training. Some project sites include Romania, Ghana, Mexico, and Cambodia.
- World Teach: based at Harvard University, this organization sends volunteers to teach English around the world. This is a great option for college students and teachers as there is a commitment over the summer.
- Cross-Cultural Solutions: this organization has both short and long-term volunteering options. Check out Soulshine Traveler’s blog for details on her experience with this group.
My senior year of college, I went with a group to Slovakia to work at an English activity camp for high school students. I gave up most of my winter break to be there but in return have wonderful memories and friends from the experience. As you start to plan you 2013 vacation plans, keep a volunteer vacation in mind.