How Should I Begin: Family Vacations

If you and your family are interested in experiencing life in another land and culture, why not take a volunteer vacation together? Volunteering in another land and experiencing the challenges together can result in countless rewards. It is important to take the time to investigate the projects and programs and determine which will be a good match for you and your family. Here are some suggestions:


Cross-Cultural Solutions
Cross-Cultural Solutions offers volunteer opportunities for families and individuals looking for a meaningful volunteering experience while immersing themselves in another culture. Volunteers work side-by-side with local people in countries such as Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Peru, Russia, Tanzania and Thailand. Some opportunities include volunteering in orphanages and childcare centers, schools, health clinics and hospitals, homes for the elderly, centers for people with disabilities, or working with other community organizations. Whatever your skill is, Cross-Cultural Solutions has a placement for you. Volunteers can stay any length of time from 1 week to 12 weeks, and start-dates are available all-year round.


Orphanage Outreach
The Orphanage Outreach mission statement is to “release the hero within.”  Orphanage Outreach provides services to orphaned, abandoned, or disadvantaged children.  Their belief is that it has a ripple effect and extends to everyone who comes in contact with Orphanage Outreach.


Global Citizens’ Network
For over 20 years, Global Citizens Network (GCN) has provided short term volunteer immersion programs for families and individuals alike in partnership with indigenous communities in Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Tanzania, Kenya, India, Nepal, Thailand, the Quileute people of La Push Washington, and the Anishinabe people of White Earth Minnesota.  Its volunteer teams are intentionally age diverse and include participants ranging from primary school children through retirees. Such a team makeup mirrors the host community and eases integration with members quickly forming close-knit relationships with local residents as they work together on the projects, eat together, share stories and sleep in one house. Even though the minimum age is 8 (under 18 accompanied by an adult), a GCN program may not be appropriate for every child who meets this minimum. Program costs vary from $600-$2850 and do not include travel to and from the site. Discounts are also offered for children and on groups of 6+.


Global Volunteers
This organization provides opportunities in the United States as well as abroad in a variety of countries. Opportunities include teaching English through conversations, saving the environment, helping orphans and/or disabled children, and constructing and maintaining homes and community buildings. The cost of the “Adventures in Service” ranges from $450 to $2,395. You can select a family volunteer vacation according to country and date, cost, work project, or project conditions. Some, but not all projects are appropriate for children under the age of 18. (They do accept families, including children under the age of 12.) For more information visit their website or call their volunteer coordinator at (800) 487-1074 with further questions.


Habitat for Humanity International – Global Village
Habitat to Humanity now has programs internationally where families and groups can build homes with Habitat affiliates in a number of countries abroad. Visit their website to view possible dates and locations and to begin the on-line application process. Trips range from $1,000 to $2,200 before airfare.


Adventures in Preservation
Adventures in Preservation is a non-profit organization offering hands-on building conservation workshops and volunteer vacations at historic sites around the world.


Volunteers for Peace
Volunteers for Peace hosts international work camps where volunteers can serve and learn abroad. This membership non-profit organization has “over 2,800 affordable ($250-$500) international voluntary service programs in 90+ countries.” Programs are usually 2-3 weeks long and some are available for families to serve together. Work projects vary and can include volunteering with orphans, elderly, the environment, and many other projects, depending on the community’s needs as determined by local members. Families need to become a member before they can sign up for a project.


Wilderness Volunteers
Wilderness Volunteers is an American non-profit organization dedicated to providing volunteer opportunities in the wild lands and National Parks across the United States. They provide a variety of outdoors service opportunities with each trip and one day off to explore. The 2005 trips are $219 within the mainland U.S. and $239 to Alaska or Hawaii. (The actual cost of the trip is higher but is subsidized through fund-raising.) Age restrictions require people to be 18 and up, and they may occasionally also take a 16- or 17-year-old accompanied by a parent or older sibling.


The Building Bridges Coalition
A project of the Brookings Institution’s Initiative on International Volunteering and Service, is a consortium of leading international volunteer organizations, universities and colleges, corporations, and government agencies working collaboratively to double the number of international volunteers serving abroad by 2010.


Projects Abroad – volunteer abroad
Projects Abroad is a volunteer abroad organization that offers a diverse range of international service projects in 20 exciting destinations, plus the opportunity to become part of their volunteer communities abroad. Projects Abroad is continuously present overseas and unparalleled in-country support from their international staff ensure that volunteers’ experience will be far more worthwhile and genuine than those of the average tourist.


Global Vision International
Global Vision International (GVI) was formed in 1998 to provide support and services to international charities, non profits and governmental agencies. Through the international network of over 100 personnel in over 30 countries GVI continues to support many of the most critical conservation and humanitarian projects around the globe.


Family volunteering with Elephant Human Relations Aid 2012

The Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA) has arranged for a special Family Volunteering project to take place in August 2012.  Click on the link for more information.


See also:

Idealist’s Website: Action Without Borders for a list of even more organizations that sponsor family volunteering opportunities.

Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others by Bill McMillon Lists over 2,000 projects worldwide that depend on volunteers. Comprehensive information includes project summaries, contact information, prices, dates and locations of projects, and information about how to apply. Many but not all projects listed are appropriate for families.

While Volunteer Vacations can be meaningful and provide rewarding knowledge, it is also good for families to remember that they do not need to travel to provide service. Alternative “volunteer vacations” could be planned in your very own town. To explore the needs within your own community, login here.