An Altruist's Vacation
|WINDSWEPT SATISFACTION: Volunteer for Peace workers in Iceland (image courtesy, Katie Booth)|
What is the typical voluntourism opportunity? How long is a piece of string. You could volunteer several days of your timeor just one day of a weekendto help maintain trails in the national parks or Habitat for Humanity to rebuild homes in New Orleans. Or you could travel to the other side of the planet to build schools for rural communities in Nepal, dig water wells in Mali, or ride off into the Indian desert to deliver relief supplies. Here is a survey of just a handful of options to get you going.
But before you make that decision, know that the prices listed below seldom include airfare, though some in-country transfers to project locations are included, as are meals, permits/visas, and accommodations. That said, don't expect five-staror even two-stardigs (but then, that's not why you're there in the first place, is it?). Most fees also go toward paying local wages, acquiring supplies, and helping out with the other logistics that make voluntourism a reality, not just an altruistic fantasy.
BUILD A BETTER PLACE
Common Ground Collective
TagLine: Bring them back to New Orleans!
SAMPLE TRIP: Help rebuild a more socially equitable and environmentally sustainable New Orleans. Volunteers staying less than two weeks need to arrange own accommodation, transport, and meals.
Cultural Restoration Tourism Project
TagLine: Helping local communities preserve the riches of their past.SAMPLE TRIP: Donate 12 days to restore a 300-year-old Buddhist monastery, Chairro Gompa, in the Lower Mustang region of Nepal. A trip "donation" of $2,495 for in-country costs includes lodging, transportation, permits, and food.
Habitat for Humanity
TagLine: Making the world a better place to live.
SAMPLE TRIP: Construct homes in Lilongwe, Malawi, on a 15-day trip that includes eight days building, three days R&R. Trip costs approximately $1,800, airfare not included.
BE A NATURAL
Appalachian Mountain Club
TagLine: Keep America's most venerable long-distance trail open for business.
SAMPLE TRIP: Test the trail-building waters as part of a one- to three-night work crew in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Contributions are $25 for AMC member, $30 for non-members.
TagLine: Join the scientists at work.
SAMPLE TRIP: Help naturalist Michihito Watanabe log endangered butterfly species in the grasslands beneath Japan's Mount Fuji. Contribution for the ten-day trip is $2,849, including accommodation in a traditional Japanese-style inn.
TagLine: Spruce up the highways and byways of America's public landscapes.
SAMPLE TRIP: Work in the shadow of hulking Mount Rainier as you help to maintain the stunningly scenic 93-mile Wonderland Trail. Weeklong trip costs $495.
TagLine: Get down and dirty on the trail.
SAMPLE TRIP: Pack off into Colorado's Maroon Bell-Snowmass Wilderness Area for a week of 8,000-foot-high trail repairs and log-bridge building. A $239 affair in one of America's most scenic landscapes.www.wildernessvolunteers.org
ADVENTURES IN SERVICE
Cross Cultural Solutions
TagLine: Peace Corps Lite
SAMPLE TRIP: Mix service in Guatemala City with language lessons, classes on local history and culture, and free time to explore and travel. The fee for a one-week Insight Abroad placement is $1,595.
TagLine: Vacations with a difference.
SAMPLE TRIP: Get off the beach to paint school classrooms, repair footbridges, and improve water facilities for villages in Jamaica's Blue Mountains. A one-week placement costs $1,795.
TagLine: See the world, leave your mark.
SAMPLE TRIP: Help construct a community center for a rural village in the impoverished Brazilian state of Bahía. R&R time to include beach hiking, wood carving, and capoeira. Trip cost for weeklong placement is $1,300.
TagLine: Take the backpacker experience to the next level.
SAMPLE TRIP: Teach English and basic computer skills to orphans in Cambodia. Three-week trip fee is $1,095, including a 40-hour Teaching English as a Foreign Language online certification course.
Relief Riders International
TagLine: Be part of the cavalry.
SAMPLE TRIP: Ride on horseback into India's Rajasthan desert to deliver relief supplies to needy communities. The 16-day trip costs $6,300, airfare not included.
Volunteers for Peace
TagLine: Clearinghouse for global community-service programs.
SAMPLE TRIP: Help local communities in the Mexican state of Ixtapa refurbish school buildings and clear and create outdoor play spaces for the local kids. The three-week trip fee is $480 and includes food and board, plus some intercultural activities.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication