VolunTourism: Making your vacation count

Teaching school children in India

Are you passionate about travel? service? or both?  If so, consider making your next vacation a VolunTourism experience.  As we discussed on a recent show, the volunteer vacation allows us an opportunity to see the world and give back to the community we're visiting.  Whether it's helping to save Leatherback sea turtles in Costa Rica, providing humanatarian aid to an orphanage in El Salvador, mining data in a rainforest or building playgrounds in under-served communities, there are hundreds of opportunities to make a real difference while exploring the world with a sense of adventure. Before embarking on one of these experiences it is important to assess your interest and identify your skill.   Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What do I want to do and where do I want to go?
  2. Who do I want to serve?
  3. How much time do I want to spend volunteering and how much time do I want to sightsee?
  4. How stenuous do I want the volunteer work to be?  What are my capabilities?

Animal care.

It is also important to do your homework on the company that is offering the volunteer experience.  Look at how long they've been in business and whether they have a regular presence in the community.  Check any references, if available, and see whether the company holds a membership with a professional tourism association (e.g., the United States Tour Operators Association or country equivalent if the company is located abroad). There's a whole host of companies/organizations that offer great opportunities to explore and contribute to our global community.  The following is a list of sites and organizations that will be helpful in your search for that great VolunTourism experience.  Happy Travels!!

  • Voluntourism.org 
  • Idealist.org
  • Travelofftheradar.com
  • GiveSpot.com
  • AmericanHiking.org
  • Earthwatch Institute
  • Cross-Cultural solutions
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Los Ninos
  • I to I
  • Take Pride in America
  • Ambassadors for Children
  • Globe Aware
  • Oceanic Society
  • SEE Turtles Project (a division of the Ocean Conservancy)
  • Centre for Education, Research and Conservation of Primates and Nature

About the Author

Tonya Fitzpatrick is the co-founder of World Footprints Media.  A self-described “recovering attorney”, she found her purpose as a cultural connector.  Tonya shares a life full of adventure, dark chocolate and champagne with her husband and business partner, Ian.   She has a deep love for animals and would be happy owning a zoo if she weren’t traveling. 

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