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Lisa M. Dietlin

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Making A Difference: The World of Giving -- Voluntour and Do-Good Vacations

Posted: 06/07/11 02:12 PM ET

It's summertime and many of us are thinking about our vacation plans. With gas prices still rising and travel becoming even more challenging, I recommend considering a Voluntour Vacation or a Do-Good Vacation.

Voluntour vacations or do-good vacations are fast becoming a popular way to plan your excursions and volunteer. Though Americans volunteer in large numbers annually, using a vacation into a volunteer opportunity is a new phenomenon that, surprising to many, is are often tax-deductible.

Here are some reasons to consider voluntouring on your next vacation:

  • Voluntouring is rapidly gaining popularity. Some studies indicate that as many as half of the people living in the United States intend to take a volunteer vacation at some point in the future.
  • Voluntouring is thought of as a "mini-stint" in the Peace Corps -- you will be working with a community and its residents side by side. It is a unique way to give back.
  • A voluntour vacation is about helping and learning both in terms of aid, and cultural experiences. Most voluntours are taking place in Third World and developing countries such as Peru, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Morocco, Romania, Russia, Nepal, South Africa, Thailand, or Vietnam.
  • Remember it is very important, if you plan on doing this, to consider ways to respect and connect with the communities and people you are trying to help.
  • Your experience can last from 1 to 12 weeks.

Alternatively, Do-Good Vacations are money raising adventures combined with European vacations to Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland and Spain and include nights in historic castles and visits to lesser-known areas. Do-Good Vacations are about traveling to a distant land, working with a nonprofit outfitter to raise money for a cause -- unlike voluntouring you will not be working with the local community and its residents.

You can start by finding a reputable organization that works in the area in which you want to explore. Here are a few for a voluntour vacation:

Cross-Cultural Solutions was founded in 1995 and has an outstanding reputation. Their tag states:

"Volunteer Abroad - work side-by-side with local people and experience another culture like never before. It's the experience of a lifetime."

They work with over 4000 volunteers annually, have a staff of more than 300, and work in 12 countries.

Globe Aware, which started volunteer missions in 2000 but has been working in this area since 1993, provides short term weeklong adventures in service, focused on cultural awareness and sustainability. Their tag line is:

"Have Fun. Help People."

Their website states:
  • All costs including air fare are tax deductible
  • You need no special skills nor do you need to speak a foreign language.
  • People can go solo or with families such as multi generational trips.
  • Enjoy befriending people in new and interesting countries and experience the reward of helping them on meaningful community projects.
  • Promote cultural awareness and promote sustainability; cultural awareness means recognizing the beauty and challenges of a culture, but not changing it; sustainability is the idea of helping others to stand on their own two feet; teaching skills rather than reliance.

According to USA Today, Global Volunteers is the:

"granddaddy of the volunteer vacation movement".
Their tag line is:
"travel that feeds the soul"

  • Founded in 1984 and facilitated more than 22,000 volunteers on six continents.
  • You can teach conversational English, care for at risk children, paint, build and repair buildings, provide health care services, work with young children including infants and toddlers as well as teens, adults and elders.
  • Families, students, solo travelers, Baby Boomers and groups are the types of people that participate.
  • You can have an experience in Europe, North America, South America, Central America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.

For Do-Good Vacations, consider these:
For a Cause's mission is to energize and inspire people to make a difference in the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS and Breast Cancer so that no one faces these battles alone.

The World Bank runs a program called Stay Another Day that directs tourists via a website and booklets to pre-evaluated activities that benefit the local community. For instance, vacationers can tour an orphanage in Cambodia, playing with the children and, if they wish, purchase goods such as the silk products the locals have made. The visit is free, but tourists are asked to make a donation.

Here are five recommendations and tips on easy ways to Make A Difference (M.A.D.):

  1. Find the best organization that matches your passion and has a long standing commitment to that area.
  2. Select a trip that suits your abilities and interests.
  3. Speak with volunteers who have been on the excursion before.
  4. If traveling to a non-English speaking country, try to learn the language or at least some phrases; even though it is not required, it is a great way to begin getting prepared.
  5. Research local customs and mores, but recognize that reality can be different from what you read in a book or online.

Bonus Tips: Expect none of the comforts of home. In other words, you will be "roughing it" so go with an open mind and see how your heart is transformed. It can be the vacation of a lifetime!

By taking a voluntour or do-good vacation, here are some benefits to you:

  • You know you will be making a difference through your efforts.
  • Studies show that volunteering adds years and health to your life.
  • You will be traveling to places with unique cultures and in some instances, especially with voluntouring, you become immersed in the culture and community.
  • Your trip could be tax deductible.

  • You will make lifelong friends!

Doing something for someone else always adds value to our life! Consider adding a voluntour or do-good component to your next vacation! You just be might surprised at how vacationing can lead to making a difference! Are you M.A.D. today?

 
 
 

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