Let's face it: We love the idea of raising our children to give back, but many of us find it hard to build volunteerism into our busy day-to-day lives. A solution may lie in a growing number of voluntourism organizations that let you give back on a family vacation without giving up your whole trip.
The idea is to set aside just a fraction of your getaway -- perhaps a few hours, an afternoon, or a day -- and put it toward an act of doing good. Along the way, you'll help teach your kids life lessons about responsibility and compassion.
Here are five easy ways to devote a portion of your vacation to giving back as a family.
Give Kids The World is a non-profit storybook resort where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to week-long, stress-free vacations that include visits to Central Florida’s most beloved attractions, such as Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, or the Kennedy Space Center. The village fills 1,200 volunteer shifts every week, putting locals and visitors to work scooping ice cream, operating a carousel, distributing daily presents, and providing the evening entertainment during holiday parties. Give Kids the World’s location in Kissimmee, just three miles from Walt Disney World, makes it easy to scoot out of the theme parks for a few hours of volunteering that may well end up being the most magical part of your vacation.
If your kid loves farm animals, consider helping out with “affectionate socialization” of a few of the hundreds of rescued animals residing at Farm Sanctuary. In Upstate New York, Northern California, and Los Angeles, you can snuggle with pigs and sheep, feed chickens, and pet cows. Children will learn valuable lessons in what it takes to run a farm, care for a variety of domestic animals, and where our food comes from.
Is your kid mad about monkeys? Encourage him get in touch with his inner primate at Gibbon Conservation Center, located in Santa Clarita, just north of LA. The center currently houses over 40 apes from Southeast Asia that swing through the trees and behave like the monkeys they are. Volunteers are constantly needed to maintain the grounds, help prepare food, and produce educational materials. Your family can visit the center, view the animals, and help give back at the same time.
Heading to the Big Apple? Of course you’ll want to see the major sights, take in a Broadway show, and maybe do a little shopping. But if you can spare just a few hours, there are many easy ways to give back in New York City. In the devastation following Superstorm Sandy, New York Cares continues to provide aid to thousands of New Yorkers. Beyond Sandy Relief, volunteers are needed year-round to clean parks, provide meals, or just play basketball with underprivileged kids. With a massive database of projects that’s searchable by date and NYC neighborhood, this organization makes it easy to find a way to help that suits your family.
If your family loves hiking vacations, here’s an opportunity to help maintain those trails you adore. The American Hiking Society provides a list of many one- and two-day projects where volunteers can install stepping stones or remove debris so that hikers can enjoy our trails for years to come. Of course, the expansive outdoor playground is all around us, from New York's Adirondacks to the Virgin Islands, so there are always plenty of trails to maintain wherever you may be going.
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