THE BLOG

Who's Ready for an Alternative Spring Break?

03/05/2015 12:57 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2015

In the dead of winter, who doesn't daydream about the upcoming spring break or summer vacation?  Did you ever consider planning an "alternative break," donating your time and energy to a community needing help while having fun?  To help inspire you we've come up with a list of ideas.

Check out opportunities through your college or university
Many colleges and universities provide opportunities for their students to spend Spring break volunteering in the local community, across the country, or abroad.

Contact your school's student affairs office.

For instance, U.C. Berkeley has several new and ongoing volunteer programs for its students. Started in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 2014-2015 marks the ninth year of a ten-year commitment by the UC Berkeley Public Service Center to work with Gulf Coast Communities. In 2014, students made a winter trip to Los Angeles, centered on the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In 2015, the university is sponsoring the first Food & Justice Storytelling trip.

Contact charitable organizations
Many large charitable organizations enthusiastically take on student volunteers for short stints.  Take a look at upcoming programs run by the United Way and Habitat for Humanity.

United Way
Since 2006, over 3,500 students have participated in United Way's Alternative Spring Break in dozens of communities across the country, contributing more than 112,000 hours of volunteer service.

All participant fees cover food, lodging, and ground transportation once you arrive. Participants are also responsible for travel to and from their selected Alternative Spring Break location.

For Spring Break 2015, opportunities are available in these U.S. cities:

  • Baltimore, MD
  • Washington, D.C.
  • New York City, NY
  • Newark, NJ
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Killen/Fort Hood, TX
  • Tucson, AZ
  • San Francisco, CA
Habitat for Humanity Since 1989, Habitat for Humanity's Collegiate Challenge has been a year-round alternative break program. Participants apply as a group and have many options of places to volunteer across the U.S.  The building sites range from Breezy Point, Queens, an area hit hard by Hurricane Sandy to a suburb of Atlanta, where volunteers build homes, and provide home repairs for low-income seniors. The details are available here.

Have a Special interest?

If you are passionate about an activity or a cause, you can probably find an opportunity to volunteer your time.  Love to hike? Take a look at the trips organized by the American Hiking Society.  The trips are designed specifically for college student groups (the organization also has programs for individuals). Most of the trips last about a week (with weekends used for group travel).  You spend your days hiking, maintaining trails, exploring, and having fun. These alternative break destinations are scheduled for spring 2015:

  • Crystal River State Park (FL)
  • Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge (FL)
  • Cloudland Canyon (GA)
  • Knob Noster State Park (MO)
  • Trail of Tears State Park (MO)
  • Twin Lakes State Park (VA)
Opportunities abroad If you are interested in a longer trip, perhaps abroad, you need time to research and raise funds to finance it.  For information about these opportunities, your college's student affairs office is a great place to start. For an overview of the types of opportunities available and the places you might go, take a look at the articles, ratings, and reviews available on these sites:

  • Go Abroad: This site was built as a one-stop information center for students wishing to travel and volunteer abroad. It links prospective travelers with organizations providing international opportunities. GoAbroad has limited advertising, so the site is clean and uncluttered.
  • Go Overseas: This small company, with a staff of enthusiastic travelers, goes to the source to get information about international volunteer and education programs and shares inspiring stories.
  • The International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) is an association of non-governmental organizations involved in international volunteer work and internship exchanges. IVPA does not organize or run its own volunteer programs.  Instead the website provides details and links to numerous organizations that sponsor volunteer programs abroad.
  • Cross-Cultural Solutions (CSS), top-rated by GreatNonprofits in 2014 is a nonprofit "... working to address critical global issues by providing meaningful volunteer service to communities abroad and contributing responsibly to local economies."
  • CSS programs are designed by members of the communities they serve. Volunteers do meaningful work in these areas:
    • Improving education for children
    • Assisting with the care of infants and children
    • Improving health and sense of dignity among the elderly
    • Improving the quality of care for people with disabilities
    • Supporting those affected by HIV/AIDS
    • Enhancing the quality of healthcare
This organization is just one of many open to any college student ready to make his or her mark on the world. For more organizations, go to greatnonprofits.org.

The world is yours to explore and change!