Emma Sarran Webster writing for Teen Vogue explores how to turn spring break into a truly worthwhile, beneficial vacation through a volunteer vacation with Globe Aware and other working vacation facilitators.
6 Spring Break Ideas That Allow You to Give Back While You Vacation
From a Kindergarten in Argentina to the health campaigns in Ghana.
This Spring Break, take the opportunity to travel and help others, through a volunteer vacation. The combination of volunteering and travel is growing in popularity as an increasing number of companies offer the chance to explore and make a difference. You can take your pick from working at orphanages in Africa, assisting in wildlife conservation efforts in South America, or protecting natural environments right here in the States. “Volunteering overseas is, without a doubt, one of the top experiences anyone could hope to undertake in their lifetime,” Dr. Ken Dorman, a board member of service travel organization Globe Aware, wrote on their website. “Even a short-term volunteer adventure can change your life and world perspective. Few things can give you a greater sense of meaning.” So as you plan your Spring Break, consider gaining perspective through one of these six companies that offer service trips at home and abroad.
Globe Aware offers 8-day, Saturday-to-Saturday international volunteer vacations — perfect for a full and fulfilling Spring Break. The company focuses not on giving charity, but on helping host communities build renewable, sustainable programs. “The goal is not for volunteers to change the host communities, but rather to help them in the needs that the host community has identified as important,” the Globe Aware site states.
As a Globe Aware volunteer, you can travel to places like Cambodia to help with reforestation efforts; Brazil to help build a community center; or Romania to help teach English. And fear not: You don’t need any special skills or prior qualifications to join; the volunteer coordinators will help you throughout the process. Book your trip as a solo traveler, with your family, or even a group of girlfriends.
Projects Abroad, a company that sends more than 10,000 volunteers overseas every year to work on service projects, offers week-long Alternative Spring Break Trips designed specifically for college students. Sign up to volunteer at a kindergarten in Argentina or Fiji; help with public health campaigns in Ghana; participate in renovation work in Morocco; or help protect sea turtles in Mexico, among other options. Not in college yet? Check out Project Abroad’s High School Special programs.
Fathom gives travelers the chance to head out on a cruise — with a purpose. Depart by sea from Miami to one of two Caribbean destinations: the Dominican Republic or Cuba. While on board the ship, you’ll get to know your fellow travelers, learn about your destination and its customs, and participate in orientation activities and lessons that will prepare you for your on-land experience. Sail to the Dominican Republic to serve the local communities through projects like working with a women's collective on their successful artisanal chocolate business, or helping locals gain access to clean water. Or immerse yourself in Cuban culture through visits with Cuban professionals, entrepreneurs, and family business owners to learn about education, economics, the role of government, and more in this country that was, until recently, mostly off-limits to American travelers.
Sierra Club Outings
Sierra Club is the country’s largest grassroots environmental organization, on a mission to “explore, enjoy, and protect the planet.” As part of that mission, Sierra Club Outings offers environmentally friendly, outdoor excursions throughout the year — among them, inspiring and adventurous service trips. Head to Big Sur State Park to help with trail improvements; to New York City to assist with maintenance and invasive species removal in the Thain Family Forest; or to Florida to work on restoring the ecosystem on the island of Cayo Costa.
Earthwatch Institute gives adults and teens alike the chance to work with scientists on various expeditions focused on protecting the planet and its species. As a “citizen scientist” on an Earthwatch Expedition, you can explore the impact of climate change on the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park; research ocean health as it pertains to whales and dolphins in Costa Rica; or learn about wildlife and ecosystems as you help conserve river dolphins and monkeys in Peru’s Amazonian forests.
American Hiking Society
American Hiking Society (AHS), a national organization that promotes and protects foot trails and the surrounding natural areas, offers volunteer vacations focused on building and maintaining trails throughout the country, with a healthy dose of backpacking or day hiking. Explore AHS’s Project Guide to find a trip that’s right for you, whether that’s assisting with boardwalk maintenance at Virginia’s Kiptopeke State Park; protecting the sand dunes at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; or helping construct a new trail at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Tennessee.
AHS also offers Alternative Breaks, open to groups of 8-15 students who sign up together and are touted as “part volunteer work project, part kick-back outdoor vacation” on the website. Though the Spring Break trips are full, summer trips to places like Texas, Florida, and California are open — perhaps a sign to get a head start on your summer break planning?