Vacation Volunteerism

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By Al Tompkins

April 1, 2007

Vacation Volunteerism

USA Today found that a small but growing number of Americans are coupling their desire to help others with their desire to travel. In fact, the new phrase "voluntourism" has been born.

Surveys conducted recently by Orbitz, Travelocity and the Travel Industry Association of America confirm that consumers are becoming more interested in vacations with a volunteerism aspect, also known as "voluntourism."

Opportunities that once existed largely with nonprofit activist groups are being adopted by a wide range of travel agencies and tour operators, too. Sally Brown, who heads the Indianapolis not-for-profit group Ambassadors for Children, said the number of travel organizations of various kinds that offer voluntourism trips has probably doubled in the past three years.

Here is a sample of what you can do to help:

Globe Aware, a nonprofit organization, currently offers volunteer vacations in Peru, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cuba, Nepal, Brazil, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. These short-term (one week) adventures in service focus on cultural-awareness and sustainability, and are often compared to a "mini peace corps." All program costs, including the cost of airfare, are tax-deductible. [...]

You need no special skills nor do you need to speak any foreign language. Immerse yourself in a new culture. Enjoy befriending people in new and interesting countries and experience the reward of helping them on meaningful community projects.

Click here to view a trailer from a documentary on one of Globe Aware's programs.

Hospitality Net says:

Travelocity's annual forecast poll found that 11 percent of respondents plan to volunteer during their vacations in 2007 -- up from 6 percent in 2006. From community outreach such as building homes and schools to environment-related projects, people are simply looking for ways to give back and get more involved in important causes.

Travelocity has created a grant program as part of its Travel For Good initiative aimed at travelers yearning for a richer and more meaningful travel experience and is calling for entries from deserving volunteers. With a growing optimism among people that they can have a positive impact through travel, Travelocity is helping with the launch of the grant program.

Under the Travel For Good initiative, first launched in August 2006, Travelocity began a program called Change Ambassadors to help bring the idea of "voluntourism" to a broader, mainstream audience. Key components of the Change Ambassadors program are consumer and employee grants that will be awarded to people who wish to help others through volunteering, but do not have the financial means to take a volunteer vacation. Travelocity will award two $5,000 grants per quarter to customers and one $5,000 grant per quarter to employees.





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