7 Great Volunteer Vacations
Summer is the time for vacations. We all know the many personal benefits of vacation, but your vacation can also benefit the world around you. Two of the best trips I’ve ever taken were working to build houses in a small village in Lebanon, and making over 200 rice balls every day at a camp for underprivileged children in Japan.
Here’s a sampling of some great options.
Grow Organic Food
If you have ever wondered where your organic food comes from, this is your chance to find out. The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program gives you the opportunity to work at an organic farm in exchange for room and board. No previous farm experience is necessary. You’ll probably be expected to work one half day in exchange for each night of room and board.
As an avid hiker, I am so grateful to all the dedicated volunteers who work on preserving our trails. The Sierra Club organizes around 90 service trips each year, donating roughly 27,000 work hours to state and federal land agencies. Generally, service trip participants team up with forest service rangers or park service personnel to restore wilderness areas, maintain trails, clean up trash and campsites, and remove non-native plants.
Preserve Cheetahs in Namibia
This is just one of the many volunteer expeditions run by EarthWatch. On this trip, you can help save cheetahs from local extinction in Namibia. EarthWatch volunteers are based in Eland’s Joy, the headquarters of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, and the last stronghold of the wild cheetah. You’ll be taking care of injured cheetahs, conducting surveys and helping spread the word about the importance of conservation.
Protect Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
Each year the endangered leatherback, green and hawksbill turtles come to the beaches of Parismina, Costa Rica to nest. That’s when the poachers arrive. The Asociacion Salvemos Las Tortugas De Parismina (ASTOP) was started by local residents who patrol the beaches at night to stop poachers and protect sea turtles during their nighttime nesting routine. As a volunteer, you’ll also be up at night, patroling the beaches while collecting data on these amazing creatures.
Become a VIP
The National Park Service has numerous Volunteers-In-Parks, or VIPs. They play an ever-increasing role in the parks, especially now with all the cutbacks due to the sequester. Here are a few of the ways VIPs help our National Parks:
•Presenting living history demonstrations in period costume
•Building fences, painting buildings and making cabinets
•Giving guided nature walks and evening campfire programs
•Assisting with preservation of museum artifacts
Study the Sea in Belize
The Oceanic Society‘s goal is protect sharks, crocodiles and other endangered species, by working with local groups and universities to research and collect data on the animals, with the goal of making policy proposals. Volunteers on this project live in the Turneffe Atoll area of Belize and participate in activities like counting crocodile hatchlings and deploying underwater cameras.
Maintaining ancient forests in England, protecting wetlands in Germany, building nests on the Black Sea in Bulgaria: these are not your typical European vacation activities. So if you’re ready to throw out your travel guidebooks and explore a foreign country in a whole new way while helping to protect it with a BTCV Conservation Holiday, this is for you.
Photo Credit: thinkstock