What you need to know about volunteer vacations
A working vacation can be very rewarding but know what to consider before you sign up.
What is a volunteer vacation?
"Voluntourism" is another term used for travelling or taking vacation time to volunteer in a domestic area or international destination. Taking a volunteer vacation is becoming quite popular as it is a way to use time to make a meaningful change for others and the areas you visit.
When considering a volunteer vacation or working vacation, it is important to do thorough research first and be prepared. Here are a few questions to ask while planning your volunteer trip.
What can you offer on a volunteer vacation?
Some nonprofits that organize volunteer opportunities that let you travel may help place professionals. For example, Doctors Without Borders, which emphasizes both neutrality and impartiality, sends skilled medical aid where it's most needed.
You don't need to be a highly specialized professional in order to contribute. Most of the time two strong hands and a willingness to help can be enough. Assess what you can offer, consider how it aligns with your volunteer passions and decide if the opportunity is family-friendly. You can also instill the spirit of giving into your children by volunteering as a family.
What do you know about the organization?
Research the organization and its partnerships well while planning your volunteer travel opportunities. Many groups that focus on volunteer vacations are for-profit companies but not all are as noble or legitimate as they appear. Make sure you understand the organization's goals, structure and how they administer their funds. Make sure you fully understand any charges you'll incur on your trip and find out what those dollars cover. Charity Navigator may be helpful to uncover more information about different organizations.
Who will you help on your volunteer vacation?
While planning your volunteer trip, be sure to get a good understanding of the area demographics and learn all you can about the people and community you will be helping. While you might want to make a connection with the people who live in the area and may benefit from your efforts, there are reasons that reputable volunteer programs discourage that. You may not understand (or be able to quickly absorb) local customs or cultural influences, particularly regarding children.
What will you be doing on your volunteer vacation?
If you have the ability to consider a working vacation, make sure you want to commit to the hours and demands required of you. Get a realistic understanding about what you will physically be doing and the agenda. You may not have much relaxation or sightseeing time, but you will be making an impact that has far-reaching and long-lasting positive repercussions.
Some organizations, such as State Farm®, offer grant and time off programs for employees to participate in volunteer activities. Be sure to check with your employer to see if they have time off or financial benefits for volunteering.