THE TOP TEN Voluntourism Trips
Aaron Dalton

The rise of responsible tourism

There comes a point—generally when you’re on your third margarita, sunburned over 60 percent of your body and the kids are screaming in the infinity pool—when you start wonder if there is more to the whole vacation concept than lying on a beach getting toasted.

A way of showing thanks for your own good fortunes, perhaps. You want a chance to contribute more to a local economy than buying overpriced trinkets that neither you nor your friends back home really need.

If these perfectly reasonable thoughts cross your mind from time to time, you're not alone. In fact, you've jumped on something of a bandwagon. The caravan of do-gooders heading hither and yon on altruistic volunteer tourism (a.k.a. "voluntourism") programs has reached proportions that, if not biblical, are certainly large enough for the tourism industry to take notice...
Aaron Dalton The rise of responsible tourism There comes a point—generally when you’re on your third margarita, sunburned over 60 percent of your body ...  more
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EarthWatch

Global
Maybe you dreamed about saving the whales in college, but the closest you get to marine wildlife nowadays is watching PBS. At least you can fulfill your scientific fantasies for a week or two by helping researchers monitor the migration patterns of grey whales off the Baja coast, record details of Chinese village life, or figure out how to improve the ecological sustainability of Costa Rican shade-grown coffee. The Earthwatch Institute lets volunteers join with scientists on an exciting, diverse range of projects taking place all over the world.
 
 

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Organization for International Development (OID)

Caribbean and Africa
Not content with curing pain at work, some big-hearted doctors, nurses, dentists and physical therapists choose to spend their own money and their vacation time traveling to communities in need and using their skills to ease suffering there. Founded in 1990 by Roy W. Streete, DDS, the Organization for International Development organizes trips to provide health services in places like Jamaica, Ghana and Ethiopia where residents lack regular access to medical care. Naturally, the OID welcomes all sorts of healthcare professionals to volunteer, but it also can use the help of volunteers with no healthcare training to register patients, provide counseling and education, or help with the preparation and distribution of equipment and supplies.
 
 

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Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Utah
The largest animal rescue sanctuary in the United States shelters approximately 1,500 abused and abandoned dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses and other animals in its ‘no kill’ refuge. That means that every animal is either adopted or allowed to live out its natural life at the beautiful 33,000-acre Angel Canyon ranch that the sanctuary calls home. Volunteers can help care for the animals and give them personal attention. Stay on the ranch itself in a guest cottage or in the nearby town of Kanab. You can also just stop by for a day on volunteer on your way to one of the region’s spectacular national parks – Zion, Bryce Canyon or the Grand Canyon itself.
 
 

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Habitat for Humanity / Fairmont Hotel

Winnipeg, Canada
Help build a home for a Winnipeg family that lacks decent shelter this summer through Habitat for Humanity. The Fairmont Winnipeg’s “Home Sweet Home” package includes overnight accommodations, daily transportation to and from the homebuilding site and daily breakfast – in the hotel restaurant’s 4-diamond CAA-AAA restaurant or in your room if your back is too sore to make it out of bed. The hotel will even throw in an amenity kit with band-aids and hand cream for your tender paws. For each package booked, the Fairmont also donates $25 directly to Habitat.
 
 

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PEPY

Cambodia and Nepal
Spend a week or more bicycling through Cambodia with PEPY. The trip is about 75% touring and 25% volunteering. Projects might include building a rainwater collection unit at a rural school, delivering bikes to students so that they can more easily get to class or teaching environmental lessons in schools. Even when you’re riding, you’ll be making a difference since PEPY trips have a fundraising component. The money from friends and family back home sponsoring your ride will go to support ongoing PEPY projects to build and support rural Cambodian schools or foster literacy by opening libraries. This year, PEPY expands it work to a new country with its first Nepal bike ride in November.
 
 

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Hunters Helping the Hungry

Alabama
For more information: Hunters Helping the Hungry or 334-242-3467
 
 

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Katrina Cleanup

Louisiana
You can bemoan the pace of Hurricane Katrina cleanup, or you can do something more productive – like rolling up your sleeves and helping out. Home rebuilding is naturally high on the agenda, but you can also spend time tutoring children or helping to protect and restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.
 
 

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Getting wet in Aruba

Aruba
Don’t just bask on the beautiful beaches and soak up the endless Aruban sunshine. Get your feet (and other parts of your body) wet by helping with the 14th Annual Aruba Reef Care Project from July 7-8. 2007. Last year, some 800 participants including locals and visitors from around the world snorkeled, scuba dived and combed the beaches to protect and restore the island’s natural environment. If you can’t make it down to Aruba, you might enjoy volunteering at the island’s donkey sanctuary, where they are always looking for volunteers to help take care of the animals whose ancestors were once the main form of transport for Arubans.
 
 

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Skyway Guesthouse

Siem Reap, Cambodia
The ancient Khmer cities of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom surely contain some of the most stunning ancient architecture in the world. You can visit both sites while staying in the nearby city of Siem Reap at the Skyway Guesthouse. When not sightseeing, give back through Skyway’s volunteer program by helping to tutor children in English and computer skills or by assisting with administration work at a nearby orphanage. Plenty of other guesthouses and hostels are developing programs to allow visitors to volunteer during their stays. For example, Hostel Hoff at the base of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro helps connect travelers with programs to volunteer at local schools or teach HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
 
 

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Get sponsored

Anywhere
You don’t have to join a formal program or visit anyplace in particular to participate in volunteer tourism. If you want to visit a specific city, you could time your trip to coincide with a local fundraising marathon like September’s Running Festival in Sydney, Australia. D.I.Y. types can devise their own one-of-a-kind trips and then search for sponsorship. Consider Kurtis Alward, a 22-year old who is bicycling across the country this summer with four friends to raise money toward cancer research. Four years ago, Alward’s older brother Brian started the Coast to Coast for Hope foundation when their father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Four years later and with nearly $45,000 raised from both corporations and individuals, the Alwards are still pedaling down the long road toward a cancer-free world.
 
 





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