Tips for Volunteering While Traveling

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Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. An increasing number of people are seeking out ways to combine volunteerism with travel. The “voluntourism” trend is growing every year, with dozens of nonprofit organizations and charities organizing programs to bring travelers to regions in need of aid. For every cause, and for every part of the world, volunteer opportunities abound for vacationers seeking to give back as much as they get from their travels.

Frequently, volunteers are drawn to regions that have experienced a hardship, a mission that has been aided by the rise of the Internet. In today’s world, a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis in one corner of the world is front-page news across the globe in a matter of hours. However, experts recommend that volunteers do plenty of research, focusing on their own particular skill set and desires in order to maximize their impact. Moreover, it pays to plan ahead in a very literal sense, as tax deductions can be available, depending on the details of a trip. In addition, a bit of due diligence goes a long way. Websites like charityguide.org and idealist.org can be helpful in finding good volunteer opportunities.

One popular vector for voluntourism is construction, whether one is building a new home or helping to restore a community following a crisis. Organizations like Global Vision International combine volunteer work with traditional tourism, for example. Others might prefer working for groups like Hope and Home or United Planet, through which volunteers work directly with orphaned children, providing education and companionship while helping to maintain and expand facilities. However, many prefer to focus on environmental concerns. Those looking to help clean up the planet will be interested in Earthwatch, which offers volunteer trips across the globe. Voluntourism opportunities exist closer to home, as well. For instance, the American Hiking Society offers trail-maintenance trips.

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