FX Excursions

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Voluntourism: Family Travel That Gives Back

by Carley Wade

Jan 17, 2018

Dragonimages | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

JetBlue recently made headlines for what some travel influencers billed as a “paid vacation” — the JetBlue For Good promotion sent those willing to work for their supper to Jamaica, Texas and the Bahamas for free along with meals and paid accommodations. While that November program may be over, there are still plenty of ways and reasons to volunteer in areas affected by hurricane damage — even with the family.


At Marriott properties in Puerto Rico, you can stay for free at any property not booked to capacity in order to volunteer for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s Rebuild Days, a series of events across the island focusing on natural attractions. The most recent one was a La Monserrate Beach cleanup, and others are posted at www.seepuertorico.com and on the See Puerto Rico Facebook page. (Marriott Rewards members can also donate points toward disaster relief organizations like the Red Cross to support the U.S. territory.)


With Sierra Club, families can join week-long trips throughout the continental United States to create animal habitats or work on trails, for just about $500 per person. Sierra Club Outings program has multiple outreach initiatives including several for veterans and their families to spend more time outdoors, and one for inner-city families to enjoy fresh air and time together; several are run by volunteers nationwide.


singing with school kids in African village

© Dhrupal Jetha | Dreamstime.com


GlobeAware “Adventures in Service” connects Americans with locals in countries like Vietnam, Romania, Mexico and Peru for such activities as cooking local cuisine, singing with school kids and working side by side on local community service projects. Volunteer vacation programs are conveniently Saturday to Saturday for families with kids and just a week off of holiday time to spend on a good cause. Recent projects include building irrigation systems in Southeast Asia, constructing ovens in Central America, repairing roads in Nepal and building schools in the Andes.


Discover Corps offers all-inclusive volunteer vacations to Africa, Asia and Latin America, with special family-friendly departures to locations like Cuba, the Galapagos and even India. Local staff fosters participation in activities for all ages, especially for youth to meet other kids of the same age. Families of four or more who join an existing departure date — planned around school breaks — qualify for a group discount.


Conveniently arranged by suggested age groups (as low as 6–8), Global Volunteers travels both near (Montana) and far (China and Vietnam) to teach English reading or lead summer camps, for instance. While some programs require a parent to co-teach, many do not — and kids 12 and under traveling with a parent get a 40 percent discount on the cost.


Kids can find out what Costa Rican school kids do at recess or what Maasai tribes in Kenya eat for lunch with Elevate Destinations, which bills itself as “experts in socially responsible luxury travel.” Families can still stay in comfort while supporting conservation efforts and local communities. Each journey is customized to engage what really interests your brood — so get ready to get hands-on with conservation efforts for sea turtles in Costa Rica or weave with the chinchero in Peru.


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