Thursday, November 08, 2007

Voluntourism: A Holiday For the Heart

Help build a house in Mexico, save the turtles in Costa Rica or teach young children to read in Malawi. In 2006 more than 61 million Americans dedicated 8.1 billion hours to volunteerism. And now, voluntourism, the concept of doing good while having a good time, is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry.

During a recent trip to the Peruvian Amazon region my sons and I, along with two family friends, traveled 90 miles by speedboat deep within the jungle. There we delivered much needed school supplies to several communities along the river. In return, the students sang, danced and read original poetry in our honor. It was among the most memorable aspects of our adventure.

Here are five ways you and your family can enjoy a holiday and provide some help along the way.

I-to-II-to-I offers volunteer vacation experiences in Honduras, India and Costa Rica working with sustainable, locally-run community projects, environmental efforts, and educational endeavors. Their travel advisors will provide specific information about each country and project so that you might make the best decision for your family. 1-800-985-4864,

Global Volunteers

Founded n 1984, Global Volunteers offers short and long term opportunities in more than 20 countries. Popular family projects include working with the Blackfeet Indians in Montana, teaching conversational English, assisting in orphanages and working on building projects in Costa Rica.

American Hiking Society

On an American Hiking Society volunteer vacation, family members will visit stunning backcountry locations to construct or rebuild footpaths, cabins and shelters. You’ll meet other volunteers while exploring and restoring some of America’s great outdoor places. American Hiking members qualify for discounts.

Amazonia Expeditions
Amazonia Expeditions subscribes to the philosophy that tourism companies have an obligation to invest in the well being of the environment as well as native people.
The wilderness lodge owner Dolores Arevalo Shapiama de Beaver, a native of the Amazon, has worked to identify individuals with special needs that can be alleviated with medical or educational intervention. Visitors can provide and help distribute school and medical supplies as well as clothing while learning about the native people, conservation and the rain forest habitat.
Craft your own family volunteer vacation from hundreds of opportunities provided on this website. You’ll find connections to projects and causes around the world.

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