Why Volunteer?

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Alternative Spring Break: Volunteer Travel

The American ritual known as spring break has evolved from a sprawling beach party into a chance for students to do some good. The opportunities to contribute are numerous and wide-ranging. You can volunteer in a low-income school, help out on an archaeological dig, or work for a crucial environmental cause. This guide to alternative spring break presents organizations focused on volunteer travel, along with recently published articles on the topic, so you’ll be equipped to find a cause and project that suit your own unique interests and talents.

Why Volunteer?

If you remember your last spring break as a blur of crowded beaches, overpriced meals, and bad hangovers, consider traveling with a purpose this semester. A practice called volunteer tourism (or “voluntourism”), where tourists incorporate time working on volunteer projects into their vacations, is rising in popularity. Use the resources in this section to learn more about this emerging form of travel, including how it can benefit you.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • When planned well, volunteer tourism can benefit everyone involved. The University of Minnesota outlines reasons for lending a hand, and skills you may develop by volunteering.
  • Volunteer tourism doesn’t require nonstop hard labor, and it’s still possible to return from your vacation feeling fresh and rejuvenated. On some Habitat for Humanity projects, workers retire to comfortable hotels (partnered with Habitat) after a hard day of building.
  • Volunteer travel can have a huge impact on human rights issues. Take the efforts of the organization Ethical Traveler, for example. Its boycott of travel to Nepal resulted in the Nepalese government reversing its policy regarding Tibetan refugees in India.
  • Volunteer travel is not without its critics. Some see the trend as a form of colonialism that benefits tourism providers, rather than people in communities where volunteers are sent. Critics also cite instances of volunteers unnecessarily redoing projects performed by earlier groups, or doing work that is against the wishes of local people, as evidence of voluntourism’s flaws. These issues are discussed in greater length in the Picks. The Ethical Travel Guide: Your Passport to Exciting Alternative Holidays is a guidebook with alternative travel ideas for those who wish to avoid what it describes as “guilt trips.”

Dulcinea's Picks

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Alternative Spring Break Trips

The length of your break, the location of your trip, your budget, and work preferences are a ... read more »

Volunteer Tourism Organizations

Before your alternative spring break dreams can come to fruition, you might want some help from a ... read more »

Flights

Volunteer vacations aren’t always cheap, so you’ll want to save money however possible; ... read more »

Spring Break Safety

There are special considerations to make regarding your health and safety when volunteering abroad. ... read more »

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