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Do you do community service? How about when you travel? This is something I’ve always wanted to do but unfortunately, have not taken the time to do it. Okay, in all honesty when I’m planning a vacation I’m planning the vacation. So in light of Martin Luther King, Jr day (January 18) and National Day of Service (January 19) I thought I would sit down and actually plan out some ways we can be family travel volunteers. Keep in mind most of these are family-friendly activities for children ages 6 and up.
Global Volunteers has a large variety and pardon the pun, global reach for volunteer opps. I liked what I read with family volunteer programs starting as young as 6 years old. I know when my kids were that young, they’d have just as much fun seeing the sights as they would working with children their own age teaching English. Plus, because you’re volunteering for a nonprofit organization, the fees are tax-deductible. Global volunteers will also work with you to find some fundraising opportunities as well. For a list of ways to serve as a family, check them out here.
Vision Service Adventures & Global Works
If you have older kids, or soon-to-be older kids like me, you might be interested in sending them off for a week or two on their own. To be honest, there are days I could send my 10 & 12-year-olds out on their own now and I’m pretty sure they’d be ready to get rid of me too for a week! But that’s for another day.
I found two well-rounded service programs for teens. Global Works Travel in particular has a soccer program (again, in Costa Rica…God, I love that place!) I know a lot of high schoolers have to complete so many service hours in order to graduate and I like how Global Works lists how many credit hours for each program. There are programs in the US (Puerto Rico) so you don’t necessarily need to get your kids a passport – though it’s a good idea to do so anyway.
Vision Service Adventures has programs for middle schoolers (maybe I’ll be able to get my 12-year-old out of the house after all.) And if you’re nervous about sending your middle schooler out of the country, I don’t blame you. The Montana Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation project might be a good choice. I’m loving that they get to do some carpentry work on this one. Maybe I can send my 12-year-old off and have him come back and fix a few things around the house.
Give Kids the World
Even if you’re traveling to Walt Disney World area, you can still take some time out to volunteer. One of my favorite organizations around here is Give Kids the World. And I just discovered they will take volunteers as young as 12. I’ve volunteered here myself and it was so much fun. Give Kids the World provides housing, food and transportation to the theme parks for families whose child has a life threatening illness. The storybook land is whimsical and just downright fun for kids. I delivered pizzas on property myself and now that I’ve discovered they take volunteers as young as 12, I will be taking my kids with me there very soon. Volunteering here ranges from food service to arts and crafts with the kids.
Rancho Margot is probably my favorite place we stayed in Costa Rica. The 400-acre property is self-sustainable, organic, wild and serene all at the same time. They raise their own chickens for meat and eggs, make their own milk and cream from the cows, turn the manure into fuel and grow and compost all the food they serve. To make this place run smoothly they offer volunteer opportunities in exchange for discounted room and board.
Because of the popularity of their programs, volunteering at Rancho Margot is restricted to adults ages 23 and up and a commitment of 4 weeks. However, they do offer an Eco-Literacy program geared towards student groups where children will be able to interact with the farm and learn how to garden, compost and work with the livestock. Check it out here. So while this is not technically a family volunteer program, they are still one of my favorite places to learn about the environment.
More Costa Rica Resources
So, have you volunteered as a family? I know there’s a ton more programs out there both in and out of the US. What did you do, how was the experience? Comment below with your advice.