Over the past several months, I have received dozens of questions about how families can volunteer internationally. I have spoken with so many parents that are interested in family volunteer travel but are unsure how-to find opportunities that include their children. They love the idea of taking a trip that will expose their kids to global issues and expand their worldview but just don’t know where to find resources to help them do it.
I was initially surprised to learn that many parents would rather spend spring break visiting and working in a local community than sitting on the beach in Florida. But. after doing some research, it turns out, that family volunteering has a slew of documented benefits.
According to the Honeycomb Project – an amazing Chicago-based nonprofit that plans meaningful volunteer projects for families – research shows that youth who volunteer are twice as likely to be charitable as adults. Additionally, volunteering as a family also allows parents to spend quality time with their children and – among other things – teach greater tolerance and understanding, present a new perspective on the world, foster empathy, and lead by example. Who wouldn’t want to help cultivate little global citizens?
What I have realized, however, is that it is really hard to find affordable, meaningful and legitimate family volunteer opportunities. So I started doing a bit of research so that I could answer some of the questions that came my way. While I did not find a lot of information (yet), I thought I would share some advice as to how to plan your next family volunteer abroad experience:
1. To get started, check out this page on Idealist.org that discusses family volunteering.
2. Then, begin to ask yourself some questions about what you are looking for in your experience. (This NY Times article will get your creative juices flowing).
3. Start reading and following family travel bloggers and other writers that are experts on family travel. (I personally love Solo Mom Takes Flight who just wrote an article about this!)
4. And last –but not least – check out Unearth the World’s Sustainable Tourism and Spanish School Project in Nicaragua to begin planning your next family volunteer abroad experience.
I am always looking for more ideas about volunteer travel so I would love to hear from you! What resources am I missing? What experiences have you had?