Spring Break Better
- Debbie Lechtman
…is fast approaching this year, and with it come a plethora of possible vacation destinations for your family. At The Cause Bar, we are always looking for small, simple ways to make a difference, and we believe family trips are an excellent opportunity to inspire change. Whether you are traveling with teenagers or younger kids, volunteering abroad is a fantastic way to pass on your values to your children, learn about different places and cultures, and, perhaps most importantly, leave a positive mark on the world.
Before you book, there are some important things to consider before volunteering outside the country:
Consider why you want to go. Wanting to make a difference is a noble pursuit, but you can do so at home. When volunteering abroad, you should be respectful of the local culture and people. After all, they will still be there when you leave. Do your research and make sure you and your family will not cause more harm than good when volunteering in a foreign country.
Who you go with is important. In recent years, there has been a lot of news about international voluntourism organizations that actually hurt the locals and the environment. For example, while teaching English at an orphanage abroad might sound like a positive thing, often times these orphanages take children from their parents in order to receive money from these international voluntourism organizations.
…about the impact you and your family will leave after you are gone. As mentioned above, your positive impact should not cease once you go home. Think about ways in which you can volunteer in the most sustainable, ethical, and impactful manner.
With that out of the way, the following are some great travel volunteer opportunities for you and your family.
Care for wildlife in Costa Rica at an animal rescue center. Despite being a tiny country, Costa Rica contains six percent of the world’s biodiversity. This means that your family can help an incredibly wide variety of animals, including sloths, parrots, monkeys, and sea turtles. Some organizations to check out are the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center and the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.
Help to care for and feed elephants at an elephant conservation center in Thailand. Elephants are an endangered species due to poaching, ivory hunting, and other forms of exploitation. They are also highly intelligent animals. Elephant baths are important for both their physical and mental health. Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand is one of the most reputable conservation centers. Beware of “rescues” that offer elephant riding, as this is harmful to the animals and widely considered a tourist trap.
…maintain penguin habitats in New Zealand. Because of climate change, penguins are at a higher risk than ever of becoming extinct. Should you find yourself down under this spring break, you and your family could care for these endangered birds. As a volunteer, you can help with habitat restoration by planting trees, among other opportunities. Check out Conservation Volunteers New Zealand for ways to get involved.
Install bathrooms and eco-friendly stoves for low-income families in Peru. Nearly 22 percent of Peru’s citizens live in poverty, particularly those in rural areas, who can lack access to electricity and sewage. Volunteering with eco-friendly appliances not only helps families in need, but the planet, too. Take a look at CoolEffect.Org for more ideas and projects to support.
Build a classroom in Kenya. In rural Kenya, classrooms are often overcrowded and made out of mud. Building proper amenities is not only beneficial to the children’s education, but to their physical safety, as well. Classrooms for Kenya is a great way to get started.
Some other resources that might be helpful include Hands Up Holidays, Elevate Destinations, and Discover Corps. The possibilities are almost endless -- all it takes is finding the right fit for you and your family.