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Alternative Spring Break Ideas

How to Volunteer for an Alternative Spring Break

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Woman doing volunteer painting for 'Habitat For Humanity'
Billy Hustace/The Image Bank/Getty Images
The phrase "alternative spring break" (ASB) usually means volunteering for spring break, a very rewarding way to spend your time off. So who's doing what where, when, and how for an alternative spring break?

College students can seek alternative spring break sun and sand while volunteering in Central American conservation and home building projects with i-to-i, United Way is sponsoring alternative spring break for volunteers in the US, and non-profit housebuilder Habitat for Humanity is again seeing a serious swell of students turning up to pound nails in storm-slammed Gulf Coast communities. In a very cool development last year, Projects Abroad is now offering short-term volunteering abroad opportunities specifically designed for one-week spring break trips. And you can build your own alternative spring break ideas, too, like rebuilding national park trails or finding the perfect volunteer match near you. Check out a few alternative spring break ideas for volunteering this year:

United Way Alternative Spring Break

After MTV's inaugural collaboration with United Way's "Storm Corps" in 2006 to send students to the US's Gulf Coast on an alternative spring break, the program has successfully rolled south each year since to rebuild after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.

United Way also offers an alternative spring break week elsewhere in the US -- ASB volunteers will work in conjunction with local partners to address issues in urban America, like helping to build affordable housing and improving the quality of child care centers. Get the details on how to volunteer on volunteering with United Way for an alternative spring break:

Break Away Alternative Spring Break

Break Away is a good resource on your own campus -- if your college has a chapter, you'll have access to a Break Away database of over 350 nonprofit organizations listing volunteer opportunities with details like sample work projects and housing options. Check out an example at Michigan State University to learn what Break Away alternative spring break trips are like.

Habitat for Humanity Alternative Spring Break Work

Non-profit housebuilder Habitat For Humanity is reporting that more than 10,000 high school and college students are lining up to swing hammers over spring break through Habitat's Collegiate Challenge alternative spring break program -- that's a massive increase in student support over the last five years! In 2006, 1,531 students volunteered to spend spring break volunteering to help rebuild the storm-torn US Gulf Coast with the charitable organization founded in 1976. Learn more:

Alternative Spring Break Volunteer Vacations With i-to-i

With i-to-i volunteer vacations specifically tailored to an alternative spring break, you can conserve a lake in Guatemala or build homes for Honduran families; if you want sun splashed sand, spend time on a Costa Rican beach, working with sea turtles. Through volunteering with a good student travel outfit like i-to-i,where volunteering goes hand-in-hand with travel, you'll see a piece of the planet without having to do much of the planning.

Volunteering Abroad for One Week Spring Breaks

Volunteering abroad is a fantastic, life-altering experience: the travel, the opportunity to help someone else, the new knowledge about you and your place in the world are invaluable results. Volunteering abroad is a big commitment, though, and the planning and research can seem daunting. Here's a solution: try it out by volunteering abroad for spring break. One week. No big commitment. Perfect. Learn more:

Volunteer in America's Wilderness

Feel like giving something back to the wild areas that you love? The American Hiking Society has the dream volunteer trip for you -- American Hiking's Volunteer Vacations, where you can rake, shovel, trim, lop, and chop hundreds of trail miles. Trips are far fewer in spring than summer and some trips are already full, but you can also get inspired for hotter months' work down the road:

A List of Volunteer Opportunity Resources for Students

We've compiled a constantly changing master list of volunteering opportunities that can easily work for students over spring break -- check out the volunteer's list (and we haven't volunteered with all of these outfits -- ask around a bit before you send *anyone* any money as a down payment):

Find Volunteer Work Matches

Don't see what you need? Try Volunteer Match, a service which allows you to enter your zip and see what kind of volunteer opportunities exist near you. You might also want to check out Lois Friedland's (About's Guide to Adventure Travel) list of voluntourism resources.

Who's Going to Be There?

Last year, springtime volunteering grew by leaps and bounds as alternative spring break ideas caught fire with college students. Sarah-Jane Wilton of STA Travel told About.com's Student Travel: "We are finding that each year, more students are looking beyond the wet t-shirt competitions and beach scene of Cancun, and instead seeking out a different type of experience (and) even volunteering." If that's you, you can likely hook up with a trip even at the last minute. Best of luck and karma!

"Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it." -- Eudora Welty

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