Got your break planned yet? If you're thinking you'd like to make a difference with your time, think about taking a break with an i-to-i volunteer vacation. Conserve a lake in Guatemala or build homes for Honduran families with a little pre-planning; if you want sun splashed sand, spend time on a Costa Rican beach, working with sea turtles. See a piece of the planet and come home with a new perspective on what you can do with your world travel time.
US college students are increasingly seeking out short-term meaningful experiences by lending a helping hand, according to i-to-i Volunteer Travel. The international volunteer vacation provider does more than half of its business each year with student travel and is experiencing 40-50 percent annual growth in numbers of student vacation volunteers.
i-to-i's experience with the increasing interest among students is not unique, says Lee Ann Johnson, the company's managing director. In recent years, about 30,000 students opted for community service instead of a traditional vacation according to Break Away, a national nonprofit group that helps students organize service trips. And since 1994, the number of schools participating in alternative break programs with Campus Compact, an affiliation of over 1,100 U.S. colleges and universities that promotes public service, has more than doubled.
"College students are finding that they are able to give a gift that transcends gift-wrapped packages," says Lee Ann Johnson, managing director. At the same time, she says, volunteer vacations help them gain real-world experience, explore career options and strengthen resumes.
Participants in volunteer vacations can obtain valuable field experience in fields including marketing, journalism, teaching, fundraising, social services, and management, says Johnson. In many cases, students pursuing a volunteer vacation can earn college credit, with the volunteer vacation provider working with both the student and academic advisor. Providers such as i-to-i also offer training certification courses to prepare students to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).
i-to-i volunteers can choose from a wide variety of destinations, from India to Ireland or Costa Rica to Croatia. Volunteer opportunities range from teaching English to performing cultural and ecological conservation or constructing homes. Vacation choices can be as short as intense one-to-three week trips or as long as 24 weeks, says Johnson, creating opportunities for individual preferences. i-to-i also provides a select number of opportunities in which participants can earn money teaching English.
"For college students looking to do more than sleep in late and visit with myriad aunts, uncles, and cousins over winter, spring or summer break, the volunteer vacation can help them learn about their careers, their world, and themselves," says Johnson. In addition, all i-to-i volunteer vacations are fully supported by trained work and travel advisors, paid in-country coordinators, airport pick-up and orientation, 24-hour emergency back-up, and comprehensive travel and health insurance tailored for the volunteer vacation experience. You're in safe hands!
The Detailsi-to-i Volunteer Travel is an international volunteer vacation organization, specializing in helping disadvantaged communities and ecosystems around the world. The company arranges placements of 1-24 weeks in teaching, conservation, community work, building and a variety of other projects in more than 20 countries. Founded in 1994 with international headquarters in Leeds, England, i-to-i North America is based in Denver, Colorado. To date, the company has brought more than 10,000 volunteers together in projects around the world. For more information about upcoming volunteer vacation opportunities, visit the website at i-to-i Volunteer Travel or call 1-800-985-4864 for more information or a free brochure.
A note: these vacations are not free -- check the booking page carefully.
Find volunteer projects that appeal to you -- raising lion and tiger cubs in South Africa? Building wells in rural Vietnam after cruising the Mekong Delta and trekking near Mai Chau ? Or:
Choices, choices - $1000 to Cancun for fun in the sun or $1000 ($897 through January, 2011, actually) to build houses in Costa Rica?? Either might be equally rewarding -- give volunteering vacations some thought: you'll still head for exotic locales with i-to-i, drink the local brew and perhaps hang out on the beach -- but you'll have made a difference in someone's life.