Voluntourism opportunities for a rewarding summer

Special Correspondent

Want to do something to make a difference during your summer vacation? It is easy: try a service vacation. Here are some voluntourism opportunities to consider:
·               Florida Keys – Visitors who want to add an enriching element to their Florida Keys vacation can connect and get involved with Keys voluntourism opportunities through a recently introduced website at www.keysvoluntourism.com. The Web outlet is a link to a variety of Florida Keys organizations dedicated to protecting and improving the quality of human and animal life in the island chain that are actively seeking volunteers. Perhaps you would like to donate some of your time and efforts to such organizations as Habitat for Humanity, the Marathon Wild Bird Center or others? Visitors interested in individual vacations or organizations crafting group trips around specific voluntourism events are encouraged to check the website regularly for updates.
·               Togo, West Africa – United Planet, an international non-profit based in Boston that offers service trips to a variety of destinations, has introduced a new volunteer abroad program in Togo. The short-term international program has eight new projects to offer and volunteers are sought to provide service in childcare, education, disabled citizen care, and community development. For volunteers interested in working with children, seven out of eight United Planet short-term programs offered in Togo are centered on helping youth. Projects examples include helping to promote reading and research at a community library, helping Togolese children with disabilities, and working with children with hearing deficiencies to successfully integrate them into education and work environments. In addition to service work, volunteers will enjoy local excursions in and around the city of Kpalimé, where the majority of the projects are located. Those who wish to volunteer in Togo with United Planet may begin their program at any time during the year but must commit to at least two weeks of volunteering. A basic knowledge of French is preferred and volunteers must be at least 18 years old to participate.  For those interested in an extended volunteer experience, United Planet also offers six-month and year-long programs to Togo. Visit www.unitedplanet.org.
·               The Philippines – Projects Abroad is now offering volunteer projects in the Philippines. The organization has opened a year-round office in Cebu City, with full-time support staff to coordinate projects and offer 24-hour backup to volunteers. Volunteers can help with childcare at orphanages and day care centers, teach English in public schools, and assist medical staff in local hospitals. While the minimum commitment to volunteer in the Philippines is one month, volunteers can start anytime and choose their own duration.The Philippines marks Projects Abroad’s 28th destination. Visit www.projects-abroad.org.
·               Cruises – Want to take a cruise this year for your vacation, and wish to help others, albeit if with less time commitment? Some cruise lines offer shore excursions that enable participants to assist community organizations, such as food banks and schools, at some of the ports of call they visit. Participants spend half a day or a full day volunteering for a worthy cause during the port call before returning to their ship. Cruise lines that offer these types of shore excursions include Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com) and Holland America Line (www.hollandamerica.com). Some lines, including Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) feature a “Cruising for a Cause” initiative where the company will dedicate entire sailings to support select charitable causes. This new program will provide the line’s passengers, many of whom are looking for opportunities to make positive contributions to their communities and the world, a way to make a difference even as they vacation. Visit www.princess.com/cruisingforacause.

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