Child-Friendly Volunteer Abroad Programs: Meaningful Trips for Families
22 Sep 2019 · 12,455 Total reads
By Robin Van Auken
Are you time-poor, finding it difficult to juggle work with family life? Do you feel you’re on a hamster wheel, running in circles as your day flies by, a whirl of constant motion, from home to school to work to sports or other recreational activities?
You conjure visions of a relaxing vacation, imagining yourself on a beach, a cool beverage by your side, while your children frolic in the surf. This daydream seems perfect to many people, as a chance to unwind and spend quality time together.
In reality, many families separate into different interests – even when traveling – with children prone to avoiding family time in favor of playing video games or binge watching television. How can you prevent your kids from asking for the electronic devices you might rely on for screen time?
One solution is to combine a family vacation with meaningful social travel. When you challenge yourself – and your family – on a volunteer trip abroad, you learn new things about others, yourself, and each other, and you grow as a team.
You can lessen the barriers to travel when you choose a destination and a cause that interests you all, and plan your adventure together. Here are a few suggestions:
Plan My Gap Year is an award-winning volunteer travel organization, and while most of its participants are solo, first-time travelers, Plan My Gap Year does organize trips for families and school groups. Working in 17 countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, Plan My Gap Year can provide a safe, structured and social experience overseas.
Plan My Gap Year offers an all-inclusive, tailored trip that’s perfect for families and groups, with all housing and meals included. Pre-departure training includes information for parents, teachers, and students, and an experienced U.K. team member will accompany the school group throughout their trip abroad. With financial protection through the Travel Trust Association, your money is 100% protected. The organization also is a member of Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL). Read more and start planning your trip here.
Travel to beautiful Bali and help with wildlife rescue and rehabilitation! Here’s a valuable and educational adventure for your children, who will participate in the feeding, enclosure cleaning, maintenance, and enrichment of a variety of exotic animals. Fees start at $270 for one week. Learn more and sign up here.
Maximo Nivel offers safe, affordable, and high-quality volunteer trips, Spanish language learning programs, and teaching opportunities that encourage families to gain a better understanding of the world through education, adventure, and cultural travel. Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel has placed 25,000 people on programs that improve and positively impact communities where they work. With placements in Peru, Costa Rica, and Guatemala, Maximo Nivel offers a variety of programs for families and groups, including volunteer programs in childcare, conservation, and more.
If your family is wild about animal conservation, check out this volunteer placement in one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world with Maximo Nivel. Volunteers can choose to assist with turtle conservation, help with animal care, aid in reforestation, share their knowledge through environmental education and cleanup, or try their hand at organic farming. And volunteers who complete 100 or more hours on this project may receive the President’s Volunteer Service award! Read more and get started here.
Travel to Cusco and treat your family to an authentic Peruvian experience, living and working with indigenous communities through the Andean Cultural Immersion program. High in the rural Andes, you’ll volunteer in a Quechua-speaking community, where you and your children can help with agricultural projects, tend to livestock, learn about construction while you help to renovate and paint buildings, and teach conversational English to children in a village classroom. Learn more and sign up here!
Love Volunteers offers more than 200 affordable volunteer travel opportunities in 40 destinations throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. Founded in 2009, Love Volunteers has family-friendly programs in the areas of childcare and development, environment and conservation, and wildlife and animals. If you are traveling with older children and teenagers, volunteer guesthouses are a great option.
Your family will rave about their trip to Vietnam and their weekend excursions to the mighty MeKong Delta. With Love Volunteers, your family can help others, from assisting the elderly to working in a preschool. A customized activity plan can place your family in cultural workshops every day, watching a cooking demonstration while spending dinner with a local family. This intercultural exchange benefits you and your children, as well as the community. Program fees start from $69 per day! Click here to sign up.
Join Love Volunteers’ childcare and development project in Oaxaca, Mexico and provide children with the education they deserve. Your own children will be amazed to learn that the poverty-stricken youth here don’t always receive a proper education, and that volunteers are the best solution. Your family’s support can extend to providing nutritious meals, medical care, and extracurricular activities. Fees start at $259 per week. Learn more and apply here.
Projects Abroad has placed more than 120,000 volunteers overseas since 1992, and is one of the largest volunteer travel organizations in the world. Projects Abroad offers opportunities for family volunteers in construction, archaeology, conservation, teaching, and more in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
Switch off modern life when you and your family travel to an amazing destination and become part of a completely different community. The cultural exchange program with Projects Abroad allows you to immerse yourself in a new country, learn about people there, and help them to build bright futures. Work alongside locals and learn where your skills fit best. This project teaches you resiliency! Choose to live and work with nomads in Mongolia, do community work with teens in Samoa, join a fishing village in Fiji, explore Cambodia, or volunteer with the Maasai in Tanzania. Learn more and start your adventure here!
Part of a large family, or want to bring along other people? Projects Abroad will tailor a trip for you and your family, and has many years’ experience with arranging projects for groups of five people or more. The organization offers flexibility and variety, and can plan programs year-round. With projects catered to your interests and needs, you can ensure your special requests are met. Its staff is available 24/7 to support you, and price covers food, accommodation, medical and travel insurance, airport transfers, and transport to and from your placement. Projects Abroad can even arrange exciting weekend travel, so make the most of your visit to a new country! Click here to learn more.
Agape Volunteers is a registered UK charity that supports a variety of initiatives in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, and South Africa. Program costs include registration and administration fees, as well as travel insurance, making Agape Volunteers one of the most affordable options for travelers wanting to volunteer in Africa. All Agape Volunteers participants are covered by the Agape Travel Policy, provided at no extra cost, and accommodations, airport transfers, food, and orientation are included in the program fee. Orientation and full health and safety briefing are provided to all newcomers, as well as a city tour.
An excellent opportunity for family travel with Agape Volunteers is to teach music in Ghana, a stable and safe country. As music volunteers, your family will work with children and residents at JayNi, supporting established musicians at the school, helping to plan and run music classes for students of all ages, and work with full-time instructors in order to make use of resources available. Small classes focus on basic keyboarding, singing, and music theory. Second-hand instruments are always welcome, so consider bringing one with you! Contact Agape Volunteers to discuss the details of a family volunteer abroad experience.
Help your children, and the children on Kenya, learn the value of teamwork, develop their skills, and unlock hidden talents on the field of play when you volunteer as a sports coachwith Agape Volunteers. In addition to coaching sports, you can assist the PE teacher with school studies and physical education. After school, join the players on community leagues and be a positive role model. Learn more here!
GoEco offers volunteer programs in 44 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, and South America. With more than 150 different projects and 10,000 volunteers placed since 2006, GoEco’s goal is for you to gain a greater passion for volunteering and to share your experience with others when you return home.
Travel to South Africa with GoEco and volunteer in a sanctuary for orphaned or injured animals. Volunteer tasks focus on construction at the sanctuary and hands-on care for animals such as elephants, lions, cheetahs, hippos, and hyenas. Spend free time exploring the beaches of Cape Town, visit Addo Elephant National Park, and much more. Tours, game drives, elephant walks, and hiking excursions are available as add-ons. Click here to sign up!
If you have older teens, consider a journey to Israel to learn about and work with Desert Days, an eco-lodge built by hand from mud and local materials. These are extreme conditions, where you will be living is in tents! Volunteers help with construction and maintenance of the eco village and learn to use sustainable materials to create cabins, benches, sitting areas, and decorative patterns. People of all ages can help out with cleaning, gardening, repairs, cooking, and preparing huts for eco-tourists. When work is done, relax by the pool, explore regions such as Eilat and Jerusalem, and take yoga lessons as a family. Read more and apply here.
Ready To Travel Together?
There are ample opportunities for you and your family to travel – and grow – when you choose to volunteer abroad together. If it’s a dream you’ve been postponing, or one you enjoyed when you were younger, there’s no time like the present to consider traveling abroad, even with the family in tow.
Join thousands of others who are turning to family friendly volunteering that allows everyone to contribute to building a better future for all!
Robin Van Auken · Writer
Robin is a researcher, writer, and a registered professional archaeologist, a skillset she uses every day as a cultural communication specialist with Hands-on Heritage. Her projects connect communities with an emphasis on interpretation and education and conserve cultural and environmental legacies.
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