Now is the time for us to show care for others in any way we can, especially to those who need it most of all – those going through the challenges of life; for example the people of Haiti trying to come out of the destruction by Mother Nature.
Long before the tragic earthquake happened in Haiti – and those that struck Chile as well – I had planned to write an article on Volunteer Vacations and the lasting impact that those travels inspire – aide, hope, and relief to those less fortunate than us. At this time I’m sure heartfelt prayers from all walks of life go out to those to whose lives have been forever changed, and we all, as human beings, need to reach out an help where we can. We know that the various responsible charities and organizations such as REDCROSS, OXFAM, UNICEF, YELE Haiti, SALVATION ARMY, Doctors Without Borders, etc. are doing the best they can to assist those in need.
I am lucky to be in Canada where we will hopefully never see such “natural” destruction harm our population, but we have seen this in North America; recently New Orleans, one such area that still continues its rebuild and makes us analyze what we can do. But this does not mean that we can’t nor shouldn’t be finding more ways to give back. Not all disasters are created by Mother Nature and those created recently by oil and energy companies still need direct attention and support as well; so look to find those NGO’s that support cleaning up our environment, too. Local celebrities and community leaders rise up to the occasion to create fundraising events, but there are nations where this social structure is either non-existent or is not on the same levels as that we are fortunate enough to have in flourishing countries.
What are some ways that you can help and still have that “vacation,” but take away a life-changing and forever memorable experience? What is a Volunteer Vacation and who is a typical participant? Volunteer Vacations participants are and can be very diverse but typically share a desire to “do something good” while experiencing new challenges and places they might not otherwise visit. Volunteer Vacations provides opportunities with various companies that exist all over the world; opportunities such as helping create a water system, farming, taking part in women and children programs like building schools, hospitals, etc. A Volunteer Vacation is not just a trip; it is quite literally a personal odyssey consisting of three major parts: Service, learning, and subsequently getting involved back home. Think of it as a trip that keeps on giving to you and everyone around you. It’s not necessarily for everyone, but gives merit to aiding your fellow man or woman!
Essentially what Volunteer Vacations hope to build and create are: A common humanity, infrastructure, a diversified economy by helping to educate and create small sustainable businesses, better health care, and better education. One cannot help but be amazed once at a destination at the incredible spirit of the people, the color of culture, and the appreciation when they realize you are here to help!
True Volunteer Vacations rely on the charity that resides in the hearts of all of us on the planet…and the generosity of spirit; “Charity changes lives and charity saves lives!” Imagine this: Teaching basic math to students in a rural African community struggling to modernize, or volunteer abroad to help research scientists save endangered sea turtles from extinction. The following year, you could assist nurses at a children’s clinic in Romania, help build a home for a homeless family, or control erosion on a remote wilderness trail in a US national park. The list is endless so your options abound to do your part and give back. These vacations are a very meaningful way to re-energize your life and to take a “check-in” moment to discover where you want to go and what your life legacy will be. You can take as little as one week to several months on Volunteer Vacations, which will not only give you a renewed sense of energy but you will gain enriching experiences, memories, and friendships that last a lifetime. And the amazing sense of camaraderie and ‘family’ that often grows among volunteer team members and coordinators will surpass the test of time.
What might some expectations be of a Volunteer Vacation? One can be that when some volunteers come home from their first abroad experience they have a nagging sense of doubt about whether their contribution made enough difference. So while it’s important to be realistic about what can be accomplished in a couple or few weeks while you are away, make a plan of action for when you get home – how can you translate your experience into direct action? For a realistic and exciting perspective, think of your Volunteer Vacation as part of a relay race. You will take the baton from volunteers that came before you, and you will pass the baton to those that follow to finish the race. Each independent role is critical as we all know that a relay team cannot win without enough sprinters and the key to this is there is no “I” in team and you will have just helped on the Global track to aiding a specific cause.
We must keep going and caring as helping is always going to be needed and we need to acknowledge all of those suffering. We can do good – just open your mind to the possibilities of changing the purpose of your next vacation. You can help to create and heal. To me that is a beautiful part of my legacy.
Take a chance and change up the options of all-inclusive, and give another a chance to prosper in life. You will come back forever changed. Become part of something extraordinary!
Author: Deborah Peniuk, Owner & Travel Writer of Aya Life, Independent Travel Counsellor with New Wave Travel, Toronto
© Deborah Peniuk 2010