Lending a Hand: The Amal Restaurant





The Amal Restaurant is a project of the Amal Women’s Training Center in Marrakech, Morocco.  It was established to empower disadvantaged women through the culinary arts.

The program brings together widows, divorced or single mothers, orphans, and women with little or no education, and enables them to develop essential job and life skills so they can lead lives of economic and social stability.

In the program, these Moroccan women learn to work and manage the Amal Restaurant, from preping & cooking, to working with customers and learning about the overall operations of a sustainable business.

The Amal Restaurant also offers cooking classes in the mornings that are taught by the women in the program, where visitors can learn to prepare some authentic Moroccan dishes.

To learn more about the Amal Women’s Training Center and Restaurant, please visit http://amalnonprofit.org/.

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Lending a Hand: The Ability Bhutan Society


ABS supports special-needs children and their families. It provides early and direct intervention and assistance to children with various needs, to help them live independently in Bhutanese society. To learn more, visit http://www.absbhutan.org.

The message on the wall when we entered ABS read, ” If people with disabilities can’t believe in themselves, or if others don’t belive in them, WE will believe in them and hopefully our positivity will spread and encourage more Positivity!

 

How We Helped

We reached out to ABS in advance of our visit to ask about their needs. They provided a list of items that would be useful but they are unable to source in Bhutan. In partnership with Tarsadia Foundation, Vacations That Matter donated Occupational Therapy kits, several other items and some cash to the organization in person during our visit to Bhutan.

ABS shared a wonderful presentation with us about everything they do, how donor funds are utilized and the lives they have changed.  

 

Each kit had portable equipment and skill-building toys designed for children with special needs, so that the therapists can help children who are housebound, and unable to visit the ABS facility.

 

We only brought items that would fit in our luggage and could not be sourced locally. The cash donations were used to purchase chairs, tables, and other items that could be purchased locally, in order to support local businesses as well. 

It is so nice to see pictures of how ABS is using the items we donated. Seeing the direct impact inspires us to want to do more, so we will continue to support ABS through various travel partners who bring tourism to Bhutan!

 

 

New Fathom Philanthropy Cruises


Fathom, Impact + Travel is Carnival Corporation’s new Voluntourism based cruise line that has launched itineraries to the Dominican Republic and Cuba for 2016. Here is a link to their website: www.fathom.org.

The VolunTourism Institute shared their opinion on Carnival’s bold move. Here is their perspective: https://voluntourisminstitute.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/bold-voluntourism-move-by-carnival-will-critics-sink-its-fathom-bid/

And if you’re interested in seeing a sample itinerary for the inaugural cruises, here is one of the Dominican Republic itineraries. Dominican_Republic_Journey_2_pg

We’d love to hear what you think of these cruise itineraries and whether you are likely to make this your next cruise experience. Share your comments below.

Back from Turks & Caicos

We are back from Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean and we had a wonderful Valentine’s Day sharing our love with family, friends, and the children of Enid Capron Primary School.

As planned, we spent most of our time enjoying the beautiful beaches and activities at the Beaches Resort. I took the resort dive course and experienced my very first dive at a site called Thunderdome close to the Amanyara Resort. However, I’m not convinced that diving is more spectacular than snorkeling considering I saw a sting ray while snorkeling just off the beach at Coral Gardens, a short walk from our resort.

As active as we were, it was still a very relaxing trip and certainly more fulfilling with the volunteer visits to the school. We brought 70 lbs of books and school supplies to donate and painted the inside of their new science lab which we can’t wait to see after it’s completed. On a different day, we spent a couple of hours reading to the kids in different grade levels and interacting with them, which was my favorite part of the “Reading Road Trip”. The Sandals Foundation is doing some great work supporting the local communities through activities not only with guest volunteers, but also the resort staff who join in whenever possible.

I also met a very inspiring para-athlete, Rick Ball, whose story I’ll share in a future newsletter, however, for today I’d like to share some pictures from our recent trip which hopefully will inspire you to take some time to give back during your next vacation.

Today’s Inspiring Pictures 

Valentine’s Day is about sharing love and we are so grateful that we were able to celebrate it while Having Fun, Sharing Memorable Moments and Giving Back.

As my brother said, “There was nothing more gratifying on my recent trip to Turks and Caicos then spending a half day painting a new science class room for the local elementary school….  It gave me a new appreciation for what we take for granted and made an impact in the lives of some amazing kids.”

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Voluntourism-What? Why? How?

As you know, my passion is traveling with a heart. What I mean by that is I love to travel and experience new destinations, different cultures, cuisine, etc, but I also really want to make a difference and give back while I travel. There is a term for this type of travel which some people have heard and others don’t know much about. It’s called “Voluntourism” and I thought it might be good to share not just my perspective of Voluntourism, but that of others who share my passion as well.

So, I would like to introduce you to a friend, blogger, and founder of www.gentlelivingonline.com, LizLongacre who shares my passion for travel that includes volunteer opportunities. She shares some of her inspiring experiences so you can see how voluntourism can help you gain more than you give.

Today’s Inspiring Story 

What is Voluntourism Really About? & 5 Reasons Why It’s Better Than Just Sitting on a Beach All Day Let’s start with the definition of “voluntourism”. Voluntourism is exactly what is sounds like, volunteering while engaging in traditional tourism activities when you travel. While that sounds so simple it’s really about so much more. It’s about cultural immersion, participation and exploration. It’s about meeting people from all over the world and from all walks of life and engaging in something truly unique with them that bonds you in a deep way.When you volunteer you get to totally immerse yourself in the culture by working, and even living, with the local people. You get to hear their stories and learn their history. You get to interact with other travelers from all over the world. You get to choose a cause you care about and then participate in it in a unique and amazing way. While you may have to do some hard work, it’s not sitting in a cubicle watching the clock tick kind of work. It’s exhilarating and unique and challenging and it’s for the benefit of those who need it most. By adding tourism activities you get to explore the country and just have fun, because you work hard and you deserve some fun!! It’s the absolute best way to get the most out of a country and out of a vacation in a short amount of time.

So if you haven’t given voluntourism a try yet, here are 5 reasons why you don’t want to miss out!!

1.  Cultural Immersion.

The days of traveling to another country merely to sit at a hotel resort sipping mai tai’s and baking in the sun all day every day are somewhat over. From terrorist attacks, to tsunamis, to earth quakes, to economic collapses, to social media, our world has become smaller and smaller. We now want to engage more, learn more and interact more. Spending a ton of money to fly to a foreign country and never leave your resort now seems frivolous. Through voluntourism holidays you can still get your beach and mai tai time in, but you get so much more. There is no better and faster way to immerse yourself in a culture than to work side by side with it’s people for a cause you share together.

2. Dissolve Stereotypes.

It comes as no surprise that people everywhere have stereotypes. Stereotypes of Americans are not always flattering. Prove people wrong. When you volunteer abroad you get to spend a lot of quality time with local people. You can show them what being an American is all about. Be helpful, gracious, courteous, respectful and eager to listen and learn. Slowly but surely you will influence people’s image of not only you but the culture you represent.

3. Knowledge is Contagious.

The more you learn on your travels, the more eager you’ll be to continue that learning process when you get home and to educate others about what you’ve learned. My first volunteer abroad experience was in Thailand at an elephant sanctuary. At the time I didn’t know just how harmful it was to go on elephant rides or to watch elephants paint a picture. My instincts told me it wasn’t good, but I didn’t know just how devastating a life those elephants live to provide entertainment for tourists. My point is, I learned from the people working at that sanctuary and I came home and I shared that knowledge. In doing so I affected what other people participate in when they travel and that shared knowledge became invaluable.

4. It’s Good for Your Health.

Volunteering has been shown to help decrease rates of depression, increase your functional ability and reduce your chances of getting heart disease! We’ve all had bouts of depression where it feels like your life is a mess, nothing’s going your way and the future looks bleak. There is nothing better at getting you out of your own head, than helping others, whether they be animals or people or the environment. You may think you have it bad but I guarantee you others have it far worse and they could use your help. In helping them, you gain a little perspective that goes a long way.

5. It May Change Your Life.

It certainly changed mine. So whatever your interests may be, if you want to get a little more out of life and out of your vacation, consider including some volunteer work in your travels. You will gain way more than you give.

So, if you want to learn more about HOW you can try Voluntourism, see what Vacations That Matter recommends below.

Voluntourism in Vietnam and Cambodia

I can’t believe it’s  been almost two weeks since we got back from our vacation to Vietnam and Cambodia over Thanksgiving, and the experience was certainly something to be thankful for. As I reflect on our recent journey, I’m so excited to share the different aspects of this vacation experience including the amazing sights, culture, cuisine and accommodations to suit every need and desire. However, it will take a series of newsletters to cover everything, so for today, I will  focus on some of the philanthropic opportunities available in this region.  I would like to share some of our experiences with the organizations that we participated with, those that we encountered, and so many more that we learned about during our trip.

As we prepare for the upcoming holidays, many of us generally participate in supporting charitable causes around the world to make the holidays festive for everyone including those who may not have the means to enjoy holiday gifts and feasts as we do. And we certainly should not lose sight of the opportunties to serve during the holidays in our local communities.

Today’s Inspiring Story

We started our journey in Vietnam with a visit to the Birla Village Orphanage in Hanoi. Working with a reputable tour operator with local representatives and guides is essential to ensure that you are not only supporting a legitimate organization with guidelines that are in the best interest of the children, but the visits should be monitored and not disruptive or detrimental in any way to the children.

We visited during play time just before lunch and left right after lunch so that we wouldn’t interrupt their nap schedule. As we toured their well maintained facility, we learned about the kids, their daily routine, education opportunities and even learned that the government has strict standards for food preparation which requires the orphanage to keep a sample of each meal served so that the quality and nutrition guidelines can be monitored in order to prevent sickness and ensure proper health for these vulnerable children.

In addition to the toys, clothes, and school supplies that we had brought to donate, the tour operator also supplied a box of rice and other items which was their way of thanking the orphanage for allowing us the opportunity to meet the children, have a brief but meaningful interaction with them and most importantly learn about their lives and how they are being raised and supported so that they can flourish and be successful in life.

Another project that we had planned into our itinerary was a water filter distribution in a village where wells had already been installed to access the water. The amazing work of the Trailblazer Foundation http://thetrailblazerfoundation.org provides the most basic human need of fresh potable water to drink, bathe and irrigate their fields. The bio soil filters are a low cost, long term solution alleviating water borne diseases and illness, poverty, and increasing the quality of life for these rural villagers in a sustainable manner.

Not only did we learn about how water filters work and the difference they make in people’s lives, but we had an opportunity to participate as a family including our 7 year old who happily shared her cookies and interacted with the local village children. It was a great way to be immersed in their daily lives and to see how they live compared to the way we live.

As we visited some of the major tourist sites such as the Pagoda’s in Vietnam and the Angkor Temples in Cambodia, we encountered many opportunities to support the local people trying to make a living with dignity. We hardly encountered anyone begging. The effects of war, agent orange, land mines and the Khmer rouge are visible and heartbreaking.

There are countless opportunities to buy items such as CD’s, books, and amazing arts & crafts from Artisan establishments set up to support a huge disabled population in both Vietnam and Cambodia. And these quality items make great souvenirs and gifts to bring home for family and friends.

Even the hotels and accommodations we stayed in or just visited provided plenty of subtle opportunity to support the local communities while enjoying their hospitality and service. They hosted local music and dance performances by children from an orphanage to displays of jewelry and art providing funds to local non-profits. Brochure racks included pamphlets for hospitals, orphanages, and a multitude of support organizations some of which I have included links for below.

http://huskcambodia.org/index.html

www.lifeandhopeangkor.org

www.concertcambodia.org

www.AngkorHospital.org

What amazes me the most about our families experiences on this vacation is the fact that we were able to experience a true vacation to a couple of Southeast Asia destinations where we thoroughly enjoyed the sightseeing, architecture, culture, food, luxury accommodations, people who are happy, friendly, and welcoming despite their circumstances, and wonders of the world to UNESCO world heritage sites as you would expect on a typical vacation. But we were also able to give back in so many ways and came home with inspiration and memories for a lifetime. We truly gained more than we gave.

I hope that you and your families have similar opportunities to vacation and experience destinations around the world in such a unique way.

Building a playground for children in Haiti

Here is a story by Andrew Martin of his volunteer work with an amazing Christian non-profit organization called Kids Around the World. Kids Around the World helps children and families who have been affected by war, poverty, illness, and natural disasters. They provide nutritious meals, teach bible studies to education workers, and build playgrounds for the children to ensure their physical, emotional, spiritual and cognitive development. They give children the opportunity to “just be kids” instead of victims of the unfortunate circumstances they’re faced with. I’ve personally had the honor of volunteering with this organization locally and it was an experience I’ll always cherish. Andrew’s volunteer work took place in Haiti. Please enjoy this inspirational story of his volunteer work abroad for the children of Haiti. This is the perfect example of how volunteering abroad can change lives not just today, but for years to come.

“This is life-changing!” reflected one of the volunteers after this morning’s playground dedication ceremony in Bonneau, Haiti.

That’s exactly how we all felt. Building a playground for the children of Haiti was not only life changing for them, but for us as well. But, let’s back up briefly, as the day before the dedication we met with some unexpected challenges!

All that was left to do the day before the dedication ceremony was to finish pouring concrete where needed, building the wheel-chair ramp, and carrying over sand to cover the playground surface.

Sounds simple enough right? Well, first try to imagine the scene.

You pull up to the side of a dirt and rocky road and look down, about 60 feet below and 100 yards out. That’s where the playground will be located. The only way to get there is down a steep dirt path past one leveled out area (that was dug out by hand) for the church that will be built there soon. You then continue further down the hill to the bottom where you encounter at least 15 large sand piles spread out over half of a football field. Only then do you finally get to the playground.

Still, things didn’t seem too bad. There were a number of sand piles within about 30 feet of the playground and we had two wheelbarrows and several buckets. We’d simply carry that sand over to cover the playground’s surface.

However, as we began filling the wheelbarrows with the nearby sand, we were quickly stopped by the local villagers. They explained that the only sand we could use was the sand from the pile that was the furthest away from the playground, about 50 yards away!

Well that wasn’t going to stop our progress. So for most of the day we carried bucket after bucket back and forth until the whole surface was covered by about 2:30 PM.

During this time, others in our team continued their Vacation Bible School with the large group of children that showed up every day. Today, they heard the lesson about Jesus welcoming the children and were told how our Lord welcomes each of them if they will only come to Him in faith.

After a group prayer the children went back to playing games and filling the air with laughter. They even taught us the Haitian version of the hot potato – instead of passing the “hot potato” each child slapped the palm of the child to their left as they sat in a circle singing a local children’s song. We were laughing right along with them as one by one another child was eliminated and those who remained celebrated their little victory.
We returned to the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission (NWHCM) campus exhausted but so excited because tomorrow was dedication day!

After breakfast we helped get the special needs children from the Miriam Center onto the truck for the trip out to the playground. They each sat on the lap of a team member and laughed their way to Bonneau as the wind blew in their faces and they bounced up with each bump in the road. It was a great preparation for the joy they were about to experience.

When we arrived at the site a few of the volunteers ran down the hill ahead of the children to decorate the playground and attach the final swings. We were followed by the many children and parents from Bonneau who had become a fixture at the site over the last 3 days. We saw many of the local men who worked side by side with us to help build the playground. We were proud to now call them friends.

The dedication ceremony began with a speech by Shannon Neel, whose Kimmy’s House Foundation (named after her daughter) had funded the playground in honor of her late father. She beautifully described the love that brought this playground to Bonneau and its children. I then said a few words and Shannon’s brother, Brandon Kirby, finished with a prayer for the children.

It was finally time to cut the ribbon! Shannon, assisted by her brother and son, had the honors.

Our team then helped the Miriam Center’s special needs children into the playground first as the other local children waited patiently (as patiently as they could!). Once each of the special needs children were able to slide down their chosen slide at least once the local children were “freed” to have at it.

We instructed the team members to guard the Miriam kids and make sure they weren’t trampled on by the local kids. We never expected one of the mothers to pose the biggest threat! She had been watching the children on the swings while the others stood in an orderly line awaiting their turn. But as soon as one boy got off the swing this mom came running in, pushed the next boy out the way, and jumped on the swing! The other adults started laughing until about 5 swings in when she leaned too far back and slid almost completely off the swing! The nearby adults caught her just before she fell into the sand. Everyone was laughing hysterically, including her. I guess a playground can turn adults into kids too!

We all continued watching, smiling and laughing, snapping photo after photo, and wiping tears. The pain of sore muscles and sunburned skin vanished with the joy of seeing the children playing with endless energy and laughter. We had such a sense of accomplishment and pride. I must say – job well done team!!

 

Thank you Kimmy’s House and NWHCM for allowing us to partner with you. And thanks to our team for being such an instrumental part of this wonderful project. Your hard work will allow these and many future generations of children to do what they do best – just be kids!

Newsletter-Unique Opportunities III

Message from my Heart

In the last two newsletters I shared two very unique opportunities  Part 1 and Part II to volunteer and serve others while on vacation (also known as Voluntourism) in Peru. Today I would like to share the experience of our final service project through GlobeAware that we participated in during our memorable trip to Peru.

Thinking of our final days of service in Cusco just reminded me of how fortunate we are to have our children living with us. We have the means to provide an education to them and certainly have many opportunities to be proud of their accomplishments and talents as we attend soccer games, swim meets, award ceremonies, class plays, musical performances and concerts, dance recitals, etc. etc. We see their self-esteem and confidence flourish. Needless to say, it felt really good to be doing something for the children in Cusco who did not live with their parents, but were given an opportunity to be educated, learn some basic life skills and nurture their talents.

 

Today’s Inspiring Story

We left the Sacred Valley for our final two days of service projects in Cusco at the Albergue, a home for 22 children between the ages of 10-18. Most of them have parents who live on farms and in villages that don’t have access to schools, nor can they afford them, so they apply for their children to live at the Albergue and hope to get lucky. Most of the children have been sponsored to live here and go to school for at least 5 years. Some are fortunate enough to be educated for up to 7 years. When they leave the Albergue, they have a basic education and they have acquired some life skills in carpentry, sewing, metalwork, cooking, and gardening. Some of them will go on to become educators in their villages so that they can help their own communities. 

Upon arrival at the Albergue, our two teams were pumped and ready to work. One group started building the Adobe brick walls of a future classroom and the other group started sanding pre-cut logs for a fence. It was a lot of heavy lifting, muddy, dusty and tiring work, but very gratifying when we were done for the day. We could see progress and were ready to continue working the next day.

But before we left the Albergue for the day, the kids treated us to a surprise talent show showcasing their traditional song and dance. They even managed to get some of us to get up and participate with them. After the performance they all came around and gave us hugs and thanked us for our time and effort with beautiful cards. Seeing their beautiful smiles made the day’s hard work all worthwhile. 

The next day, our team was anxious to make more progress even though we knew the work would have to be continued and finished by future volunteers. It was satisfying to see the structure coming up, especially the log fence which we managed to get up and even paint. The younger volunteers really enjoyed the painting. It gave them an opportunity to leave a personal touch and made the fence more fun for the kids at the Albergue. 

We enjoyed another healthy lunch before saying goodbye to all. We even had time on the last afternoon to hit the cobblestone streets and main square in Cusco. We really enjoyed the walk, the sights, the shopping, and could not decide where to grab dinner. One of the most beautiful sights was the church at the hotel Monastario. The carvings were so intricate and the colors so vibrant. 

Our trip to Peru was a lot of fun. We really enjoyed all the sights. Machu Picchu was definitely a highlight, but all the service projects we worked on throughout the week were truly inspiring, fulfilling and really gave us an opportunity to interact with the local Peruvian people. They are very friendly, grateful and welcoming. We came home with a perspective we will treasure for a lifetime. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Tips for a Successful Volunteer Abroad Experience

Last week’s post explained why voluntourism is such an amazing way of traveling so this week I’d like to follow up with some tips on how to get the most out of your volunteer abroad experience.

Let me start by telling you exactly what to expect – expect absolutely NOTHING. The worst thing you can do is go into a volunteer abroad experience with a ton of preconceived ideas and expectations because chances are it’s going to be nothing like what you expected. While you may have an interest in “volunteering abroad” for a particular cause, what that really means is that you want to step into an organization in a different culture that has a unique set of subjects they are trying to help, a unique set of employees and volunteers, and a unique set of rules, values, priorities and issues. No matter how much research you do you won’t really know what you’re getting yourself into until you get there. So be extremely excited for the brand new out-of-your-world experience that you are about to embark upon but go in with an open mind and a clean palate because no volunteer experiences are the same.

Below are some tips to help you get the most out of your experience. This list could obviously go on and on but these are the things I would not have fully understood if I hadn’t experienced them first-hand throughout my journeys. If you have any other tips please leave them in the comments below!

1. Embrace the experience & ignore the inconveniences. Volunteering in a foreign country is a once in a lifetime experience (even if you do it more than once!). Ignore the inconveniences that you would never put up with at home. For example, if the shower only runs freezing cold water with no pressure from a faucet located only 2 feet above the ground, that’s okay, you’re not there for a spa. You’ll be back home to your jet streams in no time so don’t let these little discomforts affect what you’re there to accomplish.

2. Stay away from negative people. You’ll likely be surrounded by a positive group of volunteers who love every minute of what they’re doing. However, every now and then someone comes along who hates absolutely everything and has no problem contaminating your experience with their negativity. Whether you want it to or not, their negativity will creep into your mind and affect how you view everything going forward. While they may have good reasons for their opinions, you should have the chance to make your own assessments. So, to the extent you can, stay away from these people. Be the positive person you would want everyone else to be. Positivity is contagious, let it shine through you.

3. Talk to the organization’s directors/volunteer leaders as much as you can. You are there to learn and the people working there are a wealth of knowledge and stories. If it’s a big organization and there are a lot of other volunteers it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Don’t let that happen, seek them out and spend time with them. They will appreciate your curiosity and you will have a richer experience for it.

4. Bond. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can bond with people through volunteer work. You’ll finally be rid of email, facebook, twitter and all of the other daily gizmos and gadgets that distract you from fully engaging in conversation. The unique experiences you’ll face when you’re volunteering can turn strangers into fast friends. I still keep in touch with people from almost every volunteer trip I’ve been on. These friendships make the experience all the more enriching.

5. Don’t be shocked if things aren’t run exactly as you’d like. I admit, I’ve struggled with this periodically. I’ve been to organizations that fall into all areas of the spectrum; from those that are extremely well run and organized, providing the ultimate volunteer experience, to those that are not so well run. I spent many years working in a corporate law firm, which was a well oiled machine built for optimal efficiency, so I may have been particularly susceptible to falling into an overly critical mindset. I would hate to be someone who marches in telling people how to run things better after being there for only a few days so I’ve found it’s best to wait for an organization to ask for feedback. If they ask for it it shows that they care about continually improving, as every company should. Just as with everything in life, no organization is perfect, and the smaller ones who need the most help are often the ones who could benefit from some changes. I believe in supporting these organizations (provided that they are legitimate) just as much as the larger ones who’ve got it all figured out. The more help they get, the more effective and efficient they can become.

6. Follow the volunteer organization’s rules. While some rules may seem arbitrary and unreasonable to you (i.e., no drinking on the premises), those rules are there for a reason, placed after years of trial and error that you were not a part of. You are only there for a short time, don’t try to rock the boat and be a rebel.

7. Remember that you are not there to save the world. You will likely learn and gain more from your volunteer experience than you give. You are there to help out, to learn and to then spread awareness – that is the beauty of volunteer work.

What is Voluntourism Really About? & 5 Reasons Why It’s Better than Just Sitting on a Beach All Day

This week I would like to introduce you to guest blogger Liz Longacre, a colleague of mine who shares some of the same passion for travel that includes volunteer opportunities. She shares some of her inspiring experiences so you can see how voluntourism can help you gain more than you give.

Let’s start with the definition of “voluntourism”. Voluntourism is exactly what is sounds like, volunteering while engaging in traditional tourism activities when you travel. While that sounds so simple it’s really about so much more. It’s about cultural immersion, participation and exploration. It’s about meeting people from all over the world and from all walks of life and engaging in something truly unique with them that bonds you in a deep way.

When you volunteer you get to totally immerse yourself in the culture by working, and even living, with the local people. You get to hear their stories and learn their history. You get to interact with other travelers from all over the world. You get to choose a cause you care about and then participate in it in a unique and amazing way. While you may have to do some hard work, it’s not sitting in a cubicle watching the clock tick kind of work. It’s exhilarating and unique and challenging and it’s for the benefit of those who need it most. By adding tourism activities you get to explore the country and just have fun, because you work hard and you deserve some fun!! It’s the absolute best way to get the most out of a country and out of a vacation in a short amount of time.
So if you haven’t given voluntourism a try yet, here are 5 reasons why you don’t want to miss out!!

1. Cultural Immersion. The days of traveling to another country merely to sit at a hotel resort sipping mai tai’s and baking in the sun all day every day are somewhat over. From terrorist attacks, to tsunamis, to earth quakes, to economic collapses, to social media, our world has become smaller and smaller. We now want to engage more, learn more and interact more. Spending a ton of money to fly to a foreign country and never leave your resort now seems frivolous. Through voluntourism holidays you can still get your beach and mai tai time in, but you get so much more. There is no better and faster way to immerse yourself in a culture than to work side by side with it’s people for a cause you share together.

2. Dissolve Stereotypes. It comes as no surprise that people everywhere have stereotypes. Stereotypes of Americans are not always flattering. Prove people wrong. When you volunteer abroad you get to spend a lot of quality time with local people. You can show them what being an American is all about. Be helpful, gracious, courteous, respectful and eager to listen and learn. Slowly but surely you will influence people’s image of not only you but the culture you represent.

3. Knowledge is Contagious. The more you learn on your travels, the more eager you’ll be to continue that learning process when you get home and to educate others about what you’ve learned. My first volunteer abroad experience was in Thailand at an elephant sanctuary. At the time I didn’t know just how harmful it was to go on elephant rides or to watch elephants paint a picture. My instincts told me it wasn’t good, but I didn’t know just how devastating a life those elephants live to provide entertainment for tourists. My point is, I learned from the people working at that sanctuary and I came home and I shared that knowledge. In doing so I affected what other people participate in when they travel and that shared knowledge became invaluable.

4. It’s Good for Your Health. Volunteering has been shown to help decrease rates of depression, increase your functional ability and reduce your chances of getting heart disease! We’ve all had bouts of depression where it feels like your life is a mess, nothing’s going your way and the future looks bleak. There is nothing better at getting you out of your own head, than helping others, whether they be animals or people or the environment. You may think you have it bad but I guarantee you others have it far worse and they could use your help. In helping them, you gain a little perspective that goes a long way.

5. It May Change Your Life. It certainly changed mine.
So whatever your interests may be, if you want to get a little more out of life and out of your vacation, consider including some volunteer work in your travels. You will gain way more than you give.

Author BIO:
Liz Longacre is the founder of Your Time Travels, a travel company for animal lovers. Your Time Travels offers voluntourism trips with animal welfare projects and African safaris. To learn more visit www.yourtimetravels.com.