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Volunteer Vacations

volunteer habitat for humanity build house constructionWho Can Volunteer?
Just about anyone is able to participate. Because there are so many needs in our world, almost no one is discouraged from joining in on a project. Volunteering abroad can be a wonderful family experience. In general, children are welcome project participants; however, young children may require approval in advance. Volunteering is a fantastic idea for students looking for career ideas or even some experience in their chosen field of study.

There is no upper age limit, so seniors with "more life experience" are encouraged to join projects that are compatible with their physical capabilities. As an older person, you will be a very valuable project participant as there is no substitute for wisdom and experience. It's a great opportunity for folks who may have spent years working at a 9 - 5 job and taking care of the bills but now want to use their skills in an uplifting, constructive way. A volunteer vacation is a great way to get a break from the ordinary and do something that will make a difference somewhere in the world.

Costs and Expenses
You will be responsible for all your expenses including purchasing your own airline ticket. Trip cancellation insurance is strongly recommended. To secure your reservation, a deposit is required once you have chosen a project. The costs of any visas and immunizations or other pre-trip medical costs to prepare for your vacation are also your responsibility. About now you may be saying, "I have to pay to be a volunteer?" Yes, you do, but before you shut out the idea altogether, consider what it means to be a volunteer. Remember that the organizations coordinating these projects are not-for-profit companies. Volunteering is about giving. We give to folks who need it most, and we go to help because the local people lack the resources and finances needed get the work done.

When you have selected the organization you are interested in working with (and become a member, if necessary), you will be given a handbook with specific information about every aspect of your selected program. The handbook will have a section to help you understand the financial aspects of working with a charitable institution. Since these companies are generally non-profit, all or a percentage of your "vacation" costs, including airfare, may be tax deductible. Check with your tax advisor regarding any possible personal income tax deduction you may be entitled to.

To help cover the costs of a volunteer vacation, your handbook will often contain detailed fundraising suggestions. Many program alumni can attest to their success in raising enough money to finance all or part of their volunteer vacation experience by implementing effective fundraising techniques. In a perfect world one might think it is enough to simply want to help those in need. But the hard truth is that to affect change in the world, it costs money to get things done.

Do I Need Special Skills?
indonesia volunteer medical doctorIn short, no. There are minimal or no foreign language skills required, so it is possible to volunteer in almost any part of the world and be able to communicate with the local people during your trip. Your project guidebook will assist you with every aspect of the volunteer vacation you have selected. When you arrive at your project site in country, you will be taught everything else you need to know in order to successfully complete your work and enjoy every day you are there.

When you return home, one thing is certain: you will know that you have changed in some way as a result of the volunteer work you have completed. But more importantly, you will have made a great contribution to so many people and made a difference somewhere in the world. As a volunteer, you will likely have had the vacation experience of a lifetime.

What a feeling!!

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    -- written by Colleen R. Costello

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