Charity Trips

They say you don’t really travel if you don’t go beyond the museums and coffee houses. If you want to be more than a visitor on your next trip, consider going on a volunteer holiday. You still get the thrill of being in a new place and meeting new people, but with the added perk of being able to help others. How’s that for a learning experience?

Charity trips can take you to all sorts of places: you could be teaching African preschoolers this year, helping at a Mexican clinic the following year, and saving manatees in Southeast Asia the next. You never leave without making a difference in your destination, and every new place in turn makes an indelible mark on you. As an added perk, it counts as professional experience, meaning you can use it to beef up your résumé and make contacts for future work.

Most volunteer vacations last one to four weeks, a typical summer or holiday break in most developed countries. In that span of time you can meet new people, pick up a new language, learn a new culture, and help improve the lives of others. Often, team members form a sort of family, and stay friends throughout their lives. Whether it’s the location, the experience, or the nature of the work, charities have a way of connecting people that no corporate workplace or classroom can.

People usually have to pay for their own charity trips, although agencies can arrange for a fixed fee and take care of everything else. This is because non-profit agencies still spend money on recruiting and coordination, as well as all the government paperwork. You can expect to spend as little as $50 for a small local gig, or upwards of $3,000 for volunteer work abroad, mostly depending on the type of accommodation provided. Some of the money may also be directly donated to the cause. That being said, some projects do reward you with a stipend, usually if it lasts more than a month.

In any case, it’s always money well spent. Experience is priceless, after all—and you can’t put a dollar value on what a free book can do for a kid with no access to a school, or what a short talk on family planning can do for an underfed village. The benefits of a charity trip are always mutual. You always leave knowing you wouldn’t have traded it for anything else.

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