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Do-Gooder Getaways

Voluntourism is all about helping others and enjoying some fabulous perks along the way. Any veteran globetrotter will tell you that the trips where they had contact with the locals and genuinely got to know communities were far more memorable than the times they were herded around with a tour group. Here are some sites to visit for excursions you’ll have a good time on and feel good about taking.

  • voluntourism.org: This website’s a great place to start because it will help you both to understand what you’re hoping to get out of a voluntourism experience and what you have to offer a program. Check out its write-up, “VolunTourists: 10 Things to Consider,” to see which specific voluntourism environment will be best for you.
  • bestfriends.org: The mortgage crisis has been hard on many, but one surprising group of victims is pets. Countless one-time homeowners have abandoned their dogs and cats along with their residences. Best Friends Animal Society tries to fill the void. Located in the red rock country of southern Utah, the Angel Canyon sanctuary provides care for roughly 2,000 animals at any given time. By volunteering, you can attend to these critters while staying in one of the most breathtaking parts of the country. From $82 per night.
  • fairmont.com: If you’re jonesing to go to Canada, the Fairmont Winnipeg is offering a Habitat for Humanity package. Through September 30, you can spend your days building a home with Habitat for Humanity and then recuperate every night in style. From $219 Canadian per night.
  • pepytours.com: If you want to stay on the move during your vacation, this is the program for you. PEPY Tours allows you to bike through beautiful Cambodia for a week on their Sustainable Development Tour. You’ll devote roughly a quarter of your time to charitable works (helping to build a community rainwater unit, for instance). From $500.
  • ritzcarlton.com: Sometimes living well and being charitable go hand in hand. That’s the case with The Ritz-Carlton’s Give Back Getaways -- all 70 of their worldwide properties offer at least one volunteer option, such as the Blue Iguana Recovery Program at The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. $70 per day plus room fee (prices vary depending on program/property).
  • volunteer.cheaptickets.com: Do you have a specific charitable cause you’d like to get involved with but are still undecided on the logistics? The partnership between United Way and cheaptickets.com allows you to search by state and social issue to determine which location in the US would benefit most from your presence. Prices vary.
  • i-to-i.com: It’s similar to volunteer.cheaptickets.com, only here you can go global. Offering trips that last up to two months, this program enables you to travel to a variety of countries on five different continents. You can engage in anything from helping with panda conservation in China to caring for sea turtles (and surfing) in Costa Rica to working with children in Kenya. Prices vary.

Have an voluntourism organization or trip you'd like to share? Tell us your story below.

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-- Sean Cunningham

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