Of course, it also helps if the initiative is riding a surge of popularity among the nation’s youth.
Enter Travelocity’s Travel for Good program, which offers Change Ambassador Grants to support American tourists who wish to spend their vacations doing volunteer work. Not only does the program align with Travelocity’s core business — arranging travel, accommodations and activities for tourists — but it takes advantage of an upward trend among youth — and indeed, retirees as well — who are increasingly seeking out volunteer vacation opportunities, or voluntourism.
According to a new University of California San Diego Extension survey, two thirds of high school students and about half of the college students surveyed say they have in the past year discussed traveling to other regions to provide volunteer service. And about a quarter of retirees surveyed have also done so.
“More and more people in all stages of life are thinking of becoming global voluntourists” says Bob Benson, director of the Center for Global Volunteer Service at UC San Diego Extension. “People are looking to volunteer their time in meaningful ways that make contributions to people in regions other than their own, and younger people are especially eager to make voluntourism part of their lifestyle.”
The Travel for Good program helps fund transportation and other costs of voluntourism trips organized by one of several volunteer travel provider partners. Grants are awarded to people who have demonstrated long-term contributions through volunteering, but do not have the financial means to take a volunteer vacation. Under the program, Travelocity awards two grants of $5,000 per quarter.
The volunteer travel organizations that Travelocity partners with offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities. These include:
• Take Pride in America: Volunteers develop an active sense of ownership and responsibility for the nation’s natural, cultural, and historic resources through volunteer projects on America’s public lands.
• GlobeAware: GlobeAware offers volunteer vacations in Peru, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cuba, Nepal, Brazil, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. These one week “mini Peace Corps” adventures focus on cultural-awareness and sustainability.
• Earthwatch Institute: Earthwatch Institute provides volunteers the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to scientific understanding of critical environmental issues. As research assistants, volunteers of every age and ability help to discover and document places, species, and cultures in more than 150 locations worldwide.
• Cross Cultural Solutions: Cross-Cultural Solutions arranges volunteer opportunities in 12 countries, where they work at orphanages, schools, health clinics and more.
All of the partners offer assignments that appeal to potential voluntourists. According to the survey, the most popular types of volunteer assignments respondents were looking for include education or artistic and cultural development, improving health and nutrition, constructing roads, homes and technology infrastructure, and environmental cleanup.
Of course, there are several minor requirements for the Travel for Good program — such as timeframes for travel, and deadlines for booking the trips. But perhaps the most important requirement is one that helps the program perpetuate itself. Grant recipients must report back to Travelocity on their volunteer vacation in the form of a freestyle report or daily travel journal. Where possible, the recipients are encouraged to provide action photographs with captions detailing different aspects of their experience. These photos, and the reports, are posted online in an effort to encourage more people to engage in voluntourism when their next vacation comes around.
More information is available at www.travelocity.com by clicking on the “Voluntourism” link. ¦
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