You can get in on one of the hottest trends in travel today and make a positive contribution to other people’s lives while visiting Europe. There are several organizations that offer this rewarding experience and I will give you just a snapshot of a few that seem to offer excellent opportunities.
One thing to remember is that most volunteer vacations expect you to pay for the privilege. It is not a way to take a vacation”on the cheap”. It is a way to spend your vacation time in a way that helps humanity.
Adventures in Preservation is a non-profit organization offering hands-on building conservation workshops and volunteer vacations at historic sites around the world.
Adventures in Preservation’s volunteers help restore old buildings for new uses, such as community centers, museums, or training schools. They also help jump-start cultural heritage tourism initiatives in economically depressed or undeveloped regions. Spend a week with AiP and find out why preservation can be a powerful tool for change. Learn how to care for the past while you help make a difference for the future.
Three women carefully remove a layer of paint on the chapel ceiling, Oplotnica, Slovenia. Photo courtesy of Judith Broeker.
Volunteers for Peace is another organization that takes volunteers at different skill levels including teens to help with projects in Europe and around the world. VFP offers affordable, short-term voluntary service projects in more than 100 countries. These international voluntary service projects are an opportunity to participate in meaningful world community service while living and interacting in an intercultural environment.
Work projects include: construction/renovation of low-income housing or community buildings, historic preservation, archeology; environmental projects such as trail building, environmental education, wildlife surveying, park maintenance, organic farming; social services work with children, the elderly, physically or mentally handicapped, refugees, minority groups, drug/alcohol recovery, AIDS education; as well as arts projects and festivals.
The Earthwatch Institute offers expeditions designed to help our environment. Some of their many offerings include:
Dolphin research in Greece. From a base in the charming village of Vonitsa, volunteers will have the opportunity to explore traditional Greek village life as they help researchers conduct daily surveys on the area’s bottlenose dolphins. From a small research vessel, volunteers will scan the water for dolphin dorsal fins. When the team spots dolphins, they will follow them and record information on their numbers, group composition, activity, movement patterns, and interactions with fisheries.
Discover an ancient kingdom in England. Discover what lies beneath the Yorkshire Dales’ scenic patchwork of stone walls, grazing sheep, and small towns. In rotating crews of three, volunteers will be divided between surveying and excavation tasks. They will document underground features and create maps, using topographic mapping techniques and geophysical measurements. Using a hand trowel, volunteers will “take down the layers” and plot and record finds. The volunteers will also help survey present-day plant species and pollen samples from peat cores to explore how the local environment has changed since the Roman period. The research site is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park where All Creatures Great and Small was filmed.
A great site that lists other volunteer opportunities around the world is Volunteer Abroad
This year, think of travel in a new way… a time to further develop your interests and skills, and to give back to the world in thanks for your good fortune.