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Taking the Kids on a Volunteer Vacation

Volunteer vacations take you and your family out of your comfort zone.

By GreatSchools Staff

Looking for an out-of-the-ordinary vacation that will provide your kids with fun, learning and a chance to help others? Many organizations specialize in family travel combined with volunteer opportunities, or what's been dubbed "voluntourism." Most ask that kids be at least 8 years of age (but exceptions are granted) and for most, no special skills are required. These trips provide an opportunity for learning about another culture or the environment, not to mention family bonding over hard work.

These trips are not for the faint of heart. "Flexibility, patience, a spirit of adventure, and a sense of humor go a long way," according to the Global Volunteers Web site. Accommodations may be spare, but the experiences can be life-changing!

Even though these are volunteer trips, they're not free. You'll pay a fee that generally includes your lodging, food and transportation from the meeting place to the location where you will be volunteering. Here's a sampling of family volunteer vacation opportunities.

Global Citizens Network sponsors trips to New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, Mexico, Nepal, Guatemala, Kenya and Tanzania. Volunteer projects are varied and might include building a health clinic, renovating a youth center, planting trees, teaching in a primary school and installing playground equipment. A big part of these trips is meeting, working and living with people from other cultures.

Accommodations are often family homestays or lodging at local community centers. Some places have indoor plumbing and electricity while others may not. You might sleep on a bed, hammock or on the floor.

Families are assigned to teams, which generally consist of six to 10 volunteers plus a trained team leader. In addition to families, you might find students, retirees, nurses, social workers and computer programmers mixed into one group.