HomeAcademics & ActivitiesTravel

Taking the Kids on a Volunteer Vacation

Page 3 of 4

By GreatSchools Staff

Habitat for Humanity hosts volunteer opportunities building houses in communities-in-need close to home and across the globe, as part of their Global Village program. Children are welcome, so long as they are accompanied by a parent. No specialized skills are required. Accommodations range from sleeping on air mattresses in a church in Anchorage, Alaska, to staying in modest, clean hotels within walking distance of shopping, restaurants and an Internet cafe in Casablanca, Chile. On Habitat's week-long trips, you'll work side by side with volunteer team members, your knowledgeable team leader and members of the local community. The itineraries vary, but most include time for exploring the area and its attractions.

In 1998 Boston-based single mom Cynthia Perkins traveled to Botswana with her 15-year-old-son Roc and a team of 14 Habitat for Humanity volunteers of various ages to build a house with community members in the village of Kasane. There were no other teens traveling with their parents on this trip, but Roc did make friends with a 19- and a 20-year-old team member, and had the added bonus of forming a friendship with the 15-year-old son of the family whose house they were building.

"I took this trip with my son because I thought it would be the last time he might want to do something with his mom," says Perkins with a laugh.

Habitat for Humanity requires a minimum $350 donation for each participant, plus the cost of room, board and airfare. The total for Perkins came to about $3,000 per person. Because the trip was costly, she and her son composed a fundraising letter that they sent to friends, relatives and community members asking for donations to support their service. "From the moment we started getting $100 checks from friends and others, Roc began to realize that this wasn't going to be an ordinary trip, that other people thought this was a significant adventure and service opportunity."

Perkins and her son spent two weeks with their team and residents of Kasane helping to build a two-room house with a concrete foundation in a small village. Before the arrival of Habitat for Humanity, most people in the village lived in huts made of elephant dung, twigs and mud. These makeshift homes would be full of bugs in the summer and disintegrate in the rainy season.

As the team and community members worked on the new house, elephants, monkeys and wart hogs would pass by. "The team all worked very hard," says Cynthia." It was inspiring to work alongside the village members. They challenged us to not give up because they had so much energy."

Upon their return, her son made a video with footage he had gathered on his trip, and they jointly created a newsletter to share with all the friends and family who had contributed.

Learn more about Habitat for Humanity trips at their Web site or call 800-HABITAT.