A Real Working Vacation

Ah, vacation. Sugary beaches. Fruity drinks. Hammers and shovels . . .


More people are taking volunteer vacations, trading sweat equity for an unforgettable travel experience. They're building schools. Saving the environment. Protecting wildlife. Volunteers often work with locals, experiencing a culture firsthand. Want to get in on the action? Here's how.

Amizade Volunteer Programs

  • Internet linkwww.amizade.org
  • Goal — Help local communities while building cross-cultural friendships.
  • Sample Missions — Renovate a ranch in Yellowstone, build a school
    in Brazil, or help Australian aborigines plant an organic garden.
  • The Digs — Tent camping or dormitories.
  • Cool Perks — Outings—such as museum visits and history tours—are built into your expedition.

Baldan Baraivan Restoration Project

  • Internet linkwww.home.earthlink.net/~crtp
  • Goal — Restore an ancient Buddhist monastery in Mongolia.
  • Sample Missions — Help locals rebuild the monastery’s main temple.
  • The Digs — Traditional nomadic Mongolian homes, called gers.
  • Cool Perks — Live with the locals, sample Mongolian meals, and attend religious ceremonies.

Earthwatch Institute

  • Internet linkwww.earthwatch.org
  • Goal — Preserve natural resources and cultural heritage.
  • Sample Missions — Save snow leopards in Nepal, monitor global warming in Canada, or dig up a dinosaur in Wyoming.
  • The Digs — Range from college dorms to castles.
  • Cool Perks — Live out your National Geographic fantasies by working with scientists in remote areas most tourists never see.

Global Citizens Network

  • Internet linkwww.globalcitizens.org
  • Goal — Promote peace, justice, and understanding of other cultures.
  • Sample Missions — Build a health clinic in Kenya, run a recycling center in Nepal, or work with Navajo in New Mexico to improve a local park.
  • The Digs — A community center or a family’s home.
  • Cool Perks — Get lessons in the native language and learn about the local culture from experienced project guides.

Habitat for Humanity

  • Internet linkwww.habitat.org
  • Goal — Build affordable housing for families in need.
  • Sample Missions — Build a home for a family anywhere from Pennsylvania to Papua New Guinea.
  • The Digs — Guest houses or modest hotels.
  • Cool Perks — Pick up construction skills and work alongside the family whose home you’re building.

Oceanic Society

  • Internet linkwww.oceanic-society.org
  • Goal — Preserve marine wildlife in its natural habitat.
  • Sample Missions — Protect otters in Suriname or help save bottle-nosed dolphins off Belize’s coral reef.
  • The Digs — From primitive camps to beachfront cabanas.
  • Cool Perks — Work with field biologists conducting research that will benefit Mother Earth. Spend time off hiking, swimming, or snorkeling.

Sierra Club

  • Internet linkwww.sierraclub.org
  • Goal — Protect wilderness areas.
  • Sample Missions — Restore native vegetation at the Grand Canyon; repair trails on California’s Channel Islands.
  • The Digs — Research station dorms to condos.
  • Cool Perks — Learn about local environmental issues and go on guided minitrips.


This article was first published in March 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (3 votes)