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 link — www.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 link — www.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.
- Internet link — www.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 link — www.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 link — www.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.
- Internet link — www.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.
- Internet link — www.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.