Travel and give back with these top volunteer vacations

Animal shelter worker with dog.

Volunteer-based vacations have become a popular option for today’s travelers, combining travel with community involvement, education and a worthy causes. Some of the most common types of volunteering include disaster relief, wildlife conservation and humanitarian work.

We’ve highlighted thirteen of worthy ‘voluntourism’ opportunities below. Consider lending a helping hand to these organizations while planning your next trip and you’ll help people and animals in need.

Alaska Raptor Center | Sitka, Alaska

Buzzard sitting on a Tree Stump

For those who love birds and bird-watching, a trip to Sitka should be on your list. At the Alaska Raptor Center, volunteers come face-to-face with their favorite birds of prey. The Alaska Raptor Center houses and cares for owls, eagles, hawks, and more endangered species. Each year, volunteers from around the world donate their time to the Alaska Raptor Center. They help with everything from feeding the birds to working in the business office. In 2015, 92 volunteers contributed more than 2,300 hours.

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American Conservation Experience | Multiple Locations

American Conservation Experience (ACE) is a volunteer organization helping restore America’s public lands. ACE’s . The volunteers work for two months in exchange for food and housing. They help the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management.

Best Friends Sanctuary | Kanab, Utah

Angel Canyon is the home of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and 1,600 homeless animals. Dogs and cats live here, alongside farm animals like horses, pigs, and more. Volunteer activities include socializing with the animals, walking, feeding, grooming and assisting with cleaning. Volunteers can also take some of the animals on sleepovers, which help prepare them for their forever home.

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Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation | Hungry Horse, Montana

Lone Llama Packer in Gorgeous Mountain Wilderness

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation connects Americans with their wilderness heritage. It does this by providing access to and stewardship of one of the world’s most spectacular places –Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. It helps hundreds of hard-working volunteers give back to the wilderness by opening trails, restoring worn-out areas, maintaining historic structures and fighting weeds.

Whether you’re a life-long visitor or a first time camper, BMWF’s volunteer vacations are a great way to get outside and help. You can volunteer for as little as one day or a whole week. Families and people of all ages are welcome.

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Farm Sanctuary | Multiple Locations

Two sheep graze in a beautiful rural landscape.

Photo credit: Farm Sanctuary

The rescued farm animals at Farm Sanctuary love visitors. Volunteer activities range from farm chores like barn cleaning and raking to shelter work like feeding and helping to care for animals. The sanctuary shares stories of struggle and survival and give visitors insight into the sometimes harsh realities of modern factory farming.  Volunteers have been an integral part of the Farm Sanctuary team since the organization began, helping to improve the lives of farm animals and protect them from cruelty.

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Girls Leadership | Oakland, California

Girls Leadership teaches the skills to be brave, resilient and connected. This organization equips girls to make change in their world. They structure their work around five central values: inclusivity, authenticity, integrity, quality, and fun. Girls Leadership needs volunteers for many activities from marketing to fundraising and development.

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Give Kids the World | Kissimmee, Florida

Give Kids The World Village provides cost-free vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses. It provides families accommodations in furnished villas, transportation, tickets to theme parks, meals, and daily entertainment.

Volunteering at Give Kids The World Village means being a part of an organization that inspires hope and creates priceless memories. With more than three million volunteer hours logged, over a quarter of a million people have made dreams come true for children in need.

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HistoriCorps | Multiple Locations

HistoriCorps provides volunteers with hands-on experience preserving historic structures on public lands across America. Volunteers work with HistoriCorps field staff to learn preservation skills. They then put those skills to work saving historic places that have fallen into disrepair.

Help them hammer, chisel, paint, and sand historic buildings back to life. No need for previous construction experience. Just bring a positive attitude and strong work ethic.

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater | Beacon, New York

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Clearwater is an organization built by individuals donating their time, energy and skills to preserve and champion the Hudson River. Opportunities to volunteer with Clearwater are available year round in varied settings. Some volunteers spread the Clearwater mission through talks at colleges, conferences, or farmers markets, while others live aboard the organization’s sloop or schooner teaching the education program.

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Lanai Cat Sanctuary | Lanai City, Hawaii

Five hundred cats enjoy over three acres of lush grounds at the Lanai Cat Sanctuary in Hawaii. Only five people staff the sanctuary, so they welcome volunteers often. The needs of the sanctuary are many, so the cats count on travelers to visit. Some tasks involve feeding the cats, trimming the grass, and even foster care for some kittens.

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lowernine.org | New Orleans, Louisiana

alitas-in-progress

lowernine.org is an organization dedicated to the long-term recovery of the lower ninth ward of New Orleans, where rebuilding has lagged behind other neighborhoods after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. To date, lowernine.org has completed renovation projects on almost three hundred homes. They welcome all willing and able individuals regardless of skill level to volunteer. They provide all necessary project training and tools, even if you’ve never swung a hammer.

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Sprout | New York City, New York

Sprout leaders travel, have fun and contribute to the lives of others. They do this by co-leading vacations for people with developmental disabilities. Sprout vacations last 3 – 7 days depending on the time of year and destination of the trip. Some leaders choose to only lead one or two trips a year, while others work for months.

Sprout leaders’ goal is to give participants the opportunity to experience educational and leisure activities through vacations. Leaders are responsible for the safety and enjoyment of their group. Duties include safety monitoring, personal hygiene help, providing physical and emotional support, activity planning, budgeting, logistics, and enhancing fun. The work is hard yet rewarding as you develop leadership skills and gain insight into your own abilities.

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Youth Rebuilding New Orleans | New Orleans, Louisiana

voluntourism

Youth Rebuilding New Orleans hosts volunteer groups looking to complete community service projects. Volunteers learn construction, leadership development, financial literacy, homeownership, and more. A traditional day’s work can include the following: demolition, painting, landscaping, tiling, and light construction.

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