Appalachian Trails to African Wildlife...

"Volunteer Vacations" Offers Something for Everyone

I recently read the 2003 update of "Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others." What an inspirational and fun book, providing a multitude and variety of ideas for those of us who both dream of travel and hope to help!

This publication lists more than 200 organizations, stateside and international, that use volunteers in commitments from a weekend to two years. While some of the available positions require special training - medical professionals, for instance - most simply seek willing participants (individuals, groups and families) who are able to transport themselves to the jobsite, whether in Ireland, Nepal or the state parks of Indiana.

"Each trail crew works for five days. The work may include trail maintenance, improvements or new trail construction. The work is often hot, sweaty, dirty, hard and anything but glamorous. It is not a nature walk in the woods. However, volunteers do get to meet some fine people, to observe the beauty of the park and forest, and to eat some great food. They also might build up a few muscles." (Potomac Appalachian Trail Club in Vienna, VA. Housing and meals provided at no charge;

"Volunteers may do any of the following: game tracking, inserting microchips into monkeys for satellite tracking; feeding lions, leopards and crocodiles; rehabilitating cheetahs, hyenas and wild birds of prey; participating in anti-poaching patrols..." (Wild at Heart in Kruger National Park, South Africa. From $225 per week during a one-month commitment;

Volunteers assist in the "restoration and maintenance of sixteenth-century stone peasant houses, gardening and forest work" for a minimum of one month in the hamlet of Bardou, southern Cevennes Mountains west of Montpellier, France. (Bardou Project. EUR 50-60 per week for food; phone (4) 67-97-72-43. Similar posts in France work to restore medieval monuments: Chantier de Jeunes, or Chantiers d'Etudes Medievales at (3) 88-73-17-20).

"...Volunteers have served on crews on the Bristol Harbour Railway, a dockside railway run by steam locomotives, or on the steam tug Mayflower, an 1861 steam-powered tug that now carries passengers. Volunteers have also helped maintain an 1878, 35-ton steam crane, served as crews on a 1934 fire-fighting vessel, and restored an electric dockside crane." (Bristol Industrial Museum, Bristol UK. Volunteer posts most weekends throughout the year; (0117) 925 1470. Similiar posts in other parts of England, North and Mid Wales, southern Colorado/northern New Mexico).

Camp counselors for inner-city children, ages 6-17 years, with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. Camp AmeriKids has two 9-day sessions every August; volunteers may participate in one or both. (Camp AmeriKids in lower New York State. No cost to participate, but must cover own travel fees;

"Gardening, housework, farming, weaving, cheese making, baking and participating in all aspects of community life" with adults who have learning disabilities. The community, six miles from Dumfries, Scotland provides "board, lodging and pocket money." (Loch Arthur Community. Prefers volunteers for 6-12 months, but will accept shorter commitments in the summer months; (01387) 760-618).

Housekeeping, maintenance, gardening and kitchen work for 20-30 hours per week at the Kalani Oceanside Retreat in Pahoa, Hawaii. Perks include meals, lodging, educational activities and daily yoga for $900 for three months. (

"Volunteers combine intensive language instruction with work in conservation and community development projects. (Need to have) an interest in learning Spanish and learning about the culture of Guatemala." (Eco-Escuela de Espanol in Flores, Peten Guatemala. $175 per week includes room and board; classes begin each Monday;

Volunteers "meet with local peacemakers and populations affected by violent conflict; human rights documentation, participation in nonviolent direct action. Participants commit to sharing their experiences with a wider audience upon return to their home communities." (Christian Peacemaker Teams in Chicago and worldwide, including the Middle East and North/Central/ South America. Two week commitment costs $1-2000, including airfare, depending on location;

"Excavation of an 11,000-year-old site containing extinct bison and elk bones and human artifacts" at the Broken Mammoth site, 20 miles north of Delta Junction, Alaska. The organization also is working on the earliest maritime site on the Russian Pacific Coast near Vladivostok, Russia. (University of Anchorage, Alaska, Department of Anthropology. $30 per day for food and miscellaneous expenses, plus transportation to Anchorage;

"Sea Turtle protection work in Costa Rica, teaching positions in more than 65 countries, farm placements in 35 countries, construction placements in 70 countries, care for baboons in South Africa, whale watching in Newfoundland, work at a Buddhist retreat center on a Greek island, assisting a Danish furniture maker, working at a ski hotel on a glacier in Austria, taking care of street kids on an island in the Philippines, participating in a Triple A baseball team in Idaho, assisting an archaeologist in Oregon and much more. (LEAPNow: Lifelong Education Alternatives and Programs. Projects last from one week to one year, and range from those that pay a stipend, room and board to those that have a fee of up to $15 per day;

To find out more about these projects and hundreds of others, don't miss "Volunteer Vacations" by Bill McMillon, Doug Cutchins and Anne Geissinger. Distributed by Independent Publishers Group, for $17.95; also available at

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