Why we “volunteer travel” as a family

Guest post by Lainie Liberti

Lainie in Ecuador.
There is no denying that traveling as a family is a bonding experience. Slow travel is another way to experience the world, allowing each family member to immerse themselves into a new culture. But volunteering as a family together adds a whole other dimension to that experience, with countless rewards and growth opportunities.

On our travels, my son Miro and I have volunteered with numerous organizations and the experiences have enriched our travels ten-fold. Some of the volunteer experiences we’ve had together include: volunteering at an animal shelter in Belize, a dog and cat hospital in Nicaragua, contributed to a sustainable community in Guatemala and volunteered at an organization for family nutrition, a performance arts school for street children in Nicaragua, and at a children’s library in Ecuador.

If you are considering volunteering as a family, there are so many resources and opportunities for volunteering abroad on the web and countless communities that will welcome you with open arms. However, in this post, I wanted to share with you some of the benefits you can expect to experience as a result of your volunteering experience.

Volunteering as a family…

  • Creates a hands-on way to teach and practice compassion, tolerance, flexibility, cross-cultural understanding and global responsibility to every family member.
  • Provides an opportunity to step outside of the pressures produced by mass media messages promoting self-absorption and materialism.
  • Allows each member of the family to experience a world outside their own, and learn about a different culture through the people they are serving.
  • Empowers children to believe they can make a difference in the world by “giving” and “doing.”
  • Provides all family members insights into what they are capable of achieving and increases self-esteem.
  • Expands children’s understanding of social issues in the surrounding world.
  • Teaches new life skills.
  • Provides families with meaningful time together to express common values.
  • Creates family bonds through sharing the challenges associated with their volunteering post.
  • Produces shared memories that last a lifetime.

Does your family volunteer together or have plans to do so? What do you guys do?

Comments on Why we “volunteer travel” as a family

  1. Love, love, love this! Now, I just need to convince my husband that we could do this… We do a small amount of volunteering locally, but I did a fair bit of it internationally in my life before husband/kids. Lainie & Miro’s blog is inspiration!

  2. I think its great to volunteer in places like farms and you can gain a lot of experience. But whether you volunteer alone, as a couple or as a family:
    DON`T do short-time volunteering in places for vulnerable people, like orphanages or shelters for street children.
    I could write a very long and text about this here but I´ll better stop myself and share a very thoughtful blogpost instead.
    [URL=”http://www.goinganyway.net/2012/05/24/on-not-visiting-an-orphanage-in-cambodia/”]Going Anyway: On not visiting an Orphanage in Cambodia[/URL]

  3. I think a lot of caution needs to be exercised in doing voluntourism. It is, indeed, a much more meaningful experience for the tourist than simply seeing the sites. However, while it is enriching and wonderful for the tourist, there are many reasons why — especially short-term volunteers — are very harmful for the communities. I think anyone contemplating this needs to step outside their own perspective and think about what we continue to take from the developing world in order to fulfill our own desires.


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