Family Charity TravelTis the Season for Family Giving
For families who have seen it all, the new travel scene is voluntourism. Whether you prefer an eye-opening education close to home, or something more exerting in an exotic local, a volunteer vacation will have a transformative effect on both the volunteering family, as well as the recipient community.
Good For: Families seeking a meaningful opportunity to make a difference.
· Bonding with your kids through a unique shared experience
· Taking in a sunrise in a “Thai” village
· Watching a baby lamb’s first gambol
· Passing on the Gift
· Seeing your kids become engaged global citizens
Suggested Stay: 4-10 Days
What to Know: Before you make your splash, be sure to test the waters to find an opportunity that is a good “fit” for your family. Novice and younger travelers may enjoy working with animals and environmental activities in a somewhat familiar setting, while more intrepid travelers may tend toward physical labor and human interaction in a foreign locale. Either way, the experience will be far more meaningful if participants work within their skill set and don’t stray too far from their comfort zone.
As you venture into the world of voluntourism, advance preparation is a must! Children’s books like “Beatrice’s Goat” and “Faith the Cow” help bring complex issues to a personal level and familiarize kids with the local culture and challenges they are likely to encounter on their adventure. The right attitude is key – so keep it positive! For maximum impact, focus your family on themes of hope and dignity, as opposed to anguish and pity. Most importantly, choose a reputable organization with experience working with families. One such organization, Heifer International, offers a variety of opportunities for families to create a meaningful experience.
Introduce you little village people to the developing world with a weekend in a “global village,” built to resemble housing in areas around the world where Heifer operates. Without leaving the U.S., you can stay in a Guatemalan, Thai or Zambian village and eat, sleep and live as a native. Staff members work with your family to prepare meals using limited resources, learn about sustainable agriculture, participate in farm chores, and explore ways to improve the lives of people around the world living under similar conditions.
Complex problems become infinitely more manageable when tackled as bite-sized issues familiar to families all across the globe. Once you have experienced village life and identified sustainable solutions, complete your global adventure with a concrete plan for something your family will do to effect a change in a similar community.
For a unique mother-daughter bonding experience, grab your little girlfriend and join the women’s lambing at the Heifer Ranch in Arkansas. Begin with a crash course in sheep obstetrics, then head out to the pasture and tend to your flock. Share the miracle of birth, a lamb’s first gambol and lots of cuddles with the newest members of the Heifer Ranch.
If you can tear yourself away from the little lambs, you will find yourself immersed in a working farm, participating in a variety of experiential learning activities and hands-on farm and animal chores. Milk a goat and make some cheese, while confronting issues relating to food storage, transport and sale. Shear a sheep, darn some yarn and felt-away while you discuss the challenges faced by women-entrepreneurs in developing companies. Learn first-hand various means of empowering women through sustainable agriculture and building entrepreneurial skills, then apply your new-found knowledge and skills to improving the lives of women around the world.
Field of Dreams
For the altruistic adventurer, nothing compares to excitement of volunteering in an exotic location. Heifer offers major donors an exclusive opportunity to immerse themselves in a culture by participating in a unique community development project.
Your family can travel with a Heifer field team and climb a monkey bridge across the Mekong Delta, share a community meal in Piura or visit participants in Kenya’s East Africa Dairy Development Project. Take part in a “passing on the gift” ceremony and join Heifer project participants in delivering offspring from their livestock to new project participants. Meet with village councils, teach necessary skills, distribute supplies, and offer support. Spend time with project participants, their families and community and see, first hand, the transformative effect of a single animal on an impoverished family. Witness the dignity that comes when a person who previously had been a recipient of charity, comes full circle to become a donor. And, amazingly, children, regardless of language and cultural barriers, somehow always manage to find a way to communicate through the universal language of play.
Bringing it Home
Truly transformative travel stays with you and inspires you to build on your experience long after you return home, as well as strengthens your family’s bond through your unique shared experience. Offering assistance with dignity and focusing on sustainable solutions provides your children with optimistic outlook on combating complex issues and encourages them to become engaged global citizens.