Be the Change12/08/2017

Be the Change

For many seniors, retirement means the opportunity to travel and see the world - meet new people, learn about different cultures and explore some of the world's most interesting sights. Although sightseeing and relaxing are much needed aspects of a vacation, many seniors are turning toward volunteer travel or voluntourism as a way to make their travel benefit the places they visit.

While local church and civic groups often offer missionary or other volunteer trips to far off lands, a growing number of global nonprofits are also adding volunteer travel opportunities to their roster of giving options. 

Seniors make perfect volunteers because they bring a wealth of experiences and knowledge from their careers and rich life experiences. These skills can prove to be invaluable to people and communities in need. 

Many experts recommend sticking with nonprofit groups in order to be sure specific community needs are met and that funds go directly to the projects being worked on. Here are a few nonprofits with good reputations for providing meaning volunteer opportunities around the world.

Earthwatch Institute

A global nonprofit that offers one- and two-week expeditions that focus on environmental conservation and field research projects all over the world. On an Earthwatch Expedition, volunteers help find solutions to some of today's most pressing environmental challenges. Volunteers work with respected scientists in the field where they're investigating critical environmental issues and make hands-on contributions to research while experiencing the cultural and natural wonders of places around the globe. Expedition themes include Elephants and Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya, Mapping Biodiversity in Cuba and more.

Globe Aware

The nonprofit Globe Aware develops short-term volunteer programs in international environments that encourage people to immerse themselves in a unique way of giving back. Globe Aware offers one-week volunteer vacations in 15 different countries. Chosen projects meet several key criteria: safe, culturally interesting, genuinely beneficial to a needy community, and involving significant interaction with the host community.

Global Volunteers

Offers a wide variety of two- and three-week service programs in 18 countries - including the U.S. Volunteers help deliver essential services while contributing to the physical health and intellectual development of the world's future leaders - its youth. Global Volunteers works with high level organizations like the United Nations and UNICEF to offer international volunteer service opportunities that work to protect children's security and welfare and address hunger, poverty and educational needs around the world. 

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity offers a variety of house-building trips through its Global Village Program and RV Care-A-Vanners program. The Global Village program has opportunities in more than 40 countries abroad as well as in the United States. The RV Care-A-Vanners invites anyone who travels by recreational vehicle to make Habitat part of your journey, or even your destination. Both programs give volunteers the opportunity to get to the families and the communities in which they are assisting with home building. 

Cross-Cultural Solutions

Cross-Cultural Solutions offers cross-cultural service trips that improve the health, education and economic opportunities for vulnerable women, children and elderly. Cross Cultural Solutions creates longstanding relationships with local organizations who communicate real- ime needs and objectives to the CCS team. This community approach was specifically designed to make sure CSS programs generate sustainable impact. 

Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated change-makers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side-by-side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation. Depending on the volunteer program you choose, your service can last from three months to two years. You can even choose what country you want to serve in, the type of work you do, and when you depart. While many people consider the Peace Corp an opportunity for young people, the nonprofit also welcomes seniors with open arms.

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