Three years ago Kimberly Haley-Coleman and her two young daughters, then 4 and 6, took an unlikely trip. They traveled from Dallas, Texas, to southeast Ghana and immersed themselves in the local culture while building educational facilities for the children there.
Haley-Coleman — Executive Director of Globe Aware, a nonprofit organization that plans volunteer vacations in Asia, Latin America, Ghana and Romania — says trips like this have instilled in her daughters a unique cultural awareness. “They don’t take for granted that their way of doing things is necessarily the right way,” she adds.
The volunteer travel market, also known as “voluntourism,” offers an increasing diversity of niches for such philanthropic-minded travelers. “Volunteer vacations are definitely on more people’s radar,” says International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) Executive Director Genevieve Brown. Every year thousands of travelers roll up their sleeves and lend a hand on projects ranging from wildlife conservation in Kenya to assembling wheelchairs for landmine victims in Cambodia.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions about volunteer vacations.