There is nothing that we love more than a passport full of stamps, the evidence of trips and visits to exciting places all over the world. Travel is one of life’s greatest gifts, as is it allows us to step outside of our comfort zones and observe all of the rich beauty that other cultures have to offer.
These days, there are plenty of ways for us to not only see the countries and cities we’ve always dreamed of traveling to—now we can help serve the local communities we visit, too. Check out these exciting ways that we can combine our passions for travel and service.
The World Race is a concept that was developed in 2006, born from the founders’ desire to serve those who are less fortunate, whether they live down the street or in another country. As The World Race’s website puts it, the organization offers participants “a journey to 11 countries in 11 months to serve ‘the least of these’ while amongst real and raw community.” Travelers head to places including Rwanda, South Africa, Romania, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Malaysia, and Bolivia. Projects and activities range from teaching classes to children and building homes to shopping for groceries for the elderly and spending time with orphans. Participants are able to more intimately know the communities they visit and the cities they explore because, through service, they’ve entered into relationships with the people they’ve met. After they spend 30 days in each community, they more fully grasp the culture and the values of the people. Their worldview is expanded and, in some small way, the community they’ve served is changed for the better.
Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) is a non-profit organization that provides long-term service opportunities for participants. Travelers can select from a list of 12 countries, as well as from a corresponding list of needs, and apply to serve for a period of time in a specific location in order to complete a project that will benefit the local community. The Volunteer Abroad Program allows travelers to serve for time periods as short as two weeks to as long as 12 weeks. The Intern Abroad Program allows for similar windows of time, and the Insight Abroad Program is perfect for volunteers who can only leave their jobs or their families for one week. There are many projects to from which volunteers can choose, including educating at-risk youth, supporting and providing for people with HIV/AIDS, and empowering women through business development and personal relationships. CCS proudly partners with grassroots organizations in each country where they work, ensuring that they are wholly committed to investing in the communities they support.
Semester at Sea is not commonly known for its service opportunities—moreover, it’s applauded for the way it introduces college students to places all over the world via cruise ship—but many participants revolve their on-shore activities around chances to positively impact the communities they are exploring. As the name indicates, this opportunity is solely for students, but it’s an excellent way to see many places throughout the world in a short amount of time. While in each country, students have the opportunity to participate in field labs and field programs, both of which allow the learners to step outside of their comfort zones and expand their worldviews. Many of these experiences revolve around service, thus allowing students to give their time and their resources to those who are less fortunate. These service opportunities create rich, meaningful experiences in the countries that the participants visit. The students assist in changing the lives of those they help in some small way, surely, but certainly the lives of the students themselves are the ones that are changed the most.
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