Well in advance of the upcoming holidays, consider an unusual voluntourism trip. Work and play with equal intensity. This kind of vacation is a non-commercial, high-value, in-depth cultural immersion. Reality not-TV and get back infinitely more than you give. There is not enough mistletoe on earth to bring about the kind of love generated by these profoundly rewarding experiences.
The Rainforest Voluntourism Program is one of social and environmental initiatives. Help construct water filters in a bird-watching paradise community called Infierno in southeastern Peru. Infierno? (yes, it is hot as hell.) Set where the Andes Mountains descend into the lush Amazon Basin, it is a haven of jungle life. Fabulously populated by rare birds and butterflies, this region is also home to the tapir, spider monkey, jaguar, and the cute white-lipped, tusked peccary (wild pig.) Or roll up your sleeves and help repair the elementary school and playground. The five-day, per-person rate is $2,307 and dates are flexible during the holiday season.
Whistle before you work. Safari first in three countries – South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe on the lookout for the “Big Five” –the elephant, rhino, hippo, giraffe and zebra. Zambia Community & Safari combines an authentic safari together with work on local projects. One “walk with the rhinos” and never be the same. Gain insight into the culture of the Shangaan people who live between the Kruger National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa. Assist in schools, community centers, building projects and/or local sports development. This great 14-day trip takes place Dec 29, 2012 – Jan 11, 2013 at the rate of only $1599. per person.
Cambodia – Laos
“New Hope Cambodia,” a grass roots, hands-on, non-government organization works to restore hope, dignity and promise to the local community called “Mondul 3.” It’s near Tonle Sap Lake, 140 miles north of Phnom Penh. The name may sound very “Brave New World” but the little community in Siem Reap is not. About 300 displaced souls live in extreme poverty, without education or skills. The needs are great. Volunteers can help build a new school or library, help teach in classrooms or visit families who require assistance. Greatest way in the world to avoid another New Year’s Eve at home, this 15-day trip is Dec. 30, 2012 – Jan 13, 2013 and costs only $1,799 per person. Click: Explore Cambodia & Laos,
Volunteer in the beachfront village of Jambiani on the exotic African isle of Zanzibar, helping local school teachers and organizing sports activities. Schools are very appreciative of assistance from English-speakers who help children master the language as well as tutor science and computer training. Click Project Tanzania & Safari for more on this 13-day adventure. Dec. 9 – Dec. 21, 2012 at $2,999 per person.
Join Project Kenya & Safari and travel by Land Rover to search the great Maasai Mara for lion, cheetah, elephant and rhino while camping in a tent under the big sky –the most exciting and uniquely African experience. Volunteer at the Limuru Children Center, an orphanage near Nairobi where children from many different backgrounds suffer from disability, abuse, poverty, illness. Help is very much needed with teaching and organizing activities. This 15-day trip takes place Nov. 26 – Dec. 10, 2012. $2,999 per person.
Each of these tours can be found under the umbrella known as “Greenloons” a carefully curated travel collection, eco-certified and third-party vetted. All trips have been proven to go “the extra mile” in giving back with a focus on nature and local life. Small groups tend to attract idealists willing to use their muscles on sustainable vacations.
“We can’t imagine a more meaningful way to give during the holiday season and wish the world “Happy New Year,” says the energetic and ardent Irene Lane, Greenloons founder and president. We can’t either. Click http://www.greenloons.com/, or call her in Washington, DC at 703-752-6270.