Seven Volunteer Vacations for an Alternative Spring Break

Texas A&M students volunteerings

Want a more fulfilling experience than binge drinking on the beach can offer? Try a volunteer vacation over spring break. Photo: Texas A&M

If the idea of drinking and dancing on the beach all day for a solid week isn’t quite your ideal spring break, there are plenty of other options out there. And even if that is your ideal spring break, you still might feel like it’s more important to get out and do some good in the world. If so, these volunteer spring break options might be a good game plan this year.

Besides giving back and helping someone in need, volunteering is also a great way to build your resume or even give you an edge in applying for a scholarship. Plus, depending on your experience, you may end up learning new skills, traveling to a different area, and making new friends.

Keep in mind, though, that a volunteer trip won’t necessarily cost less than traveling to a traditional spring break destination. Each opportunity is different. Many will still require you to pay for your transportation there. Some might offer a perk, such as free meals or cheaper or free lodging, but it’s always a good idea to understand the costs before signing up.

Here are some organizations and volunteer trips to check out:

United Way: This year’s projects include advocating women’s issues in Washington, D.C., helping rebuild homes in El Paso, Texas, serving the coastal community of Biloxi, Miss., and building gardens in Williamson County, Tenn., along with helping educate people on how to cook with fresh foods and herbs. Visit the United Way website for more information.

Habitat for Humanity: This nonprofit organization builds and repairs homes using volunteer labor and donations. Check to see if your college has a campus chapter and, if not, you can start one. Once you’re affiliated with a chapter, you can choose from various sites that are in need of construction. Learn more here.

American Hiking Society: Crews of six to 15, along with a leader, spend a week somewhere in the U.S. repairing or building trails. You can search by a state or lodging option, such as cabin or tent. It’ll indicate if the work level is easy, moderate, difficult, or very strenuous so you can see what you’re up for. This year’s trip to Virginia’s Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship will have volunteers re-vegetating land, repairing bridges, carrying logs and stones, and possibly helping out on an organic farm. Check out the volunteer vacations.

Earth Watch: This organization’s mission is to engage people in scientific research to help make changes across the globe. Volunteer adventures include exploring climate change in the Borneo Rainforest in Malaysia, archaeology in Mongolia, helping African wildlife in Malawi, and helping study the wildlife along the Amazon River in Peru, to name a few. Check out the opportunities.

Global Citizens: Travel to indigenous regions to help build up an area. Depending on the project, work can include recording elders’ stories for cultural preservation, teaching English in a classroom setting, cleaning up a beach, gardening, and even constructing schools, farms, and clinics. You can opt for a scheduled trip, or if you have a group of five friends who want to come along, you can customize your own trip. Learn more here.

Sierra Club: Ideal for the outdoors lover, you’ll find 90 service trips offered throughout the year that include tasks like maintaining trails, restoring wilderness areas, removing non-native plants, and cleaning up campsites. Check out their volunteer vacations.

Design Your Own Volunteer Staycation: If you don’t exactly have the funds for one of these volunteer trips, you can turn your spring break into a volunteer adventure in your own town. Check out VolunteerMatch.org to learn about volunteering opportunities near you. It’s a safe assumption there are people in your area who could use a helping hand, too.