Family Volunteer Vacations 101
Are you interested in family volunteer vacations? I’m sure that you’ve got the best of intentions, but now what? This article is designed to help you determine whether volunteering on vacation is right for your family, and how go about volunteering in a responsible manner. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Are Your Children Ready?
Both physically and mentally, you’ll need to make sure that your kiddos are ready for a volunteer vacation. From a mental standpoint, keep in mind that the type of work that you do is likely to provoke a lot of questions. If working with organizations that fight poverty or social injustice, the questions that arise could be much heavier than if you volunteered for a beach clean-up.
Physically speaking, most nonprofits with solid volunteering programs will have minimum age restrictions in place. Some of the time these age requirements are for safety reasons, and other times it’s because the task at hand requires a certain level of attention to detail that little ones just can’t quite achieve. If your kids aren’t old enough, find another organization and put this one on the back burner until your kids can help out. If you are particularly passionate about that nonprofit, ask if there is something you can do from home that can support them!
Figure Out Where You Will Go
There are a few things that are likely to influence your decisions on what organization you’ll volunteer with. Destination is certain to be one of the main factors. There are organizations all over the world in need of volunteer support. Perhaps there’s a certain area of the world that you’re dying to visit? Volunteering with an organization in that area, even just for one day, can give you greater insight into the hardships faced by that region.
Another main factor that you’re sure to consider is the type of work that you’ll be doing. Is there a certain cause that your family is passionate about? Volunteer work is much less likely to feel like work if you find something that meets everybody’s interests (and you’ll probably face less complaining!). Maybe there is something specific that you’d like your children to learn? Volunteering is a great way to delve into a social issue or pick up a new skill!
Set Realistic Expectations
It’s best to go in with realistic expectations! Whether you volunteer for a day, a month, or a year, you are not going to save the world. There are NGOs that have been in many of these locations for decades working to fight poverty and social injustice. These issues are oftentimes a one step forward, several steps back kind of thing and no matter how fantastic you are, there are some hurdles that are too big.
That said, you can definitely brighten someone’s world! Your family can show love to those who are less fortunate and work to break down stereotypes as you teach your children how to make the world a better place!
Have a Few Organizations in Mind
A lot of organizations rely heavily on volunteer support, but sometimes organizations can become inundated with volunteer requests and may not be able to accommodate your family, particularly during the holiday season. Don’t take this personally. If you reach out several organizations for volunteer opportunities, it’s likely that you’ll be able to help at least one of them!
When reaching out to a volunteer organization, expect that it might take a few days to return your phone call or email. Many nonprofits are understaffed and sometimes staff members wear multiple hats. The role of the Volunteer Coordinator is often one of the busiest in an organization. Not only are they recruiting and scheduling new volunteers, but they are also training volunteers on-site everyday and providing them with tasks as they’re volunteering. If it’s been more than a few days since your call/email, it’s perfectly appropriate to follow up- just don’t be a stalker!
Plan in Advance
Don’t show up at an organization out of the blue and expect that there will be work for you. It’s best to arrange your volunteer time at least a few weeks in advance so the organization can plan what they need help with. This is really best for both of you. The nonprofit wants you to enjoy your volunteer experience and you want to feel like you’re doing something important.
Keep in mind when you volunteer with an organization, you are there to support them. They are not there to cater to you. If you go expecting to perform a certain task and things get switched up on you, try to be flexible! Many nonprofits operate with a bare-bones staff and really do need your help… it might just be different from what you anticipated. You might end up stuffing envelopes instead of sorting food, but understand that each task has an important impact on the organization. The fundraising letters that you helped send out might bring in big donations to support their ongoing mission!
Still have questions about family volunteer vacations? I’ll be following this article up with more information about ethical volunteering and lots of other resources to help your family find the perfect volunteer vacation! In the meantime, feel free to contact me with any questions that you have!How to plan a family volunteer vacation!Click To Tweet