Taking a vacation doesn’t always have to be about pampering oneself, sometimes getting away from home can mean giving back to the community. This list covers some of the most popular destinations within the United States that allow your family or school group to relax in a new location while helping the locals, volunteers, or global partners better life for someone or something else that truly needs it. Why not make your vacation worthwhile in more than one way and pick a destination that will change the world for the better, and give back to you and those you’ve helped more than you could ever imagine.
Heifer Village - Little Rock, AR
Welcome to Heifer Village, the 70-year-old organization (Heifer International) that has helped over 7 million families in over 125 countries become more self-sufficient and well-fed! This life-saving enterprise began in 1944 with a man named Dan West, a Midwest farmer who stood at the front line of the Spanish Civil War to help provide relief but quickly realized that one cup of milk per day, as was rationed to the refugees, was simply not enough. He soon adopted the "teach a man to fish" philosophy and decided that a whole cow would be better than a cup of milk, changing hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity within an instant! This is exactly what your group will be doing, helping with the heifers, learning about the problem, and maybe even donating and teaching about one yourselves! You can also check out the Cafe@Heifer or Store@Heifer for your complete Heifer Village experience!
Blue Iguana Program - Grand Cayman Island
The Ritz Carlton may not be known for its volunteering programs, but it should be! This luxury hotel chain offers various day-long volunteering opportunities, such as this popular one in the Grand Cayman Island. The Blue Iguana is a breath away from extinction and relies on breeding programs to survive and keep its claim as the island’s largest native land animal. These critical projects always need more hands, and this is your group's opportunity to help! Environmental naturalists will give your group vital information on these "blue dragons" as you travel to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. The Park warden will give you seasonal activities to help the program, such as looking for nests and eggs, painting fences, or taking part in iguana tracks. The beach is beautiful, the garden is amazing, and helping out these cute little creatures is going to make your group very happy!
Sun, Service, and Whales - Sierra Club of Maui, HI
This trip is a bit different than the rest, requiring a five-day package stay, but it may be the most worth it! The Sierra Club of Maui offers this special package, allowing your group to spend three days in the remote village of Honokowai Valley weeding, planting, and clearing invasive species. You will also pick up trash, auto parts, and old fences around this village, keeping true to the locals' motto "if the land is clean, the land is happy." This trip is just as educational as it is volunteer oriented, teaching your group about ancient Hawaiian traditions and scientific accomplishments along the way. On the one free day from volunteering your group will have the chance to whale watch, snorkel, and swim the beaches all day long! There is no better way to give back and have the time of your life at the same time!
Catalina Island Conservatory - Catalina Island, CA
This beautiful island just off the coast of southern California allows your group to explore and experience the natural wonders of the island to its fullest, working on preservation during the day and having home-like lodging options at night! Visit this island to work morning in the Ackerman Native Plant Nursery, learning about local horticulture and ecology while germinating, collecting, propagating, and weeding the on-site plants. You could also head over to Windward Beach on a Saturday morning and take part in their half-day cleanup, allowing your group to comb the sand for debris while admiring the ocean and beachfront. Keeping this beach clean and pristine, as well as taking care of the local plants, really helps the island, the locals, the wildlife, and even visiting tourists. Plus this view is so unbelievable you won’t even care that your working.
Habitat For Humanity - New Orleans, LA
The third-strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States was Hurricane Katrina, hitting and devastating the unique and bustling city of New Orleans. The 175 mph winds broke levees and homes, making for a great need of volunteers even today, 10 years after the fact. Habitat for Humanity offers half-day to full Spring Break volunteer options for your group, the most popular option being construction. Your group can also work for ReStore, picking up deliveries, organizing, and cleaning donated goods, or the Habitat Urban Gardens, planting, weeding, and propagating native plants back to life. You can also take part in Attack the Block, cleaning up communities still in disarray from the hurricane. Whatever you decide to do here, it helps immensely, and you’ll feel great helping this vivid and colorful city get back on its feet!
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary - Kanab, UT
This stop in beautiful Kanab, Utah, allows your group to give back to those furry friends we often overlook. The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is the nation’s largest no-kill shelter and houses over 1,700 homeless animals and pets. Here your group can walk an enthusiastic dog, clean a rabbit run, play with shy cats, or clean a horses stall. Explore all the different animal worlds, including Dogtown, Cat World, Horse Haven, Piggy Paradise, Bunny House, and Parrot Garden, as well as the more exotic Wild Friends. Each section needs volunteers to help feed, groom, and clean, as well as walk, talk, and play with the resident animals. This volunteer opportunity is so fun and rewarding, it’s especially great for the kids! You can even take a lonely pet on a "sleepover" to help them adjust to their soon found forever homes.
White Earth Reservation - Callaway, MN
The Global Citizens Network has put together this unique volunteering opportunity in the tribal communities of the White Earth Reservation. Here your group will have a chance to see the over 20,000 remaining tribal members who like to keep and embrace the ancient lifestyle, as you delicately help maintain their culture, language, and way of life. You will have the option to teach a youth group, refurbish community buildings, or harvest crops such as wild rice or raspberries. You will talk with the locals and leaders, and even have a chance to hike, fish, or canoe with them as you immerse yourself into this different era of living and culture. Enjoy the scenic prairie lands as you take part in building porches, painting murals, weeding gardens, or just visiting with a village elder.
St. Johns Park and Friends - Virgin Islands
Come to one of the most gorgeous and naturally raw islands within the Virgin Islands, St. Johns. Here your group will have a chance to help preserve the natural and cultural resources that make up this land with hands-on work and immersive cultural experiences. Your group will receive a better understanding and appreciation for the community as they work side by side with locals and tourists alike on the Trail Crew. This group of volunteers removes debris from beaches and coastlines, as well as important trails and ruins, allowing the island to stay in pristine shape. You can also choose from other various volunteering opportunities, such as visitor center, store, or festival volunteer work. You won’t believe you’re actually volunteering once you get to this gorgeous island paradise.