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8 Ways to Give Back While Traveling

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Voluntourism offers a unique opportunity to give back while seeing the world, and there are many opportunities available to travelers–some as simple as a click of the mouse and others requiring hands on work. At The Points Guy, we wholeheartedly support good deeds done through travel and we’ve recently aligned with PeaceJam and 1 Billion Acts of Peace to do our part in this arena. TPG contributor Lane Nieset rounded up eight of the many ways you can donate time, money or miles while traveling. Which one resonates with you?

Habitat for Humanity in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Habitat for Humanity in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Photo courtesy of HFHI/Steffan Hacker

1. Build a Village: Whether travelers want to make an impact within the United States or internationally, Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village volunteer program offers organized trips to over 40 countries to help local communities in places as near as Hawaii and as far as Guatemala, Ethiopia, Zambia, Vietnam or Macedonia. While immersing in the local culture and community, volunteers work to construct affordable homes or rebuild areas affected by natural disasters–like the Philippines in the wake of last year’s Typhoon Haiyan. If you want to get involved but can’t make the trip, donating online is another option to help support the organization’s efforts.

Pack for a Purpose
Pack for a Purpose in Curacao

2. Donate Globally: GlobeDrop launched this summer connecting travelers with local non-goverment organizations in Asia, Africa and Latin America using social media to spread donation needs across the globe. Once travelers plan a trip, they log onto globedrop.org to see a catalogue of nearby charities and their wish lists of supplies. When travelers arrive to the destination, they then buy everything locally, supporting the area’s economy, and drop off items themselves in order to see first-hand where the goods are going and interact with the community. Similarly, Pack For a Purpose, encourages travelers to save room in their luggage to pack supplies for local charities. Their network spans the globe and travelers can simply drop items off at participating local resorts, such as the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curaçao, The Oyster Box in South Africa, and The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul in Turkey.

3. Donate Airline Miles: Frequent flyers can put their miles to a good cause with the US Airways Miles of Hope program. Travelers can choose from five national nonprofits to donate unused miles, including the American Red Cross, Mercy Medical Airlift, Fisher House Foundation, Make-A-Wish America and Keep America Beautiful. Similarly, Delta, American, El Al and other major airlines also provide means to donate miles to worthy causes.

Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
Saving sea Turtles in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Greenloons

4. Save the Environment: Eco-friendly tour operator Greenloons organizes environmentally conscious trips where travelers can spend a portion of their vacation volunteering. On their 15-day trip to Costa Rica, travelers volunteer for five days on a sea turtle conservation project in the village of Playa Matapalo on the central Pacific Coast. While there, they meet volunteers from the community and around the globe to clean up the beach, protect nests and release turtles into the ocean.

The Westin St. John Resort
Stay at The Westin St. John Resort and volunteer at the Virgin Islands National Park

5. Volunteer in the Virgin Islands: If travelers are taking advantage of SPG Starpoints to stay at The Westin St. John Resort in the US Virgin Islands (SPG Category 5 requiring 12,000 to 16,000 Starpoints for a free night), guests can volunteer for the day at the Virgin Islands National Park to clean up the beaches and maintain park trails and ruins while learning about the park, which embodies two-thirds of the island. After volunteering with Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, guests receive a $100 resort credit. The credit is a nice perk, but an even sweeter reward is preserving the island’s natural beauty for posterity.

Mombasa Catholic Community-Based Health Care Project
Volunteering with the Mombasa Catholic Community-Based Health Care Project in Kenya

6. Help Children with AIDS in Africa: See a different side of Kenya with the American Foundation for Children with AIDS by volunteering with the organization’s Kenyan partner Mombasa Catholic Community-Based Health Care Project. While volunteering, teams will repair and build homes in Mombasa for sick children and their families, as well as volunteer with projects maintaining and assisting at the community’s clinics.

7. Care for Orphans in Cape Town: Spend from two to twelve weeks in Cape Town, South Africa volunteering with orphaned children as part of GoEco’s Cape Town Orphan Care project. Based in Cape Flats, volunteers work with local communities on homeschooling children and developing lesson plans for schools, as well as taking care of children who are in need of foster care. As a volunteer, travelers not only assist with day-to-day care and support, they also help create long-term plans and projects helping these communities grow.

8. Give Back While Getting Away: Staying at a Ritz-Carlton property? Whether you’re heading to Beijing, Berlin or Battery Park in New York City, the Ritz-Carlton offers Give Back Getaways, half day voluntourism opportunities for its guests. The projects vary from environmental conservation to hunger and poverty relief and helping disadvantaged children. If you happen to be traveling to The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing, for example, you can head to a local organic farm to harvest vegetables for Sun Village, which helps under privileged and orphaned children.

What type of voluntourism projects have you worked on? What is next on your list?