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Southlake Style

Vacation with Purpose

Nov 04, 2016 11:14AM ● By Ashley Pape

Vacation is often a time for families to bond over meals, activities and adventures. However, the next time you plan a jaunt somewhere new, why not consider how you could make a difference in that destination? The beauty of volunteering on vacation is you can still make those meaningful memories by working together for common goals—whether you are helping wildlife thrive, making children smile or protecting America’s natural resources. 

Wildlife Rescue Centre Thailand 

The Wildlife Friends Foundation offers four volunteer opportunities in Southeastern Asia, each involving the rescue and care of animals within this region. One of those projects, the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Thailand, gives shelter to large and small animals for the short- and long-term. Expect to get sweaty—you’ll be working with the animals and shelters hands on. However, there are a variety of duties to take on while helping to rehabilitate the animals. 

For example, volunteers can choose to stay for one to eight weeks. Although there is a cost associated with this volunteer opportunity, the money goes directly to operational costs for the rescue center and also for meals and bungalow accommodations. Each bungalow is equipped with a European-style toilet and shower along with either two or three beds. Although there is a large kitchen within the main volunteer house for making breakfast, your lunch and dinner are prepared for you. Because, well, this is a vacation. 

Still, this opportunity is not for the faint of heart. Trav-elers must be in good physical condition and able to tolerate a hot and humid climate. This is a great opportunity for empty nesters or families with college-aged children, as you must be at least 18 to participate. 

Give Kids The World Village 

The Give Kids The World Village is a sprawling, 79-acre nonprofit resort specifically designed to provide care for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Since its inception in 1986, more than 146,000 children and families from all over the world have visited the village. With help from community partners, the organization provides accommodations, transportation and tickets to theme parks, meals and daily entertainment.

Volunteering at the Give Kids The World Village in Kissimmee, Florida, is for all ages. Spending time as a family helping other families is a great way to teach your kids the importance of sharing their time and talents. 

With more than 50 volunteer opportunities including airport greetings, running errands or even dressing up as a fairytale character, there’s a chance for everyone in the family to find a personal way to give back. Many of the opportunities can be fulfilled by a parent and child (12+), or independently by an individual over the age of 16 or 18. No matter what the “job” description is, you’ll be responsible for putting a smile on a child’s face. 

American Hiking Society 

Take a hike to not only experience nature, but to also aide in the maintenance and care of the trails you will be following. Founded in 1976, the nonprofit American Hiking Society prides itself in being the “national voice for hikers.” The national organization promotes and protects foot trails, their surrounding natural areas and the hiking experience. The organization leads conservation efforts and provides important resources to help plan, fund and develop trails. As a result, volunteer opportunities abound. 

Consisting of trail stewardship projects on America’s public lands, volunteer vacations are weeklong opportunities designed to assist land managers with trail maintenance needs. To participate, volunteers apply to be part of a crew, which is comprised of six to 15 volunteers and a crew leader. Your weeklong excursion involves backpacking or day hiking, and accommodations vary from primitive campsites to bunkhouses or cabins. Tools and supervision are provided by the host agency or organization you will be assisting. Volunteers should be in good physical condition, but prior trail maintenance experience is not necessary. All ages are welcome on most trips, but those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian.

Care for Children in Ecuador 

Global Volunteers is a nonprofit that connects individuals who wish to volunteer internationally in countries that need the most help. It offers a variety of projects in more than 200 host communities around the world. The organization works closely with these communities to identify needs that are not being met. Projects are then created, and you can visit the Global Volunteers website to find a service opportunity that fits your schedule and talents. 

One such project is in Quito, Ecuador, where volunteers are needed to assist with and provide material resources to children living in poverty. Children attend daycare while their mothers work, and as a volunteer, you will play with and teach the young children. There is also a need for maintenance for the playgrounds and classrooms. 

One- and two-week programs are offered year-round for the Quito project, and a fee associated with participation covers your accommodations, which includes a stay at a tourist-class hotel. You also will be provided with three meals each day. The projects are designed with families in mind—all ages can participate, as long as those under 18 years old are accompanied by an adult.