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Here to help - volunteering holidays

For those who want to do more than simply lie on a beach on their holidays, voluntary tourism or ‘voluntourism’ could make a refreshing change. 

Not only will you have an exhilarating, enriching experience, but you’ll be helping improve lives. Gill McDonald provides a roundup of the best trips 

Wildlife conservation/ environmental
• The iconic French Alpine marmot is highly specialised to its environment, which is acutely sensitive to climate change. Join a research expedition which monitors the ability of this endearing creature to adapt. Set against the backdrop of the Alpine landscape, you will record biometric measurements, observe behaviour, identify family groups and contribute to an important project which helps predict wildlife responses to change and supports effective conservation management. You'll share comfortable accommodation with the research staff, and you could also see ibex, chamois and some spectacular birdlife. Expedition duration can be eight or 15 days from May to July and cost £1,395 or £2,195 respectively. Go to www.earthwatch.org/europe or phone +44 (0)1865 318831.

 • Coral Cay Conservation is dedicated to helping protect and sustain coral reefs throughout the developing world. Non-divers are professionally trained as part of the experience, volunteers then undertake a well-established skills development program to train them for the subsequent survey dives. The Philippines project offers two to 16 week stints. It is worth considering a longer stay as by the end of two weeks you are just ready to apply all you have learned. Accommodation is in small dormitories. Prices range from £825 to £3,685 depending on duration, and non-divers are charged an additional £100 for their training. Coral Cay organise regular opportunities to meet and chat with past volunteers. Go to www.coralcay.org or phone +44 (0)20 7620 1411.

Community
GVI (Global Vision International) runs more than 100 community, environmental and education projects in 25 countries. One project in Cape Town, South Africa aims to offer orphans and disadvantaged children educational opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to them. Training is provided on arrival and accommodation is in shared houses or apartments. Volunteers work with the children on weekdays, with weekends free to explore what is a beautiful city. Trips range from between two and 12 weeks with pricing from £995 to £2,495. Go to www.gvi.co.uk or phone +44 (0)1727 250250.

Family
If you want to introduce the family to volunteering, but are not ready for a full on expedition, try a short taster. Hands Up Holidays offer a good variety of tailor-made packages. For example, the Incas & Amazons trip is a fantastic way to explore the ancient ruins and incredible culture of the Inca Empire in Peru, together with the lush tropical Amazon rainforest all wrapped round a four-day volunteer project where you live and work alongside local communities. This is one of many offerings recommended for families, with activities including repairs, renovations, painting, gardening or teaching. Younger members of the family can interact with the local children and share some magical experiences. Go to www.handsupholidays.com or phone +44 (0)20 7193 1062.

Long term
VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) is involved in long-term partnership programs with local organisations that help poor people. VSO makes a point of liaising with these groups to understand what they need, and then work to find the right person to fill the role. For 50 years VSO has been recruiting individuals with a vision of eradicating poverty by giving people choice, providing opportunities to participate effectively in society, have access to education and healthcare and earn enough to feed and clothe their families. VSO solutions are long-term and sustainable, ranging in commitment from one to two years. Specific skills and experience are often invaluable for placements but are not essential. Go to www.vso.org.uk or phone +44 (0)20 8780 7500. 

UK
It’s not all about overseas adventures. Volunteering in the UK can be just as rewarding and can easily be planned into a holiday. BTCV has been running voluntary conservation events across the UK since the late 1950s. Its ‘Green Gym’ is a wonderful concept of combining health and fitness with helping the environment and improving the local surroundings. Most sessions last half a day and there are more than 70 Green Gyms across the UK. Among many other activities, BTCV also partners with businesses for employee action days. Go to www.btcv.org or phone +44 (0)1302 388883.

• Note all prices exclude flights but include all accommodation, food, transfers, training and volunteer activities.

 

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Here to help - volunteering holidays

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