The vacationing volunteer: 5 countries you can see as an international volunteer

Jun 13, 2012, 6 a.m.

Combining overseas travel with volunteering is getting more and more popular every year. This concept, often dubbed "voluntourism," is particularly well-suited for retired travelers who can spend more than one week on vacation. If you've always wondered about a volunteering vacation, here are five destinations you should consider:

  1. Cambodia. Years of war and oppression have left this southeast Asian country with thousands of orphans. Opportunities exist throughout this country to teach children English and computer skills, as well as show some much-needed kindness to children who have seen too much hardship.
  2. East Africa. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has hit central Africa hard. The east Africa nation of Tanzania offers voluntourists the opportunity to help educate residents about AIDS prevention as well as teach English and other skills to Masai women who have not traditionally been included in the country's education system.
  3. Costa Rica. This Central American country abounds with voluntourism opportunities, including helping at San Jose orphanages, helping organic farmers get started and assisting with one of the many wildlife preservation efforts in the country.
  4. Peru. Getting adequate health care to residents of Peru's more remote areas is still a problem in this South American country. Voluntourism opportunities include helping at local clinics and build and promote clean water facilities throughout the country.
  5. United States. Don't forget the opportunities for volunteer travel back at home. From helping with disaster relief after events like Hurricane Katrina, to helping to build homes for Habitat for Humanity, there are scores of organizations in the United States that welcome volunteers for the day, week or season.

If you're ready to see what voluntourism is all about, contact one of the tour operators, such as GoAbroad.com, AideAbroad.org, or PeopletoPeople.com, that specialize in such travel.

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