Gateway to Giving: Volunteer Your Vacation

No matter where you go or what you do on vacation, the experience you have will depend on how well you were able to connect with the people or places you visited – and there’s no better way to ensure a bond than by volunteering some of your vacation hours working on a worthwhile cause. Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice a little time lazing in luxury, either. As a UC San Diego study reports, more than 40 percent of Americans say that they’re willing to spend several weeks on vacations that include volunteer service. This hefty demographic has helped pave the voluntourism way, creating a number of options that blend well-appointed stay with meaningful work. So whether you’re aching to be of assistance, hoping to bond with a new culture or just looking to earn some good karma back, check out the following volunteer vacations.

Guests of the Sanctuary can volunteer with Charleston’s Ronald McDonald House

Cheer Sick Children |Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina

The Kiawah Island Golf Resort has teamed up with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Charleston to offer guests the opportunity to lend a hand at the temporary lodging facility for families of seriously ill children. Guests can brighten a sick child’s day by baking homemade goodies in the house’s kitchen or off-premises and delivering. Guests can also host a event night, where they will arrange supplies and prizes for a game or provide other entertainment like singing, storytelling or dancing. The house also asks for help with a wish list drive, a list of items from snacks to shampoo that keep the house feeling like a true home. This experience is great for families, but if you’re unable to attend you may also donate to the house as a Share-A-Night sponsor. You can mull over your experience with the families when you return to your beachfront rental home, villa, or guest room at The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island.;

A kitten at the Panther Refuge

Protect Panthers | Ritz-Carlton, Naples, FL

We’re sure you’re familiar with the merits of the Ritz-Carlton brand, but the Naples, FL property can get a little wild. That’s because they bring in a representative from the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge to guide guests who want to get down and dirty to help protect panther habitats. We’re not kidding about the dirty part – volunteers will be clearing invasive plants from trails at the refuge and could also help to build trail markers; conduct bird, rare orchid or animal tracking surveys and build wood duck houses. After a hard day outdoors, guests can kick back and enjoy the service the Ritz-Carlton is renowned for.

The Arrabelle at Vail Square offers discounts and gifts for volunteers

Conserve Colorado | RockResorts, Colorado

RockResorts, which owns such hot destinations throughout Colorado such as the Arrabelle at Vail Square and The Pines Lodge, introduced its “Give and Getaway” package this year, offering discounted rates on two nights lodging and exclusive gifts (think hydration pack, work gloves and RockResorts Spa hand lotion) in exchange for six hours of trail preservation work. The company has teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service, the White River National Forest and others to offer this eco-exclusive through its luxury resorts. Guest’s work will help keep the White River National Forest’s land open for recreation by conserving the integrity of the forest and streams. RockResort visitors who are not so physically inclined can choose to participate in its fundraising program by contributing a dollar when purchasing ski passes, lift tickets or charging room rates to nonprofits that help with White River National Forest projects. Each dollar raised is match by 50 cents from the National Forest Foundation.

Camp Jabulani started as an elephant refuge

Save Species | Camp Jabulani, South Africa

If you’ve ever had the urge to feed a baby bottle to a wild animal, fulfill your dream and safari on down to South Africa’s Camp Jabulani for a three week stint in the bush. You’ll work hands-on with cheetah, wild dog, small spotted cats, wildcats and others while learning game farm management, how to prep and feed meals to animals and learning basic tracking and bush survival. The package includes meals, accommodations and activities. Camp Jabulani is a well-known luxury lodge that offers elephant-back safaris and is home to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. The camp is located within a Big Five reserve, which means you’ll have the opportunity to see lions, leopards, rhino, elephant and buffalo during your stay.

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