Help the Homeless in Washington, DC
More than 10,000 homeless people currently inhabit our nation's capital, and on this trip you'll be able to help relieve at least some of their suffering by helping out at shelters and soup kitchens. But bring a crowd, since you need to sign as a group of six or more. And come ready to pitch in with cooking, childcare, and clothing distribution. If you decide to serve as a family, you should know that children must be at least 12 years old to participate.
Cost: $732 per person for the week. Includes food, lodging in a nearby church, and fun activities, like sightseeing and museum visits. Visit amizade.org for details or call 304-293-6049.
Rebuild the Gulf Coast with Habitat for Humanity
Since Hurricane Katrina, Habitat for Humanity has built nearly 1,300 homes in the Gulf Coast region, but the demand for volunteers is still high. You don't need any experience in carpentry, just be prepared to roll up your sleeves and learn a few skills. If you have children 16 or older, this is a good trip to take as a family.
Cost: About $100 to $150 per week, depending on where you go. (The Gulf Coast Recovery program serves Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.) Typically includes lunch and lodging; you'll stay anywhere from a local church to a dormitory-style room. Sign up through local Habitat affiliates, which you can find at habitat.org/gulfrecoveryeffort, or call 800-422-4828.
Preserve Wildlife Habitats in Florida
Armchair environmentalists might consider signing up for one of the Sierra Club's 80-plus volunteer vacations. The weeklong trip to Ocala National Forest is especially interesting: You'll replant native trees, restore trails, and build barricades to protect endangered plant species. You can unwind from all of your hard work on the day off that's built into the schedule.
Cost $495 for one week. Includes meals. You'll camp out with fellow volunteers in the park and are required to bring your own gear. Visit outings.sierraclub.org or call 415-977-5522.
Revitalize Communities in West Virginia
The state's Appalachian region has suffered from high rates of poverty for years. With this program you'll have a chance to help the people living in these under-resourced communities by assisting with revitalization projects that run the gamut from building affordable and renovating existing housing to helping teens study for their GEDs. It's a great option for families, since the minimum age to serve is 11.
Cost $995 per person; family and student discounts available. Includes lodging and all meals. Visit globalvolunteers.org/usa, or call 800-487-1074.
Restore Hiking Trails in Arkansas
Soak up panoramic views of the Ozark Mountain Range and the Buffalo National River while you help maintain and restore the hiking trails in Crowley Ridge State Park. You might spend your days raking, digging, or putting up trail signs, depending on what needs to be done. This trip is one of the 80 that the American Hiking Society hosts each year, and we like it because it's one of the less strenuous and more family friendly (though kids should be 16 or older). After all your hard work on the trails, take some time to explore the park's caves, go canoeing in the river, or fish in nearby Lake Poinsett.
Cost: $245 per person for one week. The price includes all meals and transportation to and from the airport. Volunteers camp and must bring their own tents and other gear. Visit americanhiking.org/volunteervacation.aspx, or call 800-972-8608.
Tutor Native American Children in Arizona
If you've always felt you missed your calling when you didn't become a teacher or counselor, volunteer at Tuba City Boarding School within the Navajo Nation. Preschoolers through eighth graders need extra help to stay on track academically, and you'll give them a hand by assisting teachers in their classrooms and providing one-on-one tutoring. The children like to learn about life outside the reservation, so be sure to share stories about your family and your hometown.
Cost $849 for one week. Includes dorm-style lodging, food, and some day trips, like visits to the Grand Canyon. Visit amizade.org, or call 304-293-6049.
Have you ever taken a volunteer vacation? Join the Do Good Group and share your story!
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, March 2009.
SAVE EVEN MORE! Say “Yes” to Ladies' Home Journal® Magazine today and get a second year for HALF PRICE - 2 full years (22 issues) for just $15. You also get our new Ladies' Home Journal® Family Favorites Cookbook ABSOLUTELY FREE!