After reading this article from National Geographic, my partner and I have been thinking about torturing the kids into a more working style vacation. Something to give back to the world. I’ve done some surfing looking for ideas, but most, including the ones linked at the bottom of the article, seem to be quite expensive and more adventure-style than volunteer-esque.
So has anyone had any experience doing this and any recommendations. We’re a bit limited since two of the three kids are young (6 and 8 years old).
We went on a church trip to Henderson Settlement in Kentucky. They accommodate a fairly wide range of volunteers and it’s not particularly expensive http://www.hendersonsettlement.com/
It was somewhat surprising to me and most of us in the group to see the poor housing conditions right here in the US. If St. Pauler means you are from Minnesota (where I grew up) and your kids haven’t travelled much, Appalachia is probably different enough from their everyday experience to make an impression.
I would recommend Habitat for Humanity (which is linked in your article). It is similar to what Harriet suggested.
I have a friend who did this through his teens, through church, and it looked like a good time. He went back every year no matter how busy he was. Seems like something your kids could continue to do and enjoy as they get older.
I worked on a construction site for a church a few summers ago and I learned a TON of stuff. It was hard work but it was fun as hell. We had a lot of young kids from the church helping out, and there was a lot they could do.
I have no experience with Volunteers for Peace but they seem affordable and accept families. Actually, if anyone else if familiar with this organization please speak up, I’ve always kind of been interested in their trips. Another source of info would be local churches or colleges – even if you are not interested in traveling with a church they may have connections that regular web searches won’t bring up – the truth is that the cheaper organizations are also going to be the one’s without splashy web-pages and tidy travel packages.
Another thought is to send the kids off on an organized trip when they’re old enough, ie, high school junior or senior. Its not uncommon for groups to go at this age, and I would bet (and you can disagree with me) that a pack of teenagers will get further into the local environment than a group of families with kids. I did a volunteer trip like this last summer to Mexico, it was mostly 30-somethings, and we had 3 high school boys along, plus their teacher/chaperon. Despite minimal language skills the boys just soaked everything up, and they definitely covered more terrain than we did.
If your interests are in volunteering over adventure, I second the suggestion to look within the US. I’ll be honest, I personally was interested in adventure, otherwise I would have stayed around here. As always YMMV.
When I get to work, I’ll look through my files and see what I can find. You may have to wait a few years, though, if your youngest child is 6. IIRC, most “voluntourism” organizations have minimum age requirements. When kids are little, no matter how much they want to help, they usually wind up being more work for the organizers rather than useful members of the group.