Voluntourism: A More Conscious Way to Travel

Vacation means palm trees, tropical weather, and filling recycle bottles with compostable trash to build a children’s school? That doesn’t sound like the classic vaca by the beach we’re used to, but for an increasing amount of people, volunteering has become a way to see the world while gaining perspective. Often referred to as “voluntourism”, the word refers to the tourist who combines their vacation and sightseeing with volunteer work for a nonprofit or local cause. Voluntourism is for those who want to revamp the common vacation format to include giving back, and gaining perspective on their own circumstances.

The Voluntourist, a travel trade newsletter, published a study stating the four most popular motivators for those who wish to volunteer on vacation. They listed cultural immersion, giving back and making a difference, seeking camaraderie, and seeking educational opportunities for children, when it involved a family volunteer trip with their children. Surely all of these opportunities are not available are at a beachside resort vacation. People go voluntouring because they are looking for something more than that, whether it be new friendships, new realizations about their life, or just the feeling of being part of something greater.

If you already planned on taking a vacation, voluntourism is a great way to get a unique experience and make use of your traveling. Think of voluntourism trips as a way to explore a culture while conveniently helping a cause. The convenience of these pre-set voluntour trips is they combine the chance to volunteer with opportunities to meet others. One can meet people of the local culture more easily, and working with others on volunteer sites has often lead to lasting friendships.

An excerpt from The Huffington Post

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Volunteer To Practice Random Acts of Kindness

With our call to Give, Advocate, and Volunteer to improve conditions in our communities, United Way encourages acts of kindness every day. Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 9 – 15), however, is a great time to do good works in a spontaneous sort of way and to bolster our intention to make volunteering and other more structured acts of kindness a regular part of our life throughout the year.

United Ways are celebrating and encouraging random acts of kindness in different ways. Yesterday on Feb 11, United Way of Washington County, Maryland rose awareness of 2-1-1, a free hotline supported by United Way in the Hagerstown area and many other communities nationwide that provides free and confidential help to callers.

With the “2-1-1 Random Acts of Kindness Challenge,” United Way has set a goal for local citizens to commit 211 random acts of kindness on 2/11 and to share what they did via the hashtag #211DayWashCo and by posting on the 211 Maryland Facebook page.

In addition to promoting Random Acts of Kindness Week and tracking acts of kindness on social media, United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties is working with several retailers in Morgantown, West Virginia to establish “pay it forward” boards. A local frozen yogurt and cupcake shop, Naticakes, already has a board with lots of random acts of kindness. One kind person, for example, donated “$4 for a soldier” to use for a purchase at the shop.

United Way of Pierce County makes it easy for individuals and groups anywhere to commit an act of kindness with Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Project Ideas. In February, the featured DIY project is a drive to collect items for a Welcome Baby Kit. Volunteers can organize a drive to collect diapers, wipes, blankets and other baby essentials for new parents, and in Takoma, Washington, the Volunteer Engagement Team at United Way will make sure the baby items are delivered to parents in need. All the DIY projects include a checklist of steps and ideas for other activities for success.

If you’d like to organize a DIY project in your area, your local United Way will help you channel your act of kindness to the people who need it most. And if you also want to practice other acts kindness, let us help you find the right volunteer opportunity – once a week, once a month, or anytime. We welcome volunteers of all ages and every act of kindness, every day of the year.

“A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.”  — Chinese Proverb

Volunteers Give Back Through a “Giving Garden”

Here’s another idea for improving health through volunteering: help out at a community garden. That’s what 25 volunteers – ranging from their 20s to early 60s – did on a beautiful spring day in Seattle, WA. With a sponsorship from Depend® (a brand of Kimberly Clark), United Way of King County invited volunteers to an historic urban community farm to help maintain the “Lettuce Link Giving Garden.”

Marra Farm distributes harvested food to emergency food system programs throughout King County. The garden is a located within a neighborhood of the South Park area of Seattle. Residents joined volunteers in what turned out to be a very active day, spreading bark, planting, weeding, building frames for screening and emptying and organizing storage units. The effort will benefit about 250 people.

The farm is a great location for people of all ages to work and learn.

What an incredible opportunity just to learn about the work Solid Ground is doing and the impact the Marra Farm is having as a provider of produce to the South Seattle area and a connection point to nature for these communities. I think everyone felt very fortunate to be able to help such a valuable mission, even if only for a day. The project list was extensive and included substantial work, and I think that really added to the team feeling like we were making a real impact.

Courtesy of Mei Cobb

Building Bridges to Healthier Communities

Health is an essential building block for success—for individuals and communities. We know that kids are more likely to succeed in school if they’re healthy and well-fed when they enter the classroom. We know that adults who make healthy choices and have access to quality health care are more productive in the workplace, and more likely to progress in their careers. And we know that healthy, thriving communities are fertile ground for a strong business sector able to compete in today’s market.

The factors that determine our health go beyond the doctor’s office, and solutions to the health challenges that people and communities face must go beyond the doctor’s office as well. To tackle the issue of health on such a large scale, we must first recognize that no single organization can do it alone. That’s why United Way exists: we look at what works, what’s missing, and then leverage our reputation, resources and relationships to fill the gaps. To do that, we work with partners from all sectors of society—partners like the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), an organization founded by 16 food and beverage companies. HWCF’s mission is to reduce obesity, and they hold themselves accountable by measuring their progress along the way. In just five years, HWCF members have removed 6.4 trillion calories from the marketplace, which represents a 78-calorie reduction per person, per day.

Consider one example of HWCF in action: at the William E. Russell Elementary School outside Boston, 100% of students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. Access to healthy food is a good start, but tight quarters have limited opportunities for healthy physical activity. With a $30,000 grant from HWCF and a matching commitment from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the school was able to add a permanent salad bar to lunch and soundproof a multipurpose room to create a gymnasium. Students now also work in a garden on campus, providing fresh produce for snacks. Not only does the garden generate fruit for daily snacks, it also helped increase student activity to 60 minutes a day and brought parents in to volunteer.

This is just one example of the partnerships needed to create healthier communities. The good news is that businesses, governments and nonprofits are more engaged on the issue than ever, and they know together we can accomplish more than any one of us can on our own.

That work is fueled by people like you—people who are passionate about making a difference for their families, their neighbors and themselves. Want to find out what you can do to make your community a healthier place to live? To find your local United Way, text “local” to 51555.

Thank a Teacher. Volunteer.

Teachers play a critical role in building a good foundation for children to become successful adults who can make a difference in their communities. Education is a cornerstone for success in school, work and life; teachers make success possible. Education helps the whole community. High school graduates have higher earning potential, contribute more to their local economies, are more engaged in their communities, and are more likely to raise kids who also graduate, and go on to higher education or work. We have teachers to thank.

But they can’t do it alone. We all have a stake in student success. United Way is committed to helping keep kids on track to graduation and beyond. We – and teachers – need your help. High school graduation rates are on the rise, but they will continue to improve only with active and engaged members of the community. So thank a teacher in your life, and then find your local United Way and volunteer to make a difference for a lifetime.

Courtesy: Mei Cobb of United Way Worldwide

Ten States That Volunteer The Most

Nearly 63 million Americans volunteered a total of roughly 7.7 billion hours in 2013, a contribution estimated to be worth approximately $173 billion. Despite the economic and community benefits of volunteering, the percentage of Americans who volunteer fell from its peak of 28.8% in 2005 to 25.4% in 2013.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of our nonprofits and schools and shelters and neighborhood organization, hospitals, hotlines,” said Sandy Scott, senior advisor at the Corporation for National and Community Service in an interview with 24/7 Wall St. “They provide enormous social and economic value for our country.”

Based on data from the CNCS, Utah leads the nation with 45.3% of its residents 16 and older volunteering in 2013. State residents also volunteered by far the most hours, with each volunteer contributing 85 hours in 2013 on average. Louisiana, on the other hand, had the lowest volunteer rate at just 16.7%. And each volunteer in the state contributed just 21.4 hours on average, the lowest figure nationwide.

To read the rest of this article, click here: http://huff.to/1NuBKMq

UC Santa Cruz Celebrates National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week is not over yet! Banana Slugs have been celebrating and sustaining the core UC Santa Cruz values of public service, social justice, and civic engagement with a series of UC Santa Cruz Alumni Volunteer Service Days across the state.

Volunteers have come together to do various service projects with an emphasis on fun, community spirit, and positive impact.

In doing so, these community members embody the spirit of National Volunteer Week, which is dedicated to inspiring, recognizing, and encouraging people to help their communities. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Service.”

In San Francisco, volunteers have teamed up with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, packaging food supplies to feed hundreds of families. In the East Bay, volunteers worked with the Golden Gate Audubon Society to weed invasive plants and sow native plants that provide habitat to birds and other wildlife. In Santa Cruz, volunteers helped at the Friends of the Public Libraries Fall Book Sale.

Most recently, to honor the life, impact, and legacy of Cesar Chavez, alumni got together on March 28 at the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz to prep beds for planting, build compost piles, and extract weeds from the garden.

It felt great to volunteer that day at the Homeless Garden Project, said Chiara Cabiglio (Merrill ’11, community studies). “When people get together and give their time to worthy causes, they are part of a global movement to create positive change,” she said.

“It is a moral obligation,” continued Cabiglio, who spent her time at the garden clearing out weeds so trainees could put in seedlings. “There is a saying I’ve heard: ‘The rent I pay for living on this Earth is volunteering and activism.’”

The volunteers also heard presentations by Ines Marines and Susan Drake, who both worked with Chavez.

Marines told the story of his life as a farm worker and how he found inspiration in Chavez’s teachings of nonviolent resistance and civil rights.

Drake spoke of Chavez’s personal attributes, noting that he would have been weeding with everyone that day.

Is Volunteering the New Giving?

How do you think philanthropy is changing, and what’s driving those changes?

Today’s philanthropists increasingly want to see themselves as more engaged in a charity’s efforts to bring about positive social change. This is true of every generation. According to a study by Edge Research, Sea Change Strategies, and Target Analytics, the younger donors are, the less likely they are to agree that cash gifts are the best way to support charities. For generation X, volunteering as a form of philanthropy has grown over the past 11 years and people born before 1946 – who represent the majority of all individual giving – were more likely than other groups to have volunteered for a charity in the past year.

Although this trend has been evident for some time, how organisations and foundations respond and adapt to it continues to evolve. United Way’s reaction has been to create a variety of ways that individuals can drive improvements in their communities. Our approach is to build and deepen relationships by inviting people who care about their communities to give, advocate and volunteer to help produce educated, financially stable and healthy individuals and families.

What’s the potential impact of these changes?

Organisations that create and sustain opportunities for their donors to be part of the solution will thrive, while those who do not will disappear. United Way research shows volunteers are significantly more likely to consider volunteering again with the organisation that engaged them in service and also consider alternative forms of engagement, such as giving and advocating. I suspect the same is true for organisations across the charitable sector. Organisations that are not equipped to cultivate relationships with key donors and educate new ones in more meaningful ways will lose those supporters to organisations prepared to engage them more fully.

Name one thing that foundations could do better to increase their sustainable impact?

Require that programmes emphasise volunteer engagement as a key strategy for achieving lasting community change. Individuals that share their passion, expertise and resources to build stronger, healthier communities help reduce costs, multiply programme impact, build organisational capacity and ultimately become more personally invested in the success of their community. Also, we know volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers, and as research shows, despite all the attention given to foundation grants and corporate giving, individuals contribute the majority of philanthropic dollars.

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional.

Hamilton County Has 3 Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award Winners

Kristen Edgeworth and the team of Valerie Burke and Jamie Wright were honored Monday night as Hamilton County’s winners at the seventh annual Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards Program in Franklin, TN.

The program, organized by Volunteer Tennessee, recognizes outstanding volunteers across Tennessee for their dedication to community service.  According to state generated statistics, 1.3 million Tennessee volunteers give more than 149 million hours of service, contributing the equivalent of $3.4 billion to Tennessee’s economy.

The City of Chattanooga Needs Volunteers to Pack Food For Homeless

Volunteers needed March 3rd-6th at the warehouse at 1815 E. Main St during the hours of 8:30am – 4pm and volunteers need to be at least 18.  We are packing food bags for the commodities distribution on March 10th and 11th.  We need as many as we can get each day for as long as they can stay, but we will take anyone!

Volunteers will need to complete a volunteer application when they arrive and also dress for the weather (warehouse is quite cool in winter and warm in summer).

If they are interested and have questions or would like to come, they can email salfaro@chattanooga.gov or call 423-643-6424.