springbreak

6 Spring Break Service Trips You Won't Want to Miss

  • Grace Lower
Mar 02, 2017

For many travelers, “spring break” evokes images of sunny beaches, rowdy college parties, and cross-country road trips. There’s something magical about the perfect spring break trip, and you don’t have to be a student for an excuse to soak up the sun.

Despite the hype surrounding postcard-ready spring vacations, “alternative spring breaks” have become a growing trend. Rather than unwinding on a glamorous vacation, many spring breakers are using their time off to give back through local, national, and global service organizations. While service is at the core of these volunteer trips, they frequently offer a balance of work and play, allowing participants to enjoy themselves while serving others. A number of universities, high schools, and community groups offer built-in spring service projects, but there are also various programs open to the general public. Here are six spring break service ideas that might make you rethink your beach plans:

 

1. Build a home with Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is one of the best-known service organizations in the country. Habitat’s mission is simple: it brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope. On each service product, teams of volunteers gather within a local community to build a home for a family in need. Even if you don’t know the difference between a socket wrench and a screwdriver, you can be a valuable member of a Habitat for Humanity build project. All you need to bring is a spirit of enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.

 

If you’d like to add Habitat for Humanity to your spring break plans, the organization offers several options. Volunteers who would rather serve close to home can find openings within their local chapter of Habitat. For those with a taste for adventure, Habitat offers volunteer opportunities with its Global Village—a collective of build sites from more than 40 countries (including the U.S). Additionally, if you’re in high school or college, you can participate in one of Habitat’s “Collegiate Challenge” youth programs. No matter where you choose to go or how you choose to serve, Habitat for Humanity will allow you to build hope through affordable housing.

 

2. Get outside with the American Hiking Society

If you love the great outdoors, the American Hiking Society’s “Volunteer Vacations” could be the service project for you. In this program, volunteers sign up for projects centered on building and maintaining hiking trails throughout the United States. If you’re fairly new to hiking, no worries—the American Hiking Society offers beginners’ trips with short-distance treks and indoor lodging. For more experienced volunteers, there are projects that require multi-day backpacking excursions with seasoned hikers. No matter your experience level, if you’re passionate about nature, there’s bound to be a Volunteer Vacation for you.

 

3. Team up with students for the United Way Alternative Spring Break

Although United Way’s “Alternative Spring Break” program is only open to students, this service experience makes our list because of its incredible impact. Alternative Spring Breaks are a way for college students to participate in service projects, leadership development, and relationship-building with the surrounding community. As the week-long program progresses, students team up with local volunteers to make an impact in underserved communities.

 

Depending on the location, Alternative Spring Break projects may vary. At any given site, volunteers might build homes, serve in youth development programs, tend to community gardens, or work in urban shelters. With locations ranging from rural Tennessee to the heart of New York City, there’s a service opportunity for students with a range of interests and skills.

 

4. Spread joy at the Give Kids the World Village

With sunny beaches, lively cities, and the magic of Disney World, Florida is an understandably popular spring break destination. One of the state’s lesser-known attractions is the “Give Kids the World Village.” This non-profit resort houses and serves children with life-threatening illnesses, along with their families. During their stay, the children and their families are given a week-long, cost-free vacation and VIP access to Florida's most popular destinations. For children with ongoing illnesses, a vacation can provide a needed escape from the everyday stresses they face.

 

Throughout the year, the Give Kids the World Village offers family-friendly volunteer opportunities. You and your loved ones could try scooping ice cream, leading arts-and-crafts sessions, or operating a merry-go-round, all while knowing that your efforts are creating a magical vacation for a child in need.

 

5. Save the Planet with Go Eco

While there are plenty of organizations that offer international service trips, Go Eco stands out because of its focus on environmental conservation. Go Eco is committed to offering ecological and volunteer tourism that promotes sustainable development. While a background in environmental science certainly wouldn’t hurt, as long as you’re “at least 18 years of age, enthusiastic about making the world a better place, independent and determined to work hard, and open-minded about new cultures and experience,” Go Eco has a program for you.

 

As a prospective volunteer, you can filter your search by where you’d like to go and by your interests. Want to work on a Great White Shark Conservation project in South Africa? What about serving at a Giant Panda Center in China? Or maybe promoting environmental education in New Zealand is more your speed. No matter your passion, you’ll be sure to find an opportunity that will have you packing your bags.

 

6. Support local causes by creating your own service experience

While there’s a lot to be said about serving national and global communities, it’s important to recognize the impact you can make without even leaving your town. A volunteer “stay-cation” is a great way to get involved within your own community (and more cost-effective than a trip across the country). Take some time to learn about the non-profit organizations in your community, then gather a group of family and friends to make sustainable change together.

 

Spring break offers a fantastic opportunity to relax and reenergize, but it also offer a chance for you to contribute to a meaningful cause. No matter where your spring travels take you, it’s always important to leave your destination better than you found it—and volunteering is an easy way to accomplish that goal.

 

About the Author

Grace Lower

Grace Lower is a recent college graduate with a love for writing and an incurable case of wanderlust. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.

Read more of Grace’s blogs

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