Volunteer Vacations – A Positive Trend Making a Difference

July 26, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Lifestyle News
While the U.S. government may have a reputation around the world for not doing enough to help others, no one can say that about the average American. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 65.4 million people participated in some type of volunteer activity in 2005, constituting 28.8% of the population. This is a remarkable portion of the population that can only be expected to grow as volunteering seems to be an increasingly popular trend in the country. Where and how people volunteer tends to vary, but the truth of the matter is that people are volunteering.

A new and exciting way to volunteer, travel, and learn about other cultures is to take a volunteer vacation. United Planet, an international, humanitarian non-profit organization, offers a variety of volunteer experiences called Quest in more than fifty countries around the world. Volunteers can work with orphans in Romania, work at an AIDS clinic in Kenya, teach English in Tibet, or restore the environment in Costa Rica. Clearly, anyone can find a program to match their interest. “This experience has really been one of a kind,” says Manisha Patel, of her Quest to Rangong, Thailand for Tsunami Relief. “Experiencing how local people live in any country is very interesting and exciting, and doing the voluntary work gives you a great opportunity to learn about a new culture and language, but at the same time you are being productive in helping others who are less fortunate than you. It was a great experience that I would love to be apart of again!”

The convenient feature about United Planet Quests is the openness of the programs. The Bureau of Labor found that the greatest reported reason for not volunteering was due to a lack of time. Time constraint, however, is not a problem for volunteers traveling through United Planet, as there are one-week trips to a number of destinations that can be life-changing. Jane Wootton explains, “I have completely fallen in love with Guatemala. I was (and still am) sad to have to leave, but keep reminding myself that I am lucky to have had an experience that was so meaningful.” Jane’s Quest was an extension of her work internationally, as United Planet can alter Quests to cater to a variety of professions. As a psychologist, Jane went to Guatemala to implement therapy programs with abused children. She explains, “The volunteer project was successful beyond my expectations. The children were incredibly receptive to the therapy groups I did. Even in just ten days, I really felt like I made an impact.”

The programs also appeal to those who are looking for a change in their lives. Programs from a couple of weeks or up to one year are a great way to gain perspective on where one wants to go next in life. “I gained so much more as a person both professionally and personally and loved the experience,” says former international volunteer Theresa Higgs, who spent 19 months working with youth in Niue, South Pacific. International volunteering not only provided Theresa with a better understanding about what she wanted to do with her career, but also shaped the choices she made when she entered the workforce. The experiences and lessons she learned abroad became valuable tools that she could offer to her employers. As she explains, “International experience gives you the edge over your competition. It shows your future employer that you are flexible, creative, and able to adjust to any given situation. No matter what field of occupation you plan to go into, what you learn through international volunteering is what every employer looks for.”

Now is the time to do it. From business professionals with only a week to spare or recent college graduates who don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives, United Planet Quests have something to offer everyone. United Planet’s mission is to enhance social and economic prosperity to form a community beyond borders. Anyone can become part of a trend that is actually making a difference in the world.

For additional information on the news that is the subject of this release contact Stephanie Leonard or visit www.unitedplanet.org.

About United Planet
United Planet is an international humanitarian and educational non-profit public charity with 501(c)3 status, based in Boston, USA. With members and volunteers in 150 countries, the organization is devoted to fostering cross-cultural understanding and friendship; supporting communities in dire need worldwide; and enhancing social and economic prosperity among cultures in order to unite the world in a community beyond borders. Visit us at www.unitedplanet.org.