CNN Features Voluntourism Again

It’s that time of the year for the mandatory alternative spring break article, interesting though how its about domestic volunteering and not international travel this year.

FYI – Better Homes & Gardens’ March issue has a whole story on international voluntourism in the back as does Delta’s in flight mag.

(CNN) — This spring break, thousands of college students will ditch the bars and the beaches to do something more meaningful with their vacation time.

Brad Vonck (bottom, left) and other student volunteers worked with the Cherokee Nation in Stilwell, Oklahoma.

Brad Vonck is one of them. A sophomore at the University of Illinois, Vonck will travel to San Juan, Texas, in a group of 13 students to volunteer with La Union del Pueblo Entero, an organization that helps strengthen the communities and lives of farm workers and their families.

“Learning about different cultures is very important to me,” Vonck said. “I like to engage in different areas of life that I don’t really understand.”

Every year, more and more college students, like Vonck, are choosing to spend their valuable time off from school participating in “alternative spring break” programs — community service-based opportunities dealing with the most pressing issues of the day, including hunger and homelessness, disaster relief and global warming.

“If you can name a social issue, then students are doing trips around it,” said Jill Piacitelli, executive director of Break Away, an organization that trains and helps colleges across the United States promote alternative break programs.

For the past six years, these programs have been growing in popularity among college students. Break Away estimated that this year, nearly 65,000 students will participate in its alternative break programs, an 11 percent increase from 2008.

“It’s a student-led social movement. … This is a group that very much wants to be involved in the world around them,” Piacitelli said of the volunteers. “They’re solution-oriented. They want to innovate and lead and involve their peers.”

The average domestic trip costs around $250 or $300, Piacitelli said, which includes “housing, travel, social activities, food and often a donation to the community.”

Many university programs offer financial aid and the option to raise money to help pay for trips. “It is rare that anyone who wants to go on a trip cannot go,” Piacitelli said. The affordability is part of the reason why so many students return for second or third trips.


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