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Adventure Voluntourism for Teen Travelers

Today’s teens are developing an appetite for traveling and volunteering. A recent analysis done by the Family Travel Forum (FTF) revealed “at least 51% of American teens have traveled outside the U.S. by their 18th birthday, and that 15% more of these young travelers were involved in service projects compared to 2007 results.” FTF editor, Kyle McCarthy, said, “The 15% increase in teen voluntourism seen since last year may be due to a heightened awareness of our interconnected world, from the environment to Darfur to President Obama’s campaign for change.” Community service is not just another padding for college applications; rather, teens today are compelled to help those in need and they are looking for fun and meaningful travel.

Many companies are ready to offer these travel opportunities. Wilderness Ventures offers community service adventures for teens — domestic and international service trips that are designed with 40 to 80 hours of community service while simultaneously offering opportunities for fun, outdoor adventures, and personal growth. The goals of these programs are “to limit monotonous travel time, to provide meaningful cultural and environmental service projects and to take advantage of the adventure component.”

The service groups of 10-15 students with 2 leaders spend their summer camping in one or two base camp settings and engage in service projects. Between service projects, these groups take part in outdoor adventure activities such as whitewater rafting, sea kayaking or hiking trips. These trips enable participants to make positive contributions to the environment and to local communities — learning experience of a lifetime!


Photo: Wilderness Ventures

Wilderness Ventures offers 4 domestic service trips (Hawaii, Yellowstone, Southwest, Alaska) and 4 international service trips (Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Fiji). These trips run through the summer, ranging from 16-21 days, and cost $4,000-$5,500. The company donates supplies to local projects.

Here are some highlights of their trips:
Hawaii Service Projects — Hiking the Island of Hawaii, sea kayaking the Kona Coast, exploring Kilauea Volcano, helping to build a house in Hilo, sailing and snorkeling the Hawaiian Coast, building trails in the Kona Hema Preserve, surfing the big island, and earning 40 hours of community service.

Alaska Service Trips — Volunteering at a salmon hatchery, hiking while rebuilding Alaska’s trails, discovering Alaska’s cultural heritage, Rafting at the Blanchard River, Experiencing Alaska by bush plane, sea kayaking near Humpback Whales, and earning 60 hours of community service.

Peru Service Trip – Learning the Spanish language, exploring historic Cusco, assisting Andean villagers, helping build a village school, rafting the Apurimac River, trekking the Lares Trail and exploring Machu Picchu, sea kayaking on Lake Titicaca, living with Uros villagers and earning 60 hours of community service.

Check out these other organizations offering adventure voluntourism for teens:
Free the Children (FTC): An international network of children helping children at a local, national, and international level through representation, leadership, and action. The FTC offers resources for peace building, international education, and social justice conferences and events. FTC is the umbrella organization for Leaders Today, www.leaderstoday.com , which offers unique international volunteer trips for teens to engage in service learning, teach English, build primary schools, and work alongside community members. Different trips are offered each year. www.freethechildren.com

Global Routes: Overseas volunteer work opportunities for high school students in Belize, Ghana, Mexico, China, Guadeloupe, Peru, Costa Rica, India, Thailand, Ecuador, and Kenya. www.globalroutes.org

VISIONS Service Adventures: VISIONS provides international community service programs for teenagers. Programs blend authentic service, cultural immersion, and adventurous exploration in communities in North, Central and South America, the Caribbean West Indies, and Vietnam. Live in the heart of a host community whose members become friends. www.VisionsServiceAdventures.com


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