Familyvolunteering-1_a93fc33fa8944afed434679643c668a7

A Volunteering Adventure of a Lifetime

Are you and your family ready for the adventure of a lifetime? An adventure that is special, once-in-a-lifetime, never-forget, talk-about-for-years-to-come kind of adventure? Well we’re going to introduce you to the amazing world of family volunteering holidays.

What exactly are they? As a family, you can choose from a number of organisations that arrange volunteering adventures, and off you go into the big wide world to help out people, animals or the environment, or whatever you think will give your family the best cultural experience. This type of family adventure will probably be one of the best things that you will ever do and will without a doubt be life-changing; you might even become addicted to it and never take a traditional holiday again!

Giving back has a feel-good factor second-to-none and the mere act of helping others out is a truly invigorating experience.  By going forth and helping out those in need, you’ll be giving your kids hands-on life skills that are difficult to teach; they need to be experienced. You’ll expose them to the great big world around them in ways that are hard to beat and they will become global citizens who appreciate the art of giving back.

If you’re planning on taking a family volunteering adventure, then we’re here to help. We’ve compiled a list of the top family volunteering organisations. We’ve looked at the types of experiences that they offer, their track record as well as safety; these are all important things to consider before embarking on this type of journey. 

Get ready for the experience of a lifetime. 

Global Volunteers

Why Global Volunteers?

Passionate about helping kids? Then this could be the adventure for you. These guys have been around for 20 years and have walked the walk, and talked the talk in every way. In fact their motto is ‘Leave your mark on the World’ and that in itself is enough to get you excited about the possibilities. They “helped lay the foundation for what became known a decade later as ‘Volunteer Vacations’”. Their mission is to change lives by encouraging families like you to nurture the wellbeing of children worldwide. This is an organisation that you can trust to get the best out of your volunteering journey.

How do they score on family friendliness?

They have volunteering missions which can cater to almost any type of family and they allow kids as young as 6 can work side by side with you. For the last 20 years they’ve actually had tens of thousands of volunteers and they’ve kept a top safety record right from the start. There are minimum age requirements for different destinations but you can travel to China, Ecuador, Peru, Poland and many others. Take a look at their age requirements so you can plan your volunteering holiday to suit your family. You can expect adventures like helping to provide essential services to communities like childcare and teaching, helping grow gardens, as well as a complete immersion in cultural villages. Of course each volunteering expedition is dependent on your kids’ ages, so always double check.

Visit their website for more information. 

Cross-Cultural Solutions

Why Cross-Cultural Solutions?

These guys are a not for profit organisation who address critical global issues through volunteer work in communities and through this work they help out local economies. They are seen as a leader in international volunteer travel which they’ve been doing for over 18 years. Their approach is to actually get the input of the local community and create volunteering options around these community needs. So it’s not just about what they think a community wants it’s all about what a community actually needs. They’ve built long-term relationships with local organisations and have been dealing with them for years; this in itself says something about them. They’ve given the experience of a lifetime to over 300,000 international adventurers, have over 300 staff in 10 countries and boast a 99.5% volunteer satisfaction record. Pretty impressive stuff. Safety is a number one priority for them, so you know that as a family you’ll be safe and sound wherever your travels may take you.

How do they score on family friendliness?

Most of the countries that they work in accept children from 8 years old, except South Africa, Morocco and Costa Rica. But you’ve still got a huge choice of destinations like Tanzania, Thailand, India, Brazil and more. They know that each family is unique so you will work with a consultant who’ll help you find the best volunteer programme to suit you and your family. You can expect things like helping to teach kids, looking after the elderly as well as people with disabilities or even helping to improve healthcare. If you can’t find something that really ticks all the boxes and you’ve got a unique skill, they’ll work with you to match you with a specific project. That is awesome! Check with them first about which destinations and projects that are suitable for the ages of your kids.

Check out their website for further information. 

International Volunteer HQ

Why International Volunteer HQ?

They’ve been up and running since 2007 and have built themselves a reputation as a world leader in affordable international volunteer programmes. So if cash is a bit tight, then these could be the people to go with. Even though they are a considered ‘affordable’ you don’t lose out on the experience. They also place thousands of volunteers each year and their reviews are quite impressive. Something that stands out about this organisation is the fact that all of their directors have visited the locations, slept there, volunteered there and eaten the food. They know exactly what’s going on. They’ve also been consistently rated as one of the top volunteer travel companies on loads of independent review sites.

How do they score on family friendliness?

They certainly seem to have their ducks in a row. They can accommodate children from the age of 3, which is unusual but great if you’ve got younger kids. They do however stress that families with younger kids should stay where homestay accommodation is available. The countries that offer this are Bali, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Morocco, Nepal, Peru and Tanzania. So, that’s quite some choice you have there. You also need to work with them, to find the best programme for your family. They recommend that the best family friendly projects are around childcare, orphanages and even conservation projects. So, there are heaps of projects to choose from. They’ve got local support teams on the ground, so you won’t be left out in the dark. They also take safety really seriously, and you know you’ll be placed in trustworthy programmes, which have all been screened. These guys have pretty much covered it all. They aim to make the best out of every experience and you know that whatever project you take on, you’re going to be making an impact as a family.

Check out their website to read more about them 

United Planet

Why United Planet?

They are very focused on building relationships, which is a good thing; they build relationships with their communities as well as their volunteers; this helps them match families to projects in a unique way. They were founded in 2001 on the basis of encouraging more people-to-people connections across all sorts of different cultures. They are really quite serious about cultural immersion…in fact; they claim that they give 100% cultural immersion programmes. To make that claim they must be doing a pretty good job of it. You’re also fully supported and fully trained with regards to your trip and health and safety, before you head off into the great unknown; so it will actually be a little less unknown and slightly more familiar. They even organise things like local dancing and local cooking classes…how cool is that. They take safety seriously too and they give you emergency cell phone numbers of the co-ordinators in that country, the UP Home Office as well as your insurance company. All the programmes are fully vetted, so you can rest easy. You’re also given a full orientation from the in-country coordinator when you arrive. Very cool indeed.  

How do they score on family friendliness?

They have locations where families with younger children can go, and they specifically recommend orphanages. This is due to the fact that all the kids can play together, teens can help with loads of different tasks and adults can teach; so the whole family benefits from this while helping people and gaining insight into new worlds. There are three destinations they suggest for families with younger children; Peru, Nepal and Romania. Get in touch with them to discuss the specific needs of your family and check out their website.

Global Citizens Network

Why Global Citizens Network?

Let’s just take this one little nugget of information to quickly explain why you should consider Global Citizens Network (GCN). Since 2007 National Geographic, The New York Times, Oprah Magazine and Budget Travel have given them the highest recommendations. So for such big players to sing their praises, they’ve got to be good. They’ve also got over 20 years of experience in arranging the most awesome cross-cultural trips for families.  GCN are also big on building relationships with their indigenous communities around the world; these relationships are what makes a programme work or not, and their programmes work. You are immersed deeply into cultural experiences within the community.

How do they score on family friendliness?

Here family is what it’s all about, in fact they’re known for their family friendly approach to their projects. In the cultures and places they visit, kids are a natural part of the daily life of the community. What this means for you is that volunteers are often more accepted and welcomed when children are a part of the team. GCN believe that children have a certain openness that can actually speed up connections made, which helps everyone. They cater for kids from the age of 8 and up, but you can chat to them if you’ve got younger kids, they might be able to accommodate you. They’ve actually created a ‘Family Friendliness Chart’ so that you can really consider all your options before deciding on your destination. Just as an example here are some of the destinations that are extremely family friendly; Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru, Tanzania, Minnesota and Mexico. So there are heaps to choose from. Some of the types of work you can expect are helping build community centres, building goat pens and water retention systems, playing with kids and taking care of them as well as teaching.  Safety is immersed in everything that they do so no worries there.

Check out their website for more information and you can check out their family friendly guide too.

So there they are in all their glory, the best of the best family volunteering organisations. If you’re planning on a trip like this, make sure you do your research, choose the right destination, but most of all immerse yourself in the adventure and have fun! 

About the Author

Lisa Steyn (51 Posts)

I’m a marketer by profession and a writer by nature. I discovered writing as my passion years ago, and have loved every bit of it, particularly writing for families in order to help them have fun and improve their lives. I’ve travelled the world extensively, lucky me! To make me happy put me next to the raging sea, or the calming mountains, and to get me firing on all cylinders send me on a wildlife safari!


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