Volunteering holidays are increasingly popular with everyone from gap year students to retired people but family volunteering holidays can also be a great option. The best volunteering trips work to support the local community as well as the volunteers. If you’re planning a volunteering trip it’s important to think carefully about the work you’re going to do and to make sure it’s not exploiting anyone. I’d advise against trips involving ‘orphans’ because of the problem of orphanage tourism. Responsible Travel have removed all volunteering trips to orphanages from their website because of this issue.
If you do your research carefully there are some great opportunities around the world for families with children of all ages to take part in voluntary work while on holiday, from helping to build a school in Kenya to beach cleaning in Wales to working with mahouts and their elephants in Thailand. Here are some of the best.
The Adventure Company has a range of family holidays involving voluntary work including turtle conservation in Costa Rica, caring for elephants in Tanzania and tree planting in Laos.
Families with children are welcome on Earthwatch trips: it’s up to individuals to decide what would be right for their children. One possibility is the Whales of southern California trip, where you can help with research into the human impact on marine mammals.
Camp Tsavo is an 80,000 acre private wildlife sanctuary run by the local community for Camps International, and is the base for their family volunteering trips. You’ll work to protect the elephants at the sanctuary as well as helping to refurbish a rural primary school.
Bales Worldwide offers a Kenya Volunteering Discovery trip which is open to families. The trip offers the chance to help build a school as well as game drives.
Hands Up Holidays offers family holidays that combine sightseeing with a taste of volunteering, such as helping penguins in New Zealand or building a school in Morocco.
You’ll take part in various projects in the Peruvian Amazonian rainforest during a trip to Manu with crees, a not-for-profit conservation organisation. Tasks include tracking jaguar, puma, tapir and peccary and helping to set camera and footprint traps.
You’ll get involved with a project providing nursery and after school care for local children on a trip to Cusco, Peru with Andean Trails. You’ll also have Spanish classes and stay with a local family.
Project Ecuador Family Adventure is a trip offered by G Adventures where you can help out at an organic farm as well as at a local primary school.
In Costa Rica you can help out at a biological research station on Veragua Rainforest Park private reserve.
Sierra Club is a U.S based environmental organisation which offers family volunteering trips to places such as Yosemite, the Rocky Mountains and Pyramid Lake, Nevada as well as Grandparents and Grandkids and Multigenerational trips.
The National Trust runs working holidays for families in the UK at their centres in Pembrokeshire, Norfolk, Yorkshire and Snowdonia. Trips combine conservation work with expert-led activities such as kayaking and photography. (We had a great time in Wales on one of these trips.)
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, but we were guests of the National Trust on a fab family working holiday in Pembrokeshire for a press trip.