Feeling a bit of wanderlust? Want to do something different this spring break? Well, pack your bags! There’s nothing like getting away from school for a week and having a wild (or not so wild) time with good friends. Spring break is a moment to recharge and have fun—but it can also be a chance to open your heart and mind, reach out and do good, and create amazing relationships.
The phrase “alternative spring break” (ASB) usually means volunteering for spring break, a very rewarding way to spend your time off. If your last spring break was a blur of bad hangovers, overpriced meals, and crowded beaches, an ASB will be a whole new adventure.
Spring Break Volunteer Opportunities
If you have a green thumb, you might consider a stint at the San Cristobal Botanical Garden in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, where volunteers help create shelter for regional flora and fauna, and participate in an epifita propagation program.
Also in San Cristóbal de las Casas, work with the Museum of Mayan Medicine and the Organization of Indigenous Doctors to help preserve indigenous knowledge and traditions and prevent biopiracy.
While other spring breakers may travel to Costa Rica to while away their days at a beach resort, you can improve the lives of local Costa Rican children by offering your time instead. Choose from volunteering to help with child care, improving facilities, or teaching English in the town of Liberia.
Costa Rican beaches serve as nesting grounds for several species of sea turtles and many conservation groups offer volunteer opportunities to work with the turtles including, patrolling the beaches, rescuing and incubating eggs, tracking turtle movements, and assisting with community education about the importance of animal preservation. Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park and Curú National Wildlife Refuge are just two of several nesting grounds.
Volunteer with an HIV/AIDS education and outreach program and work with local, community-based organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS prevention education through workshops, street performances, and written materials. Locations include Antigua, Guatemala City, Flores, and several more rural destinations.
Conservationists can volunteer with an environmental protection and reforestation project to help plant and care for trees, and harvest and process nuts on this macadamia farm in San Miguel Duenas, near Antigua.
Assist with archaeological conservation efforts at Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll help archaeologists clean, restore, and repair ancient walls, learn procedures for preparing and carrying ancestral materials, and assist in educational efforts promoting conservation.
If restoring ancient structures isn’t your thing, try your hand at more modern renovation work near Cusco. There are several short-term construction projects working on many stated-owned buildings in disrepair.
No Passport? No Problem
Want to find out if the stars at night, are big and bright…deep in the heart of Texas? Well here’s your chance. This alternative travel opportunity from Cultural Embrace partners with local NGOs to combine educational and humanitarian work with fun, social, and multi-cultural activities.
Grand Canyon, AZ
Take in the outstanding natural beauty of the Grand Canyon with a challenging outdoor volunteer project from the National Parks Service. Common projects include vegetation restoration, trail maintenance, and fencing repair. There are also projects to help protect local endangered species. Similar volunteer opportunities are available at most national parks.
New York City, NY
A surprising number of birds, small mammals, amphibians, and other wildlife live alongside the 8.2 million people that reside in New York City. With this volunteer opportunity from Earthwatch Institute, you’ll travel to various research sites in and around Manhattan, as well as to some rural areas within 100 miles of the City. At each site, you’ll sample wildlife and habitat quality.
La Push, WA
The Quileute tribal council of La Push (a tiny fishing village on the Pacific coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula) invites volunteers working with the Global Citizens Network to work in partnership with their community. Most projects will focus on maintaining Quileute culture, language, and way of life.
Things to Consider
Your budget, the location of your trip, and the length of your break are just a few considerations when planning your trip. Be sure to look closely at the organization you’ll be volunteering with. Some companies offer all-inclusive packages with transportation and accommodation. Others allow for more free time, or may require additional planning on your part.