While most people opt to do a volunteer program solo or accompanied by a close friend, there’s no reason why it can’t become a family affair. Head off with your mom or dad, make plans with one of your siblings, or get the entire family on board. It’s an incredible way to give back to a worthy cause while doing some all-important family bonding at the same time. So what do you have to lose? Get out and volunteer with your family!
Volunteering with your family can include a diverse range of options, with everything from working at your local zoo on weekends to spending a few weeks abroad in the developing world. You can take your toddlers with you to assist in a childcare program overseas or head interstate with your teenage kids to camp out while contributing to wilderness conservation projects.
And while there are definite advantages for other communities, wildlife or the environment for your volunteer efforts, you’ll also see a few distinct benefits for you and your family relationships.
Strengthening family bonds through volunteering
Volunteering with your family can be an incredible way to strengthen your bonds, working together for a common cause away from the stresses of daily life. Whether you’re positioned abroad in a developing country or working in disadvantaged communities back home, being exposed to real world issues can put your own in perspective.
If you’ve grown apart over the last few years or are having disagreements, this is the ideal opportunity to put your differences aside and reconnect again. Having a new setting and inspiring goals can redefine the way you look at the world and the importance of having family around you. Volunteering also creates an energetic and positive atmosphere which you can harness as a family to have a lot of fun, despite being hard at work.
Get out of your comfort zones
Deciding to volunteer with your family can be a great strategy for getting you and your loved ones out of your comfort zones, challenging you to try out and achieve things you never expected. In a world where stress, depression and self-doubt are affecting an increasing number of people, volunteering is a strong counteractive tool. It empowers people to believe in themselves and the impact they can have on the world around them, making a significant difference in the lives of other communities.
Learn about other cultures, humility and hard work
When you volunteer with your family, it is the perfect time for parents to teach their children about compassion, kindness and humility. Helping others directly through your own time and labor is an ideal opportunity to foster caring citizens and community members, as well as establish a global outlook that strives for equality for all. Whether you head overseas or stay within your home town, chances are you will meet a new community of people and establish life-long friends.
If you’re heading abroad, you will suddenly be immersed in a completely different culture and way of living, which will broaden your horizons about the diversity of our world. Perhaps it will inspire your children to travel independently in the future, which will open up a world of opportunities to them.
Deciding how to volunteer with your family
Volunteering as a family should be a joint decision, with your destination or activity incorporating the interests of all members. You might want to organize a food drive, help paint local community infrastructure or work behind-the-scenes at a theater in your own neighborhood. Or if you have a shared passion (say basketball or gardening), you can find local initiatives that help you pass on your skills to others.
You could travel interstate to camp out and work on a national park trail building program while being immersed in an inspiring natural setting. Or head overseas to help build schools in remote rural communities or work at a turtle hatchery on an idyllic beach.
If you can’t decide on one volunteer activity, many programs allow you to mix and match, perhaps doing a week of building work combined with a week of wildlife or environmental conservation. You can also combine a couple of weeks volunteering with a few days of vacation afterward, helping to convince any family members who aren’t so keen on spending their holiday time hard at work.
You can also opt to volunteer on a more regular basis (such as at weekends or once a month) if you don’t have the time available to commit to a few weeks away from work or school. It’s important to establish as a family what your volunteering goals are and how much time you can commit, as this will largely determine where you can go and what you can do.
How much does it cost to volunteer with your family?
Volunteering as a family can cost absolutely nothing (aside from fuel or transport to get to your location) up to a few thousand dollars if you plan on heading overseas for an organized volunteer abroad program. Many local volunteer initiatives only require your time and energy to participate, while paid volunteer abroad programs have a set fee which usually covers accommodation, food, in-country transport and often assistance in securing visas and travel plans.
If you have the funds available to travel abroad, then going with an established organization is a great way to do it as you’re guaranteed to have support from their staff in the lead-up and throughout your volunteer abroad program. Some organizations also run specific family volunteer projects with activities that cater to all age ranges and the opportunity to share the experience with other families from across the globe.
You can normally opt to volunteer abroad for as little as a week up to a few months, allowing you to plan around school/university holiday periods or your work commitments. Most volunteer programs offer free weekends for you to explore the local sights as a family, as well as planned excursions with transport and guides included. You might also be accommodated in homestays and will experience first-hand the local lifestyle and have the opportunity to connect with your host family, as well as your own.