Alternative Spring Break
Through volunteering and travel, we can grow to understand ourselves, the world, and the people we share it with.
Have you ever wanted to experience a different culture through the eyes of a local? If you volunteer abroad with us you will get that chance! All of our programs are completely immersive. You will be living, eating, working, and laughing with those you are helping. It can be an eye opening experience that brings lasting friendships and increased awareness about the world around you. So what are you waiting for? Volunteer abroad with Build Abroad today!
Volunteer Abroad on Spring Break!
There has never been a better time in human history than right now, in this moment to do something meaningful for others. It’s the perfect chance to take that trip you’ve always talked about – to leave the office behind and trade that keyboard for a shovel. Volunteering abroad affords you the opportunity to take a leap outside of your comfort zone and encounter something new. During your volunteer journey, you will experience unique values and traditions and come away with a new perspective on the world – and possibly yourself!
Billions of people need your help
1 billion +
People live in slums.
That number is growing. Fast.
⅓ of children
In developing countries live without adequate shelter.
4 million +
Classrooms are needed in the world’s poorest communities.
People lack basic sanitation. 1/3 of which lack clean water.
Here at Build Abroad, we feel that construction volunteering is the best way to give back to a community. Construction projects provide a physical impact in a community that will last for years. Over a month of volunteering, a team of volunteers can construct a school that will serve an entire generation of students. Likewise, in just a couple weeks a team of volunteers can turn a piece of land into a home for a needy family. Our building projects vary at each of our locations because each community has their own unique needs. Where as a community in Cusco, Peru might benefit from a new classroom, another village in Guatemala may be in dire need of a public toilet facility.
We focus on the following types of projects
In most cases, rural communities in developing countries are underprivileged and therefore do not have sufficient housing. Some of our projects allow volunteers to help build or repair someone’s home by assisting with roofing, masonry, carpentry, or painting. A home is much more than shelter overhead; it is a place for someone to feel safe and raise a family.
Natural disasters often cause many people to be displaced from their homes. In some cases, entire communities are destroyed and need to be rebuilt. There will always be a need for immediate disaster relief as hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes occur all over the world. In some of our locations, our building volunteers respond to natural disasters and help rebuild.
Many impoverished communities are denying children access to quality education because of lack of schools. The lucky communities that have schools are usually too small to hold all the children or are in poor condition. Construction volunteers can help perform critical school repairs or assist with the building of new classrooms for the community.
Water and Sanitation
One of the biggest health concerns in the world is inadequate sanitation and lack of clean water. This is an urgent global issue that must be addressed in order for people to live longer, healthier lives. On some of our projects, construction volunteers venture into rural villages to help construct toilets, dig for sanitation lines, or assemble water tanks for rainwater collection.
What is an alternative spring break?
Spring break has traditionally been a time to party and let off some steam before the stress of final exams and graduation. But many students are now deciding that rather partying on a beach for a week, they’d rather spend their time doing something meaningful and volunteering their time for a good cause.
Alternative spring breaks are an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others while having a rewarding and unforgettable experience yourself. Whether you opt to volunteer locally or head abroad for your alternative spring break, there are so many different fields you can work in and you might even learn a few important life skills along the way.
You might want to help build housing for disadvantaged communities in Thailand or hit the trails in the United States to support national park conservation work. Or you could spend your spring break fundraising for a local cause that has particular meaning for you through event planning or drives.
The options really are endless, meaning that no matter what your interests are, there is probably an alternative spring break to suit. And if you’re thinking this way, you’re not alone, as alternative spring breaks are fast becoming the new way to spend this much-loved holiday period.
Why go on an alternative spring break?
An alternative spring break is not only about making a difference in the lives of others (which it invariably will), but it’s also a great opportunity to travel, see other parts of the country or the world and learn new skills at the same time. It might be learning sustainable building techniques in a developing country or gaining a better understanding of the “ins and outs” of charitable fundraising back home. This time that might otherwise be spent lazing on the beach or partying until the early hours can be put to valuable use.
An alternative spring break also looks great on your CV, showing that you’ve taken the initiative to give something back to others in our global community. Most employers look favorably on volunteer work as a sign of a mature and level-headed individual, and someone that would be an attribute to their team.
An alternative spring break also gives you the opportunity to travel and see a bit of the world while being immersed in a completely different culture or community at the same time. Rather than visiting a country as a tourist and just seeing the sights, you’ll probably be working alongside local people on projects which matter to them, while gaining a unique insight into the issues that affect others.
Spending a week sunbathing by the beach and drinking in packed bars is definitely not for everyone. So if you’ve got an altruistic bone in your body, then an alternative spring break is the ideal way to indulge your interests.
Go it alone or with friends
You might be itching to get away on a solo adventure and see a bit of the world while giving back. Or the thought of leaving your family and friends for a week or two and traveling by yourself may be incredibly daunting. Whichever way you are feeling, you can still find a suitable alternative spring break.
Most alternative spring break projects are conducted in groups, so if you go it alone, you’ll immediately meet like-minded individuals from around the globe to share the experience (and probably make life-long friends). But you can also organize an alternative spring break with a close friend or group of friends, ensuring you have the support you need to really enjoy the experience.
Why not select a shared cause that you all care deeply about or (if your group is large enough) you may even be able to customize a volunteer abroad experience for your alternative spring break. Having people you know and are comfortable with around you will help to ease any culture shock you might experience and also make you more confident when it comes to interacting with local people.
For most people, their first trip abroad is a little bit scary, with so many unknowns to face. But volunteer abroad organizations make this as easy and smooth as possible, with staff there to meet you at the airport and organize all transport and accommodation logistics. The money you pay goes to ensuring that the projects you are working on are truly worthwhile for the local communities and that you have the necessary in-country support to enjoy your experience.
Fundraising for an alternative spring break
Whether you decide to hit a beach resort for a week or embark on a volunteer placement, it’s not going to be a free ride. If you’ve done a bit of research on alternative spring break programs and added up the costs with airfares and travel insurance, it may be out of your financial reach. But the good news is that, compared to traditional spring break vacations, volunteer placements as part of an alternative spring break can often be funded through scholarships, grants or your own fundraising work.
There are not so many organizations that would give you money to go and party for a week. But there are a lot who see alternative spring break programs as positive initiatives which work for the greater good of the world. It sometimes takes a bit of effort to secure funding or grants, but the rewards are that you can make your volunteer abroad placement a reality.
Think about local community organizations in your own backyard which might be willing to assist and check with your school or university if they have grants and scholarships for volunteer abroad placements. If you’ve got a part-time job, your employer or company might even be interested in sponsoring you and putting together an article for their clients on your experiences. The truth is, you just never know unless you ask.
If you are requesting funding via email, make sure you clearly outline where you plan to spend your alternative spring break and the volunteer organization you will be traveling with, as well as how it will benefit you in the long-term future as an active global citizen. If you think there are mutual interests that the organization or business may have with the destination or project you will be working on, then make sure you highlight this.
Also, keep in mind that many volunteer abroad organizations offer their own scholarships for people who choose to participate in their alternative spring break programs, so ask what opportunities are available when considering your application. They might also have good leads to other organizations that may be willing to sponsor you.
With the rise of online fundraising, it’s also possible to scrape the money together that is needed for an alternative spring break from absolute strangers. Sites like GoFundMe and Fundrazr are both great tools and resources for fundraising, with online tutorials to help your campaign reach its goal. You just never know who is out there wanting to help you make a difference.
How to find the alternative spring break that’s right for you
There are literally hundreds of different alternative spring break projects that you could participate in and choosing just one can be difficult. But a good idea is to start with recommendations from family or friends, as well as those that are offered through your school or university. Some educational institutions organize alternative spring break programs that you can travel and participate in as a group, while others may have volunteer abroad organizations that they endorse.
Alternatively, a quick online search will come up with plenty of other options, from working in your own backyard to traveling thousands of miles across the globe.
Habitat for Humanity runs a Collegiate Challenge each spring break, encouraging groups of 5 or more to get together to build safe and affordable homes throughout the United States. You can register the destination you are interested in traveling to and they will organize accommodation in volunteer centers or local churches for the week, with your days spent learning different building techniques and what goes into constructing safe housing
United Way runs similar week-long programs for their alternative spring breaks, with immersive service projects and leadership-building in destinations across the United States. You’ll be able to make a positive impact on disadvantaged communities across the country and learn about the challenges and issues facing different people while making life-long connections.
Break A Difference is another good port of call, partnering with United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA’s and other local nonprofits on projects across the United States. It’s designed to create leaders of tomorrow and a life of service, with participants selecting their preferred destination and cause (from hunger prevention to disaster rebuilding).
There are also a number of conservation-based alternative spring breaks which you don’t have travel too far to participate in. Mountain Justice runs volunteer camps along the Appalachian Trail where you can assist with ongoing maintenance work to ensure its tracks are safe and clear, while the American Hiking Society runs similar volunteer vacations in national parks and conservation areas across the United States. It’s a great way to get into the great outdoors during one of the most pleasant times of the year and connect with other like-minded individuals. Most trips involve backpacking and camping in the wilds, so for those who love being immersed in the wilderness, then this is a great way to give back at the same time.
If you prefer to travel further afield, then volunteer organizations like Build Abroad, Project Abroad and Volunteer HQ all offer week-long experiences in different countries. They are designed to coincide with the major university and school breaks, with itineraries that pack as much cultural immersion and learning in as possible. You could travel to Fiji to teach kindergarten-aged children, help build women’s shelters and orphanages in Costa Rica and Guatemala, assist on public health campaigns in Ghana or support post-earthquake rebuilding projects in Haiti. There are also exciting surf outreach programs in South Africa, environmental conservation work in the Philippines and agricultural assistance projects in Romania.
If you’re looking for something more specialized in your particular area of study or interest, then the good news is that there are many organizations that need your help. Medical and dental students will find a range of volunteer initiatives both at home and abroad where you can learn vital skills for your future career, while those studying law, journalism or human rights are also catered for. Architectural students might want to consider a construction project with Build Abroad where you will learn sustainable building techniques and their application in the developing world or disaster-hit areas.
If you’re having trouble deciding on the right alternative spring break for you, then ask yourself a few questions to help narrow it down:
Do you want to travel abroad (and if so where) or would you prefer to find a local placement within your own country? If you want to travel abroad, then consider any necessary visas and get an early start to ensure they are issued in time.
Do you want an alternative spring break that is related to your field of study or do you want to use the experience to delve into some of your other interests and hobbies?
Do you want to go it alone and join a project with other volunteers from around the world or do you prefer to get a small group of friends together and customize your own alternative spring break?
Do you have the funds to support the alternative spring break project you want to participate in and/or are there funding and grants available that will help to offset the costs?
Remember that an alternative spring break doesn’t need to be limited to a week, but can be extended for two weeks or even a few months if your studies and situation allow. There really are no rules about what you can and can’t do, except that you shouldn’t leave planning it to the last minute as your options will become more limited. So what are you waiting for?
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