Volunteer Expeditions strives to gain an understanding about the rights and needs of those in poverty, the dignity of life and the necessity to reach beyond ourselves in giving.
Every volunteering organization works to illustrate the importance of volunteering and voluntourism as a form of social activism—something concrete and meaningful that every single person can do to change the world we live in for the better. As the industry grows, organizations that offer many different types of volunteering experiences have taken the lead. But appealing to the largest number of people isn’t enough. The volunteering opportunities an organization offers must also fall in line with their mission. They must be able to sustain their projects, maintain healthy relationships with local communities, and make sure their travelers are having a positive and safe experience overseas. The organizations that do this well rise to the top, bolstered by positive volunteer and community feedback. But I think, for a new organization, navigating the first few years can be extremely difficult.
Every new organization must redefine “volunteering” because the word can mean so many different things. It can refer to a day-long experience, like a class, seminar, or keynote speech. Or it can refer to a year-long expedition deep into the wilderness to work hard and live simply. The organization must choose a level of involvement, commitment, and effort. They must conceive of a mission statement, asking themselves what they’re doing and why, who they are helping and how much of a lasting impact will result from their efforts. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about volunteering organizations and I’ve found that focusing on how an organization tackles these questions says a lot about what it’s made of.
I recently discovered Volunteer Expeditions, a non-profit organization with an emphasis on service and learning. They are focused in New Orleans, Jamaica, Chicago, and Washington D.C. and in all four places they strive to meet the very specific needs of the people. I think this laser focus alongside Volunteer Expeditions’ willingness to cater to people of all sorts (individuals, couples, groups, kids, etc.) sets them apart. Their mission: “To create a more compassionate world by organizing volunteer trips for groups; to give back to society through service, advocacy and education; to make a positive impact in the communities we serve; and to bring people of different backgrounds together with a common goal of rebuilding impoverished communities.”
Volunteer Expeditions works to rebuild cities and to teach children. Their projects are ongoing and long-term and they offer bite-sized week-long trips with carefully scheduled itineraries for people of all sorts (including spring breakers!)