the people square

a community serious about adventuring

11 Ways To Be Happier On Vacation

Did you know that volunteering abroad not only gives you the chance to give back to communities in need, but also increases your employability, improves your university admission chances, and helps you figure out what to do with your life?

Volunteering and working abroad is a unique experience that can immerse you in another culture, help you develop long-lasting friendships, and make an overall difference in the world. Why leave yourself only a fading tan and beach sand at the bottom of your bag to remind you of your worldly adventures when you could lend a hand and create an experience to last a lifetime?

1. Stand For Tibet

After losing their independence in 1949 to China’s newly formed Communist government, the Tibetan people have suffered immensely. The ruthlessly crushed uprising in 1959 (which led to the flight of H.H. Dalai Lama into exile), the devastation of the decade-long Cultural Revolution, and the disastrous Chinese-enforced agricultural and environmental policies have resulted in the loss of over 1.2 million Tibetan lives since 1950.

Over 130,000 Tibetans live in exile in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and other countries around the world. While they are now free to practice their religion and rebuild their cultural heritage, they face many challenges as newcomers in Tibet’s neighboring countries, especially in India.

Many exiles endured the treacherous conditions of the Himalayan mountains to escape the oppression of the Chinese Government and arrive in India and Nepal with little to support themselves and minimal education. This steady stream of newly arrived refugees depends upon existing projects and programs supported by government offices and NGOs in exile for education and basic sustenance.

Several non-profit organizations offer a chance for you to show your support, become more educated on the matter and spread the word. Volunteer Tibet started with the help of many volunteers and local Tibetans commemorating the Anniversary of the Nobel Peace award for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Since our inception we have received interest from literally thousands of people and enabled a diverse group of volunteers from all over the world to share their skills in the Tibetan community. http://www.volunteertibet.org.in/

Other ways to help support the Tibetan community: http://www.lhasocialwork.org/

2. Community Support, Cultural Exchange and Home Stays

By choosing a Culture & Community project, you will become an integral part of a local community abroad and see the heart of some of the most fascinating communities around the world. You will be contributing towards the preservation of some extraordinary ways of life and working with many local people to achieve a common goal.

3. Help Your Favourite Animal

Become a game ranger in Africa. Few jobs will give you a greater appreciation for the environment and deeper understanding of conservation issues than being a game ranger. Whether you’re passionate about conservation or simply wanting to get up close and personal with your favourite animal, volunteering at a wildlife reserve an experience that you’ll be sharing stories about forever after.

African Conservation Experience offers a two-week intensive game ranger course in Kruger National Park conservationafrica.net.

Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered and without urgent action could be the first Great Ape species to become extinct. SOS is dedicated to turning this situation around. We do this by: Raising awareness about the importance of protecting orangutans and their rainforest home. Supporting grassroots projects which empower local people to become guardians of the rainforests and restoring damaged orangutan habitat through tree planting programmes.  Campaigning on issues threatening the survival of orangutans in the wild. Help us protect orangutans, their forests and their future.

Many beach destinations around the world hold turtle sanctuaries and opportunities to help save many different turtle types. From leatherbacks to loggerheads, six of the seven species of sea turtles that swim the world’s oceans are threatened or endangered.  Help protect these inspiring creatures by bringing travelers and volunteer to key turtle hotspots. http://www.seeturtles.org/663/volunteer.html.

4. WWOOF

A world-wide organization linking volunteers with organic farmers, and help people share more sustainable ways of living since 1971. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), established in England, operates in more than 100 countries. Volunteers swap their services for meals, accommodation and a unique cultural experience.

Plant herbs in Central America, milk goats in Ireland or harvest seasonal fruits in Asia. Whatever the choice, you’ll make a positive contribution to a more thoughtful way of living and leave with new knowledge and skills in sustainable agriculture. wwoof.org

WWOOF does not select a farm placement for you, that’s up to you, and part of the fun. Make sure you are thorough in your research and ask the right questions. For tips on finding the right farm for you, read the article “Volunteer Worldwide on Organic Farms.”

5. Cultivation and Reforestation

About 93 percent of the world’s forest cover is natural forest and 7 percent is planted. 

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now” – Chinese Proverb

The act of planting the seeds of new life into soil is a special moment.  Statistics reveal that the rapid rate of deforestation, globally, springs from illegal logging operations. The biodiversity of the Amazon is threatened more than ever with the rise in statistics revealing that by 2030 the region would be reduced to a mere 10% of what it is today. Satellite images retrieved prove that the rate of tropical deforestation is down by yet another 23%. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization or UN FAO states that the rapid declines could bring the global forest cover to the size of the Asia Sub-continent by 2050 (buzzle.com).

Every year more than 8.5 million hectares of tropical rainforests are being razed.  More than 12 million hectares of forest land is lost to urbanization or allied activities each year and goes un-replenished. This has resulted in a rapid global decline in some regions. For example:

  • In Nigeria 81% of its original forest cover is now permanently lost.
  • The tropical rainforests of Brazil are less by 90-95%.
  • The forests of Central America are down by two-thirds lowlands, since 1950.
  • Countries like India, Mexico, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Sri Lanka, the Congo and Ghana have lost much more than 50% of their rainforest cover.
  • Harvesting of forest cover has left Afghanistan with a little over 25% forests throughout the country

In developing countries, wood- based fuels are the dominant source of energy for more than 2 billion poor people. In Africa, over
90 percent of harvested wood is used for energy. Wood is not the only resource taken from forests. About 80 percent of people in the developing world use non-wood forest products for health and nutritional needs and for income.

6. Save the World’s Reefs and Oceans
 While you’re planning your next dive vacation, why not plan to put in some time with one of the many organizations working to understand, monitor and protect marine habitat? Almost half of the world’s population depends on the sea for food and medicine and roughly 90% of ocean-related economic activity occurs in the shallow waters along the coasts which support a huge diversity of marine-life.
Reef Check is an international non-profit organization devoted to the following goals and objectives:
  • Educate the public and governments about the value of coral reefs and rocky reef ecosystems and the crisis facing them
  • Create a global network of volunteer teams, trained and led by scientists, that regularly monitor and report on reef health using a standard method
  • Facilitate collaborative use of reef health information by community groups, governments, universities and businesses to design and implement ecologically sound and economically sustainable solutions
  • Stimulate local action to protect remaining pristine reefs and rehabilitate damaged reefs worldwide especially through the creation of Marine Protected Areas.
Reef Check conducts a three-day Eco Diver certification course so that you can contribute to their ongoing worldwide reef survey during your dive vacation. reefcheck.org 

7. Adopt a Beach

Adopt A Beach Hawaii runs monthly beach cleanups and other eco-events, collects data on marine debris and works to improve recycling systems at local beach parks on the island of Oahu. You can help Adopt A Beach by volunteering for a beach cleanup (by yourself or with a group), contributing community appreciation gifts or donating money.

Clean a Beach Local Foundations take your family and friends to participate in a beach cleanup: There is a cleanup almost every weekend if you explore opportunities with the Surfrider Foundation, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, Adopt-A-Beach Hawaii and Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.).

8. Share Your Knowledge

Kenya has been hit hard by the HIV/AIDS epidemic with approximately 1.25 million adults and over 100,000 children infected. The aim of the HIV/AIDS program is to decrease the spread of HIV through raising awareness and education, increasing access to home care, and providing emotional support to those affected by HIV/AIDS within the community. Education and counselling is crucial to preventing the spread of HIV. With education and counseling, people are empowered to make decisions which will prevent the spread of HIV and an understanding will be created to lessen the stigma of the disease. Volunteers have an opportunity to be involved with education and counselling community and school groups, and individuals.

8. Teach English

English is very much the language of the world. To have English skills today is tantamount to future success and development.  If you have a good command of written and spoken English, plenty of initiative, determination, motivation and patience then you can be instrumental in teaching English to those keen to learn.  (You don’t need any formal teaching qualifications for this program.)

Teaching English in underserved communities can increase educational and employment prospects for people who would not normally have the opportunity to learn English. In many of the communities where we work, language barriers can make it difficult to compete for sought-after opportunities. Since these communities are often low-income, many cannot afford formal English lessons.

10. Skills Teaching

Help to empower underprivileged community members with the education and resources they need to be self-sustainable and successful in their future endeavors. Increase their social, educational, and professional resources by sharing your professional skills and experience, including computer skills, vocational skills, or even English language skills. Providing an educational exchange with adults can improve job prospects, boost self-confidence, increase access to new opportunities, and lead to a better quality of life for them and their families. Volunteers provide support in a variety of settings, including educational centers and local NGOs, working directly with individuals as well as organizations on a wide variety of activities. Contributing your skills and experience to community-led organizations will improve and expand their capacity to serve their communities effectively, and support the organization’s goals.

11. Be a Good Global Citizen

Remember you are representing your country abroad. What you do and how you act are unfortunately always being judged and examined by others. When those watchful eyes find out where you are from stereotypes about people are made. Whether we like to admit it or not, we do care what the world thinks of our nationalities and where we come from. Everyone wants a positive reaction when people find out where you are from; “Oh, you’re from Canada?! Everyone I meet from Canada is so friendly.” Something that even politicians and corporations should take into account.

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions. Dalai Lama


More fabulous links here for volunteering abroad.

9 comments on “11 Ways To Be Happier On Vacation

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