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4 seniors: Volunteer vacations close to home and abroad

OKLAHOMA CITY – Volunteer vacations are a great alternative to the normal vacation, and it is a growing trend among retirees.

There are many organizations that offer short-term volunteer vacation projects in the U.S. and abroad, lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Common programs include teaching English, working with children and teens, building and repairing homes and schools, and assisting with community or environmental projects.

Volunteer vacations also give travelers the opportunity to experience the culture more fully and connect with the locals.

Costs usually range from $1,000 to $3,000 per week, not including transportation to the country site is in. Fees typically cover pre-trip orientation information, room and board, on-site training, ground transportation, services of a project leader and materials.

If the organization running your trip is a nonprofit, the cost of your trip, including airfare, is probably tax-deductible.

Some of the organizations that attract a lot of retirees include:

  • Global Volunteers: This group tackles hunger, poverty and educational needs. It offers a variety of one, two and three-week service programs in 17 countries, including the U.S.
  • Earthwatch Institute: With an emphasis in environmental conservation and research, they offer dozens of one and two-week expeditions in countries all over the world.
  • Cross-Cultural Solutions: Based in New York, they focus on health, education, and economic volunteer opportunities in Central and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
  • Biosphere Expeditions: Offers wildlife conservation expeditions in 13 countries.
  • Habitat for Humanity: Offers international house-building trips through its Global Village Program in more than 40 countries.
  • Sierra Club: This environmental group sponsors dozens of service trips in the U.S. each year.

To decide which trip to take, think about where you want to go and for how long. Also, what kinds of work are you interested in doing? You may also want to think about living situations and accommodations.

You can then ask the organization to send you more information about the accommodations, the fees, their refund policy, the work schedule, work details and anything else you have questions about. You can also ask to call previous volunteers.