Get Away, Give Back: Plan Your Ultimate Alternative Spring Break
Sure, everyone deserves a break after working hard all semester. But that doesn’t mean your only option is a getaway whose official dress code is bikinis and sombreros.
This year, start looking to the alternatives. Alternative spring break, that is. With options all across the country (and beyond), you can take a break from campus to build affordable housing, work with kids, or volunteer in myriad other capacities. Begin your search with these top organizations, which will give you the chance to travel, give back, and even kick back with fellow volunteers. (And don't forget that most schools also host their own outreach programs, too, so you can really make your uni proud).
Leave the details to Break a Difference. The alternative spring break organization has worked out all the logistics, partnering with charities across the U.S. while offering volunteers housing, meals, local transportation, as well as time off to see the sights. From assisting food banks and shelters in Baltimore to working with Hurricane Sandy-displaced families on the Jersey Shore, there are plenty of ways to pitch in – and give your karma a boost – this season.
Underpinned by three main objectives – improving education, promoting financial stability, and supporting health initiatives – influential organization United Way is also a great resource. This year, you can head to DC for a break that promotes young women leaders, to El Paso for affordable housing construction, and beyond, all while knowing you’ll be adding to the grand total of volunteer hours that the org has logged since 2006 (that’d be 112,000 so far!).
Already booked up this March? Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge program provides volunteering break opportunities all year round. Now in its 26th year, the challenge lets students form their own teams and pick from dozens of locations across the country for a tailor-made trip. Feel good about doing your part to build much-needed shelter (and hey, you may just tone up those biceps at the same time).
Like nothing more than strapping on your muddiest hiking boots and tromping around in nature? Leave the city behind on your alternative spring break, thanks to the American Hiking Society. The organization’s volunteer opportunities come in the form of trail stewardship projects that give back to Mother Nature – but also mean you’re in for some good s’more grilling and guitar strumming around the campfire.
From vibrant Chicago to sunny Southern California, you can still go to top destinations on your spring break – but with some volunteering and education on the side. The Sierra Club invites volunteers to participate in outreach programs all around the country, doing everything from cleaning up shorelines to digging into local ecosystems – while taking steps to sustain them for the future.
A specialist org dedicated specifically to boosting alternative spring break opportunities, the commendable Break Away pairs with universities to usher in change from the ground up, uniting groups of 10-12 students from the same campus on student-led service trips. In-depth meetings months before (and after) ensure that the full year encompasses community organizing (and bonding!), thoughtful preparation, and long-lasting reflection. It’s also got a huge resource full of partner organizations around the country, which adds up to literally hundreds of different volunteering options.
Feeling sort of…bored once spring break has come to a close? Just because you’re back to school doesn’t mean you have to put your newfound yen for volunteering on hold. A number of resources are there to assist: VolunteerMatch, available in app form, is one of the simplest ways to pair participants with local charities who need a bit of extra assistance. Idealist is another excellent option, with a collection of close to 12,000 volunteering positions alone. And then there’s always Volunteer.Gov. Problem. Solved.