Archive for the ‘Vacation Ideas’ Category

Lion’s Gate Portal – Volunteering With Lions

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Today, August 8 is 8/8, an auspicious day on many calendars, in metaphysical communities, and for astrology buffs. Called the Lion’s Gate Portal, this day has been celebrated since the time of the Mayan empire with ceremonies and rituals. In numerology, the number 8 represents power, prosperity, sovereignty, and the flow of energy.

In a lovely convergence of themes, today is also International Cat Day.

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In the spirit of the King of the Forest (and the much harder-working, more bad-ass female lioness, the Queen of the forest), here are a few volunteer opportunities around the world where you can work with lions!

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LEO Africa has a Big 5 Wildlife Monitoring and Conservation volunteer program in South Africa’s Marakele National Park. You’ll monitor predator numbers and behaviors and get deeply involved in conservation policies and practices of South Africa. Volunteers are a vital part of ongoing research. www.leoafrica.org

Wildlife ACT’s Fair Trade Tourism-certified wildlife volunteering includes an opportunity in Zululand, South Africa. Conservation volunteers work across five unique national parks and reserves where you’ll monitor lions and other endangered species, mapping their movement behaviors in morning and evening observational game tracking drives. Some programs also include darting and trapping animals for radio collaring to help with protection research. www.wildlifeact.com

Go ECO has volunteer programs at a Big Cat Refuge in South Africa as well as a Lion and Wildlife Conservation program in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. You’ll be deeply embedded in local cultures and help bridge understanding and protection of species in conflict with humans based on diminishing habitats. www.goeco.org

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Priderock Wildlife Refuge in Terrell, Texas needs volunteers to help provide an ideal enviroenment for their big cats. Groundskeeping, maintenance & repair, food prep as well as fundraising and development work are some areas you can work supporting and caring for confiscated and surrendered exotic cats. www.priderock.org

Conservation Africa has a Lion Conservation Experience in Kruger National Park in South Africa, working to reverse human injustices like captivity, canned lion hunts, cub cuddling for tourists, and farming lions for the bone trade. Discover more at www.conservationafrica.net

1 Year Until Tokyo Olympic Games – Are You Volunteering Yet?

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A year from now, all eyes will be on Tokyo for the Olympics, July 24 – August 9, 2020.

Volunteer application opportunities have closed for those who want to work at the Olympic Games and/or the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020 (last date to apply was in December 2018) but these links will give you information about opportunities and the process if you want to throw your (*official Olympic Games merchandise) hat in the ring for the next round.

Get a head start on planning for the next chance — 2022 Winter Olympics are in Beijing.

It takes thousands of dedicated volunteer souls to make Olympic magic happen.

Olympic Volunteers are used for myriad roles, including Ceremonies Production, Customer Service, Health Services, Operational Support, Press & Communication, Protocol and Languages, Sports, Technology, and Transport. The volunteer squad will number about 80,000 individuals!

It’s kind of a big deal, with many steps and interviews and training along the way, but what a hoot to be able to say at your next get together with friends that YOU are going to be helping make the Olympics happen. They even use volunteers to be in the “cast” of performers/dancers/marchers/etc for the opening ceremonies and medal ceremonies!

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These are the Tokyo Games mascots, “Miraitowa” and “Someity”

There is online training, then later, in-person training, and you get a full uniform specific to your volunteer placement, certificate of appreciation, local transportation, meals on days you work, exclusive gifts, and a whole slew of international friends and colleagues. You must be 18 years oldvand be available for ten days during the Olympic or Paralympic Games.

You are responsible for your own travel and housing during your stay, so start your planning early…like today! Full information and Frequently Asked Questions here.

The Paralympic Games are in Tokyo, following the Olympics, August 25 – September 6. There are 22 sports in the Paralympics for athletes with impairment (of muscle power, range of motion, limb deficiency/difference, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia (muscle tension/inability to stretch due to neurological condition), ataxia (lack of coordination due to neurological condition), athetosis (involuntary movement), visual impairment, intellectual impairment.

Paralympics volunteers take on roles similar to those of the Olympic Games — spectator guidance, competition operation, and media. Again, set your sites on Beijing for Winter Games 2022.

I’m a big giant fan of the Special Olympics organization (find your nearest Special Olympics office here and become a volunteer here) so the Paralympic Games are really special to me.

Inclusion is everything.

The city to Tokyo is also engaging 30,000 city volunteers to provide tourism and transport information (must be conversant in Japanese and have permission to reside in Japan for 5 or more days during the period of service).

Transform lives, including your own, by volunteering in programs like these.

Happy Birthday Dalai Lama — Volunteer to Celebrate

Dalai Lama quoteJuly 6, is the 84th birthday of His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

To celebrate, practice what HE preaches and find new ways to express compassion and connection in your world. One of his more famous quotes: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.

If you’re particularly inspired by him, here are a couple of Dalai Lama-specific volunteer opportunities to check out.

The Dalai Lama Center for Peace + Education, in Vancouver, seeks volunteers for all of its expanding programs, including their renowned “Educating the Heart” program. Find out more here.

Traveling to India? (Lucky you!) The Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education in Bangalore welcomes volunteers who, in return for their service, are able to learn the Tibetan language, Buddhist philosophy, and receive room and board while volunteering. Check out their needs and opportunities at this link.

Dalai Lama Fellows is a global program authorized by him, working with social innovators and those working toward worldwide peace, justice, and ecology. Several fellows of the program have developed and launched programs around the world that need dedicated volunteers. Find your perfect match here.

On Equal Pay Day Commit to Volunteering for Women

Today is Equal Pay Day, one of those oops-we’re-doing-it-wrong shake your head sorts of days…it is the day each year when a woman’s earnings from the year before would finally catch up to one year of a man’s earnings doing the same work.

Yep, still true, it takes until April for a woman to earn what a guy took home by last December. On average, full-time working women still only make about 79 cents to a dollar for a man (better than the 72 cents of a few years ago, but c’mon…really?)

The wage gap costs the average full-time working woman about $430,000 dollars over her lifetime. Here’s the perplexing other side of the coin, and I know we’re all ramped up about minimum wages and unskilled labor making more than military, and those are entirely separate issues (about which…surprise…I have some very specific views…) but if we CLOSE the wage gap, we could add as much as $4.3 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy by the year 2025.

Since that closing of the gap won’t happen today, in the meantime, while you add your name to this petition to stand up for equal pay, here are a few volunteer opportunities around the world that you might consider that are dedicated to equality for women:

Voluntourism, Killer Whales, and SeaWorld’s Tilikum

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Photo: Christopher Michel – CC License

You’ve likely seen, or at least heard about the documentary Blackfish, exploring the life and striving times of captive killer whales, or orcas, at SeaWorld marine parks. While SeaWorld has been goaded by the resulting uproar into some changes in planned habitat restructuring and living conditions for their largest resident animals, there are many who feel captive orcas can never be appropriate.

The main storyline of the film focuses on a particular whale named Tilikum. This 35-year-old cetacean over-earned the “killer” moniker by being responsible for the deaths of three people while in captivity for more than two decades. Now, SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida has announced that Tilikum has an infection from which he will not recover, and he is in declining health. It’s a rough life in a cement pool too small for comfort, no matter how attentive the care (and, to be fair, SeaWorld’s staff caretakers and medics are dedicated and skilled animal lovers) and many believe it has been tantamount to torturing the whale for the majority of his life.

The flip side of this difficult coin is the marine study of orcas in their natural habitat, like this brand new volunteer expedition from Earthwatch: Killer Whales and Their Prey in Iceland. The first of several offerings of this 12-day voluntourism service trip is offered in June of 2017, where you will help study the feeding behavior of orcas in Vestmannaeyjar in the Westman Islands in the south of Iceland. Some of your time will be on shore, some on boats, as you scan for whales and take detailed scientific research notes on behavior of individual whales. You’ll be thoroughly trained and also get up close and personal as you assist the scientist research team to collect small (non-harming) skin and blubber samples from whales to biopsy and record diet, pollutant levels, and genetic information. You’ll be living at the research field station in dormitory accommodations, cooking and sharing time and laughs with your fellow volunteers.

This is a leading study of the species, and, like all Earthwatch volunteer opportunities, the work you do actually advances scientific understanding–this work, in particular, will help establish policies to better protect killer whales.

Travelocity Doubles Down to Support Voluntourism

From my second post-earthquake voluntourism trip to Haiti in 2012

From my second post-earthquake voluntourism trip to Haiti in 2012

I loved the news that Travelocity is re-invigorating their commitment to voluntourism, making service travel desirable, and even in some lucky folks’ cases, available and accessible.

The company’s Travel for Good portal is bringing welcome eyeballs to the concept of voluntourism, a travel category that bloggers had been piling on lately, accusing heartfelt service travel seekers of being motivated by wealthy guilt or savior complexes, or just being spoiled rich kids. So misguided, jaded, and wrong—truly frustrating that they don’t recognize what’s going on out there in the real world, where more and more people are making significant differences every day.

With the travel category’s popularity has come the next wave of hucksters trying to rip well meaning folks off or get high fees paid to line their pockets, but that’s not new to the tourism world. I always heartily suggest would-be voluntourists ask lots of questions, talk to previous clients, and have crystal clarity about who initiated the project and why (projects should be generated by the community served, not outside agencies who are not fluent in the nuances of a community’s needs).

The Travel for Good program also brings a web-sticky element of competition into the mix, with a social media contest giving away travel expenses and donations to causes for contest winners.

Go explore. Let your imagination run wild about ways you can help. Enter the contest

and win an amazing voluntourism trip! For just about every cause you can imagine, there is a way to get involved to really help. Every step you make toward creating a more workable world is significant.

Reality Tours Open Eyes Around the World

Haiti Capital 2010

Haitian capital post-quake 2010

This travel company was recently brought to my attention, and I’m loving them: Global Exchange.

Their Reality Tours take clients to rich and intriguing destinations we might not even know we need to add to our bucket lists. North Korea, Afghanistan, Rebuilding Nepal, Iran (all places I would LOVE to go) and so many more, but the genuinely exciting part is the context in which you travel. To explore and discover human rights causes, or sustainability efforts, or post-disaster recovery, or food scarcity programs, women’s rights—it is issue-based travel and connection.

The company’s tag line is: “…an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic, and environmental justice around the world.” Their experiential education excursions connect deeply to communities and issues, and help make a real difference while fostering true understanding far more deeply than the levels we glean from most media. Over 100 trips a year to 40 destinations means you can absolutely find a trip that is meaningful and supports the issues about which you are passionate.

In addition to travel opportunities, their robust website offers plenty of other ways to get involved (including great “5-Minute Actions“), events, thoughtful blogs from past participants, and other programs. Go explore. Fair warning, you may disappear down the rabbit hole of intrigue the way I did, fantasizing about my next opportunity for impact travel.