Posts Tagged ‘volunteer vacation’

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

adult and young orcas in wild

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.

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.

Carnival Cruise’s Fathom Line – Cruising With a Social Mission

Adonia for Fathom Carnival Cruise

The Adonia

The cruise industry gets lots of grief for the huge impact they have on the environment, burning vast reserves of fuel to move their skyscraper-sized vessels through the seas. There’s also lots to pick on about port villages created just for them and the impact that has on local communities and cultures, the insane amount of food waste on a sailing, and more…but I’m a firm believer in pointing out what companies are doing right, wherever I find it. Especially when it concerns making a positive difference in the world.

Carnival is launching a new cruise line called Fathom Impact + Travel, with the specific mission of taking guests on vacations where they will volunteer at social projects. The first voyage will be on the 710-passenger “Adonia” bound for the Dominican Republic in 2016. Once they arrive in the D.R., passengers will participate in projects including English language instruction, reforestation initiatives, water purification projects, and help harvest at a women’s cocoa co-op. Their model of “Impact Travel” is scaled for growth in subsequent years, with a target of 35,000 volunteer visitors in year one.

Fathom Cuba is also the line that will handle the new cultural exchange voyages to Cuba, specializing in person-to-person experiences and cultural immersion with humanitarian projects.

I, of course, have concerns as I do with any large scale drop-in volunteer gig, about the sustainability of projects and community impact in the down times when no boatloads of passengers are there. I’d love to go on a Fathom voyage and get a deeper understanding of the long-range plans for the brand’s evolution. If you go–please let me know about your experience in the comments below or contact email. I love that the company sees that the market is there for this kind of travel on a large scale. That says something positive about travel in general, and our priorities as members of a global family.

Best Shark Week Finale – Volunteer for Sharks

shark turning in shallow dappled waterWe’re coming into the home stretch of Discovery Network’s Shark Week, that ratings bonanza that strikes gold in the channels’s viewership numbers and strikes fear in the hearts of some swimmers (though we know you are waaaayyyy more likely to die of the flu or crossing the street than of ever having a dangerous encounter with a shark). Let’s face it, if they wanted to, they could snack on us quite a bit, but they are absolutely human averse. They could never really even the stakes, however, considering  the millions of sharks we slaughter every year for their fins and cartilage—often unnecessarily cruelly.

so let’s look at some ways to counter the Da-Dum, Da-Dum Jaws soundtrack that thunders in your head every time you dip a toe in the surf (or jump in a pool or fill your bathtub). Volunteering with this world’s amazing shark populations is a great way to counter the press-inflated stories about shark attacks and understand these magnificent creatures. I’ve been lucky enough to have experiences with different sharks, from Great Whites to Whale Sharks to nurse, black-tip reef, and others…and look forward to many more. Sharks rock!

Enkosini Eco Experience in Gaansbai, South Africa, as well as White Shark Projects (who I dove with, in that same shark-heavy zone of South Africa near Gaansbai, known as “Shark Alley”) are eco-focused, environmental leaders, and have lots of openings for dedicated volunteers.

I’ve had the memory-of-a-lifetime experience of being in the water with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme and can’t recommend volunteering with these folks enough. Science rules the excursions, but the pure joy of encountering such grace will be what you carry with you long after you get home (see previous blog posting here).

I’m a big fan of Earthwatch, and find myself extraordinarily intrigued by their shark study volunteer expedition in Belize.

Frontier Gap has a shark conservation volunteer program in Fiji, helping research species and increase international awareness and understanding.

How about a volunteer gig at the Bimini SharkLab – it’s a biological field station always looking for dedicated volunteers.

This is just a small sampling of shark volunteer options around the oceans of the world…dive in and find one for your next vacation. Tell Ian Ziering and Tara Reid we’ll meet them there.

Brand New Service Expeditions from Earthwatch

owl face with amber eyesIf you’ve been following or reading here for any length of time, you’ve likely come across previous posts about this organization…Earthwatch is one of my favorites for really delivering value to volunteers who are vacationing, while being sure that the work they do is truly impactful for the project–most often environmental and animal scientific research programs but also cultural and archaeological science expeditions.

Needless to say, they have been on my short list for some time–I’ve yet to be able to do an Earthwatch Expedition, but know so many people that have, and several that return to explore trip after trip, being so satisfied with their initial forays.

Earthwatch has announced six new expeditions adding to their already impressive repertoire of opportunities around the world. The new ones are: Conserve Endangered Rhinos in South AfricaMonitor Ocelots in TrinidadProtect Whooping Cranes and Coastal Habitats in TexasConserve Tiger and Elephant Habitat in IndiaConserve Wild Bees in Costa Rica; and Follow Flammulated Owls in the Western U.S.

If they would just combine them and allow me to do a trip where I follow flammulated elephants in Trinidad, I’d be on a plane today…I’d love to be on a plane today for any of these plus the many, many more they offer. They also have specific expeditions catered for families, or teens, or kids–all with a profound new understanding if science just waiting for you (and world-class scientists just waiting for helpful and hard-working volunteers).

As you begin planning your next vacation, give the website a whirl–something is bound to jump out at you–perhaps something flammulated. (*I love learning that new word–it means having flame-shaped markings, as in the plumage of certain birdsI)

Today is National Bird Day…Volunteer!

close up of green parrot headGrowing up I wanted a parrot so badly, but my mother had this irrational fear of birds, so it was a non-starter (not to mention the life-span requiring loving care for many decades). I don’t know how, if it ever were an option, how I would have obtained a companion bird so very long ago, but I do know that today, exotic birds are traded illegally in astonishing numbers. Couple that with the loss of habitat and disease, and you’ve got a recipe for avian disaster.

Today, January 5, is National Bird Day, set aside to celebrate the winged ones and call attention to conservation measures that we need to implement sooner rather than later. Born Free USA and the Avian Welfare Coalition have lots of suggestions and inspiring games and interactive web features to get folks talking about species protection and the quality of life for captive birds.

In addition to finding new ways to become a feathered-friend activist, here are just a few volunteer gigs that are bird-focused, to stimulate your responsible travel planning and dreaming:

International Bird Rescue to help care for injured and oiled wildlife.

Free Flight Birds exotic bird sanctuary.

Bird Studies Canada to be a citizen scientist.

Earthwatch expeditions to the Galapagos to help research Darwin’s Finches, or to South Africa to help in understanding the African Penguins.