A recent article in the New York Times, titled “Volunteer Trips: Is Your Family Ready?” paints a portrait of the value of family volunteer trips that allow both the parents and children to immerse themselves in a culture, while contributing positively to the community.
The family volunteer trips allow for the guest family to spend several days living in a different culture, and participating in community development programs and living in similar conditions as the citizens of that region. In the article, Ms. Everson, a Facebook Executive writes, “the trip was a chance for us, as a family, to play a global role in helping others while also expanding our worldview.” Various other parents share the sentiment after a volunteer trip, and they see the effect of the involvement on the children’s education and perceptions of the world.
The article proceeds to provide answers by experts to essential questions that might be posed by a family seeking to plan a volunteer trip. First, parents always ask, “how do we prepare?” Ellen Sachs Alter, a psychologist, states, “[before going]…discuss the challenges [with your children] and explain that the trip could be heartbreaking at times, scary and even difficult.” In fact, it has been continuously reiterated by families who have volunteered abroad “that nothing can truly prepare someone unaccustomed to poverty for the deprivation common in developing world. Still, there are steps to mitigate the shock,” such as having an honest conversation with your children.
Second, parents’ often ask, “How young is too young?” Kristy Clum states that “she discourages parents from bringing children under 10.” It is often recommended to take kids during their teen years, when they are very self-absorbed. Third, parents’ ask, “What happens if you get sick or hurt?” It is recommended that the family visits their health care provided four to six weeks before the trip and make sure that they have all the required vaccinations or medications.
The article provides other answers to important questions, such as “Should service trips be mixed with pleasure?” and “Does the experience translate back home?” Overall, it confirms that family volunteer trips provide a lasting impact on both the parents and the children.
If you would like to plan a family volunteer trip, contact one of our IVPA members below. As Genevieve Brown, Executive Director of IVPA, pointed out in the NYT article, “[Our nonprofit members] speak the language, know the culture and the political situation,” and thus can provide you with the most immersive and impactful experience.