Have you ever Considered Volunteering While on Vacation?

Prior to my 14 months of full-time travels, as a teacher I was only able to travel on school holidays. Each summer I would travel to a new destination, often backpacking my way around the country. Each trip that I took, I tried to find an opportunity to volunteer while in that country. I felt it was the best way to get a feel of that place, by getting in with the locals. In Texas I volunteered at a soup kitchen, in Nicaragua I planted community gardens, in Honduras I built wells, in the Dominican Republic I volunteered at an orphanage, in Guyana I taught teachers, but my volunteer experience in Mexico was by far the most impactful–I volunteered at a dump.

In 2010, I traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and vol­unteered at the Children Center of Hope Orphanage and the School of Champions through Feed the Children Vallarta (formerly known as Children of the Dump). Most of my time was spent at the School of Champions volunteering at the summer camp. I had an amazing time teaching English and facilitat­ing games and crafts to the many innocent, sweet, and joyful children who live in and around the dump. Approximately 200 families lived at the dump in the past and, through education and support from Feed the Children Vallarta, fewer and fewer families are depending on the dump for their livelihood.

Through community and international support, Feed the Children Vallarta supported many programs and donated 1000 meals a day to the community of Magisterio. Josh Gillespie, coordinator of the summer camp at the time, states, “The appre­ciation and desire for education is there. Parents see the benefit and in return, their children can get a better future with the education provided.”

The School of Champions has helped change the formerly nega­tive image of the community and motivates the government to get involved—the focus is on the chil­dren. Feed the Children Vallarta has plans to expand beyond elementary school-aged children to impact more of the community, for example of­fering middle school-aged children computer and technical trade skills.

School of Champions volunteer Veronica Corona explained that, “Most of the students enjoy talk­ing to someone; they can come to the teachers and talk to them about things they can’t tell their parents.”

Playing games with the children

This privately-funded school can offer students with low socioeco­nomic status encouragement and experiences unlike any other they would normally receive, including technology, English, and physical education. It was an eye-opening experience to see such contrast to the Canadian education sys­tem, and an opportunity to gain real world experience to bring into my own classroom.

Playing jengaPlaying with chalk

As a teacher, I feel very fortu­nate to have many opportunities throughout the year to travel. I am very passionate about Human Rights Education and development. For me, it is important to give back wherever and whenever I can. I agree with Veronica when she admits, “once you start helping others and seeing the problems they have, you value more of what you have.”


Not only has Feed the Children Vallarta helped in the area of Educa­tion, but they have also assisted in the development of the area around the dump. Drinking water, showers, bathrooms, washing machines, and feeding and clothing programs are now available. The people around the dump are proud and work hard to support their families. The chil­dren from the dump, who are always happy and full of life, made me realize that life is less about material worth and more about life’s experi­ences and making connections.

With two of the participants

There are many opportunities available to travel and make a difference in whatever area you are passionate about. Teachers are part of an amazing profession where we can make use of our skills locally or abroad. Travel “volun-tourism” is the new wave of experience which many teachers and travelers can get involved in for short-term or long-term place­ments. With a little research, travelers will be surprised to see the many opportunities available in every area of interest and place imaginable. From volunteering with children, to working with sea turtles, the sky is the limit. If you love to travel, why not include some volunteering for a charitable cause while away on your dream vacation? You will be the beneficia­ries.

Walking alongside the dump

22 thoughts on “Have you ever Considered Volunteering While on Vacation?

  1. Jessica, I am also a teacher named Jessica who loves to travel. This story inspires me to use my talents and passions to help others on need. I am currently planning a trip over to Europe and will look into some ways I can help out over there!

    • Awesome Jessica~! I am so glad my story inspired you to look for opportunities to volunteer abroad while you are traveling. I think it is an amazing things to be able to use our talents, while also having fun! Go for it! I would love to hear about your experience! I am planning a trip to Europe in December! When will you be going?

  2. Hi Jessica, it’s really great to hear that you get a chance to volunteer while being abroad.
    I’ve some questions though – how do you look for volunteer opportunities? Do you choose your travel location before a volunteer organization or the other way round?
    I am currently an undergraduate and would also like to travel and volunteer before graduation!! 🙂

    I look forward to reading from your blog!

    • Hey there!

      Thanks for visiting turquoise compass and for commenting. I look forward to your readership. It’s a great opportunity to be able to visit a place, while also getting involved–hands-on-learning experience! I usually pick the destination first and then look for opportunities! It’s more fun that way! You can find things to do in your top destination choice, no compromises.
      Where do you think you want to travel?
      What kind of volunteer experiences do you like?
      Where are you studying?

      • Hi Jessica,
        Currently, I am open to any destination so long as I am able to afford it. I am a Singaporean who is currently studying in Canada for four months as part of a school programme. 🙂
        There are many considerations that needs to be accounted for before I decide to travel. In the meantime, I’m keeping my options as open as possible and reading many inspirational stories to fuel my passion to volunteer and travel. 🙂

      • I’m in Ottawa, but will be leaving in December! Those destinations sound promising 🙂 I might look into that when I’m back in Singapore. Thank you for your advice! 🙂

  3. My husband and I volunteered at the Kauai Humane Society on our last visit to Kauai. We were able to take one of the dogs out on a “field trip” for the day. 🙂 It was an awesome experience, although I have to admit that it was hard to take the dog back at the end of the day, I wanted to bring him home with us…

      • Yes, it was heartwrenching. But the good news was that our friend was adopted about a month later. I followed the Kauai Humane Society on facebook in order to watch for his adoption announcement. 🙂 That was a happy happy day!

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  6. My husband and I along with another couple will be vacationing in Puerto Vallarta mid March. We have spent many vacations in Puerto Vallarta and would like to spend a day volunteering. I was hoping you could give me sone information or a contact at the Orphanage. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you, Nancy Mostardo

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