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Petrina Darrah
Volunteer holidays for families

The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.

Family holidays are a chance to spend meaningful time together and build memories. Your whole family can make an impact when you embark on a volunteer abroad program together.

More and more people are looking for experiential travel these days. If you’re looking for purpose while you travel, consider swapping out your typical vacation for a volunteer abroad project.

Volunteering as a family is a way to learn something new together, while connecting over an important cause, and seeing beyond the resorts and beaches of your holiday destination. 

As a family, you’ll spend your holiday time doing something positive in the world. If you’re a parent, introducing your teenagers to volunteering early on will teach them how to grow into conscientious adults with a greater awareness of global issues and the efforts aimed at solving them.


You can volunteer abroad as a family with GVI.


There are many questions around volunteer tourism, or “voluntourism”, and a growing distaste for this form of travel. While GVI offers programs that are suitable for volunteer holidays, we are careful to make sure that these projects are both sustainable and impactful. All GVI programs are designed in collaboration with local partners, and are focused around one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

These volunteer programs all accept families. Learn more about the objectives of each program and get some inspiration for a family holiday with an impact.

1) Contribute to safeguarding loggerhead turtle nests in Greece

Greece is more than just a sought-after tourist destination – it’s an important nesting site for loggerhead turtles too. 

Your family could volunteer in Greece to help provide a safe nesting environment for the turtles, by protecting hatchlings from predators and adding to the awareness of the wider community regarding the threats facing these sea creatures.

As well as assisting in vital conservation efforts, you’ll be able to enjoy a beach holiday as a family. While volunteering with turtles in Greece, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the coastline along the Bay of Kyparissia, and delve into the history and cuisine in the area.


Volunteer in Greece and contribute to sea turtle conservation.

2) Be part of reintegrating elephants into their natural habitat in Thailand

Visiting elephant camps and riding or interacting closely with them is damaging for the animals. You don’t need to ride elephants to get to know these gentle giants. 

A more compassionate approach to interacting with elephants is to volunteer with GVI’s elephant project in Chiang Mai. The goal of this project is to rehabilitate rescued elephants and make sure they’re living in an environment that resembles their natural habitat. This makes it easier for elephants to be reintegrated into the wild when they’re ready. 

To ensure this makes a long-term project, GVI works closely with mahouts (elephant carers) and the community of Chiang Mai. Not only does the project provide an alternative source of income for the local community, it also raises awareness of the harm caused to elephants in the tourism industry.

While there is little hands-on contact, it’s a much more rewarding experience for tourists than elephant rides. Contributing to an ethical elephant program that positively benefits the local community will be a strong learning experience for your whole family.


Volunteer with elephants in Thailand with your family.

3) Lend a hand with construction projects in Nepal

Use your family holidays to help with light building projects in schools in Nepal. School facilities in Nepal are basic, so this project works to make learning environments more effective through upgrades to the infrastructure.

You could help to paint classrooms, or develop educational resources. Having fewer resources on-hand will encourage your children to be creative while they volunteer in Nepal.

Nepal isn’t so much landlocked as it is mountain-locked. From high in the peaks of the Himalayas, you and your family will take home new perspectives on both the incredible landscapes and the realities of life in an underserved country.

4) Contribute towards building healthy futures in Costa Rica

Volunteer in Costa Rica.


Your family could spend a few weeks in lush surroundings while making an impact in the community.

This volunteer abroad project in Costa Rica works to empower children through education. It involves assisting local schools with their English and environmental awareness curriculum, and working with teachers to add to childrens’ future employability and ability to contribute to environmental conservation.

The project is based in Cimarrones, a community situated in the heart of the Amazon rainforest . When you’ve finished your daily tasks, you can go on a guided tour through the rainforest, take Spanish lessons, or venture to the nearest coffee plantation for a coffee making and tasting experience.

5) Help out fishy friends in Canary Islands

Combine typical holiday activities such as swimming and snorkeling with meaningful marine conservation work in Tenerife

If you have animal lovers in your family, this project will suit you perfectly. Contributing towards understanding the effects of tourism on marine mammals, like dolphins and orcas, is a great way to inspire any budding conservationists, and ensures that the rest have a meaningful experience abroad too. 

This project allows the whole family to take to the seas around Tenerife island daily, and take in panoramic views of the Canary Islands archipelago while collecting essential marine conservation data.


Volunteer in Tenerife on a marine conservation program.

6) Provide educational opportunities in the Himalayas

Nepal offers towering mountains, white-water rafting adventures, and some of the best trekking in the world. Alongside adventure in the Himalayas is the opportunity to offer educational support to children in Pokhara. This program is laden with opportunities to explore the local area, learn basic Nepalese, and meet a culture with centuries-old traditions.

While on the project, you’ll help to provide an effective learning environment for local children, and add capacity, new ideas and resources to the project. Taking part in educational activities also helps the younger members of your family take on responsibility, and keeps their own schooling fresh in their minds while on holiday.

With GVI, you can be confident that you’re choosing ethical and sustainable volunteer abroad programs. Browse more volunteer holidays or get in touch with us to find out about other opportunities.

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