It's a feel-good, philanthropic option that's considerably healthier than the Cancun bacchanals featured on MTV, and one that's becoming increasingly popular. Some 72,000 students participated in these programs in 2010 alone, according to Break Away, an organization that helps colleges and other organizations start their own alternative spring break programs. If your child is interested in an alternative spring break, have him check with his college to see what programs they already have in place. Or, check below for a variety of other options:
- United Way's Alternative Spring Break: This international, fundraising organization offers reconstruction and philanthropic projects in Michigan, Indiana and along the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast. The 2012 spring break program runs March 11-17 in Biloxi, Mississippi. The program costs $250. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation.
- Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge: Famous for its home-building activities, Habitat's collegiate program offers week-long programs across the United States. During the week of March 25, 2012, for example, Habitat is building homes in cities including Birmingham, Alabama; Fort Smith, Arkansas; Washington, D.C.; Punta Gorda, Florida; and Des Moines, Iowa. Programs are available other weeks as well. These home-building stints are open to volunteer groups (minimum age 16, cost $150-$500 each, including accommodations and meals).
- Crosscultural Solutions: This voluntourism organization runs an alternative spring break program that’s been described as a mini-Peace Corps experience. In 2012, for example, sites include Brazil, Ghana, Morocco, Peru, Russia and Thailand. In 2013, the week-long program costs started at $2,480, including in-country transportation, meals, accommodations and insurance.
- Earthwatch: Volunteer for a travel-based ecological conservation project or archaeological dig through an organization such as Earthwatch, which offers educational field work at sites around the world.
- Other Sources: For more ideas, check this article on "Voluntourism and Families" and this guide to voluntourism resources too.