10BEST: A spring break serv­ing oth­ers

Chicago Sun-Times - - TRAVEL -

In­stead of drink­ing beer and work­ing on their tans, stu­dents can spend spring break help­ing oth­ers. A few in­ter­na­tional pro­grams of­fer stu­dents a chance to help mi­grants; oth­ers put them to work aid­ing vil­lages, trou­bled kids or the en­vi­ron­ment. “You can do a lot of fi­nite work in a short amount of time,” says Megan Lee of goabroad.com, a re­source site for in­ter­na­tional learn­ing and vol­un­teerism. And stu­dents ben­e­fit, too: “They come back with a re­newed sense of self.” Lee shares some fa­vorite op­tions with Larry Bleiberg for USA TO­DAY.

HELP WITH HEALTH CARE IN GU­ATEMALA

Spe­cial one-week spring break op­por­tu­ni­ties in this poor Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try give stu­dents the chance to as­sist doc­tors and nurses or help at schools or se­nior cen­ters. Other short-term pro­grams are avail­able in Costa Rica and In­dia. “They have a ton of des­ti­na­tions and a ton of op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Lee says. 800380-4777; cross­cul­tur­al­so­lu­tions.org

WORK WITH REFUGEE RE­LIEF IN GREECE

The Chris­tian-based Ser­vant Group In­ter­na­tional of­fers short-term pro­grams in March and April work­ing with Mus­lim refugees pre­dom­i­nantly from North Africa and the Middle East, Lee says. “They’re do­ing a great job giv­ing refugees food and cloth­ing. You’d be see­ing the hu­man side of the cri­sis and would have a richer per­spec­tive than any­one who just reads head­lines.” 615-832-2282; ser­vant­group.org

TEACH SURF­ING IN SOUTH AFRICA

While show­ing some­one to ride waves might not sound im­por­tant, the Cape Town pro­gram makes a dif­fer­ence, teach­ing chil­dren how to swim and keep­ing them off the streets and out of trou­ble, Lee says.

“It helps them de­velop an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for nat­u­ral re­sources in their coun­try.” Pro­grams be­gin at two weeks. 646-240-4545; goeco.org

TEACH ENGLISH TO BURMESE MI­GRANTS

This pro­gram in Chi­ang Mai in north­ern Thai­land works with refugees es­cap­ing hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Burma. “They are flee­ing years of op­pres­sion and try­ing to start new lives for them­selves,” Lee says.

It’s run by the Thai Free­dom House, and short-term vol­un­teer pro­grams are avail­able. thaifree­dom­house.org

AS­SIST ASY­LUM SEEK­ERS IN BEL­GIUM

If you can speak French, you can help refugees from ar­eas such as Syria, Iraq, Iran and Congo. A pro­gram based at a govern­ment-run refugee cen­ter in the town of Rix­en­sart works with groups of chil­dren and adults on recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties.

“They’re in­cred­i­bly vul­ner­a­ble, con­fused and maybe in shock. The vol­un­teers are part of the ef­fort to wel­come them into so­ci­ety,” Lee says. 802-5403060; vfp.org

SUP­PORT A SUS­TAIN­ABLE COM­MU­NITY IN ECUADOR

A spring break-spe­cific pro­gram has stu­dents help­ing out in a 50-fam­ily vil­lage that has pros­pered thanks to or­ganic gar­den­ing, a small-scale dairy, con­ser­va­tion and eco-tourism.

“Stu­dents will be work­ing with agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment,” Lee says. The spon­sor­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion has other short-term pro­grams around the globe. 413-517-0266; kayavol­un­teer.com

CARE FOR ABAN­DONED DOGS IN PERU

An­i­mal lovers can work at a dog shel­ter in Cusco, or with par­rots, wild cats and mon­keys at a wildlife re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter. Pro­grams can be as a short as one week, while health ini­tia­tives re­quire a min­i­mum two weeks.

“It would be great for a col­lege stu­dent who wants real-life Span­ish ex­pe­ri­ence,” Lee says. 617-267-7763; unit­ed­planet.org

TEACH IN TAN­ZA­NIA

Near the slopes of Mount Kil­i­man­jaro, a free vil­lage school in the city of Moshi re­lies on vol­un­teers to help teach­ers. “It’s pri­mar­ily teach­ing English, but you’re also work­ing with HIV preven­tion and with the el­derly,” Lee says. 800606-7185; african­im­pact.com

HELP TROU­BLED CHIL­DREN IN COSTA RICA

Work with kids from abu­sive or trou­bled fam­i­lies with pro­grams based in this Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with eco-tourism. The chil­dren “have hor­ri­ble home sit­u­a­tions. Vol­un­teers may play games with them and do art projects. It’s a way to in­ter­act with them,” Lee says. 800-866-6358; max­i­monivel.com

WORK WITH KIDS IN AR­GENTINA

Whether it’s help­ing with home­work or lead­ing an af­ter-school class, you’ll have a chance to in­ter­act with chil­dren dur­ing your stay in Cor­doba, Ar­gentina’s se­cond largest city.

Horse lovers will be drawn to a twoweek equine ther­apy pro­gram for chil­dren and adults re­cov­er­ing from emo­tional and phys­i­cal prob­lems. There also is a two-week pro­gram avail­able for high school stu­dents. 888-839-3535; pro­jectsabroad.org

CROSS­CUL­TUR­AL­SO­LU­TIONS.ORG

In Gu­atemala, stu­dents can as­sist doc­tors and nurses or pitch in at schools or se­nior cen­ters.

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