Once a vacation option reserved only for the altruistic college student, “voluntourism” is rapidly spreading beyond college campuses and into mainstream America. Increasingly, individuals are yearning for an experience that appeases both their desire for adventure as well as their social conscience, trading vacations filled with poolside pina coladas for those spent building orphanages in third world countries.

Skyway Guesthouse, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Thirty years of war, foreign occupation and genocide has left Cambodia with a wealth of orphaned and abandoned children. Located in the heart of Siem Reap, the Skyway Guesthouse offers patrons the opportunity to dedicate their days to supporting some of these impoverished victims of circumstance, whose parents or other family members have been killed or maimed by land-mines, died of hunger or disease, or targeted for murder because of their political affiliations. Volunteers at the Skyway Guest house can make a difference in the lives of these destitute children by teaching them English and computer skills, assisting them with homework and providing them with the love and attention they desperately need.

Favela Receptiva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Perched on the outskirts of Rio, Favela Receptiva is located on the edge of the Villa Canoas, a shanty town, or favela, common to Brazilian cities. The plight of those living in the hellish favela is evident from the scraps and garbage that have been collected to create the endless sea of shacks in which the residents live. Adding to the misery of its occupants, the claustrophobic Villa Canoas is plagued by sewage and hygiene problems, and while some portions of the favela have electricity, other sections are left to suffer in the dark ages. Providing a sparkle of optimism to this impoverished community, the Favela Receptiva connects inspired guests with local organizations to bring needed support to the favela. Volunteers can work to educate children; assist in cleaning and construction; aid local groups in crime prevention; and assist non-profit groups in curbing the growing wave of domestic violence and child neglect. Most of these crucial programs are focused on connecting the favela’s youth to programs centered on education, community development, human rights and public safety.

Hostel Hoff, Moshi, Tanzania
Nestled in the heart of Moshi at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in Northern Tanzania, the Hostel Hoff caters to novice voluntourists, many of whom are visiting an underdeveloped country for the first time. Unsure patrons receive guidance from the hostel regarding the myriad of volunteer options for anyone wishing to lend a helping hand. Whether it’s promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, teaching the fundamentals at a local school or uplifting the social status of traditional Masai women by helping them learn English, there is a job available that meets the specific talents of every traveler. At Hostel Hoff, patrons arrive with a desire to make a difference and leave as seasoned veterans in selflessness.

INOUT Hostel, Barcelona, Spain
Only minutes from the urban flurry of Barcelona, guests at the INOUT hostel are immersed in the natural oasis of Collserola Park, where the roar of car engines are replaced by the soothing sounds of splashing streams. However, it is not simply this lush locale that makes the luxurious hostel an unforgettable vacation destination. Staffed by a team of predominantly disabled individuals who maintain an unparalleled commitment to their work, INOUT provides guests a rare opportunity to help people with special needs achieve their dreams of becoming self-sufficient members of the working world. Visitors are encouraged to assist the hostel staff with their daily tasks, including cleaning, gardening, maintenance and operation of the hostel’s restaurant. It is through the development of these special relationships that guests discover the hostel’s mantra. “Enter with an open heart, and you will leave with a smile, impossible to erase.”

The Backpack and Africa Travel Centre, Cape Town, South Africa
Sports enthusiasts rejoice! Voted Best Hostel in Africa in 2005 by Hostelworld.com customers, the Backpack and Africa Travel Center of South Africa not only provides plush hostel accommodations, it also offers the opportunity to break out the old soccer ball. This hostel offers soccer camps in the townships of Cape Town and guests are invited to donate their used soccer gear, as well as help the deprived children in the townships accomplish their dreams of soccer stardom. For the less athletic clientele, the hostel presents the opportunity to volunteer at a local crèche, or nursery. The hostel also asks those with the ability to knit blankets while lounging around the hostel, watching TV or chatting with friends. The blankets are provided to the countless sick babies, many infected with HIV, that call the crèche their home. Those volunteers who lack the skills or time to complete the project, can pass the baton to the next round of hostel inhabitants to finish the job. Through these actions, the lives of those volunteering through the hostel and those being helped are connected by the strongest of bonds.

Hostel Suites Oblesico, Buenos Aires, Argentina
All the Latin America capital cities are surrounded by shanty towns. Less than 30 minutes from downtown Buenos Aires such shanty towns remain unknown and are kept a secret. Hostel Suites Obelisco, along with its sister hostel Hostel-inn Buenos Aires, Hostel-Inn Tango City and Tango Backpackers, helps to organize the volunteer programmes in these towns working with the NGO “Voluntario Global”. Through these programmes you have the chance to see a part of the Argentinean capital that others don’t. You can explore the other side of the city to understanding more about exclusion, social fight in Latin America and be a volunteer for short or long terms programmes. Volunteer opportunities include recreational activities with children and helping adults with English, computers and more. The volunteers presence helps to minimise alienation. The objective is to always provide the tools that improve the quality of life, but also to teach them to communicate better and to have confidence in themselves.

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