Wanting to help is human nature—we are innately inclined to help but don’t always know how or perhaps feel too busy to give our time. That’s why we recommend planning a volunteer trip—it’s a way to make good use of your vacation time, and enjoy escaping your day-to-day routine, but also allows you to make a real impact on communities that need support.
One of the greatest ways to empower communities on a global scale is using your travel time to volunteer. While going on a normal vacation is a form of self-care, volunteering trips allow you to take care of yourself while simultaneously helping others.
Some of these options don’t even require much time—one organization simply asks that you carry supplies from the U.S. to a Caribbean island and drop them off in a designated location, and then you’re free to head on to your beach vacay.
Here are a few simple ways to impact people in the Caribbean while taking care of your own well-being:
Pack for a Purpose is a wonderful non-profit organization that works with accommodations and tour companies around the world to give supplies to community projects in need. Here’s how it works: When you’re ready to plan your next trip, go to the Pack for a Purpose website and select the country you’ll be visiting. Click on an accommodation or a tour company, and read about the supplies they are looking for. Then pack your suitcase, making a bit of room for the supplies (which could be for schoolchildren, or health care workers, for example). When you arrive, simply drop off the supplies at the designated location. You will have packed with a purpose!
The Caribbean nations involved are: Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, The Bahamas, The Cayman Islands, and Turks & Caicos.
Animal Organizations: Animal abuse, especially of dogs, is a significant problem in the Caribbean. Many travelers are not aware of the frequent killing and abandonment of dogs in both the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
One common volunteer option among animal organizations is “Travel with Pets.” An organization such as Dogs and Cats of the DR, rescues dogs and cats from the island where they are then medically treated and put up for adoption in the United States and Canada. But since the animals are in the Dominican Republic, it costs a lot of money to transport them.
This is where the volunteer comes in. If you are traveling to and from the Dominican Republic, for example, you can sign up to help a pet get transported back to the states with you, at no cost to you (of course).
The Sato Project, based in Brooklyn, New York, is doing extraordinary work by saving dogs from Dead Dog Beach in Yabucoa, a common area in Puerto Rico where locals abandon their pets.
They also have a volunteer option to travel with pets. Here are some ways you can help.
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms is one of those exciting, educational and useful organizations that I’m so happy to exist. It is a U.S. based nonprofit that gives volunteers the opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture while receiving free room and board.
Puerto Rico is the only Caribbean country listed within WWOOF USA. Each region is a separate $40 membership fee for a year.