If you want to do something different this coming winter, great news: several accredited volunteer organizations are now offering two-to-four week winter break volunteer projects.
This is perfect for students who only have a few weeks off between semesters, as well as working adults with limited vacation time. If you are a retiree, lucky you! You can spend more of the winter season giving back. The mission doesn’t have to be purely humanitarian, either: students (with approval from an academic advisor) can receive either academic or community service credit for their participation.
Volunteering in education and childcare is one of the most common project types out there. Although you will likely make a bigger impact by staying for more than a couple of weeks, you could still participate in a short-term winter volunteer program and assist with English lessons for Mayan children in Guatemala or planning craft activities for students in India.
Environmental conservation projects are more abundant and feasible on a winter break. From volunteering with the human-elephant conflict in India to tracking wildlife in Kenya, there volunteer projects for environmental conservation are almost as diverse as nature itself.
While winter may seem like the wrong season to volunteer to plant organic gardens or track howler monkeys in the rainforest students should remember that December is the perfect time to journey to sub-tropical climates. Who wouldn't want to escape the cold?
Professionals already in the medical field and university students who plan on pursuing a career in medicine can have no better preparation than volunteering in regions where medical professionals can be few and far between.
Volunteering for healthcare may include anything from outreach work in local communities to hands-on work at medical clinics. Medical training is not always required for these projects, although some may give preferences to those with training and background knowledge.
The need for housing and secure infrastructure is strong in developing nations, particularly in rural communities. Winter break can be an opportune time for university students to take a break from their own educational endeavors and, perhaps, construct a school building that can support the educational needs for children in Africa or Central America. Modern housing, in regions where shelters may be constructed from materials such as cardboard and plastic, is also a key necessity in developing communities.
It’s safe to say that many people classify Thailand -- a country home to idyllic beaches, lush islands, and ancient rainforests -- as an ideal place to spend the winter. It’s also a developing nation with a growing number of volunteer opportunities, ranging from community empowerment to environmental conservation programs.
For short-term winter break projects, interested students and professionals can find one-to-two week projects in areas such as animal care and conservation (have you ever wanted to work with rescued elephants and monkeys?), community infrastructure development, and children’s programs, where volunteers can contribute to nutritional and education projects for disadvantaged minors.
Costa Rica is the place to visit for a literal breath of fresh air. The country ranks among the greenest on the planet and is known to be friendly to travelers.
Projects in areas like organic farming and wildlife conservation are open to short-term volunteers.