Travelocity knows you work hard. That’s why the online travel company would like to give you a $5,000 grant to go on vacation.
Calm down now. You have to work to win your just reward. And by work, I mean you or a team need to submit a winning video. Then you have to use your five thousand smackers to take a Signature Trip volunteer vacation offered by Travelocity’s voluntourism partners. Examples include doing trail work in Alaska with the American Hiking Society, developing community projects in Tanzania with Cross-Cultural Solutions, working side-by-side with scientists on an Amazonian riverboat with Earthwatch Institute, or living in a children’s home in Peru with Globe Aware. Oh, and there’s one more catch. The top 25 finalists will be determined based on the number of online votes they receive from social networking sites.
Since 2006, Travelocity’s Travel for Good® program has been annually awarding eight, $5,000 volunteer vacation grants to American applicants. Travel for Good’s main objectives are green hotels and voluntourism. As Gadling has previously reported, voluntourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the travel industry.
If hands-on, experiential travel is up your alley, go to VolunteerJournals.com. The site will walk you through the easy process to upload your video. You can then promote your video on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and send it to friends and family for voting.
Each video should explain why you deserve to win, and which Signature Trip from Travelocity’s voluntourism partners inspires you. Volunteers and grant winners also have use of the site’s free blogging platform to share their experiences.
The top 25 finalists will be determined by 50 percent audience support and 50 percent quality of their videos. There are two contest cycles per year, and Travelocity employees will select four winners from the top 25 finalists from each cycle. There are two deadlines for entries: March 31 (voting is April 1-May 31), and July 1-September 31 (voting October 1-November 30). Get filming!
Having just returned from my own volunteer vacation with Habitat for Humanity in distant lands I wasn’t searching for more opportunities just yet, but stumbled upon this awesome T+L piece on volunteer vacations. First it was their photo of the day picture as seen here taken by David Nicolas at one of Habitat’s new sites on the Gulf Coast that caught my attention. Clicking further I found that the article specifically tackles a volunteer on the road’s experience in areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. It’s another good read complete with links to start planning your own volunteer vaca.
What a difference a day makes! In our case we were all terribly sore, but chipper as ever. Okay, there is the one small exception of a few upset stomachs in the bunch. Still we were all very ready to continue building, but before I go further, yesterday I made an awful mistake of forgetting to tell how the homebuilding in Dushanbe works. In all regions Habitat for Humanity affiliates are located in the home building tends to be slightly different. This is due to a number of factors, but I’ll stay focused on Dushanbe. Tajikistan gained independence from the Soviet Republic in 1991, but soon afterwards saw a civil war which lasted until 1997. During that time home building basically came to a drastic halt, many unfinished homes remained, and the existing housing stock deteriorated from neglect. That being said two of the homes we would work on during our project time would not be from the ground up, rather homes that had either seen damage from fighting or shooting that broke out in the past or needed an extension for the growing number of family members.
Proceeding to day two, our amazing construction supervisor, Saiali and equally amazing volunteer, Christina (she’d previously done 5 GV builds) demonstrated how to mix the gravel in with the cement to make concrete for the frame. Christina mentally prepared us by letting us know it would not be easy. Seeing the difficulty in the task was no sweat. Our mixture required four buckets of gravel, approximately two or three buckets of cement and around two and a half buckets of water. First steps involved mixing the gravel with the cement real well and creating a volcanic like crater which the water would be poured into. Then you’d have to shovel the mixture upwards into the center of the crater until the hole was basically inexistent. Let’s call the process tedious.
Once our mixture was complete the next step was getting it from the ground and into the frame which involved another bucket line. Carrying dirt felt like feathers compared to lifting and carrying wet concrete in buckets. The work was not easy and if you were one in the group with tummy aches it wasn’t any easier. As we chugged through completing the length of the frame that had been set the Tajik workers continued to be impressed. I just hoped we’d continue to have enough strength throughout the rest of the build to be shining stars to the finish.
When my team leader sent over an additional list of items needed for our trip I raised an eye-brow. Oh, great! Something to give TSA a little excitement. Paint brushes? Rubber gloves? Safety spectacles? I’m sure they’ll flip out. This also means extra thinking when putting the final touches on packing my luggage – a task I’ll be busy with all weekend long. Am I complaining? Not at all – volunteer vacations are the greatest! While I’m finding a good place to store the paint brushes and gloves I’ll be thinking of my mission: Turning hope into homes.
Building homes with Habitat for Humanity and their Global Village program was one of the most rewarding travel experiences I’ve had to date and I’m sure this new venture into Tajikistan will be equally rewarding. Going into these projects I’m never quite sure what part of the home building process I’ll be lending my hand to, but the paint brushes are cluing me into something. Hmm… Whatever the case may be, I’ll have the opportunity to work side-by-side with Tajik locals, families, and homeowners in a two-week project that will go a long way.
So as I prepare my list (hammer, level, mask…) and prepare to pack, the excitement continues to build. More to come on volunteering while vacationing, Habitat for Humanity International and the intriguing Central Asian land of Tajikistan. Stay tuned.
As of March 2006 HFH had built 106 homes between the two affiliates in Khujand and Dushanbe. In Tajikistan there are several half-built homes which volunteers and families will work together in completing or they will build houses from the foundation to the roof. The average cost of a home in Tajikistan is $4,864 USD.
(Photo: Group shot during Cluj-Napoca, Romania HFHI build in June 2001. I’m the one with my arm towards the sky.)