IN THE NEWS
Cross-Cultural Solutions is a recognized leader in the field of international volunteering. With almost 20 years of experience, and more than 30,000 alumni, our story has been featured in more than 500 publications and broadcasts, including CNN, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Time, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Toronto Star, The Today Show, USA Today, National Geographic Traveler, and ABC Nightly News.
Whether you call it "international volunteering," "voluntourism" or "volunteer vacation," such hybrid programs like those offered by Cross-Cultural Solutions really do offer something beyond the traditional models of both tourism and volunteering. By using volunteer projects as a window into the local culture -- and vice versa -- you can have a unique and authentic experience abroad, unparalleled by a typical vacation. Here are just a few examples of what you can do on a Cross-Cultural Solutions program that you can't do as a tourist.
Eli Lily’s program pays for 200 people or so to travel for two weeks to a country in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. The only requirement is that the volunteer employed at Lilly for at least two years at the time of travel, and have a successful rating on performance management reviews. This year, 1,300 Lilly employees applied to participate and 220 were approved to be Lily Ambassadors.
Volunteers are kept busy in this lively Afro-Brazilian city and spend most of their time working in the favelas. You’ll be fully immersed in local communities: Volunteer projects depend on community need and volunteers’ skills, so you’ll have an opportunity to care for the elderly or lead field trips and play games at a home for children with HIV/AIDs. And when you’re not busy volunteering, the city of Salvador, and the nearby beaches are there to explore.
Most travelers are familiar with Kilimanjaro for its bucket-list-worthy mountain, and not for its overcrowded schools nearby. But Cross-Cultural Solutions runs an ongoing program in this east African nation where volunteers can explore the local side of Kilimanjaro with a chance to become a part of a the community. Volunteers support teachers and teach English, staying in shared digs run by the all-local staff.
Volunteers with nonprofit Cross-Cultural Solutions spend their mornings teaching English, serving food, and organizing games and art projects for orphans or seniors. Some assist professionals at medical centers or facilities for individuals with disabilities. In the afternoons, volunteers explore Lima or attend Spanish classes and lectures about Peru. Many travel on weekends or extend their stays to visit the Amazon, Machu Picchu or Lake Titicaca. Volunteers stay at the CCS Home-Base and eat meals prepared by the CCS cook.
Cross-Cultural Solutions offers international volunteer programs that range in length from one to 12 weeks. Program fees are 100 percent tax-deductible for many United States residents and payments toward program fees -- which goes toward lodging, meals, drinking water, cultural activities, and the volunteer project itself -- that are submitted online by volunteers with a billing address in the United States will automatically receive a tax receipt through the organizations online payment system.
Your room, board and airfare in some cases are tax-deductible if you travel with a nonprofit. Vincent Mirrione, 69, of Newman, Calif., has taken seven trips with Cross-Cultural Solutions, a nonprofit specializing in volunteer travel based in New Rochelle, NY. His work at a soup kitchen and orphanage in Guatemala, Russian senior centers, and a project that Mother Teresa started in India have wound up costing about $300 a week after the tax break, he says.
But Singh recalls the year CCS launched a program in Rajgarh, an isolated spot about eight hours southeast of Dharmsala. "Electricity had just come to the town," she recalls. One of the volunteers that season was a naval engineer. "She was a very bright girl; she stood out in the group." One afternoon, she talked to children at a local school about her job. Three years later, Singh was visiting volunteers in Rajgarh when a schoolgirl raced up to her. "She said, 'Guess what? I've just been admitted to engineering college. I'm going to build ships, too.'"
Known as "voluntourism" or service travel, a growing number of people are combining volunteering with a vacation. Organizations that run these trips report an uptick in the number of new volunteers and inquiries, particularly after a round of natural disasters and global events that have inspired travelers to want to help out during their vacations.
Cross-Cultural Solutions experienced more than a 10 percent growth in volunteers over 50 in 2008, compared with 2007, according to company officials.
Jamie Cann and his wife, Mary, returned recently from a volunteer trip to Tanzania. Jamie spent his days in a home for orphans and vulnerable children, teaching English and playing soccer with the kids. Mary taught English and math at a nearby primary school. "It was an incredible experience for us to share," says Jamie of the trip they booked through Cross-Cultural Solutions ... "To do something like this, to share such an important, meaningful, experience has strengthened our relationship."