Contributing your time to the local community while on vacation is one of the fastest-growing travel trends today and is referred to as voluntourism. The term was originally coined in the 90s for those traveling internationally to immerse in a foreign culture by caring for orphans in Africa, providing medical care in Tanzania, or building schools in Haiti. However, the practice has expanded from service-based vacations to vacations that include a day of giving back.
What’s the appeal? Volunteering connects you to the local community and can create a more memorable vacation experience. It enhances your sense of purpose and provides bonding for groups and families. Volunteering often takes you outside of your comfort zone and creates invigorating newness. It feels good and is proven to be good for your health.
Greater Palm Springs boasts several opportunities to volunteer during your getaway, simply choose what's best for you. From feeding the hungry and reading to kids to helping maintain mountains there is something for everyone who wishes to participate. These charities accept vacationers or traveling groups and welcome volunteers for a day, week, or more. It is recommended that you call and schedule a time if possible, but some take walk-ins. (* Indicates advanced scheduling recommended)
Greater Palm Springs has a number of shelters open 365 days a year and welcome walk-in assistance. Martha’s Village & Kitchen in Indio has 120 beds which are always full. Volunteers can prep and serve three meals a day, do arts and crafts or read with children, and help in organizing donations and décor in their thrift store. Their Thanksgiving 5k is their largest annual event and requires the help of 200.
Feeding Those in Need
The county’s largest food distributor, FIND Food Bank,* also located in Indio welcomes volunteers to help sort and package food for the 90,000 individuals they serve monthly. Their large warehouse has room for one to one hundred or more.
The Coachella Valley Rescue Mission serves the homeless, hungry and those in transition through self-sufficiency and recovery programs and welcomes walk-in volunteers for kitchen prep and service as well as sorting and pricing in their thrift store.
While building homes takes place 2-3 times a year, Habitat for Humanity of the Coachella Valley* constantly cares for the community through service projects for disabled or infirmed individuals through their Brush with Kindness program. Fixing up yards in distress and simple home care projects are all done by volunteers.
The Joslyn Center in Palm Desert provides health, recreation, education and social programs for seniors and welcomes assistance with their Meals on Wheels and Read with Me programs, reception desk, and congregate lunches.
Have a heart for those with dementia? Alzheimers Coachella Valley* is always looking for volunteers to provide social interaction with caregivers and their loved ones through their Club Journey and Traveling the Journey Together programs - from participating in gentle chair exercises to karaoke, name-that-tune, bingo, painting, and more.
Maintaining our Mountains
If you’d prefer an eco-friendly outing contact Friends of the Desert Mountains.* The land conservation and preservation group stewards our beautiful mountains and welcomes individuals and groups for trail maintenance, development of their future educational site, and their Weed Warriors program.
Helping Your Neyyyy-bors
The Coachella Valley Horse Rescue* can always use a helping hand with organizing feed and tack rooms, building obstacles for their veterans and children’s therapy programs, landscaping and painting.
For groups and conferences coming to the area, the place to start is the United Way of the Desert.* They are tied to all local resources and can create an event or activity specific to your group’s goals.
“Companies realize that by investing a portion of their conference budget into a volunteer project that they are meeting their corporate social responsibilities and engaging their employees which really is an investment in their company culture,” says Executive Director Kristal Granados.
With the help of visiting groups, they have packaged and served 18,000 meals, filled school supply backpacks for underserved youth, implemented food and book drives, and supported their Raising a Reader after school program with local Boys and Girls Clubs and family YMCA sites.
There are hundreds throughout the year and most welcome extra hands – from races to galas, golf tournaments to film festivals. A community calendar, graciously maintained by O’Bayley Communications, is helpful in planning your voluntourism around the dates of your trip.
By Lauren Del Sarto, Desert Health News