Alternative ideas for Reading Week

As featured on TalentEgg.ca’s LAUNCH Magazine, January 2010

Instead of partying in Mexico, snowboarding on Mont Tremblant, or shopping in New York City this Reading Week, why not do something off the beaten path?

Many university and college students look beyond the typical spring break destinations and decide to use their week off school to do some good in their local community or abroad.

They seek a different type of Reading Week experience that has come to be known as an “alternative spring break” and they find it to be a very rewarding way to spend their time off.

As a student who took part in an alternative spring break volunteer trip to Peru, I know first hand that these types of opportunities let you contribute to the growth of a needy community and explore new cultures.

They give you the chance to show your leadership skills, to see how your contributions help you grow as an individual, and to have new perspectives of the world around you.

What’s more is they can be a great point of interest to add to your resumé to show employers you are open to new experiences.

Here are some organizations offering volunteer opportunities for students in Canada or abroad. If there is an area that particularly interests you, do some searching to find an organization that you will be passionate to working with. No matter where you choose to volunteer your time, you can be certain you will return back to school with a sense of accomplishment and a story that will inspire your friends and family.

Students working on a construction site with Habitat for Humanity in Philadelphia

1. Habitat for Humanity

For volunteers who want to put their home improvement skills to good use or try their hand at moderate construction work, Habitat for Humanity is the world leader.

The international organization has built more than 300,000 homes since the 1970s, seeking to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness in the world.

Volunteers work under trained supervision and help construct shelters for families who need it most.

Habitat for Humanity offers volunteer programs all over the world and many universities have campus chapters for students to work on local housing projects across Canada.

UWO students with children from Orphan Outreach in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic

2. Orphanage Outreach

If you like working with children and are considering a career in education, being part of Orphanage Outreachcould be a great experience. The organization recruits volunteers to work with orphaned, abandoned, and disadvantaged children in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic.

Volunteers give English lessons in local schools at the Orphanage Outreach English Institute, as well as provide medical and dental care, teach literacy and health classes, and organize extra curricular activities with the children living at the orphanage and in the community.

Me helping to paint the new cafeteria at an elementary school in Urubama, Peru

3. Nexos Voluntarios

When I took part in an alternative spring break trip to Peru with 20 other students from the University of Western Ontario, we worked with this non-profit organization.

NeVo provides opportunities for volunteers to contribute to their development initiatives in some of the country’s poorest communities. They offer placements in projects related to education, health care, environmental issues, business management, human rights, and fine arts.

As a volunteers, we engaged in hands-on activities and were in direct contact with the people who benefited from our assistance, even living with host families in the community. We received orientation and field support as well as mentoring from the co-ordinators, and participated in “Fire Side Chats” with a coach.

3. Daily Break Food Bank

Food relief agencies like the Daily Bread are a great way to help out right where you live. Volunteers participate in activities like food sorting and packing, advocacy and special events.

The hours are flexible, so you can help out as much or as little as you want during Reading Week or at any other time of the year. These types of local organizations are always looking for some extra hands, so get a group of friends together and offer to tackle a larger project.

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