No matter how you see the world, we believe that one thing should be constant. On every trip we take, we must ask ourselves, “How is my presence affecting the communities I visit?” How can I visit, experience, and enjoy while making a positive impact on the people and places I travel to see?
The good news is that the answer is pretty easy. There are lots of ways to make the world a better place while on the road. Recently, a group of friends were visiting LA and we went together to a Habitat for Humanity build site in L.A. We worked for a full day, but the great part was it never felt like work, it felt like an adventure. We dug or hammered for a few hours, then went to lunch at a soul food restaurant we’d never tried for a feast, finished out a few more hours of physical labor, and headed into Downtown LA to explore. Mostly, it felt like a day we would have had anyway, save for a little bit of sweat.
What’s cool about Habitat is that they embrace you at the level you’re at — finding work for you regardless of your construction experience or your time availabilty. Have a single day on the road to offer? Great. Want to do a full build from start to finish Awesome. And there’s a lot of satisfaction in making a product that will directly go to someone who needs it. Usually, the future homeowner is right there, working alongside you.
“I’m inspired by the many stories of people whose lives turned around for the better because they were given the chance to become homeowners,” Erin Gibbs, Habitat for Humanity’s Director of Long Term Volunteer Programs, tells me.
I spoke to Gibbs this week to get the details on how travelers can volunteer for Habitat for Humanity while on the road and why it makes for a good addition to your next adventure.
Where you can volunteer:
GIBBS SAYS: “Habitat for Humanity began as a grassroots effort on a community farm in Georgia in 1976, and it’s now grown to become a global nonprofit serving in communities across the U.S.* and in 70 countries around the world!”
DETAILS: Habitat for Humanity is in all 50 states, you should be able to find a build to match up with any road trip.
The time commitment:
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This is #AmeriCorpsWeek! #HabitatforHumanity was one of the first organizations to partner with #AmeriCorps when it was founded in 1994. 25 years later, more than 10,000 Habitat AmeriCorps members have helped us serve 115,510 individuals and engage over 3.9 million volunteers. #GetThingsDone #MadeInAmeriCorps #AmeriCorpsWorks #HabitatAmeriCorps
GIBBS SAYS: “Local Habitat organizations offer short-term volunteering. The typical volunteer day is eight hours, generally 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., though seasonal weather and other factors could change that. You can always check with your local Habitat organization to see what short-term volunteer opportunities are available.”
DETAILS: This is a great way to help and not feel tied down to any one city or location. Your help is welcome for the day, passing through, or as long as you have time. Hit a build every few stops, you’ll meet cool people, make a difference. It’s a great way to get out of the car.
Who can volunteer:
GIBBS SAYS: “You also don’t need to have any building experience to volunteer with Habitat! There are plenty of leaders onsite to help you out. You will learn a lot, make an impact and have fun in the process.
DETAILS: Contact the site you want to work at for specifics, but you’ll need to sign a waiver and usually do some sort of online orientation. It’s a very accessible way to donate your time — with little prep work to complete before you’re off and running (or building, as the case may be).
How to find a site near your trip or road path:
GIBBS SAYS: “The best way to find opportunities to volunteer at a Habitat site while traveling is by searching the city you will be visiting on www.habitat.org and contacting the local Habitat organizations there. Needs and availability vary by city, so we recommend reaching out to the local Habitat organization a few weeks or months in advance to see what projects will be taking place during your visit.”
DETAILS: Some local Habitat organizations have volunteer opportunities five days a week, while others only have them one day per week, depending on the building schedule.
If you’ve gone full #VanLife:
GIBBS SAYS: “The Habitat for Humanity International’s RV Care-A-Vanner program offers anyone who travels in a recreational vehicle the opportunity to make a difference by helping build houses with families in need. The program welcomes people of all ages and from all walks of life.”
DETAILS: The builds typically last for two weeks and many of the builds do not have access to a bathroom or shower house, so you have to self-contained RV with holding tanks that can be dumped in compliance with local, state and federal law.
How a one day project on a trip can make a difference:
GIBBS SAYS: “The U.S. is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. Everywhere you look, there are families who are paying too much for rent or other housing costs and are forced to choose between paying for housing versus other basic necessities. Volunteers are core to Habitat’s work. We rely heavily on volunteer support to help build, repair or renovate homes and revitalize neighborhoods. Volunteers work alongside homeowners and they get to see firsthand how having a safe place to call home will benefit the future homeowner.”
Looking for more opportunities to volunteer while on the road?
Check out our guide to travelanthropy you can do from the road all over the U.S. — from helping to rehab a trail in a National Park to teaching kids with Autism to surf, there are tons of ways to give back (while also having a kick-ass adventure).