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Volunteer Vacations Can Fulfill Dreams

Lynn Gibson Correspondent

Imagine photographing humpback whales in the Bahamas. Or assisting with an archaeological dig in Italy.

Perhaps you would enjoy helping historians restore ancient monuments in the South of France, or rebuilding hiking trails in Alaska.

During your next vacation, one of these adventures could be yours. These are a few of more than 2,000 projects listed in a new book by Bill McMillon, “Volunteer Vacations” (Chicago Review Press), a resource guide of short-term volunteer projects.

Whether for a week or a month, the projects combine adventure, travel and philanthropy. Volunteering for a worthy cause can be fun and fulfilling, but best of all, you’ll be helping people who need you.

“Volunteer vacations meet the needs that people have to be part of a larger world, to make a difference, to change things for the better,” McMillon said in a telephone interview.

While admittedly not for everyone, McMillon said more and more people are opting for volunteer vacations because students, families and older adults are searching for ways to spend their vacations in pursuits that enable them to contribute to the world and obtain a sense of fulfillment.

“Volunteerism comes from a need to satisfy a personal desire or some unfulfilled dream,” said McMillon. “Whether it’s an oceanographer, a medical worker or a scientist, they’ll say, ‘I’ve always wanted to do this.’ These projects give them a taste of what it is like which often satisfies their dream.”

McMillon’s book begins with an alphabetical listing of more than 300 sponsoring organizations worldwide that offer volunteer projects. The directory includes the address and telephone contact for each project, as well as specifics such as cost, location and required skills.

The next section gives personal stories from travelers who have experienced volunteer vacations. A cross-reference index at the end of the book is designed to help readers narrow down project choices according to other criteria, such as a location, duration, cost or area of work.

The book lists a wide variety of projects, including archaeology, community development, environmental research, historical preservation, outdoor recreation, medical research … Project expenses are usually covered by the volunteer, and many are reasonably priced. More than 100 projects in the guide cost less than $500.

Some agencies welcome families and school-age children, like the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, on Page 250. This organization serves 128 parks in our state and is continually seeking volunteers of all ages to help with park enhancement programs. Volunteers can assist in trail building, park maintenance, boating safety instruction and more.

To request an application, write to: Volunteer Programs, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, P.O. Box 42650, Olympia, WA 98504-2650.

“Obviously, some people can’t envision working on a vacation,” said McMillon. “Others, however, find doing so a refreshing change of pace.”

“Volunteer Vacations” ($16.95) is available at larger local bookstores or by calling (800) 888-4741.

, DataTimes MEMO: The Family Track is a weekly column of notes and information for families. Send items to Lynn Gibson, Features Department, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615, or fax (509) 459-5098.

The Family Track is a weekly column of notes and information for families. Send items to Lynn Gibson, Features Department, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615, or fax (509) 459-5098.

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