The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) offers individual and group service programs for Jews interested in traveling to foreign countries to volunteer for grassroots social change projects. Its mission statement outlines the approach: "AJWS is an international development organization dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger, and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. Through grants to grassroots organizations, volunteer service, advocacy and education, AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship within the Jewish community."
Individual Service Programs
The AJWS offers multiple volunteer programs that are open for volunteers and include service with grassroots organizations in Asia, Africa, North and Central America, as well as the Caribbean. Both working and retired professionals can join the Volunteer Corps, which includes two to 12 month-long placements in a number of different countries. Among the skills often needed are strategic and business planning, medical and public health training, fundraising, computer training, and community organizing.
Recent college graduates willing to volunteer for nine to 12 months may be eligible to receive a World Partners Fellowship. These are matched to the young adult's studies, skills and interest to better find a suitable placement for their particular interests and talents.
Group Services Programs
While taking part in these programs, Jewish groups live and work in rural communities, participating in sustainable development and social good projects. For instance, the organization works to respond to natural disasters, fights for civil rights promotes sexual health, and focuses on ending child marriages in developing parts of the world. Participants are guided by community-based organizations found in the destinations they visit during their volunteer service.
The AJWS also has summer programs that are open to anyone ages 16-24, which include volunteer work in rural areas of developing countries. Once returning home, participants remain involved with the organization through retreats, speaking engagements, and additional volunteer service as well.
For More Information About AJWS
Visit AJWS.org to learn more about what the American Jewish World Service is all about. On the website, you'll find much more specific information about the kinds of projects the organization focuses on, as well as details about the various places that volunteers visit. Those countries include Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, India, Nepal, and even the United States. You'll also learn about how you can get involved, and what it is like to travel with the AJWS both at home and abroad.
Where to Find More Volunteer Vacations
VolunTourism, which combines traditional travel with volunteer work, is a rapidly growing trend that allows socially responsible travelers to mix a vacation or trip abroad with volunteering on local projects. This is a great way for you to immerse yourself in local cultures and make a difference at the same time. Are you among the one-quarter of the travelers queried in the Voice of the Traveler survey by the Travel Industry Association who said they were currently interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation?
Whether you're a millennial, a Gen-X-er, a Baby Boomer (the group expressing the strongest interest), or simply a parent who want to introduce your children to other cultures, there is certainly a company offering volunteer vacations for you.
These trips and experiences are as close as building homes in New Orleans or a far away as helping in orphanages in Romania or elephant camps in Africa. To see a list of organizations that offer volunteer travel trips and vacations (where you spend a few days of a trip volunteering and explore a new country the rest) click on Top Sources for Volunteer Vacations.
Are You a Voluntourist?
Returning travelers say volunteer travel is a life-changing experience. If you are wondering if Voluntourism is right for you, here are suggestions for the route to helping you decide.