Peace Corps, Big Brothers & Sisters, Habitat for Humanity®: when one thinks of giving back to others and participating in service, one’s mind easily turns to these recognizable organizations. While these three organizations might be some of the most famous ways to serve others, they might not be the right fit for you. If you have ever thought about dedicating your time to others—either domestically or abroad— here are 3 alternative programs like Habitat for Humanity® that might pique your interest.
Americorps: Over the past 21 years, this government sponsored has had over 900,000 members contribute 1.2 billion service hours across the United States. With a variety of different programs including the FEMA Corp, NCCC, and Vista, if have the itch to serve, Americorps can find a niche for you. From building homes to helping with disaster relief to even assisting local schools and non-profits with more administrative duties, the variety of experiences you might have in Americorps are just as varied as the participants themselves. Programs for Americorps range anywhere from a few weeks to a whole year and provide an education stipend or cash payment at the end of your service to help you adjust back to the “real world”. Though you have to be at least 18 to serve, an Americorps program is perfect for someone looking to help find themselves, pay for college, or just wants to give back to their country.
Global Leadership Adventures: Building greenhouses and other construction projects are the basis of service on GLA’s Peru: Service in the Sacred Valley program, and is certainly an opportunity to use your hands to build something that benefits the local community in a meaningful way, just like a teen in Habitat for Humanity® would. Programs span the world and range in length from 10 to 21 days, including a 21-day flagship program in the Dominican Republic that allows you to explore sustainable development issues in a hands-on fashion. GLA gives participants the unique opportunity to explore complex social issues, make a positive impact in the lives of others, and get the chance to participate in hands on activities that often unlock newfound passions—all while in high school. With over 97% of alumni agreeing that GLA was a life changing experience, you are sure to have a fulfilling adventure no matter where you decide to serve.
Alternative Break: If topics such as addressing homelessness and structural racism in Baltimore and social development in Rwanda are up your alley, then an alternative break program might be your best ticket to service success. With an endless amount of trips sponsored through universities around the country that run during college winter, spring, and summer breaks, these trips are meant to promote greater understanding of social issues both domestically and abroad, provide a platform for advocacy upon your return, and turn what might be stereotypically categorized as a time to party with friends as a means to give back. Though the costs, length, and options vary from university to university, a quick e-mail to your school’s community service center or study abroad office might yield fruitful returns for an upcoming break.
Just remember, in the end it doesn’t matter where you serve or what you do during your service, or whether you’re a Habitat for Humanity® teen or a GLA student; it’s the motivation to participate in selfless service that is the most important factor to giving back.
Contributed by Matt Zonis