Feel-Good Vacations

Voluntourism lets clients give back to the communities they visit

By: By Mark Edward Harris


The Al-Hussein Society for the Habilitation/Rehabilitation of the Physically Challenged

Jordan Tourism Board

Karma House Travel & Tourism
Offers tours that include voluntourism opportunities

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Idealist offers a comprehensive list of global volunteer opportunities from a variety of non-profit organizations and communities     

Give Spot provides links for projects around the world

Charity Guide lists information on volunteer projects

The Council on International Educational Exchange lists International Volunteer Projects for college students throughout the world

Volunteer Match pairs individuals with project that suit their interests

Petra Moon offers tours that include voluntourism opportunities

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Scroll down for more on where to find Voluntourism opportunities in Jordan

Voluntourism — whether it involves time spent in an orphanage, classroom, refugee camp or archaeological dig — brings a new and deeper dimension to the travel experience. And philanthropic travelers will find plenty of opportunities to explore the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan while helping to make a positive impact along the way.


Clients can spend time with physically challenged children at the AHS. // (c) Mark Edward Harris
Clients can spend time with physically challenged children at the AHS.

The concept of voluntourism grew out of longer-term volunteer vacations, where individuals would devote their entire time away from home to working on a project. Voluntourism allows individuals to make a positive impact with shorter breaks incorporated within travelers’ itineraries, and a recent survey conducted by the Travel Industry Association showed that 24 percent of travelers were interested in taking a vacation that included volunteer work. These visits give travelers a real experience of the communities in the areas where they are spending their vacations.

On a recent voluntourism venture of my own, I was fortunate to spend time with the children of the Al-Hussein Society for the Habilitation/Rehabilitation of the Physically Challenged (AHS). My experience at AHS in Jordan’s capital city of Amman was one of the most memorable parts of my journey through the country. The center welcomes those interested in assisting in a wide range of areas from helping with English conversation skills to arts and crafts training.

Founded in 1971, AHS provides comprehensive rehabilitation services to physically challenged individuals, with an emphasis on children. Its Community Based Rehabilitation Team (CBR) — consisting of physical therapists, occupational therapists and a community development social worker — deliver services to rural areas and refugee camps. It assesses and instructs families and local volunteers in the management of children with physical disabilities, and it also raises awareness in communities and schools regarding disability issues.

AHS provides elementary education for grades one through six, focusing on both academic training and the development of interpersonal skills necessary for the integration of children into mainstream schools. Additionally, physical education classes, art workshops, cultural-enrichment seminars and field trips encourage active learning.

My visit to AHS involved a stop at a sewing workshop, where physically challenged adults are trained in designing and tailoring children’s clothing, as well as producing other textile items ranging from curtains to bed sheets. AHS has an in-house outlet for these products, and the pride and self-worth generated by this type of program cannot be understated. Many of the adult trainees continue on as salaried workers at AHS.

There are many other voluntourism programs in Jordan. Organizations like Teaching Quest, where volunteers work alongside local teachers teaching English, and Childcare Quest, where volunteers assist at schools like AHS, can be found through Web sites such as UnitedPlanet.org.

Karma House, an agency specializing in bringing tourists to Jordan, has a voluntourism segment on its Web site. It offers travelers a tour that begins with sites in Amman accompanied by activities, such as visiting an orphanage or adopting a child for a day. Participants can take the children to lunch or to a movie. Clients can also visit the SOS Children’s Village, the school for the deaf in the town of Salt or help local farmers in Jerash and Ajlun pick olives and clean and refurbish old school buildings. For those going to Petra, a visit to an orphanage in neighboring Wadi Musa, Um Saihoun or Shobak can be incorporated into the itinerary.

These are truly vacations with a purpose, many of which allow families to participate together. The tourism industry gains from such positive experiences that generate both repeat and new bookings. The overwhelming majority of those who take volunteer vacations don’t just take them once.