New Year’s Resolution: Travel That Gives Back

By Sheryl Kayne

Travel That Gives Back - Volunteer Travel & Immersion TravelI’ve had it with the same old New Year’s Resolutions. There’s so much more that I want to do rather than becoming a member of the “I resolve to lose weight club!” Been there, done that. I already make my kids my priority, love my job, meditate daily, and I’m kind to animals. It’s time to make a resolution that will go way beyond me and help others. My new year’s resolution is to volunteer with a different organization every month. Wow – I even love saying it.

To achieve that goal, I’ve put together 12 organizations that are easy to consult with wherever you happen to be.  Open the doors of possibility, and join me in helping others. Even if we achieve volunteering just one more time this year than last, that’s an accomplishment too! And for us singles, volunteering is a great way to expand our circle of friends of every age and gender.

Idealist ( is an interactive site that “everyday helps 70,000 people around the world turn their good intentions into action.” To search for volunteer opportunities, fill in the online questionnaire, choosing from areas of interest according to your specific skills, time availability, and age with a wide range of resources available.

Singles for Service ( combines online dating with community service projects, “to help good people meet good people while doing good things.” This organization started in Atlanta, Georgia, but there are many others around the country. Research “single volunteer opportunities” online to find a time, place and activity that will introduce you to like-minded people.

Culinary Corp ( sponsored by Share Our Strength (, organizes outreach programs for culinary students and professionals. Referred to as the Peace Corps for cooks, team members travel to farmers’ markets, school gardens, crisis kitchens, and restaurants to donate their skills, talents, and time. Sample itineraries and volunteer information, including costs and upcoming trips, are available online.

Volunteer Match ( connects hundreds of nonprofit programs with thousands of people looking to help. Visit the search page and enter a city or zip code. Find an opportunity of interest, click on the title for more information, click “I want to help,” and a message will be sent to the organization notifying them of your interest. ( is a national database with a search feature including areas of interest, location, and the distance from that location you are willing to consider. Opportunities range from one-day events to longer-term commitments.

Points of Light Institute ( includes the HandsOn Network (, the largest volunteer and citizen action network in the country. Volunteer opportunities are listed online by city and organization with links to contact information, Web sites, online volunteer matching, and volunteer management training.

National Wildlife Federation ( opportunities include becoming a Habitat Ambassador, a Global Warming Ambassador, or a Wildlife Literacy Ambassador. Join a group to help restore wildlife habitats in Louisiana, participate in Frogwatch USA, or volunteer at NWF offices or from your home.

The Land Trust Alliance ( includes 1,700 organizations conserving over 37 million acres, saving forests, farms, waterways, and natural areas. Contribute your time and skills in communities where you live, work, or travel by connecting online with nationwide, statewide, and local land trusts listed with links providing contact information, demographics, and acres conserved.

Passport in Time ( connects volunteers with professional archeologists and historians in national forests. Help survey for historic sites in remote areas, excavate archaeological sites, monitor the condition of rock art, conduct oral history interviews, restore historic structures, or prepare artifacts for curation and research. Apply online.

Doing Good Together ( is a local and national resource that focuses on family volunteering with young children. You can sign up for a newsletter and listing of volunteer activities, and find out how to initiate and participate in programs for families through school, work, or faith-based groups.

One Brick ( is an all-volunteer, nonprofit with chapters in San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis–St. Paul. Each volunteer event, benefitting the environment, food banks, schools, and inner-city neighborhoods is followed by a gathering at a local restaurant so that participants get to know one another.

The United Way ( is in every community and there are many ways to help at special events, on a fundraising campaign, or serve on a committee. Wherever you’ll be traveling, consider contacting the local United Way to find out about volunteering opportunities at local events.

Sheryl Kayne is the author of IMMERSION TRAVEL USA: THE BEST & MOST MEANINGFUL VOLUNTEERING, LIVING & LEARNING EXCURSIONS. (Countryman Press, a division of W.W. Norton & Company), with over 200 immersion travel listings all over the USA and is available in bookstores across the country. Check out her website,, and get in touch with her at

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