The final post in my New Year’s Resolutions series, which includes Health and Fitness and Learning Vacations in Italy, focuses on doing good while on vacation. Of course, Italy may not be the first place you think of when you consider volunteering your time – indeed, Haiti comes to mind – but there are a number of ways that you can make a difference on an Italy vacation.
Causes you can volunteer for include teaching English, land preservation, farming help (e.g., grape and/or olive harvesting), archaeology assistance, building homes, and environmental cleanup, to name a few. Trips range from easy to challenging, making them a perfect fit for about any age group.
One of the best places to look for information on volunteer vacations in Italy is on the site Transitions Abroad. They currently list opportunities such as helping elderly and/or disabled Italians in sites near Milan, Verona, and Torino; dolphin and whale watching research in Liguria; and assisting archaeological digs near Rome.
The Earthwatch Institute has been offering educational volunteer opportunities all over the world since 1971, so it is a great site to browse if you’re looking for a diversion with a difference. For 2010, they have one working vacation with an adult and teen version. Discovering Italy’s Ancient Roman Coast allows volunteers to “excavate the Roman maritime settlement of Poggio del Molino, document all finds, collect organic samples with a palaeobothanist, and survey the area surrounding the dig site to collect, clean, and document artifacts such as pottery shards, mosaic, fresco, metal, and coins.” The teen volunteer component requires a larger monetary donation.
One of the coolest volunteer projects I’ve come across in my research is for the Art Monastery Project. Its mission is to transform an old monastery in Umbria into an international nonprofit arts production house. Although the project has already been featured in The Guardian as one of Five Great Workaway Working Holidays, the “Art Monks” still require assistance from art-loving volunteers in working “on arts projects, maintaining the grounds, cleaning the pool and guestrooms, organising concerts and artistic productions.”Leave it to these artsy visionaries for getting out the word about their needs, too. You can follow them on Twitter (@artmonastery) or on Facebook before you decide to volunteer (or to check the status of the project after you have left.)
The most typical volunteer opportunities in Italy involve working on farms. I profiled a volunteer vacation in the Cinque Terre on Italofile last year which offers travelers the chance to contribute to sustainable tourism efforts at a farm overlooking the Ligurian Sea. One of the best-connected organizations for finding volunteer opportunities on a farm are available through WWOOF, which stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. In order to work on an organic farm in Italy, you’ll need to become a member of WWOOF:
WWOOF Italia…provides obligatory accident insurance cover for WWOOFers and, providing both host and WWOOFer can produce membership cards, justifies the presence of a voluntary collaborator on a farm. The WWOOF Italia list includes biodynamic and organic farms and smallholdings, some hosts live from farming and sell their products while others just want to be self sufficient, or simply to grow their own organic vegetables. WWOOF hosts do not expect that you know a lot about farming when you come, but they do expect you to be willing to learn and fit in with their lifestyle.
Finally, Volunteers for Peace is an organization doing good throughout the world as well as in Italy. Although at the time of this writing VFP had no projects listed for Italy in 2010, it has brought on volunteer travelers for more than 200 past projects in Italy, including manual labor jobs, working with kids, environmental works, arts projects, and more. The following video explains the agency’s mission. And you can also follow them on Facebook to find out about upcoming working holidays, whether in Italy or elsewhere:
Please note that volunteer vacations, which often involve manual or moderate labor, are the cause of many accidents abroad. If you do intend to take a volunteer vacation anywhere, make sure you check in with your country’s consulate or embassy before you travel so they have a record of you should you need medical assistance.
Do you know of other volunteer vacations in Italy? I am especially eager to learn if there are any ongoing needs for volunteers in earthquake-ravaged Abruzzo. Please comment with any details below!
Photo © clickr62