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Voluntourism: An RV Family Affair

Changing the World One RV Park at a Time

Want to give your family RV trip a new focus? Try a voluntourism experience. No, that’s not a typo. Voluntourism is a fast-growing trend that combines traditional travel with volunteer experiences. Sure, it’s fun to be at your RV campground, simply splashing in the pool or lounging by the fire. But incorporating even just an hour of volunteering will show your children that they can make an impact.

Don’t worry—you don’t need to plan an expensive RV trip to Kenya to help save the rare white rhinos. One of the simplest ways to turn even a short family RV trip into a voluntourism trip is to call the campground ahead of time, and ask if there are any projects with which your family can help. After getting over the shock at your offer, the manager will probably be thrilled to accept it. Here are a few ways that some families have helped out at campgrounds.

  • One family assisted the maintenance staff by planting 200 potted pansies at the campground entrance. The kids immediately saw how these efforts improved their surroundings.
  • A family with Martha Stewart skills spruced up three bulletin boards with new background paper and decorative borders.
  • A family with two preschoolers volunteered for 30 minutes in the campground crafts room. Their assignment? The little girls were “in charge” of inspecting tubs of ink markers and tossing out the dried up, unusable ones.
  • Another family took out landscaping tools, and trimmed all the shrubs and small branches overtaking a half-mile nature trail.
  • At Halloween, a campground offering a haunted house attraction used family volunteers to decorate. You can never have too many cobwebs and plastic spiders. (Plus tween boys love spreading fake blood on haunted house walls!)
  • A family with teenagers used power screwdrivers and hammers to help install holders for dog waste bags. They got a kick out of attaching signs that read, “If they poop…you must scoop.”
  • A campground was thrilled when a family offered to paint 10 metal barrels that were used as additional trash cans on busy weekends.
  • One family spent a rainy afternoon helping organize their campground’s book and DVD lending library. Instead of complaining about the bad weather, they felt fulfilled after seeing their efforts, which included revamping the check-out system.
  • A campground owner was thrilled to have family volunteers at a large-scale ice cream social. They helped set things up and scooped ice cream, taking turns with everyone’s favorite job…spraying on the whipped cream!
  • When one family asked for a volunteer project, the campground manger said, “I’ve been hoping to find time to paint our mascot statue. It would be great if you could spruce him up.” “Him” turned out to be a 10-foot plastic stegosaurus, and the family spent a gleeful afternoon giving him a makeover.
  • If you really enjoy volunteering, you can go all out as a family of four did one summer. Their campground was holding a Christmas in July weekend. Mom volunteered to sew cute elf costumes, complete with pointed toe shoes, for her two children. During the weekend, Dad dressed up as Santa, while Mom played the part of Mrs. Claus, mother of two elves. Not only did they play a major part in the campground celebration, they also got a great photo for their holiday card.

Want more family volunteering ideas? Check out Sondra Clark’s book, 77 Creative Ways Kids Can Serve (Wesleyan Publishing), which has step-by-step instructions for activities to help people, animals, and the environment. Full disclosure: Sondra is Silvana Clark’s daughter–but many agree with her mother that this book is a great family resource.