The more and more we travel the more our eyes are opened to the realities of the world and our responsibilities as global citizens. As we interact with people and explore different environments, it’s difficult not to want to help make the world a better place, and increasingly for a lot of travelers, volunteering while vacationing has become an essential part of the itinerary. “Voluntourism” – as this type of traveling has become known – is not an entirely new concept, but it’s picked up over the years and has become an industry in its own right.
But while it’s possible to make your entire trip about helping out in a local community, it’s also possible to incorporate an altruistic activity into your travel plans, so you get to make a positive contribution to your host city while enjoying the scenery. Volunteering has always been an important part of what we do at HI USA: we believe that a crucial aspect of tourism is not just checking destinations off a list, but leaving those destinations with a little more love than we found them. Just think: without local communities to impart their unique flavors upon those who are passing through, there wouldn’t be a reason to travel.
Whether you’re looking for a place to pop-in and volunteer while you’re visiting the west coast, or you’d like to keep doing good in the travel world back wherever you call home, there is ample opportunity to do so with our HI USA hostels on the west coast and all across the country .
Places to Volunteer near HI USA hostels
If you’re staying at HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf:
This hostel is within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area so there is ample opportunity to spend a day or two doing a bit of volunteering. Opportunities include restoring historic structures, controlling non-native plant populations and working with park scientists to protect endangered species. The park services within Fort Mason need volunteers on Tuesdays, and on Wednesdays you can volunteer with the Presidio nursery.
Visit the Park Service website for more information.
If you’re staying at HI San Francisco City Center or HI San Francisco Downtown:
GLIDE, which calls itself “a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization,” is a favorite for the San Francisco hostels because it serves a hyper-local community. You can help by serving breakfast, lunch or dinner during the Daily Free Meals program, or you can use your specialized skills to lend an extra hand in other areas, like the After School Program or in the offices as an IT volunteer.
Get the details at GLIDE.org or email HI SF City Center’s engagement coordinator Anthony Jones.
If you’re staying at HI Marin Headlands:
You can help out at the Marin Headlands Nursery on Wednesdays and Saturdays in their effort to restore and preserve the local fauna. The program varies between seasons, and volunteers can get their hands dirty doing anything from processing seeds and pruning saplings to general maintenance. For longer term volunteers, the Marine Mammal Center is always looking for dedicated individuals to help care for sick and injured sea creatures.
Find out more about the Marin Headlands Nursery.
If you’re staying at HI Point Reyes:
The Point Reyes National Seashore offers many opportunities for volunteers within its rich and beautiful setting. You could monitor wildlife like salmon and elk, help protect and restore critical habitat, participate in beach cleanups or lead tours as a docent. There are opportunities to volunteer for just a day, a few months or up to six months and more.
Learn more about the volunteer opportunities at Point Reyes National Seashore.
If you’re staying at HI Portland Hawthorne Hostel:
If you’re a proponent of Girl Power and have the time to lead an inspirational talk or an educational field trip, then Girls Inc. has the ideal volunteer opportunity. The organization aims to make a difference in the lives of young women aged six to 18 years by empowering them to be strong, smart and bold. You can plan your presentation around any topic and you’ll be matched with a small, impressionable audience.
Visit the Girls Inc. site for more information.
If you’re a local:
While you’re saving up for your next travel adventure you can stay in contact with travelers by volunteering at one of more than 50 HI USA hostels from coast to coast. There is always a need for knowledgeable locals who are passionate about their city and keen to lead tours and activities or host hostel events. You can also serve the National Parks that the hostels call home, like Pigeon Point, where they are always looking for docents to lead guided tours around the park.
Find out more about volunteering with HI HUSA.
HI USA tip: If you’ve already got an organization in mind, it’s worthwhile gathering a group of fellow voluntourists for HI USA’s annual Great Hostel Give Back, when you get a free stay for every two hours spent volunteering.