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|Amber Brooks • 4/11/18|
The Short Version: Since 1995, Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) has organized short-term volunteer trips for almost 35,000 people around the world. This philanthropic organization gives everyday people a chance to expand their horizons by volunteering in Peru, India, Costa Rica, and other countries. Once you reserve your spot with the volunteer group, CCS will handle the logistics, including housing, transportation, and food. Experienced local guides even arrange fun excursions and cultural activities for participants. CCS’s volunteer projects differ according to the needs of the region; some volunteers work with children in underfunded schools, while others provide health care services at local clinics. Over the years, Cross-Cultural Solutions has established a global community of active voluntourists, so you never have to travel abroad alone. You can book a spot on a CCS volunteer program to immerse yourself in the local culture, meet worldly travelers, and make a difference in people’s lives.
One of my best friends from college loves traveling abroad and experiencing different cultures. She studied abroad every chance she got as a student, and now, as a full-fledged career woman, she uses her time off to see the world. Even when she doesn’t have anyone to travel with her, she doesn’t let that stop her.
Most recently, she took a week off to visit Guatemala on a volunteer program organized by Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS). She traveled solo, joined a diverse volunteer group, and worked closely with underprivileged children. She had a fantastic time doing something positive for the community and building relationships with her fellow volunteers. After her experience abroad, she has become an enthusiastic advocate for voluntourism and plans to volunteer in Morocco in the coming year.
CCS organizes high-impact volunteer efforts in countries around the world, including Guatemala, Morocco, Costa Rica, Ghana, Greece, India, Peru, Tanzania, and Thailand. Its programs mobilize groups of voluntourists during a two-week all-inclusive trip to communities in need.
Nearly 35,000 people have gone on these altruistic missions to improve the health, education, and quality of life in the places they visit.
High schoolers, college students, and avid travelers (like my friend) have a chance to make a difference while expanding their horizons. In total, Cross-Cultural Solutions’ volunteers have provided over 2.5 million hours of service in the last two decades. These trips offer a wonderful opportunity to meet people who share similar values and interests. The best part is, singles can go by themselves and yet find themselves surrounded by new friends working toward a common purpose.
“So many people want to travel and see the world, but they don’t want to be completely alone while they do it,” said Cassandra Tomkin, Chief Operating Officer at CCS. “With Cross-Cultural Solutions, you can do something impactful and make lifelong friendships and relationships at the same time.”
Cross-Cultural Solutions invites travelers to give back to international communities without going too far outside their comfort zones. All you have to do is choose the start date for your trip, and the team will take care of everything for you. These all-inclusive programs cover housing, food, excursions, insurance, ground transportation, and other amenities. Hands-on staff members are there to assist travelers throughout their experience abroad.
Before the trip even begins, a Program Specialist gets in touch to help volunteers with their travel logistics. These specialists have all taken CCS trips themselves, so they know what needs to be done to make sure everything goes smoothly. Learn more about the full CCS experience here.
From the CCS driver who greets you at the airport to the local guides who take volunteers on chaperoned excursions, the staff members take care of people going on these programs. So you don’t have to worry about a thing.
When you’re on an CCS trip, you can get to know many philanthropic people while you work at schools or health clinics. The unique atmosphere facilitates a sense of camaraderie. Plus, CCS programs give its volunteers plenty of down time to explore on their own or on an organized excursion to a volcano, a marketplace, or another sightseeing spot.
CCS also hosts fun cultural activities, including cooking classes and language lessons. From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., these engaging volunteer programs provide a full schedule of activities designed to help people experience everything the area has to offer.
“Our goal is to give people the opportunity to become immersed in the culture,” Cassandra said. “They can work on a meaningful project and have an impact on the community without making a year-long commitment.”
Nearly 35,000 volunteers have traveled with Cross-Cultural Solutions and worked on projects to end poverty, improve education, support gender equality, and provide accessible health care. Since it began in 1995, CCS has provided teaching support to 132,000 children, cared for 13,000 patients in health care facilities, and supported 25,000 people with disabilities. It started with one volunteer in India, and now it has grown into a global effort to improve people’s lives in dozens of rural and urban communities.
Cassandra told us CCS attracts a lot of solo travelers, but they also see couples, families, and the occasional corporate group. The ages of participants range from teenagers in high school to 90-year-olds in retirement. During the summer, a flood of college-aged people sign up because they want to do something meaningful with their vacation time.
Men and women from all over the world have gone on a CCS trip. Many of these travelers join because they’re seeking an authentic and safe experience abroad, and they’re wowed by the comprehensive travel programs organized by people who share a global outlook on life. According to its post-travel reviews, Cross-Cultural Solutions boasts a 99.5% volunteer satisfaction rate.
CCS’ team is understandably passionate about what they do, and many of them use their own time off to join the volunteer programs. Cassandra said she has gone on over 15 excursions in the past 13 years. “We’re an organization of travelers,” she said. “We’re truly, incredibly passionate about our work.”
When you volunteer abroad with Cross-Cultural Solutions, you’re not alone. The programs attract many altruistic individuals who live together at the home base for the entirety of the two-week program. After sharing such a unique and transformative experience in another country, CCS volunteers tend to bond closely with one another and stay in touch — sometimes even arranging to travel together again as CCS alumni — for years to come. Some CCSers have met their best friends or significant others while doing volunteer work overseas.
Cassandra told us she knows of many couples who met on a CCS trip, fell in love, and now have CCS babies. Some of these couples came from entirely different parts of the world but found common ground thanks to the volunteer programs.
You can become a CCS Alumni Ambassador to stay involved with the organization and its international community of voluntourists.
CCS trips allow participants to reach across borders, so it’s no wonder that many of them have found long-lasting relationships in their volunteer groups.
“From the moment you arrive at the airport, everything is handled for you,” Cassandra said. “People expect that. But they often don’t expect to build such strong bonds and relationships with the volunteer team and staff members.”
My friend returned from Guatemala with a new favorite way to travel. Now, every time I ask if she wants to go on a cruise together, she counters by suggesting we give aid to refugees in Greece or mentor underprivileged children in Morocco. Thanks to Cross-Cultural Solutions, she now plans to help the world while she sees the world.
CCS gives singles like my friend the opportunity to travel around the world safely, easily, and compassionately. You don’t have to come up with an itinerary, and you don’t have to convince friends or family members to go with you. All you have to do is reserve your spot on a program and let the company’s experienced guides do the rest.
Travelers can enjoy a fulfilling, community-oriented experience abroad by taking part in CCS’ volunteer projects. Whether they’re providing eyeglasses to schools or building brand-new wash stations in town, CCS volunteers can make a positive impact on the health and education of locals while immersing themselves in the culture of a foreign country.
“Once you go on your first CCS experience, it’s hard to imagine traveling as a tourist and hopping on a tour bus,” Cassandra said. “Our volunteer programs open people up to a new, more authentic way to connect with people around the world.”