Part of your adventure involves experiencing a different culture, with very different ways of living. Accommodations are often modest, and the routine of daily life is typically slower than the pace Americans are accustomed to. Living conditions vary, depending on the site. This chart can give you an idea of which sites may be best suited to your interests and comfort level:
Global Citizens Network only partners with host communities that value families. Families with children are welcome on any of the trips. However, we also rate each site for family-friendliness based on criteria like travel time, terrain, living conditions, medical facilities, school breaks and more. You can find the ratings for each volunteer site in the chart above. Those rated as “high” will be particularly appropriate.
GCN offers three types of lodging. The kind of lodging available varies from site to site.
Typically, you’ll sleep on a bed or on the floor with a bedroll. Families are most often housed together, and children under 18 are always housed with at least one parent. Groups frequently opt for a communal stay.
We encourage all participants to eat the locally prepared food. The standard fare may get repetitive for young children, however. If you are travelling with your family and you think your child may need alternative options during your stay, we indicate whether a store with staples (peanut butter, bread) is near the site. If not, you may bring your own child-friendly snacks. Ask your team leader to recommend appropriate items before departure.
Sites have either indoor facilities (running water) or outdoor facilities (bucket baths). For longer trips, participants usually have the option of spending a night or two in a nearby hotel with showers and indoor plumbing. See the table for information on the availability of plumbing, electricity, cell phone reception and internet access at each site.
It is not always possible to know exactly what kind of project the community will need help with until the team arrives. However, the host community information table indicates the type of work typical to each location. In all cases, GCN works under the initiation and direction of the host community. If the project involves building, participants should be prepared to help hammer nails, install pipe and handle a paintbrush; if the project involves installing an irrigation system, participants could be asked to clear fields and dig with shovels, etc. On rare occasions, the project is unknown until arrival. In such case, please be prepared to be as flexible as possible as GCN and community identify the best option for that group’s stay.
The safety of trip participants is GCN’s priority. GCN takes precautions in order to maintain the safety and health of trip participants. Food is prepared under GCN-specified conditions, even when using local cooks. Team leaders purchase bottled water for participants and carry over-the-counter medications that might be needed. In case of emergency, all sites rated as “high” or “medium” on family friendliness are near a major city where medical facilities are available. The Center for Disease Control or a local travel clinic can provide information on precautions and immunizations specific to each country. Consider this information before traveling.
As part of your program fee, emergency medical and med evacuation insurance is provided for all GCN trip participants traveling internationally. GCN purchases this insurance from Core Travel Insurance. Trip participants have the option of upgrading their coverage by going to coretravelinsurance.com.
Coverage details are made available to enrolled participants
Note: Pre-existing conditions, mental illness and pregnancy are not covered.
Medical Conditions & Special Needs
Traveling abroad can be a stressful experience that may exacerbate a medical condition. It is important that the GCN Team Leader who travels with the trip participants is aware of any medical conditions or special needs a trip participant may have. For this reason we ask trip participants to indicate on the trip application any medical condition of which GCN and the GCN Team Leader should be aware.
All allergies, dietary needs, medications, etc., must be managed by the trip participant. Family stay placements are not based on consideration of medical or dietary conditions.
GCN reserves the right to cancel a trip participant who does not disclose a medical diagnosis on his/her trip application or whose medical condition or special needs cannot be accommodated appropriately on the trip; cancellation fees apply.
Participants need not be familiar with the local language of the community to volunteer with GCN, greetings and pleasantries in the local language can enhance the experience. Team leaders or leaders in training to Latin American countries do speak Spanish.
Please feel free to contact us at 952-746-2270 for further information about site conditions or with any questions or concerns. You can plan a trip here.
If you want to expose your children to other cultures in a way that is more real, in-depth, personable and memorable – by working in community with them rather than just traveling – this is the way to really learn about another culture.
We were exposed to something few of us get to experience. Most often we simply drive through communities. This time we got to meet and really get to know people, and they were so generous. We got far more out of the experience than we gave.
Kathy P., Rock Point, AZ (family of 4)
This was our best family vacation and a phenomenal experience. I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to do this with my children. My children realized that although the people in the community we visited didn't have a lot of material possessions, they had some things we didn't. The community members were funny, loving and generous.
The group experience was what made it so great. The team leaders were remarkable. They never passed judgment and treated my children like full members of the group, so they acted that way. The experience made them more confident and more excited about taking other travel adventures.
Marcy G., Xiloxochico, Mexico (family of 6)
Volunteering in Tanzania was a life-changing experience that opened my eyes not only to the needs of our fellow global citizens, but also to the lovable and exhilarating culture of Bukoba.
Megan age 19, Bukoba, Tanzania
GCN wasn't just a volunteer trip but instead a life altering two weeks that helped me discover myself.
Shannon age 15, Bukoba, Tanzania
Our GCN sponsored program in Tanzania wasn't a vacation but rather a deeply moving experience our family will cherish for a lifetime.
Sean, Dad, Bukoba, Tanzania
Working side by side with my husband and children, helping, reaching out, and learning from people in a culture vastly different from our own together as a family was one of the most valuable experiences of my life. We are already planning our next volunteer vacation.
Karen, Mom, Bukoba, Tanzania
This experience changed all of us. Nothing can compare with it. It's made my kids into global citizens. Before we left for Kenya, I was concerned that my kids were getting spoiled, but the trip showed them how happy people were, even though they had so little by comparison. They also discovered how much more important it is to have experiences instead of things.
My kids are so mature now as a result of the trip. They have a new and broader world view.
Nancy F., Maili Tatu, Africa (3 time repeat participant with 2 kids)
I took each of my two granddaughters on a trip when they turned 13, as a rite of passage. It was tremendously bonding for us. It deepened our love and our relationship, but it also sensitized the girls to different cultures and helped them gain an understanding and empathy for others.
One of my granddaughters was extremely wary. She said, "I don't know how to do this and I don't want to be there." But by the end, she was begging to stay. She had formed some amazing friendships. It was quite a transition.
My advice to families considering this kind of trip is this: Even if you have some hesitation, trust that the experience will be transforming for your child and for your relationship with your child. My two granddaughters are totally different personalities, but the same positive transformation happened for both.
We had so many one-on-one reflective conversations about what we were experiencing and learning. It's a different and more intimate way of being with children.
The team members were incredibly kind to my teenagers. The leaders were such good role models -- caring and inclusive.
Meg V., Rock Point, AZ 2003; La Push, WA 2007
The truly amazing thing about this community is the pride, character, and sense of respect you feel being with them. They carry themselves with esteem. Being with them, you know they will not only survive, they will succeed, collectively using the resources available to them for the good of the whole.
Joyce, Pennsylvania; Kenya Participant
With the beauty, the simplicity, the strength and comedy of this place, each day becomes an adventure to be anticipated.
Gladys, Ontario; Kenya Participants
I learned much more that GCN is about the process of building long term relationships with communities, not necessarily about the process of "building!" It was truly priceless to be allowed to be on the 'construction site' with a bunch of indigenous people in Mexico. Tourists DO NOT get that opportunity-nor should they. We all believed WE TRULY MADE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS.
Diana, Colorado; Two-time Mexico Participant
I have just this last hour arrived back home after what can only be described as an experience of a lifetime, the people at Jampaling were wonderful and I return with a feeling of accomplishment, and everlasting respect for a group of people who work so hard with such limited resources to achieve their goals.
David, Ontario; Nepal Participant
As a GCN volunteer you expect to fill the role of giver, giving of your time, efforts, money and heart. During a recent trip to Nepal, I felt more like a wide receiver for a pro football team, with countless blessings being passed my way! It started before I even left with support from a bunch of people, some of whom I don't even know, my sponsors through fundraising.
Cherril, New York; Nepal Participant
A positive growing experience that will unfold as time moves on. I do appreciate the warm hospitality of the local Navajo people and thank them for all they did to open our eyes and heart to their life, culture and values.
Jerry, Minnesota; New Mexico volunteer
It has become the most meaningful thing I've experienced in my life. It was more than a casual cultural exchange. I never felt like a tourist - I felt like I was coming home.
Ted, New York; New Mexico volunteer
The trip to Rock Point was a wonderful experience for me. Our team really "connected" and are talking among ourselves of doing other trips together! We all agreed we haven't laughed and sung songs like we did there for a long time. The Navajo people are wonderful, and we were able to share songs, dinner with them and they with us. We were able to complete the projects they had for us and still have lots of time for culture exchange.
Lynne, California; Arizona volunteer
My goal was to get lifted out of my personal and professional rut, to have my head and heart spun around and to land more solid and grounded. For the most part this happened.
Nancy, Vermont; Guatemala volunteer
Because of a scholarship provided by Global Citizens Network, I was able to spend two weeks volunteering in Guatemala, in a rural village called Llanos de Morales. This was my second trip volunteering in a developing nation (I went to Nicaragua two years ago), but my first time working with GCN. My experience was unforgettable and I would recommend it to anyone!
The best thing about the trip was getting really close-up pictures of horses. The hardest part of the trip was leaving Chirapa
Tana-Isabel, Washington; Peru youth volunteer
I wanted to be "in the middle of nowhere" and enjoy it as well as learn about the Quechua culture. My comfort zone has expanded and I enjoyed getting to know the people!
The most inspiring moment for me was receiving a genuine Quechuan percussion instrument as a gift from the community. It showed me that the community valued my presence and it is something that I will never forget.
David, University of Minnesota Participant; Peru volunteer
As I zipped into my sleeping bag, I reflected on this totally crazy, awesome experience, and in many ways wondered how (why) we are having so much fun. This is -- by far -- the best trip we have ever taken as a family and perhaps even my best trip ever. Everything is an adventure. We are living it rather than observing it. Amy S., Chicago, Guatemala volunteer