Take a volunteer vacation!!

February 18, 2009 6:33:47 AM PST
The tough economy is forcing many people to scale back on vacation plans, if they go anywhere at all. But one local company is offering foreign getaways with a twist and a tax write-off.

Richard Arlow didn't spend his summer like the average college student.

"It was a good way to really (do) something meaningful."

He flew over 51-hundred miles to Kpando, Ghana for 7 weeks! The medical student and EMT spent his time working at a rural medical clinic.

"There would be around a hundred to 2 hundred patients there a day."

Along with Rick, there was a one doctor and less than a handful of nurses. Rick's training and the clinic's lack of help moved him up quickly from basic triage duties.

"Towards the end I would give IV's and injections and medications that people needed," he said.

Rick made the trip through Cosmic Volunteers, a company based in East Falls that sends people all over the globe on charity missions.

"I found out that there was this huge world of volunteering overseas," said Scott Burke.

Scott founded the non-profit in 2001.

Once you pick your destination Cosmic Volunteers takes on the rest.

"I get them ready in terms of how to deal with the culture, how to get ready for your trip, buying flights, getting your visa, vaccinations, when you get there how do you deal with culture shock."

Countries affiliated with the program are China, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, The Philippines, Vietnam and Ecuador. All the volunteers stay with host families, and Cosmic staff is always on hand.

"I have full time staff in each of these countries making sure everyone is taken care of from the minute they step off the plane," Scott explained.

Fees vary trip to trip, depending on where you go and how long you stay.

As an estimate, a week volunteering abroad could run about one-thousand dollars. That covers room and board, transportation, visas and orientation. You pay the airfare and extra insurance for emergencies.

"You can get a policy for as little as $25 that covers you up to a quarter of a million dollars and it's all your medical expenses."

The thousand dollars compares to about half the cost of a trip overseas for a regular vacation.

"I definitely want to do this again," Rick said.

Cosmic Volunteers is running a special group rate for 5 or more people who sign-up the program fee, is waived, and Cosmic will cover one person's airfare! The minimum stay is 2 weeks.