Michigan begins embracing “voluntourism” initiatives in efforts to restore communities.

Voluntourism can be general described as a combination of service, adventure, professional development and networking typically matched with your passion.

Michigan begins embracing “voluntourism” initiatives in efforts to restore communities.

Michigan, just like any other location, has challenges that can and are addressed via volunteer help. Examples and programs described here will illustrate organizations actively engaged in recruitment and coordination of voluntourism opportunities seeking Michiganders.

Voluntourism can be generally described as a combination of service, adventure, professional development, and networking typically matched with passion.

Spartans without Borders, a Michigan State University-based organization, has programs that attract MSU alumni looking to address challenges in the city of Detroit and abroad. Michigan Cares for Tourism, a faculty-driven effort out of Grand Valley State University brings professionals from the Michigan’s tourism industry together every year to restore one of Michigan’s cultural/historical treasures. In early May 2014, for example, more than 350 people met on Bell Isle, one of Michigan’s historical gems, to work on restoration projects over a two-day period. You can find additional information in the Michigan Advantage blog.

While this might simply seem like old-fashioned volunteering, because travel is an important component it enters the realm of tourism. Many in the tourism industry believe that tourism has no boundaries. People roam the planet daily, crossing borders and heavily guarded checkpoints by the hour, encountering new cultures and challenges by the minute, and sharing experiences ever second. Voluntourism has the ability to change societies, communities, organizations and the individuals engaging with it.

Voluntourism is still growing in the United States, and it brings unique opportunities for Americans to adopt a unique style of service and tourism to impact important challenges such as education, access to healthy food, construction, restoration of school districts and environmental issues. Michigan State University Extension has a team of educators working around tourism initiatives, community development, youth, livable communities, and leadership that help guide this process.