Scottsdale agency gives chance for 'volunteer vacations' - East Valley Tribune: Business

Scottsdale agency gives chance for 'volunteer vacations'

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Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 6:27 am | Updated: 6:00 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A new Scottsdale travel agency is offering “Voluntours” and “Volunteer Vacations,” two plans that let travelers simultaneously combine pleasure and public service.

Adventure Travel introduced the new travel programs several months ago, said its founder and owner, Debbie Norwitz.

“Our plans allow people to enjoy their travels — and offer them an opportunity to give back to the community and the world through volunteer work,” Norwitz said. “It’s the only one of its kind in Arizona.”

Norwitz, who operates the agency from her home in Scottsdale, opened her agency two years ago and started the combined travel-volunteer ventures several months ago.

Travelers can visit virtually every country, including many Third World nations, and participate in hundreds of volunteer programs ranging from teaching English to children in Brazil to helping build homes for poverty-stricken members of the Hill Tribes in Thailand.

And, when they’re not serving humanity, they can visit tourist attractions, enjoy good meals at popular restaurants, ride elephants or go snorkeling.

“You become immersed in the community you are volunteering in, and you have the opportunity for sightseeing trips in your chosen destination,” Norwitz said.

“Voluntours” includes more sightseeing than volunteer time while participants in “Volunteer Vacations” spend more time volunteering their time than enjoying being a full-time tourist.

Trips can range in price for both from an average of $1,100 to $5,000 for hotel expenses, meals, sightseeing tours, for example, but does not include the cost of air fare, Norwitz said.

The trips range from an average of nine days to two weeks or longer.

A 15-day “Volun-tour” in the Fiji Islands, for instance, costs $3,500 with a few of the days set aside for working at either a wildlife rehabilitation center or building homes for poor families — or any other volunteer program — and the remainder touring the beautiful tropical South Pacific islands.

Travelers to Romania can visit the ancient European nation between holding babies at a hospital for children from low-income families.

“Europe doesn’t have as many volunteer opportunities as South America, Africa or parts of Asia, but we can find a location for our clients to serve just about anywhere,” Norwitz said.

Among the first steps in planning a trip is to meet with a potential traveler and discuss his or her interests for both the nation to be visited and the type of volunteer work they prefer, she said.

Among the sources of information used to prepare a travel plan include Global Volunteers and Hands Up Holidays, agencies that gather and distribute information for travelers who want to volunteer their time and energy for various causes.

“Safety is a very important part of the travel plan,” Norwitz said.

“No trips are planned for countries that are dangerous or in turbulence. Some trips will be physically challenging. Still others may provide travelers the opportunity to learn a new skill or craft.”

Norwitz made her first international trip in 1992, a three-month journey that included stops in England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. She stayed at youth hostels.

“My passion was always to become a volunteer for the Peace Corps, but I could never join,” Norwitz said. Instead, she served on several community-based foundations and, for 10 years, owned and operated a bookstore in Scottsdale. For more information, call (602) 494-4883 or visit

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