There are many reasons why parents and kids choose VISIONS community service and travel programs. Here are some of the most common reasons that we hear each season.

From Teens:

  1. Looking to do something different than the mainstream, and take a break from the high school scene. Even though there may be some butterflies about traveling and meeting new people, there’s also excitement for doing something unique and challenging.
  2. To make a difference while also having fun. Whether you need service credits or not, the hands-on projects seem like a great way to be of help since so many places in the world lack basic infrastructure.
  3. Help kids in other countries go to school. Many VISIONS programs focus on building schools and helping with education options for kids who don’t have the resources.
  4. Really want to spend time in another culture and live in one of the local neighborhoods where you become part of the daily scene.
  5. To meet new people and make friends with teens and leaders who are interested in some of the same service adventures.
  6. Lay the groundwork for the rest of life. Having new experiences and exploring other cultures helps tap into other parts of ourselves, and how to approach the years ahead.
  7. To feel what it’s like to be a teen without borders… not just geographic borders, but also pushing the limits of new comfort zones, breaking down preconceived barriers, and helping to create a world where borders and barriers are less pronounced.

From Parents:

  1. Looking for a “shake up.” A regular comment from parents is that their child is a good kid, but they feel like something is needed to help them appreciate everything they have in life. One mom captured it when she said, “I had to work so hard growing up, and nothing came easy. Now that I’m doing well in life, I wanted to make things easier for my son, but I’m afraid I’ve made it too easy… he might need an outside experience to shake things up a bit, and something other than what I’m able to do as a parent.”
  2. Our programs are “unplugged,” so teens plug in. The tech-free experience provides a rare opportunity for teens to completely plug into their surroundings. Not surprisingly, kids also love this.
  3. We do what we say we do. Any marketing is a true-to-form reflection of what takes place in the field on VISIONS programs.
  4. Word of mouth recommendations and 28 years of parent, student, school, and educator references who are happy to share their experiences.
  5. Our safety record.
  6. Our size, and that it’s personal. You can call and speak with the Director, who will be the same person checking in each week with leaders in the field who are with your child. Many parents are drawn to the boutique, high-intention, yet no-frills nature of the way we do things
  7. It’s exactly what they and their child have been looking for. Many parents comment they or their child have had a certain type of experience in mind, but the overwhelming amount of “voluntourism” options have made the process daunting. We get dozens of calls each year from families who say that they feel like they’ve finally found what they’d had in mind from the get-go. They realize that VISIONS is the best at what we do: real service and with cultural immersion that is relationship-drive. 

In their own words: here are some of the responses from our teen volunteers when completing the application for a VISIONS summer.

Why do you want to participate in a VISIONS program?

“I want to participate in a VISIONS program because I am intrigued by the idea of traveling to a new and unfamiliar place. I want to have a meaningful, exciting, and educational experience that I will always remember. I also want to challenge myself physically, and learn more about native culture. I completed a two-week long service and exploration trip on the Cheyenne Reservation through VISIONS in the summer of 2015. I am interested in learning about new people and their cultures.”

“I was drawn to VISIONS because of the grassroots connections the program has created within local communities, which I believe will give me an authentic experience… I wanted to avoid the trips that were more about touring a country, therefore when I found the VISIONS DR trip, I knew it was perfect for me.”

“I went on a VISIONS trip last year, to Mississippi. It was the first time I had traveled alone or done any community service like that. I had such a great time, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Before going, I didn’t know what to expect, but after going, I missed it so much. I learned so many valuable skills and it enriched my life deeply. I knew I wanted to go again.”

“I think it would be really inspirational to spend a summer with other adventurous teens who share an interest in community service, along with making lots of new friends in the Blackfeet tribe. I want to be immersed in another culture, and have a wider choice of activity than I would on a typical teen tour. It would be amazing to be able to balance a summer full of community service with backpacking, swimming, and exploring. I have always been able to form intimate connections with elderly people in particular, and I want to improve the quality of life of the Blackfeet elders by building safer homes.”

“My sister participated in a VISIONS program to Peru, and had a great experience. I want to experience living in a foreign country; and I would like to give back to the community. I would also like to practice my Spanish.”

“When I was little, I always found how other cultures live their lives to be very interesting. What other kids grow up believing, what sports they play, and what foods they eat all fascinated me. This curiosity has continued to grow, and based on my research, VISIONS offers the perfect opportunity to learn about people. I love the idea that VISIONS is not a typical tour and that we teens get the responsibility, and the joy, of being in a new country, especially without cell phones. All the kids on the VISIONS excursion all have a common goal: To come back making the world a better place even if it’s just helping one family or child.”

“Last year I had a wonderful experience with the VISIONS program. I learned a lot through working in different groups and working in a different environment. I also realized how much I love helping other people. I want to experience the same thing I did last summer and that is why I want to participate in the program again.”

“These programs allow me to live in a community in a way that couldn’t be accomplished with tourism with my family. I also love carpentry work as it gives me a sense of pride and teamwork once the project is finished.”

“I want to participate in a VISIONS program because it appears to be the most authentic international summer service program that I could find. VISIONS has all of the ingredients of a great summer: service, being part of a team, and gaining real-world French language experience. I live in New York City and am fortunate enough to go to a good school, but I see so many people around me living in heartbreaking conditions. A bonus is that I would be able to also continue pursuing my interest in the French language and culture.”

“I am passionate about learning and speaking Spanish, and I think that traveling to a Spanish-speaking country will concrete my skills and Spanish-speaking abilities. I want to spend my summer doing something worthwhile, not just sitting around and watching TV, going to sports practices and hanging out with friends. I want to feel good about the work that I do and the giving back I provide to the earth.”

“VISIONS Nicaragua would be an amazing opportunity to learn about a new culture, to practice Spanish, and to meet new people.”

“VISIONS characterizes the kind of adventurous, hands-on, social trip I would like to be a part of this summer. I wish to return to VISIONS this summer because of my experience last year in Guadeloupe. Our group remains very much in touch today and we miss the feeling of a second family. I valued my group’s mood of tolerance and kindness throughout the entire trip. We had a universal work ethic and generosity, which I look forward to being a part of this year again.”

“Last year, I participated in the 15 day trip to the Dominican Republic, and when I came back, it was all I could talk about. It was the highlight of my summer. While my original want for embarking on that trip was mostly to build, help out in the community and to practice my Spanish, I met so many different, yet amazing people in both the community there and in the group I worked with. I made so many friends while there and was able to help out in a way that would actually affect someone’s life. Although I won’t be speaking very much Spanish if I am accepted into the trip, I look forward to being able to help out people in a way that can positively change lives, while making friends along the way.”

“I went to Peru with VISIONS last year and it was truly a life changing experience. I really enjoy learning about different cultures, and meeting new people along the way. This program has a very rewarding feeling at the end.”

“I want to participate in a VISIONS program because I believe that it is an experience that I will not be able to find anywhere else. I will be there for one reason, which is to make a difference. I will have the power, as a young adult, to be legitimately helpful and actively participate in the lives of other people who are much less fortunate than myself. At the end of my three weeks, I will be able to reflect on my experience and know that I have made an impact, no matter how big or small, in someone else’s life for the better.”

“I want to participate in VISIONS program, because I really love the experience. I have done the Alaska and BVI trip and they were both so fun. Every time I learn so much and make great friends. Even though the trips are really fun, I also love the hard work. On past trips, at the end of each day, I loved knowing that I contributed to a community and did something really important and helpful. Overall all, I love VISIONS trips because they have a great balance between fun, adventure and work. I am so excited to see Cambodia!”

“When my sister Ariel came back from a VISIONS program in Montana, she told me about her experience: the long days in the blistering sun drilling holes in planks of wood, the cultural exploration, and everything in between. Having listened to her describe numerous activities she did, I see a VISIONS program as something that would introduce me to new experiences in all aspects of life. I have volunteered at museums and worked with disabled children; however, I have never helped build and renovate houses before! I have gone rock climbing, but I wonder what ice climbing is like. These unique opportunities, all in one place at one time, excite me.”

“I’ve heard of this program from my friends, and I think it is a special and interesting program which allows me to learn more about ordinary life in the United States.”

VISIONS in The New York Times