Vacation With a Purpose


by Candace Bailey


It’s that time of year – time for folks everywhere to start (or finalize) their vacation plans. You’ve worked hard all winter, saving up your vacation days and dollars to put toward a get-away to rest, relax, and revel in the great weather. Don’t forget to include something to refresh your spirit as well.

Have you ever considered taking a vacation with a purpose? Traveling with the intent to volunteer – voluntourism – has become increasingly popular over the years. Voluntourism is a form of episodic volunteering; rather than a long-term commitment, people instead offer their services/efforts on a short-term basis and it’s a win-win situation for volunteers and the organizations they’re helping alike.

Run a quick Google search and you’ll find plenty of organizations that offer chances to travel and volunteer. There are many programs to choose from, whether your interests lie in traveling abroad and lending a helping hand or sticking closer to home, you have options!

If you’re looking to travel further from home than just down the block, and wanting to stay animal-centric here on Oregon Dog Life, I’ll highlight a couple of opportunities for your consideration.


National Mill Dog Rescue
To rescue, rehabilitate and rehome discarded breeding dogs and to educate the general public about the cruel realities of the commercial dog breeding industry.
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Founded in 2007, for the last nine years NMDR has worked to honor Lily, an Italian Greyhound rescued from a mill dog auction, and to continue rescuing thousands of animals used for breeding until they can no longer produce puppies or profit for their owners.

NMDR has rescued more than 10,500 dogs to date, funding the cost of feeding, grooming, providing veterinary care and rehabilitation to these animals all through donations and grants. While they do have a foster care program, their main rescue facility is located in Colorado Springs, CO.

When you volunteer with NMDR you will receive a brief orientation that provides background information on the rescue and about their safety protocols, be given a tour of the facility and instructions on how to interact with the dogs in their care, and then you may help in all aspects of animal care, from doing laundry to having puppy parties. Not a bad deal if you think about it!


Best Friends Animal Society
To bring about a time when there are No More Homeless Pets

BFAS is a great destination for voluntourism with a variety of ways people can help the sanctuary animals. You’ll find work that needs to be done for dogs, cats, horses, pigs, rabbits, birds, and even wild animals, all housed and cared for by BFAS.

With accommodations available on-site (cottages, cabins, and RV sites), BFAS offers volunteer opportunities on its campus in Kanab, UT, for visitors age 6 and up (minors aged 6 to 17 must be accompanied by an adult), providing experiences for family members or other types of groups. They recommend scheduling your visit as far in advance as possible, as they are a popular destination and some of their animal areas having a limit of how many volunteers can work a given shift. BFAS has an orientation video available online, scheduling tools, and lots of FAQs and references to help you plan your trip.


Dog Trainer Collaborative in Puerto Rico
This trip is a perfect combination of community service, dog training skills, education and practice and flat out fun.

Debbie Jacobs, CPDT-KA, CAP2 and author of A Guide to Living with and Training a Fearful Dog and Does My Dog Need Prozac? leads this adventure for dog enthusiasts interested in learning more about training dogs and so much more while working with rescue groups and shelter staff in Puerto Rico and Vieques. You don’t have to be a professional trainer for this experience, just have the desire to travel and learn and give back to a community different than your own.

It’s not all training, all the time, of course. Volunteers are afforded the opportunity to explore Puerto Rico and the different culture, tropical rainforests, and white-sand beaches. Your adventure starts in San Juan and progresses from there with training sessions taking place in different locales to allow you a fuller experience.

Not only will you be honing your skills, you’ll also be helping to support the dogs in this area by showing people how to have a positive relationship with their pets.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I totally want to make all three trips! Who’s with me??)


What if you’re not able to jet off down a runway and land somewhere else? Interested in stay-cation voluntourism options? We Oregonians are great about giving of ourselves and our time. Did you know that in 2014, 32.7% of Oregonians volunteered in some fashion? That’s 1 million volunteers, giving 137.1 million HOURS, the equivalent of $3.2 billion in service.*

Here are just a few programs closer to home in the Portland/Vancouver metro area.


Group Projects, the Oregon Humane Society
OHS provides one-time volunteer experiences for small (4-8 people) and large (8-30 people) groups.

These great programs allow volunteers from the community to help out at the Oregon Humane Society shelter. Upon arrival at the shelter, groups are given an introduction to OHS with information about the history and mission of the shelter, how animals come to OHS, and how the adoption process works, plus much more. After a brief tour of the shelter, volunteers then get to work!

Groups of 4 to 8 people (age 12 and up). These small groups can participate in 2 hours of animal enrichment activities: hanging out with cats and dogs, socializing, brushing, exercising, and cleaning! These slots fill up fast so booking early is very important.

Groups of 8 to 30 people (age 12 and up). These large groups will be put to work on the dog walking path at OHS. These volunteer groups will spread wood chips, do weeding and invasive plant removal, plant native plants, and help maintain the natural area for the health and safety of OHS dogs and their volunteer walkers.


Group Projects, Humane Society for Southwest Washington –
Regardless of the project, one thing is certain: group volunteers make a difference for the dogs and cats.


Groups interested in volunteering their time for HSSW should number between 5 and 20, and group members should be at least 14 years old. While the group projects don’t include time spent handling animals, activities such as helping with shelter maintenance, helping at the shelter ReTails store, or other HSSW events are a huge help to the animals!


Group Projects, Cat Adoption Team
Cat Adoption Team volunteers don’t just love cats, they put their love of cats into action.

Group volunteering is open to people age 16 and up. One-time projects such as maintenance, weeding, painting, etc. are a big help to this organization. You can contact the Volunteer Manager for more information on these opportunities.


HandsOn Greater Portland
We will connect you with a volunteer opportunity that makes a meaningful, rewarding change in the Portland area.
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HandsOn Greater Portland is a fabulous clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities. You can enter your city or zip code, put in a keyword (or not) and hit Search. You’ll be presented with a ton of volunteer opportunities in your area. Want to keep your volunteering animal-centric? There’s a dog/cat icon for that! Click the icon and you’ll be shown animal-related opportunities (OHS currently has several of the above-listed opportunities shared on HandsOn’s site).


These are just some of the great opportunities that you and your family and friends can come together for, offering your sweat-equity to organizations who will greatly appreciate your help. Whether you’re off for a week out of state (or country) or just looking to spend some quality together time over a long weekend, voluntourism could be just right for you! Every bit of positive energy put forth to aid animals, whether in your own community or further afield, is fabulous for you AND the animals.


Candace Bailey juggles working full time at a desk with devoting as much free time as possible to animal welfare and her own herd of pups. Candace is an active volunteer for the Oregon Humane Society, where she is involved in a myriad of programs. Along with her husband Bill, they have six dogs, affectionately referred to the as The Littles – Benny, a poodle/beagle mix boy adopted from OHS; Maggie and Millie, Lhasa Apso girls; Bubba, a Lhasa Apso boy from the OHS Second Chance program; Pudgy, a Chihuahua boy; and Katie, a Mini Dachshund girl from the OHS Columbia Co. rescue.