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Volunteers gather supplies at a local donation shelter in Queens, NY

There is often a disconnect between travelers and local communities; many people stay in hotels, eat in touristy areas and shop according to their guidebooks.  Most rarely interact with local people unless during some sort of transaction.  Voluntourism is a great way for travelers to help out while experiencing all their temporary community has to offer.  Voluntourism – the act of traveling for the purpose of volunteering – is a growing trend within the travel community. Many times, voluntourists can get their lodging and meals from host families in exchange for their services.

I used to work as a volunteer coordinator at the College of Charleston, setting up students with local non-profits and communicating with the public about community needs in Charleston, South Carolina.  One of the programs we ran was called “Alternative Spring Break,” where students organized voluntourism trips across America and around the world.

Never been to New York City before?  What better way to explore my hometown than creating a voluntour to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy?  New York and New Jersey are in dire need of extra hands.  You can help to help rebuild homes, hang out with awesome people who need a friend, and clean up what were some of the best beaches in America.

Here are some great resources for helping out the local communities in and around New York City.  Can’t get away from home?  You can still donate your time and effort from afar:

How to help in New York City after Hurricane Sandy: Time Out New York lists ways you can volunteer locally in NYC, donate blood, collect food and clothing and funds to Hurricane Sandy victims.

Storm Aftermath: Live Updates: Great resource for those wishing to go to New York City/Long Island to help with the aftermath.  Includes live updates of transportation routing, which areas have restored power, emergency supplies distribution, school closing information, and up-to-the-minute news articles.

How to Help the Survivors of Hurricane Sandy: issued by the White House Blog, a list of ways you can help those affected by Hurricane Sandy including a link to FEMA’s volunteer/donation resources.

Long Island Volunteer Center: Come clean up my house! Just kidding, but here is a great list of organizations from my neck of the woods, along with how YOU can help my community get back on its feet.

If you are interested in helping out the Hurricane Sandy relief effort but are still stuck, feel free to contact me via email.  I’d be happy to point you out in the right direction!