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More taking vacations to help those in need

By Greg Goodsell
March 5th, 2010
Catholic Online (

When most people travel to faraway lands, it's usually "to get away from it all." Now, more people are going to ailing faraway lands "to get to it."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) The January earthquake in Haiti actually spiked travel to that troubled island nation. The trend is being called "voluntourism" by several travel agencies.

Organizations such as Youth With a Mission, and send compassionate young travelers to countries in dire need of manpower. All these organizations have seen increased interest in travel to Haiti following the earthquake.

In particular, the number of people inquiring about volunteering in Haiti the month following the earthquake was almost three times the's normal traffic about volunteering in general.

"Absolutely, we're seeing an increase," Erin Barnhart,'s director of volunteerism initiatives told CNN."Particularly I think it's those people who perhaps had thought of the idea before and this has spurred them into action to say, 'Hey, I've been wanting to try this. Now's the time.' "

While such an outpouring of support is very gratifying, some officials warn against unskilled volunteers flooding Haitian trouble spots too quickly.

"Because of logistics and security, we're not in a place right now where we're bringing volunteers into Haiti, and it may be a while before we are able to do that," Desiree Hadaway with Habitat for Humanity International says. "Because we won't do it until we know that people can be safe and have a really great volunteer experience."

Chile, which also suffered a devastating earthquake last month, is far more developed and has not requested outside help as of yet. The greatest pressing need in Chile, officials say is highly trained first responders.

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