Participants will spend focused time in three distinct areas of Lebanon, and will be volunteering with local organizations, engaging in tours, and attending presentations (related to culture, volunteerism, politics, and migration (both emigration and immigration). There will also be free time to interact with other participants in the group and a few opportunities to explore a given area on your own or with others in the group.
The program lasts for 3 weeks (21 days) from June 25th through July 16th. This will include 7 days in each of the three distinct areas represented by the three base camps.
English is the primary language of the program, but we will try to accommodate those whose native language is French, Spanish, or Portuguese and will provide translations from Arabic into English when needed. Knowledge of Arabic will be useful, though not needed, and there will be some basic Arabic language sessions during the program.
The program fee is $3000, which covers all program costs within Lebanon. For information about what it includes and what it does not include, as well as other information about costs and financing, click here.
This program is open to youth of Lebanese descent, who are between 18 and 30 years old, who have lived most of their lives outside Lebanon, and who are either current university students, university graduates, or high school graduates who are about to enter a university at the end of the summer.
The Heritage Volunteer Program is run by the Learning to CARE Institute (LTCI), under the leadership of Dr. Patricia Nabti. Dr. Nabti is a cultural anthropologist with a focus on the Arab World, whose thesis was on Lebanese migration worldwide. She has taught at both Stanford and the American University of Beirut, and has been a faculty lecturer for more than a dozen Stanford Travel/Study tours to the Arab World. The Learning to CARE Institute is a social venture registered in Lebanon (S.A.R.L.) which provides training and consulting on all aspects of volunteerism, and which will begin its EcoVolunTours program with this first session of the Heritage Volunteer Program.
To register, please click on the register link here or at the top/right of the page.
The payment schedule is fully explained in the section on Costs/Financing.
We encourage participants to arrive before the program begins so that they get over any problems of jet lag, or to stay after and explore Lebanon. Since we cannot arrange for participants to go to the towns and villages of their heritage, it would be great if they can save time to do that as well, before or after the program. We will not be able to organize or facilitate any additional accommodations or tours, however.
This program, due to its targeting of youth of Lebanese heritage, aims to connect participants with their heritage while promoting volunteering within Lebanon. Additionally, this program will immerse participants in the culture and history of Lebanon, provide extensive opportunities for interaction with the Lebanese population, and provide meaningful opportunities to contribute positively to Lebanese society.
Dr. Nabti, the director of the Learning to CARE Institute and coordinator of the Heritage Volunteer Program, has worked with hundreds of organizations and service institutions in Lebanon while she was the Director of the Association for Volunteer Services and in her capacity as Coordinator of Global Youth Service Days Lebanon for the past 12 years. We are currently exploring which organizations and NGOs would be best served by the participation of the project participants. Depending on the participants in the program, their language abilities and skills, we will arrange for both small and large group volunteer opportunities. These might include volunteering for the elderly, orphans, those with special needs, and the environment, through Lebanese non-governmental organizations, service institutions, and local municipalities.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to signup and be informed of program updates.
Our Heritage Volunteer Program is the only program that centers on immersing participants of Lebanese heritage in an authentic Lebanese cultural experience through learning, volunteering, and touring the country. Our three base camps give participants the opportunity to get to know the three major geographic and cultural components of Lebanon – the mountains with their traditional villages, the central valley that is the agricultural heartland of Lebanon, and the urban coastline. In addition, it is our hope that participants will come from a broad range of countries and cultures worldwide who share an interest in learning more about their heritage through a fun, educational, and meaningful experience.
For ideas about how you can get help in financing your trip, click here.
As the program is split into three distinct and unique areas of Lebanon, there will be three different base camps where the group will stay. The first is an eco-lodge near the village of Ramlieh, in the Aley district of the Lebanese mountains, run by the Association for Forests, Development, and Conservation (AFDC). The second is an eco-village in Taanayel in the Bekaa Valley developed and run by Arc en Ciel, a non-profit organization in Lebanon. Our last base camp is a travelers’ hostel in Beirut within walking distance of the city center and the popular nightspot of Gemmaize.
The program will have a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 30 participants from outside Lebanon along with up to 5 youth interns from Lebanon, and two staff of the Learning to CARE Institute. We decided on this size as optimal for social interaction, accommodations, and transportation.
Participants in the program who have a Lebanese identity card (hawiyyi) need to only show their card along with the passport from their country of citizenship to enter Lebanon. Participants who do not have a Lebanese identity card should consult the nearest Lebanese embassy or consulate to determine whether they need a visa. Be sure to inform them of your Lebanese heritage.
In many cases, visas can be obtained upon arrival in Beirut at the airport. It is generally required that passports are valid for 6 months after your scheduled departure. Additionally, your passport should not have any Israeli stamps. If your passport contains an entrance or exit stamp from Israel, you will need to have a new passport issued before you arrive in Lebanon since you will not be allowed to enter the country.
Participants will be selected to assure as much diversity and balance as possible in terms of gender, age, and countries of residence. All applicants will need to fulfill the criteria of being between 18-30 years old, having some Lebanese heritage, and being current university students or graduates – students who have just completed high school and are about to enter college are also eligible, as long as they meet the age requirement. They will need to note on the application that college or university that they plan to attend in the fall.
Applicants will receive a response within 10 days after their application has been submitted. In order to have the group be as diverse as possible, we will accept no more than five participants from any one country before the deadline of May 10, putting any others from that country who qualify on the waiting list. Those on the waiting list for this reason will be processed immediately after the deadline. If spaces remain after the waiting list has been processed, we will have a rolling acceptance policy to accept all those who qualify on a first-come, first-served basis.
The electric current in Lebanon is generally 220 volts, 50 cycles. A two-pin plug, with round pins is commonly used (Type C, similar to many European countries). But many appliances sold in Lebanon have US or British plugs, so it is best bring an international adapter with you.
Yes, travel and health insurance are required for participation in the program. You will need to send us proof of at least $50,000 of travel health and repatriation insurance at least two weeks before you arrive in Lebanon.
Lebanon is a developed country and has excellent health facilities, especially in Beirut, and most health professionals know English or French as well as Arabic.
Regarding needed vaccinations, it would be best to consult with your doctor or health-care provider as soon as you have made your travel plans to determine what you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities.
Although yellow fever is not a disease risk in Lebanon, the government requires some travelers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever virus transmission to present proof of yellow fever vaccination. If you will be traveling to Lebanon from any country other than the United States, this requirement may affect you. For specific requirement details, see Yellow Fever & Malaria Information, by Country.
Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Routine vaccines, as they are often called, such as for influenza, chickenpox (or varicella), polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) are given at all stages of life.
Although Beirut’s tap water is considered safe to drink, it’s probably best for travelers to drink bottled water. As is the general traveler’s rule, to be absolutely safem drink water only from bottles with intact caps and do not take ice in your drinks. Participants in our EcoVolunTours will be given a metal water bottle to use along the trip. We will have large refillable bottles of water available to refill the water bottles with – all in the interest of having our tours be as safe and as environmentally friendly as possible.
While the telephone system in Lebanon is well-developed, there are few public pay phones, and international phone calls are expensive. Most Lebanese use mobile phones, and coverage extends throughout the country.
The country code for Lebanon is (961). This is followed by the local area code and the telephone number. The area code for mobile phones is (03) or (70, 71, 72…. etc. ) and the area code for Beirut is (01). If you are dialing Lebanon from outside the country, omit the (0) in the area code (except don’t omit anything for the 70 series for mobile phones).
Many people in Lebanon also communicate internationally through Skype or similar online programs.
While the time difference depends on where you’re coming from, Lebanon’s timezone is GMT +03:00 during daylight savings time (and GMT +02:00 in the winter). See an online time converter for the time difference with your area.
While Arabic is Lebanon’s official language, English and French are widely spoken. Most Lebanese speak at least two or three languages, and visitors will find no problems communicating. Many establishments provide signs, menus, and information in both Arabic and English or Arabic and French – and some even provide it in Arabic, French, English AND Armenian! While this is true, many people on the streets are not comfortable speaking anything but Arabic, and everyone appreciates the efforts of travelers to say at least a few words in Arabic. The program will provide some basic Arabic training at three different levels to fit the language abilities of participants, and there will be plenty of opportunity during the program to try out the Arabic you learn or already know.
The official currency in Lebanon is the Lebanese Lira variously noted as LL or as the Lebanese Pound (LBP). In addition, the US Dollar is used as a regular currency everywhere in Lebanon, but only bills, not coins. Even the ATMs work in both currencies, so that you can withdraw money in either LL or $. The currency rate between USD and LL fluctuates slightly on the official market, but is stable on the street and in ATMs at $1 to every 1,500 LL. That may seem complicated at first, but is really a simple exchange rate to calculate once you get used to it.
While major banks and institutions accept credit cards (Visa/Mastercard), most places in Lebanon accept primarily, or exclusively, cash. This is rapidly changing, and more and more business establishments will now accept credit cards. ATMs will also usually accept major credit/debit cards.
Yes. Throughout the experience, each base camp will have WiFi access to the Internet, and in both Ramlieh and Taanayel there are a few public computers where participants can get online.
Credit for participation in the Heritage Volunteer Program is possible. Please see the Learning section for more information.
Raising funds is a possibility for potential participants. For more information on this, please visit the Costs/Financing page.
A common conception is that by volunteering your time, you are able to forgo, or at least minimize, the costs associated with voluntouring. The accommodations, meals, transportation, touring, training, and other costs of the program, however, come at a considerable cost. Organizations in Lebanon that have volunteer opportunities have limited budgets which cannot be used to cover any of those costs since they must be used on the projects they are involved in. They would prefer to engage local volunteers for whom they do not need to cover any additional costs rather than pay the costs of a volunteer from abroad. On the other hand, they appreciate the value of having both local and international volunteers, and welcome the help that volunteers from abroad can provide.
Due to the legalities of many medical insurance providers and the limitations for coverage outside the country of origin, separate travel health insurance is required for participation in the Heritage Volunteer Program. Those accepted into the program will need to send proof of $50,000 of travel medical and emergency evacuation insurance before final acceptance as a participant in the program.
Applicants will receive a response within 10 days after the application has been submitted. They will then have seven days to submit their acceptance and arrange for the bank transfer of the $500 deposit to hold their space.
In order to have the group be as diverse as possible, we will accept no more than five participants from any one country before the deadline of May 10, putting any others from that country who qualify on the waiting list. Those on the waiting list for this reason will be processed immediately after the deadline. Applications may be accepted after May 10 on a space available basis. If the deadline has past, you may contact the Learning to CARE Institute to inquire about space availability at email@example.com.
Please see the Program Refund Policy in Costs/Financing.
The program fee does not include international airfare and airport taxes, the cost of your passport, visas, laundry service, travel, up to five lunch or evening meals, any alcoholic drinks at meals, transportation to/from the airport to downtown Beirut, and medical and emergency evacuation insurance.
You will also need to bring your own toiletries, medications, and money to buy incidentals, gifts, and other personal items.
Tours will take place throughout Lebanon, including Beirut, the Lebanese Mountains and the Bekaa valley. For more information, please see the Touring page.
The Learning to CARE Institute strongly supports efforts to make facilities throughout Lebanon more accessible. Unfortunately, the country still has serious accessibility problems. Many of the places the group will be staying and touring are not accessible by those in wheelchairs or who have other serious difficulties with mobility. We recognize this as a serious problem so that in the future, we hope to have a special tour that is wheelchair friendly.
For other disabilities (vision, hearing, etc.), please let us know ahead of time what they are so that, together, we can accommodate them in the best way possible.
Voluntourism is new way to explore the world that is growing in popularity. As the AmaTierra Foundation in Costa Rica explains it: Where traditional tourism caters to travelers who seek to experience the best a destination has to offer, Voluntourism fulfills a tourist’s desire to make a lasting positive impact upon the local population and community. Voluntourism provides much-needed services while offering a very personal cultural exchange, creating long-lasting ties between foreign tourists and local community members.
Eco-voluntourism takes this a step further, by seeking to minimize the environmental impact of those on tour by staying in eco-friendly accommodations, consuming locally produced food, minimizing the use of plastics, and otherwise following the guide to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle throughout the tour. In addition, at least some of the volunteer opportunities are selected to contribute positively to the environment.
We hope to also have participants calculate the carbon footprint of their travel to Lebanon, as well as other aspects of the ,and facilitate their buying carbon offsets to neutralize the negative impact of their trip on the environment.
This is a non-smoking trip. Smoking will not be allowed in any of the accommodations, in restaurants, on the buses, or in any public facilities. Those who smoke, will need to do so outside, and will need to be very careful that they dispose of their ashes and cigarette butts in an eco-friendly way. Please bring something with you that you can use for this purpose in places where no appropriate facilities (ashtrays, trashcans, etc.) are available.