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Spring Break Voluntourism: Don’t Just See the World — Change It

Many students, families and travelers are rethinking the criteria for a great spring break and eschewing the traditional idea of a vacation. Voluntourism is a hybrid holiday that combines volunteer work and travel in a short vacation. Organizations sponsor spring-break getaways that involve engaging in scientific research to protect the environment in exotic locations or rebuilding homes for the materially poor. In return for a few days of service, participants can immerse themselves in a new culture and experience a different slice of life, sometimes even working alongside community members.

An international volunteer vacation may cost as much as a week at the beach. If you’re on a budget, domestic volunteer experiences that are closer to home tend to be less expensive. Almost all trips require volunteers to provide their own transportation to the volunteer site. Once there, many organizations provide lodging and meals. However, it’s important to confirm what you’re responsible for once you arrive as many nonprofit organizations operate on tight budgets and may require you to bring your own camping gear, food and even water.

Here are just a few of the organizations that are mobilizing volunteers and improving conditions around the world, one vacation at a time.

Student United Way Alternative Spring Break
For hordes of college kids around the country, spring break is a time for relaxing on the beach and partying at night. You won’t find any bikinis or beach chairs in Biloxi, Mississippi, but Student United Way is confident students won’t miss either on their Alternative Spring Break. During the national week-long event, individual students can team up with their peers to rebuild homes and communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. United Way student groups can pair up with universities around the country to customize an alterative spring break exchange program.

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).