Hiking Patagonia, Arizona, by Lori Adamski-Peek

Voluntourism in Arizona

By: Elena Acoba

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September 14, 2018

Enhance your Arizona experience by helping nonprofits and local communities.

About the author

Elena Acoba

Elena Acoba

Since moving to Tucson in 1988, freelance writer Elena Acoba has enjoyed traveling to the four corners of Arizona. Her favorites spots in her adopted state: the natural wonders and the rich historical sights.

Volunteer opportunities abound for seasonal residents and for visitors who are in Arizona for just a few days. Plan well ahead—a few months to a year is recommended—then get ready for an uncommon perspective on beautiful and vibrant Arizona. Perks may include free access to popular events, the chance to meet famous authors, and the feeling of knowing you helped.

Volunteer for Arizona events

The annual post-season college Fiesta Bowl in Greater Phoenix is actually 12 events featuring two football games, a huge parade, parties and youth activities. Help build a playground, keep teams comfortable or provide customer service to game attendees. You can’t help but get caught up in the excitement of college sports.

A wide shot of the 2018 Waste Management Open in ScottsdaleCrowds look on at the PGA’s Waste Management Phoenix Open / Credit: Rob Myers and The Thunderbirds

Landing a coveted volunteer spot with the PGA’s Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale can get you close to the world’s best pro golfers competing in front of one of the biggest crowds on the tour. Spend a typically pleasant winter week as part of the hole marshal, concessions or security teams.

Every March the Tucson Festival of Books draws some 400 authors and 135,000 bibliophiles every March to the University of Arizona campus. Guest services, author escorts, venue monitors and crowd control are among the 2,000 volunteer opportunities that make the panels, author signings, science activities and book sales run smoothly. Register early, but you can also just drop in during the weekend to see if you can lend a hand.

Volunteer in Arizona’s outdoors

Check out Arizona Trails Association’s calendar to find projects to build, maintain and promote the Arizona Trail. The 800-mile course for non-motorized recreation winds through high deserts and evergreen forests from Mexico to Utah. There’s lots of work available, from clearing vegetation and fixing fences to helping at public events. Multi-day work programs add in time for camping, hiking and other fun activities.

Thirty-five natural and historical sites make up the Arizona State Parks and Trails system. For a few hours or days, you can help with trail work, gardening and clean-up projects. These efforts help present the best face on the desert, mountain, lakeside and riverside parks, as well as on American Indian, Colonial and Territorial settlements. Many long-term assignments include campground hosting and museum interpretive services.

Become a Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF-USA) member to volunteer at some of 30 Arizona farms, ranches, gardens and homesteads. You can work the land and learn about organic agriculture during a visit of a few hours, days or weeks. Meals and accommodations are sometimes included. The settings vary, from a scenic desert, valley and mountainous locations to in and near metropolitan areas.

Volunteer for Arizona’s community organizations

A woman looks through the telescope at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, ArizonaA woman looks through the telescope at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona / Credit: Geoff Gourley

Many places rely on long-term Arizona visitors to volunteer for several months at a time. You can learn what makes Arizona unique at places like Arizona Historical Society museums and the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. Volunteers are regularly sought for months-long assignments among Arizona’s national forests, parks, monuments, recreation areas and historic sites.

Other organizations do offer some volunteer opportunities with the short-stay Arizona visitor in mind. One such example is the Mesa, Arizona-based packing site for the national organization Feed My Starving Children. Join other volunteers there or at packing events around the state to assemble meals that will feed malnourished children around the world. Most shifts last only a couple of hours.

Find out where you can help out from visitor bureaus such as Experience Scottsdale and Visit Tucson.

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