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Travel with a cause

If you’d like to give something back to the countries you visit, Journeywoman, an online travel resource for women, mentions two organizations that combine travel with cultural and philanthropic/volunteer work. The trips are for both men and women.

• Money to pay for excursions to South Africa with Cultural Explorer, a travel company based in San Francisco, goes not only to your expenses but also to supporting the local economy.

For example, the two-week "Making a Difference — South Africa" tour includes not only stops at traditional tourist sites but also time in the townships, at schools for the disadvantaged, at an AIDS research clinic, with a Zulu family and with women entrepreneurs in Cape Town. There are also options to stand in Nelson Mandela’s old prison cell, meet a traditional healer or meet with apartheid writers and reporters.

The tour runs Feb. 14-28 and Oct. 3-17. The cost is $5,150 per person double occupancy and includes all hotel accommodations, transfers, ground transportation, breakfasts and lunches, fees for guides and entrance fees. Air fare is not included.

Other tours include an "Animals and Art Tour" and "Meet the Women of South Africa: A Mothers & Daughters African Adventure." Find more details attheculturalexplorer.com.

• Cross-Cultural Solution, a nonprofit organization, arranges international volunteer programs in 12 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Its volunteers range from young children traveling with their families and students looking for college credit to working professionals and senior citizens.

The company offers three programs with various fees and start dates. The most flexible is "Volunteer Abroad," which runs two to 12 weeks and costs $2,588 for two weeks. For students seeking academic credit, international work experience or field research, "Intern Abroad" runs three to 12 weeks and costs $3,083, including guidance from intern supervisors. A project-based program for those with limited time is "Insight Abroad," which runs one week and costs $1,695. There is also a special teen volunteer program.

Fees include customized volunteer placement, cultural and learning activities, lodging at a CCS home base, all meals, in-country transportation, an experienced full-time staff, predeparture materials and support, all local and international phone calls and travel medical insurance. Find more details at www.crossculturalsolutions.org.

Darwin milestones

This coming year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of English naturalist Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book "The Origin of Species." To mark the occasion, England has organized Darwin 200, a series of events and programs throughout the country. Although the bicentenary is in 2009, events already have begun.

Darwin was born Feb. 12, 1809, and his theory of natural selection, which states that all species of life evolved from common ancestors, is the foundation of modern evolutionary theory.

Planned events include: a major exhibition on Darwin in the Natural History Museum in London; a touring show for children called "How the Giraffe Got Its Neck"; lectures, talks and debates at various venues; and science and art exhibitions. Shrewsbury, the city where Darwin was born, will hold special events during its annual Darwin Festival in February.

See details at www.darwin200.org.

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