Posts filed under ‘Volunteer Stories’

Book Review: The Voluntourist

Ken Budd: The Voluntourist

 

The opening pages of Ken Budd “The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale of Love, Loss, Fatherhood, Fate and Singing Bon Jovi Bethlehem” are thought provoking. It provides a unique perspective into a traveler’s world as he seeks to help others while defining his own life purpose and answering, what am I doing that matters?

The memoir begins with Ken Budd, an award-winning writer and editor, trying to determine how he can pursue a life with meaning while constantly defining parts of his journey and what meaning they hold. Through his journey, he volunteers in various roles, in various countries – including Costa Rica and China.

In a recent interview, he said, “In the past year, there have been a few studies that suggest that volunteer work is as healthy for the aging body and brain as exercise and right diet.” This statement is further validated by his own testament and volunteering. In his book, Ken asserts that he was constantly challenged – mentally, spiritually, and emotionally – and he always felt outside of this comfort zone. In fact, in his book, he describes how his volunteer work in China – where he worked with disabled children – forced his brain to work in a different way.

For advice to future volunteers, Ken says, “look for an organization that has ties to the local community: you want an organization that’s creating partnerships rather than dependencies.”

To read more about Ken Budd’s book and his adventures, click here

July 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

International Volunteering for Teens

Volunteering abroad is a thought provoking, challenging and stimulating experience. For teens, the experience provides a new perspective on life, allowing them to perform activities in a new culture, with meaning and value.

Volunteering abroad can give a teen the opportunity to shadow people in different professions, gain insight to diverse cultures and  have a life-changing experience.

According to Simone A. Bernstein, Co-Founder and President of VolunteenNation.org, students need to volunteer abroad in order to gain skills that will help them succeed in their future. For example, Shannon McNamara, began volunteering at age fifteen in Tanzania, and thus far, has donated 33,000 children’s books to girls in Africa. Her work has impacted more than 8,000 students and teachers in Africa, and has earned her numerous awards and recognitions.

However, before letting your teen volunteer abroad, it’s important for parents to ask certain basic essential questions when they contact the organization directly. These questions include:

  • Who should I email/contact in your organization to obtain more information about the volunteer program?
  • Who licenses your organization?
  • Do you have any counselors at the volunteer site? If so, whom are they licensed by?
  • What will my child be doing in the community? What are the expected tasks that my child will have to perform?
  • Where will my child be volunteering? (ask for specific location and address)
  • Is my child responsible for planning their own meals, travels and any other logistics?
  • I am concerned about my child’s safety. What policies are in place to assure that my child is safe?
  • Where and with whom will my child be residing?

Additionally, not all volunteer abroad programs provide volunteer opportunities for teens who are younger than 18 unless accompanied by a parent. But here are some international community service programs that are members of IVPA that do:

July 13, 2012 at 11:26 am 1 comment

Design with the Other 90% – Cities Exhibit

While attending the UN – Year of the Volunteer +10 I had the chance to see the Design with the Other 90% – Cities exhibit in the lobby of the UN. The exhibit is full of examples of creative design innovations to help those living in slums, favelas, or informal settlements. It is a fascinating installation that ends Jan 9, 2012. I highly recommend visiting if you are able but for those who are unable to, you can check out their website, Design for the 90% or their book (more information below).

Almost one billion people live in informal settlements, or slums around the world. The problem is exacerbated not just by a growing population but also a migrant one. More than half the world’s population lives in cities and around 200,000 people move to cities each day. People move to cities for better access to resources, jobs, school. Living in slums does not necessarily give them that access, though it might get them closer. The innovations featured in the exhibit focuses on adaptive solutions to gain access to adequate housing, resources and infrastructure.

Some of the example that I found most interesting were the housing solutions. The picture below is from an incremental housing project in Chile. A large portion of the house was built with government subsidies that the residents could never afford on their own but then the residents are required to complete the house with their own funds. Some other creative housing projects included sandbag houses, “molding” a house with a plastic framework, and modular homeless shelters.

The exhibit is the second of a series by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and also has a book out, Design with the Other 90% – Cities. The book basically covers what is in the exhibit and includes a chapter by the curator, Cynthia Smith, some chapter prefaces, and facts and background to the projects. A majority of the book are short profiles that contain really only a paragraph or two for each example included in the exhibit but the book is a nice reference to remember the installation or give someone a chance to “view” the exhibit through the book.

December 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

What’s it Really Like to Volunteer Abroad?

If you’ve never been abroad to volunteer, you may be wondering what it is like and the truth is no one volunteer experience is the same. But reading through volunteer stories, first hand descriptions of volunteers’ own experiences can be enlightening.

I’ve compiled a list of out IVPA members’ blogs where they feature volunteer accounts or other news about their programs.

Global Service Corps I love the photography of GSC’s blog!

Amigos de las Americas This is a recent update from an Amigos Project Director in Nicaragua

Child Family Health International News and information about Global Immersion Programs

Cross-Cultural Solutions A whole list of individual CCS volunteer blogs!

Global Citizens Network Some great information on GCN programs

Habitat For Humanity This links to some of Habitat’s Global Village volunteer stories

Projects Abroad A blog that posts on a variety of experiences of Projects Abroad staff and volunteers

I love Theresa Ball’s description as a novice traveler about her experience in Romania taken from Projects Abroad’s post

“I have been trying for almost a year now to describe to others what my time in Romania was like. I’m sure there are many flowery adjectives and humorous anecdotes that I could used to describe my experiences there. Yes, it was beautiful. Yes, the experience changed my life. Yes, I recommend that you all go there. Mostly though, it was the right place for me at the right time. I came back a different person, ready to take on anything and knowing that if I really wanted something, I could achieve it. I found a part of myself that I didn’t know existed.”

I think everyone can have a life changing experience but, like Theresa, volunteers need to find the right fit and follow what “calls” to them.

June 16, 2011 at 3:47 pm Leave a comment

Ever Thought of Volunteering in Coral Reef Conservation?

One of the opportunities I had while in Thailand recently was to go with some Projects Abroad conservation volunteers on a reef dive. These volunteers work on projects like mangroove reforestation, beach clean up and reef conservation. The day I went scuba diving with them there were two groups. One group was composed of newer volunteers taking the first steps in conservation like learning about identifying coral and other life under the water. The second more experienced group was working on a reef nursery to help rebuild part of a reef that has experienced a lot of damage.

Reef conservation is not something I knew a lot about but I am learning more. I just read an article in the Guardian about the economic importance of saving our reefs

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/07/case-for-saving-coral-reefs-is-economic

I had a great experience diving with the volunteers. We may not have seen the most beautiful parts of the reef but for anyone who enjoys diving, conservation should be a big issue. The experience had me wishing that more aspects of  conservation could be incorporated into diving and tourism.

April 11, 2011 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

It’s About the Exchange

If you are familiar with voluntourism and volunteering abroad then I am sure you are familiar with some of the controversy and debate about the effectiveness of volunteers, often young and inexperienced, going abroad.

This post is not to delve into all aspects of that debate. To summarize my thoughts: yes, there are concerns but when done thoughtfully and with respect and partnership, volunteer organizations (including IVPA members) can get it right.

I wanted to highlight one of the positive aspects of volunteering that doesn’t get as much attention, cross-cultural exchange. The exchange that occurs through volunteering can build understanding and respect between people, communities and cultures.

Stan Pletcher, MD, founder of Mission Eyes Network, recently said in a speech to the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery,

“It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s not about how many cataract surgeries we did this week, but it’s about fostering an exchange and interchange.”

That is a powerful statement considering the importance of their of work in restoring sight.

If you ask a volunteer about her experience the number one thing you will hear her say is that the experience “changed my life”. The experience of volunteering leaves a lasting affect perhaps because the volunteer’s eyes are opened to a new culture, she experiences new things but mostly because the volunteer grows to love the people she interacts with.

I recently spoke with Creative Learning about their work in supporting and promoting international volunteering in Muslim majority countries as a way to build bridges of understanding and foster better relations. They believe that this cross-cultural exchange is so important and effective that they have a who initiative called the Unofficial Ambassadors to help increase the number of volunteers in Muslim counties.

Cross-cultural exchange is an important part of volunteering. It builds understanding, compassion and respect, something this world could use a little more of.

March 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm 2 comments

International Women’s Day – Women Hold Up Half the Sky

A few years ago Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn published a book titled Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

Half the Sky is a stunning book with gripping stories of women around the world and their plight for freedom. Issues summarized in the book include maternal mortality, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, education and workforce participation.

The book also highlights grassroots action and the impact that individuals can have. There is the story of Harper McConnell a young university graduate who volunteers in the Congo and ends up staying and running a school. The authors also encourages volunteering often throughout the book.

Some of the alarming facts stated in the book include:

“It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century.”

“The World Health Organization estimates that 536,000 women perished in pregnancy or childbirth in 2005, a toll that has barely budged in thirty years. Child mortality has plunged, longevity has increased but childbirth remains almost as deadly as ever, with one maternal death every minute.”

“One of the most cost-effective ways to increase school attendance is to deworm students… “The average American spends fifty dollars a year to deworm a dog; in Africa, you can deworm a child for fifty cents.””

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Interested in volunteering to help the plight of women around the world? Below is just a sampling of some of IVPA’s member programs.

Education: Spend a year teaching with WorldTeach or if you only have a week to volunteer, look at Globe Aware‘s programs

Health: Volunteer to help improve women’s reproductive health with  Child Family Health International or work on one of Global Service Corps global health programs.

Women’s Empowerment: ProWorld and Projects Abroad has a number of opportunities in human rights and women’s empowerment.

Microcredit: Assist micro-credit organizations with Cross-Cultural Solutions

Community Development: work with indigenous communities with Global Citizens Network or work to promote education and community based solutions with Amigos de las Americas.

 

 

March 9, 2011 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

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