Saturday, June 24, 2006
I read an interesting article about travel volunteers. Many people travel to unwind. some people, like Rev. Sharon Brostrom, prefer to serve. Showing off her pictures taken while she volunteered in an orphanage in India, she was already planning her next trip to Romania "to take care of babies."
Brostrom plans her trips through a very special kind of travel agency -- Global Volunteers. In the past five years, she has visited orphanages in developing countries such as India, built houses in Ecuador and worked on a tree farm in Australia. She has stayed in Poland and most recently taught English in Crete.
Many other volunteers attest that volunteering is a more in-depth way of getting to know the host country, its culture and people. Learn first-hand about your host community's culture and history while serving as a valuable resource to children and adults. At the same time, you wage peace and gain new perspectives of the world in one, two or three weeks.
Founded by Michele and Bud Philbrook in 1979, as they were in search of a more balanced honeymoon in the context of world events. The couple realized how limited the opportunities for church and volunteer groups were. Later, they were given permission to visit and live in a small and poor village in Conacaste, Guatemala--where they outlined the village's needs for basic amenities like clean water, better dwellings, electricity, and mentor their sparse industries like bread-making and basket-weaving.
Using their background in Foreign Relations and Journalism, the couple soon composed and won grants and volunteer services to help Conacaste become more self-sufficient.
Today, Global Volunteers exists to enable local people to enlist others' support and practical skills to visualize and achieve their community hopes and dreams. As a non-governmental organization (NGO) in special consultative status with the United Nations, Global Volunteers mobilizes some 150 service-learning teams year-around to work in 20 countries on six continents, and is the internationally recognized leader in this field of work.
You can sign up as a travel volunteer in any of these areas: (Oh, yeah, you will have to foot your ticket cost).
1. Child Care-- You can care for physically- and mentally-disabled children, some who have been abandoned, and "at-risk" teens. Often no special skills are required, as volunteers are needed to listen to, play, read, exercise and share time with the children.
2. Teaching English--You don't have to know the language of the host country. Often teaching is done through simple conversation along with a local teacher in school classrooms or at intensive summer camps where lessons take place in a variety of non-traditional settings.
3. Health Care-- Health care professionals of various specialties, particularly those with public health backgrounds, are needed at small village clinics. The working conditions may not be what you are used to - the equipment is quite basic and the amount and variety of medicines are really limited. So if you are a doctor, dentist, or nurse, bring your enthusiasm to serve, and your own equipment.
4. Labor Projects--Assist with building, repairing and painting facilities such as community centers, classrooms, librairies, medical clinics, and houses. You can also help clear park land, plant community gardens, dig wells, construct clean water systems, install playground equipment and more. No specific construction skills are needed.
Volunteer Marilyn Lutzker has this to say about her China stint, teaching English: "Not knowing Chinese is not an obstacle to exploring and enjoying Xian. Global Volunteers provides a fail-safe Chinese-English list of key words and major sites. Body language, pointing, smiling, and the patience and good humor of the Chinese people take care of the rest. Trying to buy a pair of pants in a department store, when "mas grande" didn't work I pointed to my more-than-ample hips; the clerk laughed and found a larger size. In a noodle shop without an English menu, I pointed to items being eaten by other patrons. Shaking the empty thermos told the hotel staff we needed more hot water; the motion which finally communicated more toilet paper need not be repeated.
Each of my teaching experiences was distinct and each was rewarding. But the lessons I learned in one country - about myself, about teaching, about interacting with students, about being part of a team - helped me in the other countries. Similarities outnumber differences. The host teachers --so happy to have you-are appreciative, warm and supportive, team members constantly help and praise each other, and the students love you."
Check them out at Global Vounteers