Commentary: Global Volunteerism

Commentary: Global Volunteerism

Barack Obama’s campaign for President pushed the idea of change – both in terms of what can be done in Washington and what the public can accomplish on its own. Commentator Brandolon Barnett has witnessed the latter first hand. Listen below:

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A unique volunteer opportunity

LeeAnn Webster spent a week in Costa Rico in August 2007 working side-by-side with members of a village painting a community center and digging irrigation ditches.

She ate lunch and dinner with the village residents, and learned first-hand about their culture.

In 2008 she volunteered in an orphanage in Peru. Families living in the nearby mountains used the orphanage as a place for their children to live during the week so they could attend school. She also helped build clay stoves for those families.

These trips were possible because of her involvement in Globe Aware, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) develops short-term volunteer programs in international environments that encourage people to immerse themselves in a unique way of giving back.

Every activity is intended to promote cultural awareness and/or promote sustainability, according to Chosen projects meet several criteria: safe, culturally interesting, genuinely beneficial to a needy community, and involve significant interaction with the host community.

The organization has no political or religious affiliation, and volunteers help to empower the host communities in creating renewable, sustainable programs, according to the site.

Webster, assistant director of marketing and business development at Mayer Brown, said each trip really changed her and how she lives her life. She typically spends one week working with Globe Aware, and a second week traveling on her own.

Most programs, she said, cost about $1,100 a week, and that includes accommodations and food for the week. But those who participate must also pay for airfare, but it’s tax-deductible.

She said Globe Aware really strives to put the money it receives back into community the volunteers are working in. She plans to go this year back to Costa Rico, but this time will work with a coastal program involving sea turtles. And she will bring her nephew, who just graduated from high school.

Globe Aware could be an option for those lawyers in-between jobs.

“It’s going to give them a unique experience, especially if they’ve never traveled somewhere like that, and an understanding of how these people live, how a different government structure or different supply structure can affect what you’re able to do,” she said.

“As a new attorney you suddenly get on [your firm’s] timetable… Your life really becomes usurped by the firm. This is their last opportunity to do something totally for them to help them gain a different perspective, and I think give them a different view of the world at really unique time. It’s hard to break away after you start practicing.

“And in the jungles of Costa Rico your BlackBerry doesn’t work. That is another reason I like these trips. You can really get away.”

Ghana with Grace

by Megan Quitkin – When I promised to take Grace to any country she could conjure up, I intended to fulfill my end of the bargain. But I was worried and, as such, rational thought went out the window. I imagined the worse case scenarios: Grace would contract a mutant form of malaria; civil war would suddenly break out; my family would disown me for endangering both of our lives. I wanted Grace to see the “real” Africa, but I could not schlep her around the continent as if I were traveling solo. At the same time, I didn’t want to take her on a luxurious safari where we’d encounter the big five but be deliberately sheltered from the pervasive poverty that plagues some of the world’s most beautiful countries.

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Travel Good: Voluntourism Trips

A previous and fantastic intern left my former 9-to-5, where she was making mere peanuts researching in an office, to take a job in Costa Rica and make a difference in the world. Since then, I’ve had a major crush on the country, and write it up whenever I can.

Of course, Costa Rica is one of those destinations that, because of underdevelopment, is a pure, natural place to see, but also a difficult place to wrangle. Sure, there are tons of beach getaways, but if you’re looking for more of a rainforest or cultural trip, many tour companies are a little lacking. This also makes it an expensive trip. Not to mention there are areas of the country that are so underdeveloped the locals are in desperate need of help. On the other side of this equation, greedy land owners buy large amounts of Costa Rican property to harvest the natural resources, leaving nothing for natives, and barren holes behind. Costa Rica remains a conundrum.

Luckily, I was tipped off to a voluntourism company called Globe Aware which organizes trips to Costa Rica, Peru, Romania, Nepal, Vietnam, Jamaica, and more, with a catch- you do community service while there. The tasks are more experience than labor and range from providing language conversation to Peruvians studying English, to assembling wheelchairs in Cambodia. Lodging and meals are provided on most tours, which last an average of a week and cost around $1200 (10% discount for minors).

And if you’d love to take one of these trips, but just don’t have the money, Travelocity has, from time to time, offered a $500 grant to deserving individuals who would like to spread some love across the globe. Their voluntourism page highlights tours saving Leatherback Turtles in Costa Rica (yay!), assisting medical operations in Tanzania, and even cleaning up US parks.

Read the original story at Frill Seeker Diary.

Travelocity Change Ambassadors visit Cuzco, Peru

Every quarter Travelocity’s Change Ambassadors program gives away two $5,000 grants for volunteer vacations – one to an employee and one to a deserving traveler. You can enter as an individual or a team so I tossed my hat into the ring for an employee grant last year and won with a group of friends.

We chose to take a trip to Cuzco, Peru with voluntourism provider, Globe Aware. Cuzco is perched at 11,000 feet and is the closest major city to Machu Picchu. We lived and worked at an albergue, a kind of dormitory for poor children from the small towns surrounding the city.

Watch the video below:

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Espanol en la Naturaleza

Kate Sommers-Dawes finds Spanish natural in Costa Rica

Excerpt below from the August 2009 issue of Language Magazine:

With Globe Aware, students can begin their own adventure in service. It’s “Costa Rica Road Less Traveled Rainforest Village Experience” program offers a unique way for volunteers to earn service hours while immersing themselves in the language and culture of Costa Rica. All volunteer projects are sustainable in nature and focus on both building infrastructure and preserving the natural environment. Planned cultural activities include, but are not limited to, learning how to make trapiche with the village elders, traditional cheese making, and incredible nature hikes. Globe Aware also offers a new program on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, the “Caribbean Community Experience,” in which vol- unteers can engage in recycling programs, school building and mainte- nance, and sea turtle conservation projects while also taking advantage of the distinct Caribbean culture that this area of Costa Rica provides. Take a boat ride through the canals to view wildlife, join in a coconut oil and fish salting demonstration, or simply learn the art of salsa and meringue. Globe Aware offers one of the best ways to immerse oneself in another culture: volunteering to make a difference.

Download the full article. (PDF)