Volunteer vacation in Cuzco, Peru

Steven Learner Studio
project Globe Aware
site Cuzco, Peru
completion December 2010

“I’d been looking for ways to contribute beyond designing residences and galleries in New York so I took the opportunity provided by our office’s Christmas-New Year’s holiday to volunteer at a home where children from surrounding villages board during the school year. My team of five quickly learned to work without extensive planning, or demand materials, or task specific tools. Just purchasing polycarbonate for the greenhouse, where vegetables for the kids’ will be grown, became an adventure that Involved visits to three lumberyards, hiring a pickup truck and being stopped by the Peruvian police as I bounced around In back”

Volunteer Vacations during spring break

Travelocity’s Senior Travel Editor, Genevieve Shaw Brown, joins Al Roker on Wake Up With Al to share all the sweet travel deals for Spring Break.`Included in their discussions is Globe Aware`s volunteer vacation destination in Peru.

Spring Break a Chance to Give Back

Toronto-based freelance journalist Aaron Broverman examines how volunteer vacation opportunities are helping redefine how we view Spring Break.

Spring Break a Chance to Give Back

 
By Aaron Broverman
 

Thanks to Joe Francis and movies like The Real Cancun, when people think of Spring Break it’s all about beer, beaches and breasts, but what if it could be about something more?

 
If you’re not into the typical college vacation scene, the break provides an excellent opportunity to give back, lend a hand and ‘Be the change.’
 
Volunteering abroad can be an excellent way to make a lasting contribution to an under privileged community, while still kicking it in the sun and sand of exotic locales. Below are just a few of the destinations with a social conscience you may find yourself in during your week away from school.
 
Start with Your School
 
Alternative Spring Break [ASB] is a matter of course in the U.S., with close to every college and university offering some kind of international and community exchange program with the focus on lending assistance to communities in need.
 
Universities in Canada, particularly those in Ontario, such as Carelton, Ryerson and the University of Western Ontario also offer great opportunities. There are also programs offered from Concordia and the University of Winnipeg. Whether it be within the local community or at destinations abroad, the ASB projects change every year.
 
In 2011, Ryerson students are building a school, teaching students and feeding the homeless in Columbia. Carelton has decided to aid both the local Ottawa community and organizations in Mexico and Guatamala focused on poverty and homelessness. Concordia will be teaching at orphanages in Peru and the Dominican Republic, building houses with Habitat for Huminanity in Louisiana and stocking food banks at home in Montreal. The University of Western Ontario offers the most varied number of locations, including initiatives in Costa Rica, London, ON., Winnipeg, Peru, Dominican Republic, Louisiana and Nicaragua. The University of Manitoba is partnering with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) to help refugees and new immigrants.
 
All of these programs run during Reading Week in the last week of February at varying costs from $200 to $800 for the trips within North America and $1,500 to $3,000 for the international trips. These fees cover meals, accommodations and flights. But if you cannot afford them, don’t worry. Financial assistance is available with every ASB project. Also, most of these schools offer a second program in the summer, so if you miss your opportunity during spring break, you can apply for the summer program.
 
Eligibility requirements vary between each university, but for all of them you must be a student of the schools running the program and students who have already been on the trip are ineligible for a return. However, they can apply for leadership positions on their trip.
 
Organizations Offering Opportunities
 
Though the Alternative Spring Break movement is primarily an American one with organizations like Break Away hosting trips with schools exclusively in the U.S. Other non-profits like Free the Children and travel agencies like Globe Aware specialize in volunteer vacations abroad all year. One could simply schedule a trip near their Spring Break respite.
 
Global Aware destinations include countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, The Caribbean and Eastern Europe, with trips leaving from February to December. They come at a varying cost between $1140 and $2100 U.S. and could be booked by parties of any number — though groups of ten or more from corporate offices, to schools and others, receive a discount.
 
Though travelers pay for their week-long vacations, Globe Aware’s status as a non-profit organization means the cost of their vacation is a tax deduction. 12% of your expenses go to administrative costs and overhead, while the rest goes to meals, accommodation, on-site travel, donations to the various community projects, your orientation package, volunteer coordination, program development, country manager expenses, community team recruitment, logistical support, medical emergency evacuation, medical insurance and project consultants. Airfare is not covered and is an additional expense. However, Globe Aware will help with finding flights.
 
Free the Children offers Me to We volunteer vacations for those wanting to give back during the summer in places like Kenya, China, Ecuador, India and along the Arizona-Mexican border.
 
Trips are available for adults, families, youth and school groups for prices among $2400 and $4995. This covers flight, accommodation, meals, transportation and the cost of the program itself. Free the Children also offers a Joe’s Dream scholarship, named for Joe Opatowski — a former trip leader who was killed in a car accident in 2001, for those young people who don’t have the financial means for the trip.
 
Beyond these organizations, you can always turn to religion for opportunities to give back through missionary work. Many churches and individuals choose Habitat for Humanity on one of their many builds around the world. Most build trips cost $1,650 for airfare and the rest of the living essentials and insurance, plus another $1,200 for what is known as R&R. These are the cultural activities and tourism that fit between the build days. Only the build – half of the trip cost actually gets a tax receipt — the rest is just a vacation.

Experienced Volunteer for Cuzco Children

Travelocity`s Travel for Good voluntourism grant competition is underway. If you are interested in applying for one of Travelocity`s $5,000 voluntourism grants, click here, to learn more about Travelocity`s eight Signature Trips and choose the volunteer vacation that inspires you.

In 2011, Travelocity is committed to supporting these special projects and helping each achieve its goals. You are also encouraged to vote on the video submissions made by individuals who explain which Signature Trip inspires them and why.

The $5,000 Travel for Good voluntourism grant gives individuals a chance to give back to the communities they visit on vacation–either for just a few days or even for a few months. This grant will fund up to $5,000 for the transportation to, as well as the cost of, a voluntourism trip. Just choose a Signature Trip from one of Travelocity`s partners, including Globe Aware, make a video of two minutes or less, upload it to Travelocity`s site, and then send it around to friends and family for voting.

Contestants must be legal residents of the United States to win the grant.

 

Teen heading to Africa

Teen heading to Africa

By CATHY DOBSON
 
THE OBSERVER
 
               
OIL SPRINGS — A 17-year-old with a passion for travel and helping others is preparing to volunteer in Africa for eight months.
 
Josephine Ethier, a Grade 12 student at LCCVI in Petrolia, says she wants to work with homeless children in South Africa and Kenya and help them improve their quality of life.
 
She leaves in September for Capetown, South Africa to work with a group known as International Volunteer HQ based out of New Zealand.
 
“I’m always on the lookout for unique volunteer opportunities,” Ethier said. “It’s all about character building for me.”
 
Last summer, she went to Costa Rica for a week with an organization called Globe Aware. While there, she painted schools and learned about the culture.
 
“I was testing it out before planning something a lot bigger,” she said. “I learned that I’m interested in other cultures and I want to live in their shoes.
“I’ve volunteered in Oil Springs with a youth group and now I want the opportunity to go other places.”
 
In Capetown for four months, she’ll assist with sports programs that engage street kids and try to cut down on crime.
In Kenya, the outreach work will involve some house building as well as teaching.
 
“We’re told we’ll work with kids in the orphanages too,” Ethier said.
 
“I get an amazing feeling when I know I’ve done something good.”
 
To participate in the program, Ethier is raising $4,000 for transportation and accommodations. She’ll be billeted while in Africa.
 
“I’m working 30 hours a week right now and I’ll take another job when I’m finished school,” she said. “But I’m hoping I can get some financial help with this.

Service vacations for spring break make for rewarding getaways

Georgina Cruz, a special correspondent writing for the Orlando Sentinel, offers an interesting perspective on the growing trend of taking volunteer vacations during spring break. She examines a number of vacation options, including those offered by Globe Aware:

Service vacations for spring break make for rewarding getaways

 
February 14, 2011
 
Spring is synonymous with renewal: a time when we clean house, put away our coats and sweaters and dust-off our shorts and lighter wear, and a time when we plan a spring break getaway. Some of us may wish to spring into service this season, opting for a “voluntourism” (volunteer tourism) vacation. Participants in this type of trip have opportunities to mix with the locals in many countries, living and working in communities on a variety of projects and activities "from teaching English to caring for youngsters in orphanages to taking part in community building projects.
 
Trips are generally short-term: one-, two- and three-weeks in length, though some companies can arrange for longer service periods. Typically, no prior experience is necessary to participate.
 
Here are some offerings for those who would like to volunteer during their vacation to make a difference in other people’s lives. Prices for the trips vary; contact the organization for details.
 
Globe Aware Adventures In Service is a nonprofit that has been developing short-term volunteer programs internationally for 15 years. The trips provide opportunities for people to immerse themselves in a unique way of giving back. Activities are intended to promote cultural awareness and/or sustainability. Recognizing the beauty and challenges of a culture and helping others to stand on their own two feet, teaching them skills rather than reliance. The organization’s criteria for choosing projects include trips that are safe, culturally interesting, genuinely beneficial to a needy community, and that involve significant interaction between participants and the host community. Optional cultural excursions are available on every program. Among the organization’s many trips this season are programs to Peru on Feb. 19-26, March 5-12, March 12-19, March 19-26 and April 9-16; and trips to Mexico on Feb. 19-26, March 5-12, March 12-19, March 19-26 and April 9-16. Visit www.globeaware.org.
 
— Global Volunteers " This organization has been offering assistance trips worldwide for 26 years. It leads a variety of programs in the U.S., Latin America, Africa, Europe and other destinations. Their trips seek to promote education (particularly girls’ education), labor and community infrastructure, health care, childcare and food and nutrition. Among the many offerings this spring are trips to Costa Rica from March 19 to April 2 and from April 30 to May 14; a trip to Ecuador from March 26 to April 9 and three trips to Peru on March 12-26, March 26 to April 9 and April 23 to May 7. For those who would like to make a difference in the U.S. during their vacation, there are two trips to West Virginia available this spring, March 26-April 2 and April 16-23.
 
— Projects Abroad " College students looking to spend spring break in a meaningful way while exploring a new destination may wish to check out opportunities with Projects Abroad Alternative Spring Break Trips. These one-week volunteer projects align with most major U.S. universities’ spring breaks and are offered in the following destinations: Jamaica Community Building Project (Feb. 20-26, March 6-12, March 13-19 and March 20-26); Costa Rica Care Project (March 13-19 and March 20-26); Mexico Conservation Project (Feb. 20-26, March 13-19 and March 20-26; Morocco Culture and Community Project (March 13-19 and March 20-26). Projects Abroad was founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Slowe, a geography profession, as a program for students to travel and work while on break from full-time study. The program had its genesis in post-USSR Romania, where students had the chance to teach conversational English. Afterwards, the company expanded to sending volunteers of all ages around the world on a wide range of projects in 25 countries.

 

Copyright © 2011, Orlando Sentinel

How to Change the World: Globe Aware featured in WSJ

Kelly Greene, a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal in New York, considered how individuals can change the world on a limited budget. She notes that one of the the best methods was through a volunteer vacation with Globe Aware. Read the Dec. 20, 2010 article in its entirety:

How to Change the World…

…Whatever the size of your wallet. These ideas, with budgets from $20 to $20,000, can help better the lives of others' and your own.

By KELLY GREENE

Got any plans for next week? Perhaps you could begin changing the world.

Yes, household budgets remain tight. But you don’t have to be a lottery winner to make a difference in your community or halfway around the globe. People who are winding down first or primary careers and looking for new directions are discovering that for the cost of a weekend getaway, they can help change the world. Or start to.

Bob and Jo Link, for instance, retirees in Portland, Ore., serve on a nonprofit board that awards scholarships in Belize. Mr. Link, age 69, also troubleshoots computer problems for African refugees. This after the couple spent two years in the Peace Corps, helped with Hurricane Katrina cleanup, assembled computers for schools in Guatemala and worked with deaf orphans in Peru.

The cost to them? A few plane tickets, some scholarship donations and sweat equity.

“When you do this kind of stuff, you get back more than you really expect,” Mr. Link says. “A lot of people wouldn’t, or couldn’t, put two years into the Peace Corps, but they could afford to spend a week in Peru.”

We decided to look for ways that people, whatever the size of their savings, can change the lives of others' and their own. So go ahead: Pick one of the following budgets and write it on your calendar: “CTW.”

$100 and Under

SERVICE PROGRAMS: In some cases, you actually can get paid while you’re helping to make a difference.

With the help of DonorsChoose, students in a school in New Haven, Conn., received new musical instruments to form a school band.

The Links, for instance, earned $300 apiece each month in the Peace Corps, where about 7% of the organization’s volunteers last year were age 50-plus. Closer to home, AmeriCorps, one of the largest national-service programs, is aiming for 10% of its 85,000 participants to be at least 55 years old' up from 4% in fiscal 2009.

AmeriCorps volunteers receive federal stipends averaging $11,800 for a commitment of 10 months to a year. They can also receive education grants of as much as $5,350, which, starting this year, they can transfer to their grandchildren, says Patrick Corvington, chief executive of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that runs AmeriCorps. Work varies from part-time service in a volunteer’s own community to full-time opportunities across the country. Options include helping to rebuild communities on the Gulf Coast and installing solar-electric systems in low-income California neighborhoods.

BECOME A LENDER: For what you spend today on lunch, “microfinance” allows you to play a big role in jump-starting modest entrepreneurial undertakings around the world' whether it’s boosting inventory at a produce stand in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, or providing additional nets to fishermen in Cambodia.

Farmers in Peru, with assistance from Heifer International, are able to afford cattle to help plow and seed their fields.

If you’re interested in lending to an individual entrepreneur overseas, Kiva.org lets you choose the borrower on its website. If the loans are paid back, you can fund another loan, donate the proceeds to Kiva or get your money back. DonorsChoose.org, where you can pick a classroom project to fund with as little as $1, sifts proposals by cost, school poverty level and subject. Requests might include $140 for dry-erase markers or $2,000 for camcorders and laptops for budding filmmakers.

Heifer International, through which $20 buys a flock of chickens or $5,000 delivers an “ark” of animals to a family or village in Asia or Africa, finds that many people age 50-plus seek out the cause around holidays. Then, as they learn more about it, many wind up joining study tours to the communities raising the animals, coordinating fund-raising efforts in the U.S., or working at several Heifer learning centers, says Steve Stirling, executive vice president for marketing in Little Rock, Ark.

$300 to $4,000

GIVING CIRCLES: One way to get more bang for your charity buck is to join a so-called giving circle, a group with a common interest that pools its resources and collectively decides where to put its combined money to work.

In the 1960s, Sally Bookman studied social anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Now she leads a Dining for Women chapter with two dozen women, many of them retirees, attending monthly dinners in Santa Cruz, Calif. At each meeting, they eat a potluck dinner and chip in about $30 each to support women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

The national Dining for Women group, based in Greenville, S.C., picks the cause du jour and sends educational materials to local chapters. But the members’ life experience gives the gatherings their flavor, says Ms. Bookman, 67. “At one meeting we were learning about women in a remote village in the jungle in Peru, and one of our members had been to that village for three days with her husband,” she says.

If you join a giving circle, you can choose simply to write checks, or take a more active role researching where the circle’s money might have the most impact.

“VOLUNTOURISM”: Trips on which people do volunteer work, typically overseas, have exploded in number and type in recent years.

How do you choose among the estimated 10,000 trips out there? Ask how the work you do will fit into the overall scope of the on-the-ground project, says Alexia Nestora, founder of Voluntourism Gal, an industry blog. If you’re working with children, ask how what you do will build on what the previous volunteer did. (You don’t want to be the 20th volunteer to teach them to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” in English, for example.) Also make sure the operator provides emergency medical insurance and has an employee living in the country who speaks English in case of political upheaval or a natural disaster.

Mark Sanger, a 58-year-old retired transportation engineer in La Grande, Ore., has taken several weeklong trips with Globe Aware, a Dallas nonprofit that coordinates volunteer travel work. In a tiny Costa Rican village, his crew slept in A-frame cabins and helped villagers build housing in hopes of drawing national-park tourists and generating additional income. He also spent time eating meals in local families’ homes, where you could “see how they interact with their kids, what pictures they have on their walls.” He enjoyed his next trip even more, teaching English to children in Cambodia.

“It was like a whole other world opened up to me,” he says. “There’s a sense of adventure…without your life in danger every day. It’s a nice balance of doing something interesting, exciting, different and incredibly rewarding.”

Your room, board and airfare in some cases are tax-deductible if you travel with a nonprofit. Vincent Mirrione, 69, of Newman, Calif., has taken seven trips with Cross-Cultural Solutions, a nonprofit operator in New Rochelle, N.Y., for six to eight weeks at a time. His work at a Guatemala soup kitchen and orphanage, Russian senior centers and a project that Mother Teresa started in India have wound up costing about $300 a week after the tax break, he says.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Retraining, as a classroom teacher, for instance, can jump-start a second career as well as benefit others.

“Green,” of course, is hot. Clover Park Technical College, Lakewood, Wash., offers a number of environmental-sustainability programs, which include cla ssroom study and hands-on field work. The programs last 12 weeks to two years, depending on an individual’s goals.

Pam Kirchhofer, 49, enrolled there in a 15-month sustainable-building program after she was laid off as a personal-finance counselor. The attraction: “You’re helping people save money by conserving energy and resources, and…you’re being a good steward of the Earth,” she says. The tough part: “I haven’t had a math class in 28 years, and we just did an energy audit of this woman’s house using algebraic equations.”

$5,000 to $10,000

JOIN A BOARD: A director on a board? You? Why not?

“Almost half of all nonprofit board seats never get filled. Nonprofits would love to have more qualified candidates, but they don’t know how to tap into really talented people in the community,” says David Simms, a partner with Bridgespan Group in Boston, which advises nonprofits. (One new resource for a board-seat search: The websites where nonprofits place want-ads for volunteers also are starting to post vacant board seats.)

Bonnie R. Harrison, 61, a retired Corning Inc. executive, became involved with Southern Tier Hospice in Corning, N.Y., after serving as her father’s caregiver while he was also receiving hospice services. To join the board, Ms. Harrison asked her father’s hospice nurse to write a recommendation. Shortly after Ms. Harrison retired last year, the hospice board’s chairwoman stepped down, and Ms. Harrison was asked to take her place.

“The challenge of working along with the board, the staff and different organizations has been a great help in making the transition away from a high-pressured job,” she says.

BECOME A BENEFACTOR: So, you like the idea of having a charitable vehicle to help others, but you aren’t Bill Gates. Consider a donor-advised fund, a good tool for people who want to give away amounts starting at about $5,000 a year.

Such funds can be set up through big financial-service companies, like Fidelity Investments, as well as university, religious and community foundations. The fund will invest your assets and make grants based on your guidance. Typically, you become eligible for an immediate tax deduction.

“It might be a little more than you can handle doing on your own, yet you don’t want to set up the superstructure of a foundation,” says John Gomperts, the recently named director of AmeriCorps. “You might go to a community foundation and say, ‘I want to give this money away, and I care about the humane care of animals, so please give me some suggestions and administer this for me.’ “

$20,000 and Up

START A NONPROFIT: You have a cause you’re passionate about, and nobody seems to be tackling it. So you dream of starting a nonprofit to that end. Expect to spend at least $10,000 to $20,000 on start-up costs, including the legal expenses involved in creating an organization and asking the government to grant you a tax exemption, called 501(c)3 status.

First question: Are you sure there are no similar efforts? The U.S. has about 1.5 million nonprofits, and “many of them are doing phenomenal work,” says Mr. Simms in Boston.

If your idea truly is unique, try to find a community foundation to “incubate your effort so that you can worry about the service you want to provide” instead of setting up the business end, says Christopher Stone, faculty director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Elaine Santore is the 59-year-old co-founder of Umbrella of the Capital District, a Schenectady, N.Y., organization that helps older adults, in part by matching them with retirees-turned-handymen. She and her partner jump-started the program before receiving their not-for-profit status. “I would clean houses if need be, and he would mow yards,” she says. “It’s good to be hands-on at first so you know what it’s like.”

ENDOW A SCHOLARSHIP: What if you win the lottery, or your stock options go through the roof? The sky’s the limit: You could fund scientists trying to cure cancer, build a new stage for your local symphony, or even start your own university and town, as did Domino’s Pizza founder and philanthropist Tom Monaghan.

One of the more popular big-ticket items, though, is creating your own college scholarship. With $1 million, you could set up an endowment that should last for decades, says Becky Sharpe, president of International Scholarship & Tuition Services Inc., Nashville, Tenn., which administers privately and publicly funded scholarships.

Joe Scarlett, retired chairman and chief executive of Tractor Supply Co., Brentwood, Tenn., started a family foundation in 2005 with $2.5 million to provide college scholarships to business students from middle Tennessee, and he hired Ms. Sharpe’s company to run the award program.

“We generate way too few business leaders in our country, so we wanted to focus our scholarship money on business,” says Mr. Scarlett, 67. The foundation now has a balance of approximately $24 million, thanks to additional gifts from the Scarletts and growth in its value, and is expanding its efforts, supporting students in high schools and even preschools.

 

 

Volunteer vacations: Growing popularity, options

The growing popularity of volunteer vacations and working vacations was examined in a Nov. 25 news story by Christopher J. Gearon which was carried in theChicago Tribune. The article features Globe Aware, which hosts one-week volunteer programs around the world.

The article, in its entirety:

Volunteering works for many

The number of citizens giving their time and effort is growing, and so are the volunteering options

By Christopher J. Gearon

November 25, 2010

Though the economy is hurting, volunteering in the United States jumped last year at the fastest rate in six years, as at least 63 million gave of their time and energy.

“What we’re seeing is the depth of the American spirit and generosity at its best,” said Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Many organizations are responding to the demand by offering more service options, creating leadership positions for volunteers and providing virtual service opportunities to appeal to baby boomers, retirees and young people.

“Volunteering patterns have changed,” said Barb Quaintance, who heads up volunteer and civic engagement at AARP. Boomers, in particular, want more say in how they serve. In 2009, AARP started Create the Good, a network where people and nonprofits can connect around volunteering.

The challenge for all volunteers is finding the best fit.

Disaster relief

For those who seek an adrenaline rush and have a flexible schedule, emergency-response groups may be an appealing option. The largest is the American Red Cross, which has more than 90,000 disaster workers, 93 percent of whom are volunteers. Some 55,000 volunteers can be deployed nationwide; the rest can be mobilized only within their home area.

“Volunteer in your local community first,” advises Anita Foster, chief communications officer for the American Red Cross in Dallas.

Among other groups providing disaster relief are faith-based organizations like the Salvation Army, which assigns a small subset of its 3.4 million volunteers to emergency response, Catholic Charities USA and Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian relief organization.

A second act

The growing trend of skills-based volunteering is “a big change from years past,” said Corvington. Baby boomers and others with significant work experience want to segue to new service careers, while nonprofits realize they can leverage this influx of talent to expand their reach.

The largest network for people 55 and older is Senior Corps, which links more than 500,000 individuals to service opportunities in its three programs. The biggest of these, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, has members helping some 60,000 local organizations tutoring and mentoring children, assisting victims of natural disasters, improving the environment and conducting safety patrols. They also provide business and technical support to nonprofits, including accounting, information technology and fundraising.

Senior Corps also offers two other programs: Senior Companions help the elderly maintain independence by assisting them with daily tasks, and Foster Grandparents mentor and tutor children.

An extended commitment

Two full-time gigs to consider include the storied Peace Corps for international posts or the fast-growing AmeriCorps program to serve domestically.

The Peace Corps has over the years sent nearly 200,000 Americans (who receive three months of training) to serve in 139 countries. (Good news for liberal arts grads: Teaching English is in high demand in many parts of the world.)

Besides gaining invaluable skills and fluency in foreign languages, Peace Corps volunteers get medical and dental benefits, living allowances, student loan help, vacation time and job-placement support.

If you’d prefer a long-term assignment stateside, you might consider AmeriCorps, which uses volunteers to help address critical needs in education, public safety, health and the environment. A variety of positions are available, from tutoring young people, assisting crime victims and building homes to teaching computer skills, restoring parks and responding to disasters. AmeriCorps plans to expand its ranks from 85,000 volunteers today to 250,000 by 2017. Other AmeriCorps avenues include the National Civilian Community Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA. All AmeriCorps participants get a modest living allowance, a $5,350 education award to pay for college-related costs (after completing the program) and student loan assistance.

Volunteer vacations

Habitat for Humanity, one of the largest organizers of volunteer vacations, has hundreds of projects around the world involving home construction and renovation or disaster relief. No experience is necessary, but participants should have “an interest, curiosity and commitment to serve,” said David Minich, Habitat’s global volunteer director.

Volunteers pay for their airfare and, on average, about $100 a day to cover building supplies, room and board, and transportation within the country. If you have less vacation time, you might try Globe Aware, which hosts one-week volunteer programs around the world. About 15 percent of the group’s roughly 4,500 vacationers are families. Volunteer vacations are not for those who like to be pampered. But if experiencing a new culture, “meeting the people, working with the families, and feeling like what you do matters,” they are a great option, King says. It’s also less expensive than a standard vacation. King went to India for two weeks for $1,200, plus airfare, for example.

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune

How to Choose the Best Volunteering Option: Globe Aware featured in U.S.News & World Report

Writer Christopher J. Gearon dug deep, examining the options and motivations behind the volunteer vacation phenomenon while noting that even in times of financial uncertainty, people are still seeking out unique, rewarding vacation opportunities around the world. Writing in U.S.News & World Report, Mr. Gearson features Globe Aware and its unique, one-week volunteer program:

If you have less vacation time, you might try Globe Aware, which hosts one-week volunteer programs around the world. About 15 percent of the group’s roughly 4,500 vacationers are families. “We’re one of the few nonprofits that allow” them, says spokesperson Catherine McMillan. Families with kids as young as 6 months travel to such places as Peru, Costa Rica, and Ghana for roughly $1,250 a person, plus airfare. Volunteers build recycling areas, clear paths in the rain forest, make cheese, milk cows, and take part in many other projects. “It’s kind of like a vacation that needs you,” says McMillan.

Volunteer vacations are not for those who like to be pampered. But if experiencing a new culture, “meeting the people, working with the families, and feeling like what you do matters,” they are a great option, King says. It’s also less expensive than a standard vacation. King went to India for two weeks for $1,200, plus airfare, for example. And thanks to a handy Global Village widget, she solicited donations from friends and colleagues that helped defray some of her costs.

Mr. Gearson' s article, in its entirety, is below:

How to Choose the Best Volunteering Option

Volunteering is up, here’s how to find the best fit for you

By Christopher J. Gearon

October 26, 2010

Though the economy is hurting, volunteering in the United States jumped last year at the fastest rate in six years. At least 63 million gave of their time and energy. “What we’re seeing is the depth of the American spirit and generosity at its best,” says Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that is the nation’s largest grantmaker supporting service and volunteering. Many organizations are responding to the demand by offering more service options, creating leadership positions for volunteers, and providing virtual service opportunities to appeal to baby boomers, retirees, and young people.

“Volunteering patterns have changed,” says Barb Quaintance, who heads up volunteer and civic engagement at AARP. Boomers, in particular, want more say in how they serve. In 2009, AARP started Create the Good, a network where people and nonprofits can connect around volunteering, “whether you have five minutes, five hours, or five days,” says Quaintance.

The challenge for all volunteers is finding the best fit for themselves. “Look to creditable organizations or ones you know,” Quaintance recommends. Regardless of your tastes, temperament, or availability, a wide range of opportunities can be found, each offering its own rewards.

Disaster Relief

For those who seek an adrenaline rush and have a flexible schedule, emergency response groups may be an appealing option. The largest is the American Red Cross, which has more than 90,000 disaster workers, 93 percent of whom are volunteers. (Training is conducted at each of the 700-plus chapters.) Some 55,000 volunteers can be deployed nationwide; the rest can be mobilized only within their home area. “Volunteer in your local community first,” advises Anita Foster, chief communications officer for the American Red Cross in Dallas. “Getting a call at 3 a.m. to help a family” whose house has burned “is a great way to get your feet wet.”

When it’s time for the big leagues, the Red Cross depends on volunteers to pick up at a moment’s notice. Eleanor Guzik, 71, a nurse practitioner from Ventura, Calif., has been deployed to a number of disasters' a tornado in Georgia, floods in North Dakota, and wildfires in her home state. Helping others when they need it most “is extremely satisfying,” Guzik says.

Among other groups providing disaster relief are faith-based organizations like the Salvation Army, which assigns a small subset of its 3.4 million volunteers to emergency response. Since retiring as a Secret Service agent in 1996, Dave Freriks, 71, of Lubbock, Texas, has served as a volunteer at disasters in the American South and West, often for two weeks at a time. His missions have included responding to a fire at a nearby ethanol plant and hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. “It keeps me young, and it keeps me active,” Freriks says.

Though the Salvation Army did send volunteers to Haiti after the earthquake in January, it generally responds to U.S. disasters. Volunteers are summoned from the local region to deliver food and drinks to victims and provide emergency shelter, cleanup services, and communications. Catholic Charities USA and Samaritan’s Purse an evangelical Christian relief organization, are two other faith-based groups that deploy volunteers when a disaster happens.

A Second Act

The growing trend of skills-based volunteering is “a big change from years past,” says Corvington. Baby boomers and others with significant work experience want to segue to new service careers, while nonprofits realize they can leverage this influx of talent to expand their reach. Experience Corps, which has about 2,000 members, connected retired Budget Rent A Car executive Bill Schultz, 65, with an elementary school to help teach children to read in St. Paul, Minn. “You have to find a passion when you retire,” says Schultz, who works three days a week at the school and finds it “very rewarding.” Lindsay Moore, program spokesperson for Experience Corps, says prospective volunteers must formally apply, submit to a personal interview, and pass a background check. In addition, they must attend an orientation program and get at least 25 hours of training each year.

The largest network for people 55 and older is Senior Corps, which links more than 500,000 individuals to service opportunities in its three programs. The biggest of these, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), has members helping some 60,000 local organizations tutoring and mentoring children, assisting victims of natural disasters, improving the environment, and conducting safety patrols. They also provide business and technical support to nonprofits, including accounting, IT, and fundraising expertise.

Gary LaGrange, a retired Army colonel in Manhattan, Kan., wanted to expand his nonprofit, Help us Learn … Give us Hope. The group collects and ships school supplies and books to children in war-torn nations. RSVP assigned “at least 100 volunteers” and, because of this, more than 400,000 kids have received 520,000 pounds of supplies and 550,000 books, he says.

Senior Corps also offers two other programs: Senior Companions help the elderly maintain independence by assisting them with daily tasks; and Foster Grandparents mentor and tutor children. For other “second act” opportunities, you can try AARP’s Create the Good network or its other programs.

An Extended commitment

Got more time? Two full-time gigs to consider include the storied Peace Corps for international posts or the fast-growing AmeriCorps program to serve domestically.

Established under President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to promote goodwill, the Peace Corps has over the years sent nearly 200,000 Americans (who receive three months of training) to serve in 139 countries, from agribusiness workers in Malawi to engineers in Mexico. (Good news for liberal arts grads: Teaching English is in high demand in many part s of the world.) Jennifer Bailey, 29, worked on educational programs in the Dominican Republic, finishing her two-year hitch in May. “I received a world of education and professional work experience with Peace Corps,” says Bailey, originally from Ohio, whose tasks ranged from teaching youths about trash management and river cleanup to helping women start income-generating projects. Bailey landed a position as a program analyst in September with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Besides gaining invaluable skills and fluency in foreign languages, Peace Corps volunteers get other perks, including medical and dental benefits, living allowances, student loan help, vacation time, and job placement support. (Check the Web site of the International Volunteer Programs Association for other opportunities to serve abroad.)

If you’d prefer a long-term assignment stateside, you might consider AmeriCorps, which uses volunteers to help address critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. A variety of positions are available, from tutoring young people, assisting crime victims, and building homes to teaching computer skills, restoring parks, and responding to disasters. AmeriCorps plans to expand its ranks from 85,000 volunteers today to 250,000 by 2017.

In general, volunteers sign on for at least a year and can stay on longer if they desire. Dwight Owens, 28, of Collins, Miss., provided practical advice to more than 1,200 people with disabilities on how to manage daily tasks. He also checked that businesses in his area complied with federal laws regarding handicapped access, and helped transition people from nursing facilities and other institutions to their homes. “The program builds character,” says Owens, who does all his work from a wheelchair. The former teacher and coach was paralyzed when he was hit by a drunk driver five years ago. The AmeriCorps application process took only a couple of weeks, and while there was some upfront training, Owens was impressed how quickly the program got him out “doing things for people.”

Other AmeriCorps avenues include the National Civilian Community Corps, a full-time, team-based residential program for young adults, and AmeriCorps VISTA, focused on helping people out of poverty. All AmeriCorps participants get a modest living allowance, a $5,350 education award to pay for college-related costs (after completing the program), and student loan assistance. While young adults fill most of the ranks, 10 percent of volunteers are 55 or older. (Older adults can transfer their education award to a grandchild or others.) There are three applicants for every position, but you can boost your chances by applying to multiple programs (up to 10) and to rural postings, where there are heavy needs but fewer applicants. Information on all AmeriCorps programs can be found through the organization’s main Web site.

Volunteer Vacations

Ever consider combining a vacation with service? After seeing people in need after Hurricane Katrina, “I just wanted to volunteer and do something,” says Lisa King, 47, of Arlington, Va., who went to Mexico to build homes with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program. The experience was so rewarding that King has taken annual, two-week volunteer vacations since. Last February, she helped build a town of modified mud huts in Ethiopia' pouring foundations, erecting the wooden frames, and even tossing mud to obefortify one home’s exterior.

Habitat, one of the largest organizers of volunteer vacations, has hundreds of projects around the world involving home construction and renovation, or disaster relief. No experience is necessary, but participants should have “an interest, curiosity, and commitment to serve,” says David Minich, Habitat’s global volunteer director.

Volunteers pay for their airfare and, on average, about $100 a day to cover building supplies, room and board, and transportation within the country. Since most projects require manual labor, you should be in good health. “I can honestly say that I have never physically worked so hard” or “enjoyed myself so much,” says Salli Innes, 57, a schoolteacher from Brookeville, Md., who built houses in Guatemala two years ago. Her husband, Rich, caught a free ride by serving as group leader.

If you have less vacation time, you might try Globe Aware, which hosts one-week volunteer programs around the world. About 15 percent of the group’s roughly 4,500 vacationers are families. “We’re one of the few nonprofits that allow” them, says spokesperson Catherine McMillan. Families with kids as young as 6 months travel to such places as Peru, Costa Rica, and Ghana for roughly $1,250 a person, plus airfare. Volunteers build recycling areas, clear paths in the rain forest, make cheese, milk cows, and take part in many other projects. “It’s kind of like a vacation that needs you,” says McMillan.

Volunteer vacations are not for those who like to be pampered. But if experiencing a new culture, “meeting the people, working with the families, and feeling like what you do matters,” they are a great option, King says. It’s also less expensive than a standard vacation. King went to India for two weeks for $1,200, plus airfare, for example. And thanks to a handy Global Village widget, she solicited donations from friends and colleagues that helped defray some of her costs.

To learn about other volunteer vacations, you can check out Global Volunteers, Idealist.org, and Charity Guide.

Virtual helping hands

Chicagoan Summer Johansson, a 33-year-old student finance adviser, wanted to volunteer but couldn’t fit traditional commitments into her schedule. The solution? In 2008, Johansson signed on to the online volunteering service of United Nations Volunteers, which looks for virtual assistance for a wide variety of tasks, including project development, design, research, writing, translation, and coaching. Johansson serves as a tutor and head coordinator with RESPECT University, which offers free post-secondary courses to refugees and displaced persons. She develops the syllabus, lessons, and assignments, then E-mails them to a ground liaison. “I currently have courses running in Afghanistan, Uganda, and Nepal,” she says. Overall, the program used some 9,400 online volunteers of all ages in 2009. “All they need is a computer, an Internet connection, and skills,” says Elise Bouvet of United Nations Volunteers, “and a commitment to making a real difference to peace and development.”

While virtual volunteering may not offer personal one-on-one contact, it’s more flexible than other options and is a great “CV enhancer,” says Johansson. A number of sites can help you find virtual opportunities, including www.volunteermatch.org, which recruits for more than 74,000 organizations, and the HandsOn Network, an arm of the Points of Light Institute, which represents more than 70,000 corporate, faith, and nonprofit organizations. Finally, DoSomething.org specifically matches young people with service options, over 1,700 of which are virtual.

DIY Volunteering

A fixture in her Wheaton, Md., community, Kathleen Michels is often seen yanking out invasive plants along a local creek, caring for a nearby community garden, or working with groups she had a hand in forming. This includes her neighborhood civic association and a coalition to “push back against the paving of our athletic fields with rocks, plastic, and pulverized tires”' that is, artificial turf, she says.

Ask the National Institutes of Health neuroscientist, wife, and mother why she starts these and other efforts, she simply says: “It needed to be done.” Michels, 52, figures she puts in 40 hours a month volunteering.

You can find many valuable tools online to advance your own cause, such as AARP’s Create the Good program. It has created a slew of downloadable how-to guides' from organizing river cleanups and holding school supply drives to helping oth ers get good healthcare.

Marlene Ellis, 56, of Arlington, Va., last fall initiated her own food drive for a local food bank. Thanks to an AARP starter kit that provided suggestions, bags for food collection, and fliers to post, Ellis was able to collect 127 pounds of food in about a week. “I was so happy” when she delivered it to the food bank, she says. “It is nice to see how much I can accomplish on my own.”

DIY projects can be time-consuming, so Michels recommends bringing in friends and neighbors to help when possible. “People respond to passion, commitment, and reasoned arguments,” she says.

The upsides of self-directed work are immediately apparent. It’s “usually more intellectually engaging since you are organizing and problem-solving and doing research” on your own, Michels notes. She believes she is testament that even shy people can tackle and solve problems in the community or the world, saying, “Success breeds confidence.”

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