Bringing awareness to the benefits of service travel

Monthly Archives: July 2012

Friends and Colleagues: International Volunteering for Groups

Volunteering as a Group

Image source: Volunteerkalamazoo.org

I’ve written a lot about the benefits of volunteering for families: parents see their children working hard, children are inspired to make a difference, and grandparents have a chance to experience their family in a new way, as a working whole. Volunteering trips overseas transform a family into a team. This same principle applies to unrelated groups of volunteers. Any group can reap the rewards of working together for the greater good. It brings out the best in everyone—the diligent worker, the gregarious conversationalist, the foreign language enthusiast, the goof ball—no skill set goes to waste when you’re exploring a new place and meeting new people.

Continue Reading

Changing Lives with Heifer International

Children with Chickens from Heifer International

Image source: Kaluyala.com

Sustainability is such a buzzword these days. It’s one of those words that reflect a way of thinking about the world. It evokes renewable resources, carbon-neutral living, eco-friendliness, and organic food. Conservative talking heads hate the word because it implies a move away from big agricultural subsidies, mono-farming, and corporate globalization. It’s about getting back to basics—growing your own vegetables, shopping locally, and composting. But the word has academic implications too. It calls for a cultural shift away from blind consumerism and towards accountability. In many ways sustainability is anathema in the United States. It seems that way to me. I grew up in a generation of consumers: plastics, Styrofoam, and waste. When I was a kid, I wasn’t conscious of the damage my consumer habits were causing. I think many of us have had a rude awakening in the past decade or so.

Continue Reading

“Soft Power”: Volunteering for National Security

Peace Corps Volunteers

Image source: Peacecorps.gov

Back in 2006, the Brookings Institute published a paper by Lex Rieffel entitled, “International Volunteering: Smart Power.” In the paper, Rieffel discusses the many ways that volunteering efforts improve international relations without big overtures, huge expenditures of taxpayer money, or military involvement. Volunteering is a grassroots citizen-lead peace initiative. Rieffel writes: “The face of America that has been welcomed most enthusiastically in the rest of the world for decades has been the face of a volunteer: assisting with disaster relief, building houses for poor families, teaching English to university students, and so much more.” Continue Reading

Nana’s Story: Making a Difference at 80

Foster Grandmother Maxine Romm

Image source: Columbiamissourian.com

A few weeks ago, my nana turned 84. She is incredible: bright, chipper, happy, and sharp as a tack. She may be a little more hunched over than she used to be. Her eyes aren’t as good and her hearing is starting to go, but in every way that matters my nana is still the very same person who held me when I was a baby. I really think one of the reasons she has managed to age so gracefully is her lifelong dedication to volunteering. She is Catholic and is very devout. Her whole life she has been volunteering at her church, giving back to the community in every way that she can. She has run food drives, collected clothing for shelters, raised money for shelter animals, and helped care for the community’s children. She has always been an integral part of life in her corner of New Jersey.

Continue Reading

Transforming Teens into World Citizens with Global Leadership Adventures

GLA Volunteer

Image source: Experiencegla.com

High school is a trying time for many people. It’s full of social challenges—fitting in, finding yourself, handling bullies, and exploring young love. On top of navigating a complex social life (even more complex and non-stop now that kids have cell phones!) many kids play sports or are active in clubs. They participate in student government or act in school plays. Of course, through all of this they are constantly challenged academically. After a long day at school, they have homework. They have dinner with their families, continuing to develop social skills and coping mechanisms on all fronts. High school kids have very full lives. It’s an easy time to put on blinders—to get so immersed in the jam-packed day-to-day that you forget about the larger world. And yet, teenagehood is perhaps the most perfect time to break out of your routine, to be exposed to bright new places, new people, and new cultures. It’s a time of such rapid interpersonal growth that every experience becomes formative.

Continue Reading