Posts Tagged ‘international volunteer’

40th Annual National Volunteer Week

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWell, here we are. National Volunteer Week is upon us (April 6-13), and it has been a part of the April calendar for four decades. It is a week for charitable and philanthropic organizations to recognize and laud the volunteer force, without which most could never continue. Volunteer work is the lifeblood of most active social change around the world. That is not to suggest that for-profit work doesn’t move mountains for positive impact…but the volunteers, the unpaid blood/sweat/and tears gang, really makes the sea change in communities. It is never for money. It might occasionally be for glory (even if only glorified in our own eyes). Mostly, giving selflessly for others or a cause is all about being human. Respecting connection. Touching other lives because we can, because that is what we are meant to do. Being open to receiving service is much more difficult than giving of ourselves, and both sides of the equation are noble.

There has been a spate of recent articles making the social media rounds about how international volunteering is all about making the privileged volunteer feel superior while doing nothing for, perhaps even harming, the communities they go to serve. I mourn this negative attention based on tiny individual experiences that people extrapolate to be condemnation of the entire venture of giving.

Give. Of yourself. That is all.

If you tried a volunteer stint and it wasn’t a good fit for your desires, skills, needs, personality, etc…move on, but don’t stop giving. That would be tragic–for you, most of all. Are there people for whom balance of power and inequality issues get in the way of being of good service? Yes. Are there shady businesses cropping up, like false orphanages for “orphanage tourism” to try and capitalize on the best intentions of visitors? Sadly, yes. Does this mean there is no need–hell no! If you have been burned by an illegitimate service organization, don’t try and make that mean that the system is broken. Warn the rest of us, and find your next volunteer opportunity that sends you home wiping your eyes from endless gratitude that you got to be part of something huge. THOSE experiences are everywhere. If being of service to a person or community of need much greater than your own confronts or triggers you–go work on behalf of endangered species, or clean up the beach, or advocate in front of congress for better air quality, or work a charity race/walk/cycle/swim/etc event for a health cause that inspires or has touched you.

There is a volunteer opportunity that will light your fire uniquely and astoundingly and because of it, you will never be the same. If you haven’t found it on your first, or even fourth try, you mustn’t think it is the volunteering that is wrong…and you mustn’t, ever, discourage others from giving of themselves. You steal from them such light they may never know they have.

Give. Of yourself. That is all.

Spread Your Knowledge and Volunteer Commitment: Do Good As You Go

inukshukA little over a year ago I learned about The Muskoka Foundation and grew smitten with their mission, inspiring and equipping adventure travelers to “use what they know, to do good as they go” to create sustainable impact for the world, by using their own professional skills. In communities of need, when requested by the community and partners (a big deal for me, not “gifting” answers or charity upon communities based on our outsider “expertise,” but instead, responding to need and desire from within), the foundation provides workshops for children and adults, in entrepreneurship, IT, photography, arts, sports, music, and more.

They have nicely simplified and emboldened their message with the Do Good As You Go movement: to harness the energy and spirit of hundreds of volunteer explorers doing what they do best on behalf of communities round the world. The focus here is on experience: experienced travelers who are also experienced at some teachable and desirable skill. Muskoka is the connector, the liaison between inspired volunteers and individuals and groups in foreign countries right at the verge of huge breakthroughs. If you fit the profile–I’m guessing you want a piece of this. Reach out to the foundation and find out where they have active programs, or their target list for next dream nations to work in and impact in incredibly positive ways. Play the game big! The world is waiting for your gifts.

Buddhist Global Relief Volunteers

663799_36496821There is so much that intrigues me, and so much I don’t know, about the various practices of Buddhism in this world. I’ve just recently learned of Buddhist Global Relief, an organization dedicated to the vision of a world where debilitating poverty has been banished; where everyone has access to food, clothing, housing, and healthcare; where all can achieve a satisfactory level of education; and where all are in harmony with our environment. Toward these ends, they specifically focus on chronic hunger and malnutrition by providing direct food aid, working toward better sustainability, promoting education of girls and women, and providing access to livelihood projects for women (which directly affect the food resources for families).

Those who want to be actively in support of BGR works can volunteer in roles like facebook page administrator, bookkeeper, web developer, graphic artist, and working directly on supporting projects around the world in partnership with existing community programs and resources in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Malawi, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam (as well as domestic programs in New York City and Santa Clara County). There are also annual fundraising walk events in communities across the United States and internationally as well–most of them in the fall (several coming up quite soon).

If you’re feeling like it’s time to get in closer touch with active Buddhist compassion expressed through programs of social engagement, explore, delve, and dedicate.