Posts Tagged ‘volunteer abroad’

Autism Support Here, There, Everywhere

Ari Ne'eman, National Council on Disability

How much do I LOVE that President Obama has appointed the first ever autistic White House appointee, Ari Ne’eman, new member of the National Council on Disability (NCD), advising the president and congress about ways to reform health care, schools, support services, and employment policy?! And he’s only 22 years old!! Inclusiveness is such an important element of our leadership right now, when divisiveness rules the airwaves and rhetoric (and public appearances by government officials–thoughts and prayers for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and all the families of each and every victim of that tragedy).

Autism is a thing we never heard of, or spoke of, when I was growing up. Like peanut allergies, it must have been there, but wasn’t named or responded to as sensitively as it is now (and I am not likening the two–just my own obliviousness to the issues prior to recent years). I have dear friends who have autism in their families, and are so inspiring in the empowering and nurturing ways they work together as families–it is truly a lesson in how to BE in this world.

If you know or are part of any families with autism, ever saw a TV show or article about autism that hooked you, or just know you can be of help…think about doing some Autism volunteering.

  • Traveler’s Worldwide offers volunteer vacations to help children with autism in South Africa. How much time do you have? A month? a summer? You will work in a school dedicated to treating autistic children as a classroom assistant and work one-on-one, tutoring. When the end-of-school bell rings, you still get to have incredible interactions in the evenings, playing and imagining with autistic children who are resident  at the school.
  • The Beijing Institute for Autistic Children in partnership with Volunteer Abroad provides opportunities to work with Chinese children with autism. For one to eight weeks, volunteers help autistic children develop skills and learn to interact with others.
  • WLS International also services the autistic community in China and has volunteer experiences from one week or longer, in Beijing.
  • Teach Abroad provides volunteer opportunities to work with autistic children, ages five and older, in Delhi, India. For a minimum of two months, you will teach subjects like music, drama, English, and arts with a motivated autistic student body.
  • The Canadian Alliance for Development Initiatives and Projects does a three-week camp program (one week of training and two camp weeks) for volunteers to work with autistic kids in Courtenay, British Columbia.
  • The Comox Valley Child Development Association sends volunteers to help children at a yearly autism summer camp in Canada. At this three week camp, volunteers help autistic children and teens participate in group activities, meal preparation, and day trips.
  • The Cultural and Academic Travel Organization facilitates volunteer vacations to Ghana’s New Horizon School for Persons with Intellectual Disability. At this school, volunteers help children and adults with mental challenges, including autism. Volunteers teach academic subjects, tutor autistic people in life skills, supervise activities, and work at the autism resource center.

Clowning Around Coney Island

Brooklyn’s Coney Island has been on unsteady ground with sales and collapsed sales and re-buying offers—it seemed for a while that the nostalgic summer funland was done once and for all, but this weekend, Coney Island, now re-branded as Luna Park, is re-opening for the holiday and summertime.

A big part of any old school amusement park is clowning–freaky to some–it is such a short trip from happy clown to scary clown–clowning is, at its roots, all about fun and laughter.

Here are but a couple of clown-connected volunteer opportunities, if you’re feeling red-nosey.

Patch Adams was yukked up on screen by Robin Williams in the eponymous movie, and the story is based on a real doctor who sees laughter as the best medicine. The Patch Adams Gesundheit! Institute in Pocahontas County, West Virginia uses volunteers who work 35 hours a week helping build clinic space and other support construction as well as take clown workshops and work with kids. You’ll have to take your laughter seriously, but won’t empty your pockets as there is no charge for room and board beyond your hard work.

In Rio de Janeiro you can work for a 2-week stint with Volunteer Abroad and teach Circus Arts to troubled and at-risk youth to help in self-expression and creative outlets for tie and energies.

Obviously one of the most recognized clowns works for that fast food company with the golden arches. What you may not know is the absolutely phenomenal work being done by the charitable arm of that burger biz, Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times. This astounding camp in the foothills of California is completely devoted to kids with cancer. Volunteer camp counselors make a 9-day commitment for a 7-day camp session (2 days of training) and you can be part of this life-changing experience.

amusement park camp/cancer kids