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Volunteer Abroad For Credit?

Posted by Randy LeGrant | Jul 7, 2011 9:40:00 AM
Why do you volunteer abroad?  It isn't a poll I'm taking, and GeoVisions isn't conducting focus groups.  I'm just wondering why you go abroad and spend time volunteering?

I have all these questions I want to ask about volunteering abroad.  Why aren't you volunteering in your home country, for example?  I mean, if you're volunteering, don't you want to improve things in your own country?  Why go to the expense of volunteering abroad?

Do you know that in the last 6 months, Google hits for "volunteer abroad" have gone down?  Does that mean people are losing interest in going abroad to volunteer?  In a word, "no."  Google hits for "voluntourism" are up.  People are wanting to combine travel or a tour with some volunteering.  So do people choose voluntourism because it's a way to go abroad on the cheap?  I don't think so.  Volunteer vacations can cost $3,000, $5,000.  Many of these trips can be very expensive.  Am I right or am I wrong?

Maybe it's the cultural exchange piece.  Do you have a better chance of exchanging cultures living with the locals?  Probably.  What if you choose an organization that has their own volunteer houses?  You then spend your day volunteering on a local project, and then you head back to a bed, a kitchen, a western-style toilet and huddle up with the volunteers on the project.  Wouldn't you want a home stay if you're into cultural exchange?

Speaking for Americans, if I may for only a moment, I think we're a compassionate people.  We are more comfortable in a "community" and so we're always striving for that.  Community can be found where you live, where you visit, and online.  Can the community we find online be as real as the community where we live or work?

CompassionThe words "compassion" and "community" share the root com, which comes from the Latin word for "together."  When you think about the word "passion," you may immediately think of a favorite image of romantic passion, but surprise: "passion" comes from the Latin pati and means "to suffer."  "Compassion" literally means "suffering with."  A compassionate community would then be a group of people who come together (community) to suffer with.  Or, a group suffering together.


I feel like Andy Rooney on 60-Minutes.  He asks tons of questions, getting at the truth.  But he's funny.  I generally am not.

I'm a Boomer, and I think the future of Voluntourism is Boomers.  I know a couple of our competitors who think the future of Voluntourism is college students.  To the extent that they have people on staff to help award college credit.  We don't agree with them.  For college students, the future is Internships.  Sure, college students will always be volunteering.  But the future?  The trend for students now is Internships, and the trend for Boomers is meaningful travel.

InternshipIf you're 18-21 years of age, you have told us that you need experience and you need an Internship.  Otherwise, you're not finding a job when it's time to graduate.  If you prepare for finding a job now, you'll be in a position to volunteer when you're older.

If you're a Boomer, you've done the student thing, you've done the work thing.  You have money.  You have time.  You know exactly WHY you're volunteering abroad.  And you don't need college credit as a lure.

What do you think?  Are you ready to turn that "compassion" into college credit or do you prefer an Internship for your resume?  Are you a Boomer, ready to share your compassion through cultural exchange?  Or do you prefer an Alaskan cruise?

Let me know what you think.

Written by Randy LeGrant

Randy is the Executive Director of the GeoVisions Foundation. He has spent the last 44 years managing organizations that send people abroad on cultural and educational exchanges.

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