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World War I Volunteers And Beyond

on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 By | Randy LeGrant | 2 Comments | AFS History of Volunteering
Happy Veteran's Day!
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Volunteer Abroad: An Exchange of Ideas and People

Shaw once wrote, "If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas." There are more organizations offering Voluntourism this year than last.  And more colleges and universities are providing their own volunteer experiences too.  That's always a good thing.  When I travel, I do my best to visit other organizations offering volunteer abroad or teach abroad programs.  And when I'm really stumped about what to do, how to respond to a crisis, I have found some them to be the best people to talk with about the problem. The problem I have is with people wanting to exchange an apple with me rather than an idea.  I only really need one apple a day "to keep the doctor away" but I really need a lot of ideas. If you type "exchanging ideas" in the little Google search bar on your Internet browser, two things come to mind.  1) You have a lot of time on your hands and 2) 5,440,000 results.  People are exchanging ideas on software features, hearing loss, medicine, art, and I even noticed someone called exchanging ideas a "circulation of knowledge."  If you type in "exchanging apples" a) you REALLY have too much time on your hands and b) most of the entries are either math related for grade school children or you'd better have an Apple computer.  But I guess, therein lies the point of Shaw's quote. If, when we experience the miracle of spending time together we exchange computers or we learn that if Dick has one apple and Jane has one apple and after they trade apples, how many apples do Dick and Jane have?...we really don't walk away with much.  Unless I give you my old Mac Classic and you give me a new iMac.  But I doubt Shaw had any of that in mind. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps with three simple goals: Help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women. Help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. Help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. In 1914,  A. Piatt Andrew organized the American Field Service (AFS) whose mission was to transport wounded French soldiers.  By 1917, AFS had grown to 2,500 volunteers who had carried more than 500,000 wounded to hospitals.  127 AFS volunteers would lose their lives. I have doubts that President Kennedy or Mr. Andrew were very keen on exchanging apples of any kind.  They exchanged ideas with others and you can see, here, only a couple of results.  They also believed in exchanging people, who could exchange THEIR ideas.  From there, the exchange never ends. We continue to get testimonials from our volunteers who are exchanging ideas, in many cases exchanging sweat and tears, and whose lives and hearts have been changed forever and have changed the hearts and minds of their host communities forever.  It typifies what President Kennedy and Mr. Andrew knew would happen.  We are proud that you are a part of that. I started this post with a quote.  I suppose I should end with one.  How 'bout Emerson.  "It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life...we can never help another without helping ourselves."
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What's Wrong With Conversation Corps?

on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 By | Randy LeGrant | 0 Comments | AFS Conversation Corps
As the Executive Director of GeoVisions, founders of The Conversation Corps, I'm able to see all the good aspects of a program as well as those that aren't working.  If some of my Blog posts are going to dish it out to others, I should also dish it out right back at me.
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Teach Abroad! Stepping Stones Keep on Rolling

on Sun, Sep 13, 2009 By | Randy LeGrant | 0 Comments | Teach Abroad AFS Randy LeGrant
This Blog Post first appeared on the GeoVisions site June 2007 as a "Monthly Letter From Our Exec."  It is being recycled here on this Blog.
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The Responsibility Of Language-A Reason For Conversation Corps

on Sun, Aug 30, 2009 By | Randy LeGrant | 0 Comments | AFS Conversation Corps Randy LeGrant
I've just returned from a week in Paris, where I met with our Paris office staff and five of our partners who recruit and screen families for our Conversation Corps-France program. On this trip, I invited my 11 year old daughter, Molly.  This was her first trip to France.  She has an email-pal in Lille, France named Alexandra and we had arranged for the two girls to meet. As I sat in Alexandra's living room chatting with her mother, Molly and Alexandra ate Crepes in the kitchen and then took scooters down to the neighborhood park.  Molly will learn French this year in school and Alexandra is currently learning English. At one point, Alexandra asked Molly about her hobbies.  Molly had to "act out" about her drama club.  When Molly asked Alexandra about the things she likes to do, Molly didn't understand the French and Alexandra didn't know the words in English.  So Alexandra drew a picture in the sand with a stick showing a boat with sails and then drew a picture of a horse with a triangle for a girl rider.  And the two girls laughed and scootered off as if they could communicate with words and had been BFF. Since I began this work in 1975, these types of experiences are what keep me going to work each day.  After 34 years, I still get out of bed each morning excited about my work and the opportunities GeoVisions provides people all around the globe.  My daughter's life will never be the same.  Her first trip to France, her train ride to Lille, eating Crepes in a friend's home and running in a park made her realize learning French this year in school is not a subject she will have to take.  Instead, it is a responsibility that in it's own way might bring the world closer.  Realizing that, learning French will take on an importance she would have never known without this trip. My meetings were very positive and I am excited about the tutoring experiences in France for 2010.  And I'm very happy Molly and I took a Saturday and traveled to Lille to meet Molly's email-pal.  It reminds me to be open to new experiences each day.  It would have been easy to fly home on Saturday or to stay in Paris for the day.  But, heading for Lille on a Saturday made lasting changes for my daughter and for her friend, Alexandra.  And even for Molly's Dad.  It's good work we do. If you happen to read this post, and something similar has happened to you, I hope you will use the comment section and let us know.  It is really a great reminder that the AFS slogan, "Changing the world one person at a time" is right on target. Live the journey, Randy
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