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Part 6: Dreamweaving and the Law of Attraction
I think one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my life is that you don't know what you can do until you try - it turns out that building a website is one of the things I can do! Luis and I decided that this was an important step in the setting up of our organisation, and one which should be completed early on in the process. I remember writing down a list of possible names and then checking if the “.com” website was available. Happily for us, www.travellernottourist.com was still up for grabs so we grabbed it!
I have wanted to volunteer since I was 14 years old. In my 20s I applied to the Peace Corp (I am American) and by the time I was accepted, many months later, i had planned a big trip of many months to Europe. I never did volunteer. Life happens, career, home etc. Finally I realized I was healthy, still wanting to volunteer, willing to give up all my work and go. My blog is called "When I'm Sixty Four" if that tells you anything! The actual name is: whenimsixtfour.blogspot.com..(it was a typing error) Anyway, I figured if I was going to give up all my work which included a private psychotherapy practice, teaching psychiatric nursing students and some consulting with Visiting Nurse Service around patients with emotional as well as physical problems, I needed to get a placement for at least 2 years.
Some of you may have heard of True Travellers Society before, some of you may not, either way it is a site well worth visiting if you are planning to travel or indeed volunteer anytime soon. The aim of the site is to make it easier for travellers to connect with one and other, as well as with volunteering organisations, who also get a chance to present themselves to the sites visitors by submitting articles about what they do, etc. TTS was set up and is maintained by a the Wandering Wahba, or Andrew as he is also known, and he kindly agreed to answer a few questions about himself and his website.
Jay’s Journey by
Part 5: How Dreams Become Reality
Arequipa, in the south of Peru, is also known as “The White City”, which makes it sound like something out of a fairytale. The old centre certainly is beautiful - many of the buildings are made out of huge blocks of a volcanic stone called “sillar”. The Cathedral in the “Plaza de Armas” (the central square from which the rest of the city radiates) is particularly impressive and there are some stunningly beautiful carvings which adorn the doors and walls of other buildings around the plaza. If you know the UK, it is an effect similar to that found in Bath, but whiter. Of course, it gets progressively less clean looking and well-kept as you travel further from the centre but thinking about it - the place I met my husband - still makes me feel like Cinderella. I’m trying not to sound too soft and girly here but sometimes you just have to say it like it is.
I’d been spending my spare time volunteering back home in England for a while, but I wanted more, I wanted to travel, to have a big adventure, to challenge myself and make a difference to the lives of people living in developing countries. I knew I didn’t want to pay alot of money to volunteer for an NGO where I might not have a big impact, I wanted to be supported by a reputable organisation. I did lots of internet research and went to the Volunteering Centre near my house in Bristol and VSO, or Voluntary Services Overseas, was the best I could find. VSO has a strategic alliance with the UK’s Department for International Development and work in over 40 countries, sending volunteers to share their skills rather than money. All placements with VSO are fully funded and each country has its own programme office supporting volunteers.
The following article was written by Anne Fryer, a previous volunteer with E.S. Tibet.
A few weeks into our trip to India, my partner and I had planned to do some voluntary teaching in Mcleod Ganj, home of the Tibetan government in exile, and thought that we would easily find opportunities there when we arrived. However, to our surprise and disappointment, all the schools there informed us that they already had teachers and didn't need us. We spent a few weeks doing drop- in conversation classes, which were fun, but we felt we wanted something that we could get our teeth into. Although we were enjoying the many opportunities that Mcleod Ganj provides for rest and relaxation, we both had a nagging feeling that there was something missing.
This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the city of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Latin America has always been of interest of mine and as the summer before my senior year at Marquette University approached, I felt now was the opportune chance. After researching for almost a year I found a company called Rustic Volunteer and had a trip to Xela, Guatemala all worked out. Unfortunately, within days of my scheduled departure, a volcano erupted outside Guatemala City where I was to fly into and Tropical Storm Agatha had plagued the country with flooding and mudslides, blocking off a lot of transportation systems. I reluctantly called off my trip.
This is when my adventure to Argentina began.
Traveller Not Tourist:
Jay’s Journey by
Part 4: The Lake That Looks Like an Ocean
So, Sucre, what a treat! It's totally gorgeous. I managed to spend a week there and barely do anything but utterly enjoy myself. Jess, a fellow volunteer from Angels of Hope, and I struck gold with our accommodation - we stayed in a self contained flat (above a family home) complete with fully equipped kitchen, bathroom with (almost) hot water, sitting room with dining table and TV and a balcony. We even got to share the family pet, Dino (a dog, not a dinosaur). We made dinner for the family one night and they returned the favour.
6 months in placement. 18 to go.
Am I able to say that this volunteering “fancy” of mine has been a good idea at all?
Without a doubt!
Will I change my mind at the end of the whole two years?
Why so? Well that, for me, is because of the very nature of volunteering. Every volunteer knows from the outset that things are going to be very different from the cosy security of ‘home’, wherever that may be. As a result, they are somewhat shielded from the shock of facing new cultures, new levels of (dis)comfort, new paces of life and new communication barriers. Furthermore, since these are the very new experiences that attract a lot of people to volunteering, they tend to see it more as a challenge... a goal. But then you hear a lot of people saying “I totally didn’t expect it to be SO different!”.
Volunteering in Ecuador can be hit or miss. Everything in Ecuador can be hit or miss. It´s how the place works. Buses don´t show up, the power goes out or the government decides to change something and tell people about it the day before. It keep things interesting. Once you live here for a while you get used to it. A friend of mine puts it this way, "You definitely learn to let go of expecting everything to work out and you have to adjust to that. At first it is hard, then you start to joke about it, then you learn to make do and find other ways to get things done."
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Part 3: Hopeful Angels
After my amazing experience at Inti Wara Yassi, I found I was thinking differently about the rest of my trip. Originally, I was planning to travel almost the entire length of Chile, which would mean lots of beautiful sights but not much time to really engage with places or people. If I am honest, I had found some of my travelling time to be a little lonely. Perhaps this is a weakness of mine but I felt that the loneliness really stemmed from feeling a bit useless and disconnected from reality when I was staying in travellers hostels and going on trips with other foreigners. This was completely different to the feelings I had whilst I was volunteering.
Some of you will know Diane Emerson from her previous post here on VolunteeringInfo, which is a part of a series depicting her volunteering adventures. She is currently volunteering with Hope Disability Centre in the turbulent Kashmir region, and recently sent us a quick update on the current situation:
I am happy to report that I have good Internet access at the moment, though with the current and severe unrest here in Kashmir, it may be taken away at any moment. People here have had enough of waiting for the government to do something about the "Kashmir Issue". They no longer listen to the religious or separatist leaders calls to stop the strikes. They want action. Over 40 people have been killed since mid June, and hundreds injured. The Hope Centre is closed down, Handicap International people have fled to Delhi, and Sami Wani, the manager is using the Hope Centre ambulance to bring injured Kashmiris to a hospital in Srinagar this week. Me, the security guard (armed with a flashlight), and an occupational therapist from India remain at Hope Centre. It would be more dangerous for me to leave than to stay, at this point. So I work from my room with the curtains closed, read, meditate, work on writing the Hope Centres operations manual, and wait.
You can read more about the current situation in Kashmir here:
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Part 2: Walking with pumas
I spent my 26th birthday in Lima (my birthplace) in the company of people I had known for just a few days. For someone who normally makes the most of birthdays, it felt strange to be so far away from my family and friends but I was still positive about my trip and excited about my packed itinerary. I started with a fairly predictable journey down the West coast of Peru –
Mar & Mark (or Mar(k) for short) are the latest volunteers to answer some questions for us. They are currently volunteering in for VSO in Ghana, and are on a two year long placement. If you are, have or plan to volunteer and would like to share your story, perhaps by writing a blog for us or answering some questions like Mar(k), we would love to hear from you! Should you be intrigued by this short interview, you can read more about Mar(k) and their adventures on their volunteer blog.
When and why did you decide to do volunteer work?
We first decided to do some volunteering work about two years ago. We were coming to the end of our “working lives” in the petroleum industry, and wanted to do something more “meaningful” that could utilise our business skills, and at the same time, hopefully help others in some way.
Diane has taken international volunteering to the extreme by selling most of her possessions to go around the world and help others, and has kindly agreed to write a series of articles for us in which she will tell her story.
Hello. I was asked to write a bit about myself for this wonderful new website, created to help people who wish to travel and volunteer. I have been doing just that since December, 2006, when I sold or gave away most of my possessions, put the rest in a few boxes stashed away with friends and family, and hit the road.
We got in touch with John Callaway a short while back, after having found his blog, and asked him to tell us a bit about himself and his international volunteering journey. As it turns out, he had recently written a great article on the topic for Portsmouth Today, which he kindly offered for us to publish as well. Said and done, here is the complete, unedited, article:
Mark Wiens is an experienced world traveller, spicy food connoisseur and volunteer. In respect of the latter, he has agreed to answer a few questions for us and share some of his wisdom. Should this whet your appetite, you can read more about his adventures on his blog, migrationology, and there are a couple of links further down which will take you straight to some of his most volunteer-relevant posts. Now, on to the interview!
What country did you choose, and why?
I didn't really choose a specific country to volunteer in but rather traveled around and decided to volunteer with some spare time which ended up being a little in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
Jay’s Journey by
Part 1: Catching the travel bug
Having been born in Peru, whilst my parents were on a teaching exchange there, I had always felt a pull in that direction. I always knew I would go back. Initially, I planned to go in 2003 but ended up going on an amazing expedition to Malaysia with an organisation called Trekforce (sadly no longer running expeditions but my expedition leader, Dom, now runs his own organisation - Fieldskills). I loved the feeling of sleeping under the trees in a hammock and spent as much time as I could with the local guides, relishing the experience of connecting with people from such a different culture. We built 5 bridges and a trail to improve access for scientists to an uninhabited area rich with undiscovered flora and fauna (and leeches!)
We've asked another helpful volunteer to answer a few questions for us, just like Bunty & George in Jamaica. Catherine Dupre is currently volunteering with VSO in Mongolia, and kindly agreed to share some of her experiences with us. If you want to read more about her adventures, check out her personal blog: Monglian Nursing Adventure. She's also supplied us with a gallery of photos that she has taken in Mongolia, which you can view right at the bottom of this article (shortcut). Now, on to the questions!
There are very interesting and rewarding jobs out here for everyone.
We recently got in touch with a couple of fabulous volunteers called Bunty and George, who are volunteering in Jamaica through VSO. To find out more about their experiences, we asked them a few questions which will hopefully be of value to those of you who are considering to do a similar placement. Without further ado, here are the questions we asked and their answers. Right at the bottom of this post you'll find links to their blog and CUSO-VSO volunteering summary.