what to do with your money-and your life? How about a "volunteer
vacation" or "service learning travel" to give you some clues?
Emily McClelland helped build a house for
nuns in Cochabamba, Bolivia, as part of a travel program
organized by Amizade, which engages volunteers to work on
community-service projects throughout the world. The nuns
operate a home for 40 street children, also built (at the
nuns' initiative) by Amizade volunteers, and paid for by
program fees. Private donations ensure running water and
access to basic healthcare and education.
McClelland originally just wanted to get
some travel writing experience, but on her service learning
trip, she says, she "learned how to mix concrete, square
off the sides of a foundation pit with my shovel, lay brick-and
also built some upper body mass." Mostly, however, she came
away with "an overwhelming sense of the extent to which
my station in life is just dumb luck. How much agency can
I really claim in my arrival at a comfortable lifestyle?"
Upon her return, she and her cousins donated to the project,
on behalf of her uncle's charitable trust.
"In a way," says McClelland, "I felt as
if I had taken more from the orphanage and community than
I'd given. Yes, volunteer work is great and essential, but
it can also be self-serving and an easy way to assuage the
uneasy feeling of being lucky. If I really wanted to make
a difference, I asked myself, why didn't I volunteer skills
I actually have? (I'm not much of a bricklayer.) Although
it sounds so impersonal (and can work to assuage one's conscience
as well), I decided that money was really the best resource
I could give."
Without volunteers and donations, says Eric
Hartman, Amizade's outreach coordinator, "it is unreasonable
to think that any of these children would have even a reliable
roof over their heads, given the severity of poverty in
For service learning and volunteer vacation
opportunities, ranging from building adobe schoolhouses,
working to preserve a local ecology, or helping in an AIDS
© 1990-2005, More Than Money, All rights reserved