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voluntourism: what are your thoughts?
Old 02-28-2011, 12:22 PM   #1
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voluntourism: what are your thoughts?

I was on the AARP site this morning and was reading about something they call voluntourism. this is where you pay for your expenses ahead of time and volunteer to work in some destination. anyone ever heard of or had experience with this?
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Old 02-28-2011, 12:36 PM   #2
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I've done 5 trips with Earthwatch. They have a small team of 5 - 10 people that work with a researcher. The volunteers help with the field work. For me it was a great way to see things that I would never see on my own. For example, in the Virgin islands I got to patrol the beaches and collect leather back sea turtle eggs to be relocated. It was an amazing feeling to have this 1000 pound beast laying her eggs right into my hands in the middle of the night. In Kenya I worked on a black rhino preserve and part of the job was to hike daily with armed guards and count wildlife like elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo and, of course, rhinos. In Brazil we spent all day in a canoe observing giant river otters and numerous other birds and animals, including macaws.

All of your expenses, including airfare, are tax deductible. Earthwatch also has archeological digs and medical programs in the US and throughout the world.

Earthwatch - Change the World. Yourself
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Old 03-01-2011, 01:52 AM   #3
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Hello Frank - I volunteer abroad several weeks a year as a medical provider. Please let me know if you wish to know additional information and I will send you some websites in a separate email. Thank you.
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Old 03-01-2011, 05:31 AM   #4
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sure, DW is a full time volunteer and it costs me a bundle, nothing too remote so far but she loves it and is truly loved by the women she serves. DD has gone on a couple of service trips and those cost as well but they have been life changing experiences for her so I'm gladly dusting off the wallet so she can participate.

great topic!
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Old 03-01-2011, 06:32 AM   #5
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Don't Overlook the U.S.

There are lots of opportunities in the United States. I don't know of a specific web site that aggregates all the volunteer opportunities in the U.S. but individual agencies certainly have volunteer postions available.

One that come to mind is Habitat for Humanity (particularly on the Gulf Coast in addition to all around the nation). Bring your RV or a stay at a local hotel/church/gymnasium and work for a day, week, longer.

Also in the New Orleans area is St. Bernard Project. Similar to Habitat and they always need volunteers.

I've heard of archeological digs in the West/Southwest, oil cleanups on the Gulf of Mexico, housing and water improvements in rural areas. Check out United We Serve - don't know much about it but it may be worth checking.

You go to a new area of the U.S. - see some people & places you've not experienced before - the agency is able to accomplish its work with volunteers. Sounds like a domestic version of voluntourism.

On edit: All For Good comes up when I searched on the United We Serve web site.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:24 AM   #6
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obgyn65: I would be interested in the info you have available. although I am not a health care professional it would be interesting to see what is available that I might be able to do. thanks
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:36 AM   #7
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I've done 5 trips with Earthwatch. They have a small team of 5 - 10 people that work with a researcher. The volunteers help with the field work. For me it was a great way to see things that I would never see on my own. For example, in the Virgin islands I got to patrol the beaches and collect leather back sea turtle eggs to be relocated. It was an amazing feeling to have this 1000 pound beast laying her eggs right into my hands in the middle of the night. In Kenya I worked on a black rhino preserve and part of the job was to hike daily with armed guards and count wildlife like elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo and, of course, rhinos. In Brazil we spent all day in a canoe observing giant river otters and numerous other birds and animals, including macaws.

All of your expenses, including airfare, are tax deductible. Earthwatch also has archeological digs and medical programs in the US and throughout the world.

Earthwatch - Change the World. Yourself
Thanks to someone on this board (probably you Travelover!) I am a member, and am looking forward to incorporating these trips into my ER plans! Hope to do a trip or two before then though! Have you been on any trips you would not recommend?
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:39 AM   #8
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The thought of paying to volunteer rubs me the wrong way. Sure, maybe it's more economical than a vacation and if it was stuff you'd like to do anyway, so be it.
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Old 03-01-2011, 03:08 PM   #9
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Volunteer and Voluntour Scams in Nepal | Hole In The Donut Travels

You might find the above blog post interesting as it is on the very subject.
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Old 03-01-2011, 03:53 PM   #10
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Volunteer and Voluntour Scams in Nepal | Hole In The Donut Travels

You might find the above blog post interesting as it is on the very subject.
It is very interesting, thank you. And aside from the interest of the narrative, I think Barbara Weibel is a top notch photographer.
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Old 03-01-2011, 06:59 PM   #11
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Interesting. DS had a rather different experience. He did a volunteer stint last summer with a religious organization specializing in engineering work, into which he paid to cover the travel costs.

The group put him in touch with other civil engineers, architects, and support folks, helped with forming a team and selection of a project, and provided back office support on their project, which involved design of a new church, including housing, school facilities, a small farm, and infrastructure including a clean water supply maintainable using local materials.

Their team brushed up on civil engineering code specifics for Zambia, where the facility will be built, and planned out on-site activities that they would need to accomplish to develop and deliver a complete set of engineering and architectural plans.

The actual trip had them arriving in Lusaka, Zambia, and then traveling northeast past the 'thumb' of the Congo and then northwest to the construction site near Mansa. They spent over a week on-site surveying, investigating water, power, drainage, and related issues, and developed a draft plan for the site which was presented to the local church for review and approval. After all this they did take about 20 hours for fun on the way back, going on a photo safari and taking a swim at the top of Victoria Falls, before heading to the airport.

The team spent additional time working on the project after they returned, to develop a complete site plan, engineering documents, blueprints, and materials lists for the project. He really enjoyed the experience, and it has had some professional benefits as well.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:03 PM   #12
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The thought of paying to volunteer rubs me the wrong way. Sure, maybe it's more economical than a vacation and if it was stuff you'd like to do anyway, so be it.
It rubs me the wrong way that it is tax deductible. Why should people get a tax break for doing something they decided they wanted to do anyway, found the experience 'amazing', got to visit a place they wanted to, etc?

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Old 03-02-2011, 08:04 AM   #13
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erd50: are you saying that if you went on a business trip to some nice location, worked the biggest part of the time, but then decided to go swimming or to a spa for a few hours that the whole trip should not be tax deductible?
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Old 03-02-2011, 09:12 AM   #14
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erd50: are you saying that if you went on a business trip to some nice location, worked the biggest part of the time, but then decided to go swimming or to a spa for a few hours that the whole trip should not be tax deductible?
If you are actually working, shouldn't you have a work visa? and are you possibly taking away a job from the locals -- from what I've seen many of these volunteer opportunities don't require particularly specialized skills like simply counting species observations (obviously some like medical / engineering tasks excepted).

The last time I looked into one of these packages, I was very turned off by the *guidance* they gave you to say to the country's immigration officer. (Basically trying to hide what you were doing).
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Old 03-02-2011, 09:17 AM   #15
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erd50: are you saying that if you went on a business trip to some nice location, worked the biggest part of the time, but then decided to go swimming or to a spa for a few hours that the whole trip should not be tax deductible?
I think it would be fair if nothing above the basics to get the business done was tax deductible.

But I think this sort of taxation is crazy anyhow - it gets far too complex, too many judgement calls, exceptions, etc. That's why I like the idea of a NST as the sole tax. Tax what is spent - forget the reason why - done. But that is for another thread.

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Old 03-02-2011, 12:42 PM   #16
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If you are actually working, shouldn't you have a work visa? and are you possibly taking away a job from the locals -- from what I've seen many of these volunteer opportunities don't require particularly specialized skills like simply counting species observations (obviously some like medical / engineering tasks excepted)..........
In the Earthwatch example I used above, the utility is in the funds raised from Americans and Europeans coming to the site. Of course, you could hire locals to do what we did, but that would not provide the funding that the researchers needed.
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Old 03-02-2011, 07:41 PM   #17
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I've done 5 trips with Earthwatch. They have a small team of 5 - 10 people that work with a researcher. The volunteers help with the field work. For me it was a great way to see things that I would never see on my own. For example, in the Virgin islands I got to patrol the beaches and collect leather back sea turtle eggs to be relocated. It was an amazing feeling to have this 1000 pound beast laying her eggs right into my hands in the middle of the night. In Kenya I worked on a black rhino preserve and part of the job was to hike daily with armed guards and count wildlife like elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo and, of course, rhinos. In Brazil we spent all day in a canoe observing giant river otters and numerous other birds and animals, including macaws.

All of your expenses, including airfare, are tax deductible. Earthwatch also has archeological digs and medical programs in the US and throughout the world.

Earthwatch - Change the World. Yourself
I did a gig with Earthwatch: St Croix USVI, leatherback turtles.
Too decrepit now to do any more.
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Old 03-02-2011, 08:05 PM   #18
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I did a gig with Earthwatch: St Croix USVI, leatherback turtles.
Too decrepit now to do any more.
That one is the most strenuous expedition that I have done. Walking ten miles a night with a heavy backpack, in loose sand, in the middle of the night, for a week. Whew.
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Old 03-02-2011, 08:21 PM   #19
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That one is the most strenuous expedition that I have done. Walking ten miles a night with a heavy backpack, in loose sand, in the middle of the night, for a week. Whew.
Managed to lose 5 pounds in 1 week.

& brought 5 bottles of rum back in the briefcase.
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Old 03-03-2011, 07:37 AM   #20
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I don't know if I could handle the 10 miles a night with a backpack in loose sand. maybe I'm getting too old for this type of thing. at what age did you volunteer?
I was thinking there was something a little less strenuous available, but then I have never checked the options available. Then again the rum might help with the sore muscles.
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