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Volunteer Breakdown

By peter | Add a Comment »

There’s no question that volunteer travel has seen a recent surge in popularity, but just how many people are spending their vacation days building schools in developing nations? And who are these volunteers? Do men or women spend donate more time? Is a 54 year-old unmarried doctor more likely to volunteer than a 22 year-old college student?

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down last year’s volunteer travelers into several demographics and offers a useful glimpse into the make up of volunteers in the United States.

2006 by the Numbers

Total U.S. Volunteers: 61.2 million

Percentage of U.S. population that represents: 26.7

Percentage decline in participation from 2005: 2.1

Percentage of Women who did volunteer work: 30.1

Percentage of Men: 23

Average hours volunteered by Women during 2006: 50

Average hours by Men: 52
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Is my Volunteer trip tax-deductible?

By peter | 1 Comment »

Donate your car, your old clothes, even your stereo and, in America, the government lets you write it off and deduct it from your annual contribution to the country. But does your time earn you the same earn you the same leeway? Is a trip to build houses in Mexico a deductible donation?

The short answer to this is, “No.” Volunteering is not considered a donation of goods, so it cannot be deducted from your taxes. But, there are ways to lessen the blow come April 15.

While you can’t count wages lost or personal time as a deduction, travel expenses are generally deductible, both to and from the volunteer location. The full cost of flights or bus or train rides can be taken off your taxes and if you drove to your destination and kept track of the mileage, you can give yourself 14 cents a mile in deductions. If you were planning ahead and kept track of actual expenditures on the trip (with receipts) you can deduct the entire cost of the trip.
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You can represent 5% of your Nation’s GDP

By peter | Add a Comment »

manhattan_newyork_newyorkcity_964130_l.jpgEmpirical data ruled last week as the United Nations, with Johns Hopkins University, took a close look at volunteerism and volunteer-travel at a conference in Bonn, Germany.

The meeting saw the release of the long-titled but relatively succinct document, “Measuring Civil Society and Volunteering: Initial Findings from Implementation of the UN Handbook on Nonprofit Institutions,” which presents the economic data collected by eight countries since 2003.

The study called the impact of volunteers “much larger than previously understood” and found that volunteering has become a significant economic force, contributing 5% of a nation’s Gross Domestic Product on average. This amounts to more than most Nation’s utilities industries and as much as the construction industries.
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Volunteer Vacation Resource:

By Kate | Add a Comment »

If helping out at community gardens in Cuba, teaching English in Ghana, or assisting with domestic animal rescue in South Africa is your thing, look no further than Bootsnall is an independent travel company and the host of this very logue. Up to now Bootsnall services have included hostels, cheap international airfare, and travel forums. Now you can find volunteer vacations at Bootsnall adventures as well.

In addition to those above, destinations include Costa Rica, Kenya, Honduras, Ecuador, Thailand, Honduras, China, and Peru, Guatemala, Chile, Zambia, Botswana, Uganda.

A few examples include:

The Uganda program includes an online TEFL course. Volunteers will be teaching English to children in the south of the country, staying at the “Teach Inn Uganda”, which was built to house volunteer teachers. Funds raised but the Teach Inn will go towards funding future projects that will benefit the local community – the current goal is to build a grain store with these proceeds.
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Category: Organizations

21 “Tips” from Safe Traveler

By peter | Add a Comment »

The folks over at Safe Traveler today provide us today with 21 ways to make our volunteer travel experiences safer.

After sorting through the generic travel advice and the tips designed to scare us into buying a spy report on the area, the list turns into more like six pieces of advice that apply to us as volunteers and travelers.

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Change The World, One Good Deed At A Time

By Kate | Add a Comment »

On the sixth anniversary of the events of September 11, make a commitment to do a good deed to honor the victims and survivors of the tragedy.
is a website and 501(c)3 non-profit organization which was founded in 2002, “as a way to honor the victims and heroes of 9/11 and preserve the spirit of unity and compassion that existed in the nation following the terrorist attacks.” Part of the idea of the site is for visitors to post their commitments – big or small – to do some good deed on the day and into the future, and to inspire others to do the same.

It is a claim often made that in the aftermath of a disaster – worldwide, and not just in the US – there is often an outpouring of support which eventually fades away. While it is fair enough to say that doing a good deed one day of the year may not be the full way to honor those who have died in large-scale disasters, I think the sentiment behind it is a good one: to encourage people not to remember just the horror of some event but also the sense of unity and goodwill that followed. Of course it would also be ideal if it did not take large-scale disasters for people to express goodwill towards those in need.

Women in Black, which protests violence in many forms throughout the world, held vigils in the wake of the September 11 tragedy and continues to hold vigils throughout the world opposing violence in all the forms it takes. The group published a press release explaining its position against the military action which has come about following the events of September 11, and you can show your support for an end to this form of violence by attending one of the weekly vigils in New York (or check the website to see if there is one near you).
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Category: Organizations, News

Global XChange From VSO: Six Month Volunteer Exchange Program

By Kate | 1 Comment »

VSO, whose motto is “promoting volunteering to fight global poverty and disadvantage”, has built a reputation organizing two-year placements for international volunteers, including those with qualifications or experience in the field they will work in (read the story written by one VSO volunteer in Sri Lanka at the TEFL Logue). Now, VSO is offering placements for young people for a shorter period in the Global Xchange program, in cooperation with the British Council (“Our purpose is to build mutually beneficial relationships between people in the UK and other countries and to increase appreciation of the UK’s creative ideas and achievements”).

Young people aged 18-25 can spend three months in the UK and three months in another country volunteering as part of a group. Half the group will be from the UK and half from the exchange country (the country where the other three months are spent). Volunteers will live with a host family - and a counterpart from the other country - and “do real jobs that make a difference to people living in challenging conditions.”

VSO volunteers do not pay for anything, but rather fundraise £600. They receive a stipend while volunteering and accommodation is part of the program.

The work is with a local organization four days a week and may involve peer education, assistance to elderly or people with physical or mental disabilities, serving as educational assistants, or working with refugee organizations or educational health projects. However, no experience or particular skills are required.

From the Global Xchange site:
“We will try to match your volunteer placement with your own interests and skills, but this is not always possible. What we will ensure is that you are well supported in your volunteer placement by a workplace supervisor, and that your placement is doing some work that respond to the needs of the local community, enabling you to make a tangible contribution.
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Via Brave New Traveler: Changing The World On Vacation, Documentary Film

By Kate | Add a Comment »

Brave New Traveler founder Ian MacKenzie has a great habit of letting the Volunteer Logue in on things when something relevant is published on his site via the Contact Us page. The latest is an interview with filmmaker Daniela Kon, who recently finished filming Changing the World On Vacation: NGO Volunteers and the Politics of Compassion.

Kon follows the story of grassroots organization PEPY (Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself), which built a school in Cambodia and finances it by offering volunteer vacations.

You can watch a 16-minute clip at the Deeda Productions website, and find out how you can help support the production and distribution of the film.

In the clip, we learn that the average rural Cambodian has 2.9 years of education, and see a young girl who just missed four months of school because her bicycle was hit by a motorbike and broken. We watch as kids practice brushing their teeth with Colgate, and listen to clips from interviews with several experienced aid workers. This group includes Scott Neeson, former head of 20th Century Fox who radically changed his life and founded an orphanage in Cambodia, a VSO recruiter, and a former Peace Corps volunteer who is currently the Bangkok director of Cross Cultural Solutions.
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Peru Earthquake Volunteers?

By Kate | Add a Comment »

peru-map.jpg…probably not.

I’ve heard it said that the most common, most effective and least recognized volunteers in natural disaster situations are often local residents – the very ones affected by the disaster – who work together to help each other out . Another common point is that volunteers without appropriate training may end up adding to the general confusion despite their good intentions to help. If you happen to be there, by all means, do what you can, but the general recommendation is usually that supplies, funds, and skills or know-how are needed initially.

You can read about larger scale aid efforts, most of which involve either mobilizing highly qualified specialists like doctors or assist with procuring supplies and other infrastructure (fixing damaged water pipes, etc.).

What else can you do? Go there. Not to volunteer in relief efforts, but in the next few years to spend your money as a tourist.
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Category: News

Interview Wth A Former Volunteer ESL Teacher of Kosovar Refugees

By Kate | Add a Comment »

Imagine returning home to Nova Scotia from Japan and almost immediately volunteering to organize an ESL program for Kosovar refugees. This was exactly the situation facing EFL teacher John Hall about nine years ago. Fortunately for the Kosovar students, John had received his CTEFLA (now known as the CELTA), and had over three years experience teaching English in Japan. The other volunteers, however, included public school teachers who were willing to help but untrained in ESL and “a handful of underemployed university students with nothing better to do.” Given that somewhere around 80% of the 300+ refugees had no English at all and there was a shortage of Albanian language interpreters – organizing these ESL classes was no small task.

But let’s start at the beginning - how did this whole scenario come to be?

In 1999, refugee camps sprung up in Macedonia to temporarily accommodate Kosovars who had been driven from their homes by Milosevic’s military forces. Around the same time, Canada began to consider accepting Kosovar refugees. “It just so happened that some new buildings were also just getting their finishing touches put on them at the military base in my hometown, and what better place would there be to put the refugees upon arriving in Canada?” The stay at the military base was also temporary; ultimately the refugees would either stay with sponsors elsewhere in Canada or perhaps return to Kosovo later on.

John got involved when a friend talked him into volunteering for a well-known NGO, initially intending to teach English for a couple of hours a week. But when he discovered that he was the only one with EFL experience, John ended up volunteering to take a real leadership role.

“We had no books and no volunteers who knew how to teach English except myself…So, I had to be administrator, teacher-trainer, and teacher all at the same time. Needless to say, I soon found myself going to the military base early in the morning and leaving late at night, every day.”

Visit the TEFL Logue to find out more about the students and what classes were like, as well as John’s insight on the specific ESL teaching skills he utilized and built on in this experience.

One additional challenge – and one which is probably not all that rare for volunteers – was a bureaucratic one:

“After I had been running the “program” for a month, the NGO’s lawyer informed us that the NGO does not teach English. Suddenly, I was entirely on my own, and not responsible to anyone. I also realized that if I went to the Canadian immigration authorities at the base and told them that, then probably my English classes would be put on hold indefinitely…So I didn’t say anything about it! People were used to seeing me come every day, and I just continued to do everything as usual.”
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Category: Perspectives

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