Archive for the ‘North America’ category

Karin Feltman: Katrina volunteering

March 29, 2007

Karin Feltman
Volunteered after Hurricane Katrina

1. i actually don’t work for an organization that sends out volunteers- i find volunteering opportunities on my own and go. i work for a hospital here in lawrence as an ER nurse. they are supportive of my efforts, but they aren’t actually involved in that process. well…that isn’t exactly true. they are part of something called the “pinckney partnership”, which is a partnership with a local elementary school, and there are volunteering project through that. i tutor a 5th grade class, for example.

2. most of the organizations that i have volunteered through have been faith-based organizations. i have gone to mississippi to aid in hurricane relief through the episcopal diocese of mississippi, and i am going to honduras with the church of the resurrection (COR) in kansas city. they also send volunteers to mississippi for continued hurricane clean-up, to the ukraine for construction and bible teaching, and to south africa for medical and HIV education, and also for construction efforts. they have many local volunteering projects, as well. my trip to kenya is through an organization called CTC International, and they currently send volunteers only to kenya, for both medical missions and construction projects. they are a christian organization as well, though not a church.

3. i think that volunteering is becoming popular for many reasons…some of which i will cover in #4, since i believe that many people volunteer precisely because of what THEY get out of it. another reason that the popularity of volunteering is increasing is that volunteer efforts are getting more exposure and more coverage in the media, and that allows people to become aware of volunteering opportunities and the needs of others. i think that many people have always thought of mission work or volunteering as very expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to get into. while that can be the case, there are many opportunities that take little time and effort, yet still make a huge impact (like serving at a local homeless shelter, or “soup-kitchen” , for instance.) i serve at LINK (lawrence interdenominational nutrition kitchen) for about 3 hours, every other month….and while that is a small effort for me, we feed up to 160 people each time that i volunteer so it is a huge benefit to the community. the more that these opportunities are highlighted in our media, the more people realize that they CAN help, and very easily…and there are things that they can do with their families, too.

oddly enough, i also believe that people are having families either much later in life, or not at all….and that is freeing up a large number of able bodied people to do volunteer work. many people don’t want to leave their spouse or children (for obvious reasons) to do volunteer work, but there are more single people in the world now that not everyone feels that they “have” to get married- and many of us feel called to use our availability to help others. it makes sense for me to go help where i am needed, since i have nothing tying me down here at home. i feel very privileged.

lastly, i feel that volunteering is becoming more popular because we have seen tragedy much closer to home than we are used to seeing (example: 9/11, and hurricane katrina). we are used to having bad things happen “somewhere else” and now they are also happening here. people tend to want to help those people that they relate to because their plight seems more real. we can all imagine what it would be like to have those things happen in OUR towns, too, so we want to help others just like we would want them to help us if we needed it. does that make sense?

also- volunteering just feels good!!

4. that brings me to your last question…. i cannot even explain the sense of fulfillment that i get when i volunteer, and i am sure that is the same for most people. knowing that you have made a difference in the life of another person (or people) is an amazing feeling. i tie that in with my faith, because i feel called by god to give back my gifts to serve god and others. he gave me my gifts to serve him and i try to do that faithfully. nothing feels better than living the life that god intended you to live. even without faith, though, people can get a strong sense of value and worth by helping out another human being (or animal, or the environment)…. it is a sense of productive work that makes this life and this world a better place to live. everyone wants to know “who am i, and why am i here?”…the meaning of life….well, volunteering gives life meaning, if nothing else. it keeps us from just taking up space and draining resources. it allows us to give back.


Tom Wood: working in the States and France

February 12, 2007

1. How old are you?

2. Where are you from?

Originally Helsby, Cheshire. (near Chester, Liverpool)

3. Are you a student? If so, what do you study and where do you study?

Yes. Computer Science at the University of Bristol
4. Where did you travel to and how long for?

In 2004 – I worked on a summer camp in upstate New York, USA for 10
weeks, followed by 2 weeks travelling in Boston, New York City &
Washington DC.
In 2005 – 10 weeks working on a campsite in Dordogne, France.

5. Who did you go with?

2004 was BUNAC’s “KAMP” programme. 2005 was a job with Canvas Holidays
as a campsite courier. In both cases I didn’t know anyone else till I
got there!
6. If you went with a volunteer organisation, who was it?

7. What did you do on your placement?

2004 – mainly working in the “camp canteen”, a snack bar open to kids in
the evening, serving pizza, hotdogs, milkshake, ice cream etc. Also
cleaning & maintenance. I lived on camp for the 10 weeks.

2005 – cleaning and preparing tents and mobile homes, showing in
customers, visiting customers and solving problems e.g. minor
maintenance. Lived on the campsite under canvas with other couriers.
8. What was the best bit about traveling?

2004 – friendships on camp, getting to know a bit of the culture in the
US (from staff from a variety of backgrounds as well as from the kids),
and free ice cream.

2005 – friendships with other couriers, relaxed attitude, team spirit,
sunshine, cheap wine.

9. What was the worst bit?

2004 – being a bit “in the middle of nowhere” for most of the time – 30
mins walk down the road there was WalMart, a couple of gas stations, a
supermarket, Home Depot, Dunkin Dounts and McDonalds etc but and a
village with one bar, but that was about it.

2005 – cleaning tents in 35 degree C temperatures…

10. Do you plan to travel in the future?

Yes – but probably not manual labour abroad. Although I do miss the sun
and relaxed attitude in France.
11. Do you have pictures or videos from your trip? (If yes, then can you
send them to me, or do you have them hosted anywhere online?)

Yes, some photos:



see also

PS – the voluntary work I do wasn’t abroad – I volunteer with St John
Ambulance when I’m at uni in Bristol.

although these are a little out of date).

1. Looking back at your time working on the camps, which experience was
best? States or Europe?

I’m not really sure. Working on the camp in the US perhaps wasn’t as
enjoyable as France, but the chance to travel around the US after camp
without having to pay for the plane tickets was a big bonus. I guess I
learned more about the “local” culture in the US, but got on better with
my colleagues in France. Probably France was more relaxed so more
enjoyable from that point of view.

2. What was the biggest difference between working in the States and in

The work was quite different – in the US everything was fairly
regimented (as you would expect on a kid’s camp) – in France provided
you got the work done you had more freedom the rest of the time – and
more “civilisation” nearby to enjoy on your day off.

3. Do you wish you’d spent more time travelling instead of working?

Not really. If I’d travelled more I’d have had to earn the money to pay
for it somehow – and working on the camp in the US or campsite in France
was much more fun than working at home saving up to go travelling would
have been.

4. How did you go about applying to work at the camps? Did you have to
fill out lots of forms? Is a visa hard to obtain?

I got a brochure from BUNAC and then filled in their application form.
They processed it and found me a job on a camp – then the fun started!
For all the BUNAC programmes you travel under a student exchange visa,
which requires several long application forms to be completed, and a day
trip to London for a brief interview (preceded by lots of queuing) at
the US Embassy. BUNAC help sort the process out though – and provided
you are a student and meet all the requirements I don’t think there’s
any reason why you wouldn’t get a visa – the process is just a bit tedious.

5. What was the benefit of working instead of undertaking a volunteering

You earn money while you’re out there, so you don’t have to save up for
ages to go travelling. They pay for your flights/travel from the UK too.

6. Were the jobs what you thought they would be?

I guess so, more or less. I think what you end up doing to some extent
(especially on the kids camp) depends on where you end up and who your
boss happens to be, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect.

7. Did you get homesick and if so, how did you deal with it?

Not particularly. There were a few days on camp in the US where I got
very bored and wanted to be somewhere else – but we managed to keep each
other going. Buying cheap phonecards and calling home two or three times
a week helped.

8. You said after the States trip you went for the Europe trip because
you wanted to do something with your summer, how did you cope with
coming back from the States? Did you suffer from depression or a change
in mood after your experiences abroad?

I wouldn’t say depression! But, you know the feeling when you get back
to holiday, start work, and partway through the next week think “I wish
I was back there again?”. It was a bit like that, except instead of a
2-week holiday I’d been away for 12 weeks, so the feelings were a bit
stronger. Coping with it was a case of looking forward to the future –
finding something to do the next summer.

9. What advice would you give to people planning to work at the camps
you worked at?

Go for it – whichever approach you choose it’s something different to do
in the summer. Yes it’s low pay and hard work – but the chance to see
new places, meet new people and learn new things (and better weather
than the typical British summer!) makes up for it. Much more memorable
and rewarding than a McJob at home…

10. What advice would you give to young travellers in particular?

Especially if you’re a student, make the most of the few remaining long
summer holidays you have. Take a deep breath and try something new (yes,
OK, compared to what many people do working in the US or France is
fairly tame… but I guess I’m quite a cautious person so it was a big
step for me!), and be prepared to change your attitude and lifestyle a
bit as a result.

nathaniel rogers alaska

January 30, 2007

1. How old are you? 20, at time of trip 18/19

2. Where are you from? London

3. Are you a student? If so, what do you study and where do you study? Yes, History at Cardiff

4. Where did you travel to and how long for? Alaska for 2 months

5. Who did you go with? On my own

6. If you went with a volunteer organisation, who was it? Habitat for Humanity

7. What did you do on your placement? Built houses for paupers

8. What was the best bit about traveling? Meeting new people

9. What was the worst bit? Meeting new people

10. Do you plan to travel in the future? If so, where to and why? Yes, America just to look around and New Zeland

11. Do you have pictures or videos from your trip? (If yes, then can you
send them to me, or do you have them hosted anywhere online?) Yes


What made you want to go to Alaska? I wanted to do something worthwhile with my year before going to university. My Dad reccommended Habitat for Humanity and after looking into it I decided to go for it. I also wanted to do something other than just going to Australia or Thailand, I wanted to go somewhere no one else had been.

What did you think of Alaska? Was it as you expected? Alaska is empty and very quiet. Only two cities one of which is barely a town and both the towns were quite dull places. Outside of the towns was vast areas of nothing filled with mountains forests and wildlife. Having checked out Alaska before going I knew what to expect.

Can you tell me a bit more about Habitat for Humanity? What made you
want to arrange the trip through them? Habitat is a charity that works with poor people to construct housing. The recepient of the house has to put in 1000 hours of their own time and volunteers help with the construction. The money the volunteers pay goes into building materials and everyone’s happy. I wanted to do something to help other people probably so I wouldn’t feel guilty spending a year doing nothing and then just going on holiday.

Did you prefer undertaking a voluntary placement rather than just
traveling? Definately. I like to have things organised for me otherwise I tend to do very little.

Do you feel your placement was worthwhile? Did you have to pay to do the
placement? I did two placements the first of which I enjoyed very much and the second which I did not enjoy so much. It did cost a substansial amount but I felt it was worth paying.

Were those you helped via the placement grateful of your efforts? I only had limited contact with those we helped but when I did work with them they seemed to appreciate what we were doing. One family in particular appreciated what we did.

Do you feel that your experience of ‘meaningful travel’ has changed you
and your outlook on life? I used to think it did but over time I don’t think there has been any significant change in me.

What advice would you give someone who was thinking of doing the same
placement as you? Make contact with the team leader. They will answer all questions you have and help you to decide wether or not it is something you actually want to do. It is also useful although not neccessary to find out any details of the rest of the team. Where they are from and how old they are.

What makes you want to travel to America and New Zealand? Why would you
want to go there and what do you want to see? I want to go to
America not to see the sites as such but more to see the people and the culture. New Zealand on the other hand is a place I want to go to just because of the scenery.