October 5, 1997

Volunteer Vacations Can Be Good For You

Rich Haddaway Fort Worth Star-Telegram

As the mountain of flowers in London is swept away and the procession in Calcutta fades from memory, an emptiness remains.

Princess Diana and Mother Teresa deserve a lasting tribute. A check would be nice, but you want to do more. You want to roll up your sleeves and pitch in.

Giving your time and talent to a good cause is the perfect tribute, but time is the problem. You don’t have enough of it.

What about donating your vacation time? Instead of roasting on the beach or going on another fattening cruise, why not take a volunteer vacation?

You don’t even have to be able to hammer a nail to help out Habitat for Humanity, says spokeswoman Anji Roe. Although skilled carpenters and electricians are prized, Habitat will take just about anybody, Roe says.

Trips are constantly being organized for both the United States and abroad. A three-week trip to Fiji, for instance, will cost you $2,800, which covers all expenses. A two-week working vacation in Mexico will cost about $850.

For more information on all of Habitat’s programs, call (800) HABITAT. The group will send you a twice-yearly newsletter on vacation opportunities called Habitat Global Adventure.

“Volunteer Vacations” by Bill McMillon ($16.95, Chicago Review Press) is packed full of information and inspiration.

Here’s a short list of worthy causes that could use your help. Remember that these are genuine charities with small budgets. If you write for information, enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope to defray expenses.

Missionaries of Charity, c/o Sister Priscilla, 54A Lower Circular Road, Calcutta 700016 India. This is Mother Teresa’s organization. The only requirement is an interest in the poor.

Many churches organize groups for volunteer efforts. Maybe you could organize a trip yourself. Call Catholic Charities of Spokane at (509) 358-4250.

Elderhostel, 75 Federal St., Boston, MA 02116, (617) 426-8056. For people 50 and older. Volunteer vacations from a week to three weeks.

Croation International Youth Corps, 3405 Southcreek Road, Unit 13, Mississauga, Ontario L4X 2X6; (905) 602-6608. Help rebuild damaged parts of Dubrovnik and Ravno. You must be between 18 and 30 and able to do hard work.

National Park Service, Interior Building, Box 37127, Washington, DC 20013-7127; (202) 208-3100. Positions for volunteers include research, archaeology, natural science, campground hosting, visitor center guides and administration support.

Operation Crossroads Africa. 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 830, New York, NY 10027; (212) 870-2106. Work camp projects for high school and college students. It was from this organization that the Kennedy administration got the idea for the Peace Corps.

One of the essays in “Volunteer Vacations” quotes a Seattle psychology professor who spends time helping students understand the often overwhelming experience of working with the poor in Calcutta.

“We find ourselves trying to help (student volunteers) prepare for something that can’t be prepared for: the surprise, the shock, of living among the dying, the orphans, the poorest of the poor,” Professor Neil Young says.

“Most volunteers can come back saying, ‘I didn’t go to change the world; I went and the world changed me.”’

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