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Make a Difference Have you 'made a difference' while travelling, by fundraising or donating time and energy to a worthwhile cause such as wildlife conservation or tsunami reconstruction efforts? Tell us how you did it, what the experience was like, and how others can help. Are you a non-profit organisation or individual who knows of an opportunity for travellers to help out in a less developed country? Tell us about it and provide contact details here.
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  #1  
Old 12 Dec 2009
freewheelin frank's Avatar
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Outreach programs in Central America?

I would like to do some volunteer work while in Central America. I have jacked in the job so I have plenty of free time. I plan to ride out from Florida come mid January. Any program contacts would be greatly appreciated.

Enjoy the ride!

FF
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  #2  
Old 12 Dec 2009
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Hola Frank
May I suggest Habitat for Humanity. I have done this twice now and it is a fantastic experience!!
Contact in Guatemala is globalvillage@habitat.org it was Shannon Baines for years but may have changed. You can goggle Habitat para la Humanidad Guatemala.
This program does cost a donation to the owners of the house you are building. They quailify for a 20 year mortgage of about $3000.00. Houses are cinder block and tin roof, the build usually take about 10 days.
There are groups all over Guatemala doing this the Guatemala habitat office is one of the best organized groups that I have ever seen thay expect to build house number 50,000 by 2012!!
You live in the community and will make friends for life. Last year I rode my bike back to see the family that I built for in 2006 and it was fantastic they remembered my name after 3 years and it was a good reunion.

Cal
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  #3  
Old 12 Dec 2009
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Great info. Thanks Cal!

FF
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  #4  
Old 24 Dec 2009
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Hi Calvin,
What were your costs whilst doing this and was the committment for 10 days? Did you have any previous building/carpentry experience?
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  #5  
Old 24 Dec 2009
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Daryll
When you sign up it is for 14 days and the cost is $1200.00 on average.
The money is used for your acomadations, food, transportation to the site from an airport, transportation to the house from hotel daly and the contribution to Habitat. There is usually 10 volunters and a Abanil(Mason) and the future homeowner and his extended family. The 2 I have done have been half women and half men from 4 different countrys thats just the way it worked out

This can be used as a donation tax credit.

I am a carpenter and good in all areas of building but....... you do not need any experience!!! Everyone carrys cement blocks ,sand, gravel, water etc..
I have worked beside 20 year olds to 75 year olds, Remember you are a volunter so you work as much or as little as you want! Resting on the shovel handle or playing with the children is expected along with the hard work.

Mixing cement on the ground and carrying it in 2 gal pails is about the hardest you will work, kind of like a human chain passing buckets from one to the other.

After about 8 to 10 days of working you usually go to a hot spring or interesting site, no work on the Sundays.
It is very fun and rewarding.

In Guatemala near San Pedro on the weekend after work 6 of us Hiked Volcano Santa Maria, started at midnight arrived at the top by 6am to see lava flow and the sun rise!

Saludos
Cal
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  #6  
Old 25 Dec 2009
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Does sound very interesting. May start to do more research here. Thanks for the insider tidbits.
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  #7  
Old 17 Jan 2010
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Not to rain on the parade but....

Am I the only one who feels a little bit of discomfort doing a job for the 'experience' that the indigenous could be doing to feed their families and send their kids to school?
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  #8  
Old 17 Jan 2010
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Misencikjc
I think you may miss the point of volunter work, well it is for the experience it also helps those less fortunate with free labour and in the case of Habitat para la humanidad a decent place to live. By the way the 2 houses I have built have been for indeginous people. The materials are bought and produced locally and the Abanil and ayudante were indeginous. The ripple effect is far reaching because we buy local food, lodging, transportation and goods produced by locals. So you see the money that was brought into the community may be used to feed the family and send the kids to school and in the case of Habitat Guatemala they have now built over 40000 houses, and in my opinion that has produced a lot of economic spin offs.
Cal
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Old 21 Feb 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by misencikjc View Post
Am I the only one who feels a little bit of discomfort doing a job for the 'experience' that the indigenous could be doing to feed their families and send their kids to school?
Yes, many people feel discomfort. It's why many short-term volunteer placement agencies actually charge the volunteers to participate -- nothing should ever be done that actually takes away local jobs or local ownership.

It's really hard to make a difference on a short-term visit. To make a real impact for local people, you need to stay for months, even years, not days or weeks.

Also, travelers need to be careful in trying to do good locally, on the fly, outside of any formal program. I'm sorry to say that there are some very unscrupulous people out there who would love nothing more than to start claiming you have harmed a child or stolen something while you were "helping" and demand "compensation."

transire benefaciendo means "to travel along while doing good", and it's the name of a web page I put together for travelers who want to do "good" while on vacation, at home or abroad. It includes a section "Doing Good On Vacation in a Developing Country or Poor Community."

I also have a web page on how to volunteer abroad. Volunteering in other countries has changed a LOT over the years, and is now focused on empowering local people and keeping ownership of activities local, rather than giving a Westerner a "Feel Good" experience. That said, there are still ways to help -- hope this page is a realistic view on how to do that.

Good luck, and hope you post later about how things went.
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Jayne Cravens
transire benefaciendo - travel & do good
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  #10  
Old 8 Mar 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calvin View Post
Misencikjc
I think you may miss the point of volunter work, well it is for the experience it also helps those less fortunate with free labour and in the case of Habitat para la humanidad a decent place to live. By the way the 2 houses I have built have been for indeginous people. The materials are bought and produced locally and the Abanil and ayudante were indeginous. The ripple effect is far reaching because we buy local food, lodging, transportation and goods produced by locals. So you see the money that was brought into the community may be used to feed the family and send the kids to school and in the case of Habitat Guatemala they have now built over 40000 houses, and in my opinion that has produced a lot of economic spin offs.
Cal
Hi,

Just wished to add a comment to Cal's information. I was involved with Habitat for Humanity (The Global Village Project) in Chile in Nov. of 2008, and it was my understanding that part of our $1200.00 fee also went to pay for (part) of the materials for the project as well. And if I remember correctly, part was put up by the Chilean government. Thus it was that in some ways, the projects may have not have been doable without our monetary contribution. The work Habitat does also employs (as Cal said) locals such as our maestro's, localy trained carpenters to oversee our work and work with us, as a result of Habitat International having these projects.

I felt it was a very worthwhile and fullfilling project for everyone involved.

On that note, I am hoping to return by motorbike one day to see the families again, as they were all so nice.

Just my thoughts.

Ian
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