Looking back through our blogposts, I realize that there is adequate (but not complete) representation of Go: where we went, what we saw, and how we experienced immersion into another culture. There are bits of Learn, but far more to come as we we apply new skills in our home, schools, and workplaces. (Stay tuned for future posts.) It took me 15 years to assimilate my lessons learned from living in Uganda, which I so-vulnerably shared in my book, Village Wisdom. http://www.carriewagner.com/author
So today I write about Give: our volunteer efforts, our travel philosophy, and our gratitude for the people on our journey.
While its important to note that we did lots of pre-travel research for volunteer opportunities in Peru and Ecuador, its more significant to acknowledge the organic and sacred flow of our 10-month family sabbatical. Our goals were simple and clear. We wanted to 1) learn Spanish, 2) have authentic cultural experiences, and 3) contribute our skills and expertise to organizations and people doing good works. There are plenty of organizations that could meet these goals. And when we left American soil, we had somewhat of a plan in place. However, what actually transpired was quite different than the journey we had imagined. All of our pre-departure connections had purpose…some were actual points of connection and others were connectors. The travel tip here is to research, network, and plan, but remain open to a totally different course!
We did not go through formal or structured programs for our Gives last year. We met loads of people, knocked on doors, and visited organizations that looked interesting. Then, we asked this simple question, “How can we help?” We ended up helping in a variety of ways: donating photography and video services, web-site revisions, food co-op distribution, tutoring at an orphanage, presenting at a nursery school, teaching at a high school, business plan and program development for non-profits, global education consulting, and house-sitting. On this overseas sojourn, being unattached to any one organization gave us the flexibility to decide how much or how little and for how long we wanted to engage. Many years of international experience (both personal and professional) gave us insight and assuredness of the tremendous needs and open doors in every country. Had it been our first overseas jaunt, perhaps a more definitive path would have made sense…but who knows? Every new friendship affirmed that our faith-driven travel style was the “right way” for us. As I reflect on how our Give unfolded – the people we met, the lessons we learned, the ground we covered – I am blown away by how much more we RECEIVED through the process. Our lives were enriched by a multitude of people. The photos below reflect some of our “Gives/Receives.”
There are many international volunteer opportunities. Some organizations have organized programs and websites, and others do not. Here are links to people and organizations that we connected with, but other bits of our work were with folks who do not have on-line connections.