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Book review – Volunteer Vacations – Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others

November 6, 2012

Just a quick note to say that there is a new version of this book available here – I have not had a chance to take a look yet, but as soon as I get hold of a copy I’ll update this.
Also, there’s an interesting blog post over at Monthly Developments (InterAction’s Monthly Magazine) on ‘VoluntTourism’ here.
OK, so first things first. I’m looking at the ninth edition of this book by McMillon, Cutchins an Geissinger, and the reason I want to talk about it is that I’ve had a rash of recent questions from mid-career folks and people with families looking for structured ways to get experience in the field. Now it’s obviously difficult for me to review this book except for through the lens of whether it will help you get your first job as a humanitarian aid worker, but I want to step back from that for a few minutes and talk about what it is before we get into what it isn’t.

What it is, is a directory of hundreds of organizations that take volunteers for short (and sometimes not so short) periods of time. The organizations are diverse. Oh boy are they diverse. There’s everything from bat-sactuaries, mediation and conflict resolution, school building and trail maintenance opportunities in here, but perhaps most usefully there are five separate indices, allowing you to look up opportunities by costs, length, location, season and type.

So who might want this book, and why? Well, I want to get it out there, that these types of experiences (short term vacation opportunities that are often self-funded) are sometimes looked down on by INGO recruiters. The fact is that having spent a few weeks nursing bats back to health in Borneo, or painting schools in Colombia, will not likely change your job prospects much. But that’s not the whole story.

For me the value of this book is for anyone who wants to get their feet wet – to get a sense of what the developing world is like and whether or not it’s for them without having to quit their job and uproot their life. It can also be a genuine way to contribute to a cause that you feel passionate about. Who knows, you might find that you an scratch the itch without making a career of it, and that’s not a bad thing – there are lots of ways to make a difference without it being your day-job.

I think the group that I would really recommend this to though are the families with kids. Whether or not you’re looking to make a long term change in your life, the experience of a volunteer vacation can be a great way to share your values with children in a safe and structured way. I’m a fan – and if you want to check out the book, please consider buying it or anything else!) through the link below, it helps me support the site.

Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others

2 Comments leave one →
  1. kathryn permalink
    November 12, 2012 7:50 am

    Thanks for the handy recommendation! Actually, here is the most recent (11th) edition of the book:

    • November 12, 2012 3:39 pm

      Thanks – how embarrassing – I completely missed the new edition!

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