- Paperback: 496 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books (December 31, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014200071X
- ISBN-13: 978-0142000717
- Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,594,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas Paperback – December 31, 2001
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About the Author
Joseph Collins is the co-founder of the Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First). A Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of the Alternative Nobel Prize, he is a frequent lecturer and a consultant to the United Nations, specializing in evaluations and development of community organization.
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- It gives a very no-nonsense view of overseas volunteering. It doesn't look at the process as a romantic adventure but rather lays out the bare bones of what organizations do, what your part will be, and how to go about getting there, not to mention the realities of what you may be walking into. I for one needed to be brought back to earth and this book did it.
- It has a huge list of organizations along with great information like "What volunteers pay and what they receive", how to apply, and education relinquishment that comes in handy when planning.
- The tone of the book is like talking to a recently returned volunteer. It's pretty informal and, above all, honest to the point of potentially being bias.
If you are looking for a long term and potentially paid (or at least free) position with an aid organization, this is not the book for you. It is made very clear that most overseas volunteers pay a fee in order to participate and the author goes into great detail explaining why this is the case. Chapter 7 "Overcoming Financial Obstacles" is very helpful. For other resources try Delaying The Real World and The Back Door Guide to Short-Term Job Adventures: Internships, Summer Jobs, Seasonal Work, Volunteer Vacations, and Transitions Abroad, both of which have been very helpful for me.
First, volunteering isn't free. Most volunteer placement organizations require substantial fees (usually $1,000 plus) to arrange for your food, accommodation, and provide basic training.
Second, altruism, when applied to international development, isn't always helpful. There's a beautiful example of this in Chapter 3. You imagine that three volunteer groups from around the world come to Washington DC to help the city develop and get past its problems of violence and poverty. The first group is from Zambia- they identify the problem as a shortage of churches, and lack of respect for elders. The second group is from the Amazon- they propose knocking down skyscrapers to add more green space. The third group is a Rastafarian youth organization- they criticize the focus on power and money, and help DC by training politicians to grow ganja.
Similarly, the best intentions of American volunteers aren't always welcomed or even potentially helpful abroad unless they are developed in the context of the host culture.
From this point, the book describes the practical logistics of volunteering abroad- from fundraising to support your trip, learning about your host country, preparing for your travel, and ultimately being an effective volunteer.
The bulk of the book focuses on organizational profiles of volunteer organizations. These are extraordinarily helpful as critical analyses of many such organizations, and should help you navigate through the bewildering maze of opportunities. Unfortunately, the "over 100" organizations that they profile are just a fraction of what's out there, and there's really no easy way to navigate through these. There are a few indexes in the back (organizations offering short term programs, organizations placing volunteers in Latin America, etc), but there's no easy way to look for volunteer opportunities in a specific country, for example. If this organizational profile guide was online or on a CD, it would be infinitely more useful (and cheaper to publish...)
PS: Model United Nations program advisors will want to have a copy ready to hand, available for their students. I am going to check into having Dr. Collins come to my university as a guest lecturer.