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Letters of the Week

We don't know about you, but travel always makes us want to write long juicy letters to everyone we know. Maybe it's bragging rights, maybe it's a burst of poetic inspiration from seeing the Taj Mahal, but one way or another, suitcases and sunsets in strange places turn us into letter-writing fools. So, if it turns out you're the same way....be sure to include us in your list of people you just have to drop a line to. Don't worry, you will make us jealous...but hopefully we'll also be inspired by your adventures.

Want to see what other Savvy visitors have to say? Read our letters of the week, and be sure to tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you!

November 23, 2001

Volunteer Vacations

Dear Savvy Traveler,

I've just listened to your story on the mom who took her daughters to volunteer in India. It struck a nerve with me because my son has traveled extensively as a volunteer.

How does one go about finding volunteer opportunities? A good place to start is with Volunteers for Peace in Vermont or CIEE (Council for International Education Exchange). But that's just the tip of the iceberg. An Internet search will turn up dozens of private volunteering programs, which you can check out by asking for references and making a few phone calls.

We found one program based in a small rural high school in Nepal. The director attended college in Nebraska and now welcomes English-speaking volunteers in his village. He even had a flush toilet installed for volunteers, who work in the village school, tree nursery, library, etc.

My son traveled alone on his six-month trip, but he was well prepared for his journey. He had phone cards to call home, cyber cafes to keep in touch, and medicines in case of illness. Most important, he had ample travel experience. When he was 14, I took him to Calcutta for Christmas as the ultimate wakeup call - an experience that all U.S. teens should have. While we didn't volunteer on that trip, we got to know many Indian families through activities we participated in.

It takes a lot of planning to make a journey like my son's happen, but it's well worth the effort.

Anchorage, Alaska


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