Friends of the Orphans: Raising Children, Transforming Lives

Two Girls

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Of all the many suffering people in the world, there are none more helpless than the children. Children often suffer the brunt of hardship. They can’t protect themselves. They can’t strike out on their own. They are dependent on the care of their parents and guardians—people who love them and look out for them—but these guardians are in peril too. So many people are dying preventable deaths around the world—in wars, from drought or famine, and from disease. They are dying young, when they still have young families to support. They are leaving homeless, helpless kids to fend for themselves in an impossibly difficult world. Some of these kids will die. Some of them will join gangs of other homeless, parentless children. Some will suffer abuse and torment at the hands of adults. And some, the lucky few, will find their way to a well-run orphanage with the best interests of the children at heart.

Friends and Colleagues: International Volunteering for Groups

Volunteering as a Group

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I’ve written a lot about the benefits of volunteering for families: parents see their children working hard, children are inspired to make a difference, and grandparents have a chance to experience their family in a new way, as a working whole. Volunteering trips overseas transform a family into a team. This same principle applies to unrelated groups of volunteers. Any group can reap the rewards of working together for the greater good. It brings out the best in everyone—the diligent worker, the gregarious conversationalist, the foreign language enthusiast, the goof ball—no skill set goes to waste when you’re exploring a new place and meeting new people.

Honeymoon Volunteering: One Couple’s Story

A Volunteer Couple (this is not Jane and Travis)

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My friends, Jane and Travis, just got married. Initially, they were planning on a cruise in the Caribbean for their honeymoon. They’ve never been on one and Jane thought it would be the best of both worlds: legitimately fun and kitschily ironic. Travis was on board (so to speak) but he had reservations. He is a community activist in our city and he kept worrying that a cruise was just too wasteful, predictable, and commercial. I agreed with Travis but since it wasn’t my honeymoon I stayed out of it. Then I remembered: they’d never been on a cruise before! I, on the other hand, have been on several. Each one was a family vacation, paid for by my grandparents, and each one seemed more quintessentially American than the last. The ships were like giant malls complete with expensive cocktail bars, clothing shops, and fake plants. Sure, the accommodations were comfortable but it all felt so generic, so spring break, if you know what I mean. My experiences have left me rather jaded about the whole cruise thing and I didn’t want my friends to be disappointed. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had to say something.