Hurdles to Helping

If you’re following this blog, you’re probably aware that our family’s purpose in this adventure is to focus significant amounts of our travel time on acts of service in the countries we visit. We see this as a way to teach our kids the value of volunteering and create some local connections in the communities. In later stages of our trip we have already lined up contacts to nonprofit organizations, so we know we will have many opportunities to add to our list of 100 service projects. However, since leaving the U.S. several weeks ago, finding volunteer opportunities has been a little harder to come by. With Norway being the second richest country in Europe and Andorra benefiting from thriving tourism, banking, and luxury goods industries, we haven’t been finding a lot of ways to serve.

In fact, in Andorra we’re finding that people don’t fully get the concept of volunteer work. We’ve talked with a number of people about our trip and the service piece of it. None of them can think of any service work we could do locally while we’re here staying with our family. Our sister-in-law even took us to inquire about volunteering at the school our nieces and nephew attend. The teachers were clearly confused by the request. Their furrowed brows and confused looks revealed the thoughts running through their heads – “Why would they want to do work here and not get paid for it? This makes no sense.” This viewpoint is a big difference from our American experience where parents at our kids’ school did 15 “parent involvement hours” every year and the school was constantly looking for community volunteers to help with classroom and school-wide needs. This is just one of many cultural lessons we’ll be learning during this trip, I guess.

All hope of volunteering is not lost. We’ll be walking dogs at the local animal shelter. I’m connecting with a couple people in Barcelona who might have some opportunities for us in the city. While it does feel a little strange to be willing to help but unable to find a way to do it, this situation gives us more time with our family here. We’re having a lot of fun with Mari, Ori and our nieces and nephew. The two-family co-habitation thing seems to be going extremely well. Brian is really getting into photography more and more. He’s taken some amazing photos during our time here, which can be viewed on our photos page.

Also, don’t forget that we’re trying to give away a Samsung tablet on our Facebook page.  We’re looking for people to comment and add photos about their own volunteer work. If we can’t find volunteer work for ourselves we’d love to hear about the stuff other people are doing. :-) Please check out how this Facebook contest works and post your own comment in the next couple weeks if you can. So far we have all of 10 entries, so your odds are looking good.

About the Author

Tracey Carisch

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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2 Comments

  1. Love what you are doing. I am a friend of the Greene’s in Indy.
    I have been following you and will look for some over activities/organizations that may use your skills.
    Thanks for helping change the world by not only changing your children’s view of culture and the world, but by helping the struggling. Isn’t it interesting that some communities do not understand the concept of “volunteerism”?
    I wonder what their idea of voluntary associations might be?
    It is most likely too early for your children to learn about DE TOCQUEVILLE quite yet : ).
    Keep on Rockin’ In All Worlds.
    Sara

  2. Hi family,

    I was reading your blog and wanted to say that I really loved meeting you and have now seen your photos, which are really spectacular and remind me how lucky we are to live here and to have guests like you. Your three girls will learn so much and they already seemed wiser than other kids their age and with such a sense of humour!

    Thinking about wealthier countries and voluntary work, lack of understanding could be to do with preconceptions and prejudice even if the basic concept is understood. “Why would a family on holiday want to help us?” People might think. Do they think we need help? They would understand helping at a kennels, helping in an old people’s home, helping a developing country…but to help able bodied, so called rich communities, is confusing for many. unless you have thought about it… Just asking whether you can do some work will get people thinking, whether they accept or not so don’t worry..the thought counts and since so few people ever ask, and it is often in exchange for something, people may be afraid to accept. But you have made a difference, just by asking.
    All the very best with your inward and outward journey,
    Belinda and Cº

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