Why Pay to Volunteer? Post

We often get asked “Why should I pay to volunteer?”.  This article from About.com explains it well.

Should You Pay to Volunteer Abroad?

The Answer Is a Qualified Yes

By , About.com Guide

Many of us, when we first think about volunteering, think that it should be enough that we give our time. Why should we pay for the privilege of volunteering?

The truth is that it is commonplace to pay your own expenses when you volunteer abroad. Those expenses include airfare, meals, and lodging.

This type of volunteering is called “arranged volunteering.” It is usually done through an organized program that makes arrangements with nonprofits (usually called NGOs or Non-Governmental Organizations) in the country where you volunteer.

Even though you do pay for your travel, accommodations, and meals, there are a lot of benefits that you receive from the organization you work with. These include orientation, language and technical training, a safe and supportive place to live, a safety net through staff that provide logistical support and even counseling, clear expectations for the work you will do, and affordability. It will be cheaper to travel to a foreign country with an organization that handles most of the details than it would be if you tried to do it on your own.

There are many organizations that arrange these volunteer opportunities. They have developed a network of NGOs to work with and have put support structures into place so that volunteers can do their best work with a minimum of confusion as soon as they arrive at their destination. Often, the costs you pay are packaged into one fee to make it even easier to participate.

Arranged volunteering usually means that you will live under conditions that are common to the people in that country. You may stay with a local family for instance. You are likely to work in some human service capacity or with a humanitarian aid project. You may be required to have some language skills or have an expertise such as economic development or teaching.

There is another kind of volunteering abroad called “Voluntourism.” This is basically volunteering combined with a vacation. Such opportunities are usually short term and may provide a higher level of creature comforts. Volunteers usually do not need special language or job skills. The traveler/volunteer gets to sample the local culture and perform some meaningful work that benefits a nonprofit organization.

Popular voluntourism programs involve working with environmental groups, participating in scientific research, or helping in architectural or artistic restoration work. Voluntourism opportunities abound and can be found through many mainstream travel organizations.

It is not always easy to separate “arranged volunteering” from “voluntourism.” Many opportunities fall somewhere in between these two types of volunteering. One advantage of these volunteer placements is that you can usually take a tax deduction for most of the expenses you incur.

Paid volunteering has become very popular among retirees, baby boomers, and mature travelers of all kinds. It is easy to see why. They may have disposable income, they often have a wish to contribute in some way, and they certainly have a travel bug. Many organizations that set up international volunteer opportunities are actively recruiting older people.

 

SCR Michigan and GHP in the News! Post

Owner of SCR Michigan sending computers to charity in his native Ghana

Published: Sunday, August 22, 2010, 6:59 AM
Erik Holladay | Special to Gazette
Stephen Opuko.jpg
Stephen Opoku runs computer repair shop SCR Michigan LLC on South Westnedge Avenue in Kalamazoo.

KALAMAZOO — Stephen Opoku said he’s found relative job security as a computer repair technician and owner of SCR Michigan LLC in Kalamazoo.

Even in a down economy, Opoku said people are still purchasing computers, which have become an indispensable part of daily life for the majority of individuals in the United States.

“People rely on their computers heavily, even people who are looking for work who use them to look for jobs and print out their resumes,” Opoku said.

In 2008, Opoku, 28 and a native of Ghana, opened his computer repair business located in the rear lower level of a building at 3825 S. Westnedge Ave. which houses Art and Soul Tattoo on the upper level. A sectional sofa and coffee table displaying a Bible and other inspirational reading materials are the dividing line between the reception area and a work space which includes countertop-height wooden tables surrounding the walls containing computers in various stages of repair.

On any given week Opuku said he is working on an average of 15 computers.

“I provide all kinds of comprehensive services such as data backup, data retrieval and network support,” Opoku said. “I’ll repair on-site or pick up and deliver when it’s done.”

He said he spends a lot of time educating his customers about the importance of keeping their computer systems up-to-date and virus-free.

Unlike many young people who have grown up in households where computers are as commonplace as a microwave, Opoku was raised in a hut without a radio, television or running water in one of Africa’s poorest countries.

FACT SHEET

SCR Michigan LLC

What: Full-service computer repair shop that also offers customer education on a variety of software programs. Opened in 2008 by Stephen Opoku.

Where: 3825 S. Westnedge Ave., Kalamazoo.

Contact: 269-492-5727 or www.scrmichigan.com.

“Given these conditions, we could never even think about using a computer,” Opoku said.

He was able to leave Ghana and receive an education when he accompanied his father, a retired United Nations peacekeeper, on various missions. At the age of 12, Opoku said he got his first exposure to computers and two years later had learned to build one from the keyboard on up.

While attending a high school in Damascus, Syria, Opoku met a recruiter from Western Michigan University. In 2001 he settled in Kalamazoo and began taking courses at WMU while working for the former National City Bank, now PNC Financial Services Group Inc., providing information technology and technical support.

To save money Opoku left WMU and enrolled in online courses offered through Franklin University, based in Ohio, which had a partnership with the bank. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems, Opoku said he turned his attention to opening his own business.

Cash flow, he said, has been a challenge.

“My business is like any other business,” Opoku said. “Everyday is a new challenge with new obstacles.”

However, he said, his obstacles are nothing compared to what the people in his native Ghana face.

“Africa has a lot of problems,” Opoku said. “But, I’m also struggling to make ends meet. I can’t afford to send money or food back home, but I can afford to help them get computers.”

In July, SCR Michigan entered into a partnership with the Global Host Project to provide computers to the people of Ghana. Workers with Global Host are in the process of building a center which will offer training to teachers who will bring what they learn to their students.

“The average person there (in Ghana) makes $140 a month. They can’t afford computers,” Opoku said. “So I’m trying to help my country get ahead in technology.”

Opoku said he sees the business he has been able to develop as a gift which he would like to use to help the people he left behind.

“Right now we have had close to five donations,” Opoku said. “We’re looking for donations of computers and monitors, flat screens or laptops. It doesn’t matter if they have parts hanging out. I’ll fix it.”

 

Why GHP? Post

WHY GHP?

There are many organizations out there that provide great programs that really do make a difference. Committing to travel to a developing country and spending time there is a big decision and not one to be taken lightly. What kinds of programs are out there? What feels right to you? What questions and concerns do you have? Each organization has its own goals and own missions.

Global Host Project is a young and grassroots organization. We are attentive to each participant’s goals and expectations for his or her experience. Our goal is to provide you the best personal service and the safest, most rewarding trip to Ghana possible. We are dedicated to you and providing your services to where Ghana needs you the most.

We are not only dedicated to our volunteers and the organizations and people they serve, but we are committed to giving back to the community.  We do this by offering scholarships to local students who are in need financial need and show great academic potential.  Our long term goal is also to build a computer center to serve the community in technological advancement.  Global Host Project has also donated a sewing machine to a local young woman to start her own clothing business upon completing her seamstress training.  We’ve donated clothing and toys to a nursery/day care center for the children to benefit from.  We are truly committed to improving and empowering the local population.