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ON A BUDGET

Becoming a Global Citizen Needn't Cost the World

March 05, 2000|ARTHUR FROMMER

The volunteer vacation is something of a travel anomaly. It once was regarded as a free way to travel: You supposedly exchanged your charitable labors for accommodations and meals provided by your hosts. But the organizers of selfless and socially beneficial projects around the world often have discovered it costs more than they expected to house, feed and lead their volunteer participants. Sometimes the cost rivals the expenses of a commercial tour activity. So some volunteer organizations have begun to book tours, and the volunteer vacation has become pricey.

This is not the case with the Global Citizens Network, a little not-for-profit that keeps its costs down by maintaining a small staff and a handful of projects each year.

In the months ahead, Global Citizens will be offering expeditions to Kenya, Nepal and Guatemala, and to Native American reservations in New Mexico, South Dakota and Arizona. Land costs for these trips--air fare is extra--will never exceed $500 a week (about $70 a day) per person. That's a reasonable rate, considering it covers all meals, lodging, instruction, group leaders, in-country transportation and a donation to the project being assisted.

Volunteers work on community projects initiated by local people. These range from building wells, roads, schools and greenhouses to helping at village clinics and schools. In New Mexico, volunteers helped build a community youth center for the Navajo Nation. In San Juan, Guatemala, they taught in the primary school, helped install a water system and painted the community center. And this year, Global Citizens will be helping set up and administer the Sioux YMCA summer camp in South Dakota.

Global Citizens' three-week stays in Kenya, costing $1,600, are scheduled for June 1 to 23, Aug. 4 to 26, Sept. 22 to Oct. 14 and Dec. 29 to Jan. 20.

The two-week trip to Guatemala, June 12 to 26, costs $1,000; to Nepal, Nov. 5 to 26, $1,600.

Eight-day programs costing $550 will be June 16 to 24 on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, Sept. 15 to 23 on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, and May 19 to 27 and Aug. 11 to 19 on the Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.

Some statistics on those drawn to these Global Citizens programs: About a third of the volunteers are older than 50, except in summer, when many teachers and students participate. Women outnumber men 3 to 1, but numerous families participate, with children as young as 5. Children age 5 to 12 go for half price.

I'll end with this quote from a Global Citizens volunteer:

"This was probably the best vacation I ever had. I was not a tourist. I became part of the village, learned to love its people, to care about the welfare of the village. . . . I learned a lot about working and living in a foreign culture. I learned a lot about myself."

For information: Global Citizens Network, telephone (800) 644-9292 or (651) 644-0960, Internet http:// www.globalcitizens.org.

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