Tips for Volunteering Overseas

Helping your own community comes with its own benefits, but there is a whole world out there that needs help. There are parts of the world that are far much less fortunate than us and could greatly benefit from eager and dedicated volunteers. Taking the time to help others outside of your borders is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. When choosing to volunteer overseas, there are a few tips you should follow:

Always Be Prepared

When heading abroad, it’s imperative to be as prepared as possible. Especially if this would be your first time traveling overseas, preparing for the trip is crucial. Make sure to do extensive research on the volunteer program, the destination, budgeting, transportation, projects, and more. Take the time to ask as many questions as you can and getting the answers you need before committing to the overseas volunteer program.

Consider Expenses

Volunteering abroad means traveling overseas to work for free. Some of these projects can take weeks or evens months of time and commitment. Before volunteering abroad, make sure it is something you can afford to do. You need to pay for the airfare, vaccinations, visas, and the charge for the placement in the program itself. This charge will usually cover food, room and board, training, local transport, insurance, and background checks.

Fight the Right Project

There are many different projects that a program will have. When volunteering overseas, consider the different skills that you have and what program would benefit the most from it. For example, if you have a passion or an educational background in animals, consider volunteering for wildlife projects. If you are looking to pursue a career in teaching, opt for a project teaching English to children. This makes sure that the project you are volunteering for will greatly benefit from you being a part of it.

Respect All Cultures

When traveling across the world, you will be introduced to an entirely different way of living. Most volunteer projects take place in third world countries and you will be faced with an entirely different culture. It’s important to remember that you are there to lend a helping hand, not to take charge of their lives. Be respectful of their ways of living and be humble. Not only will this lead to better help them and their community, but it will also be n incredible learning experience for you.


Volunteering in Boston, Massachusetts

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The magic of this time of year often leads us to feel a personal responsibility to help others in need. Whether you’re volunteering your time or donating your hard earned money, the feeling of helping others is a feeling like no other. If you’re looking for ways to volunteer this holiday season in the Boston area, consider these local charities.

Christmas in the City (CITC)
This non-profit organization has been bringing smiles to the children of Boston since 1989. For the thousands of kids and their families who are experiencing the stress of poverty and homelessness, the volunteers of Christmas in the City, along with Santa, throw an annual holiday party to bring the holiday magic back and give the kids the “best day of their lives.” If you can’t fit this volunteering opportunity into your busy holiday schedule, the CITC hold fundraising events throughout the year for the next holiday season.

Boston Children’s Hospital
The vision of the Boston Children’s Hospital is simple: “Dream, Dare, Deliver.” With over 275,000 patients each year, this hospital dreams of curing each child, dares to ask the hard questions that don’t have an easy answer, and delivers with new ways of healing. There are many ways to give to help make a world of difference.

The Greater Boston Food Bank
As a member of Feeding America, the Greater Boston Food Bank has fed over 142,000 people on a monthly basis across 190 cities and towns throughout Eastern Massachusetts. Sign up to volunteer as a group or an individual to help work in the warehouses to inspect, sort and package foods for the hungry.

Cradles to Crayons
Cradles to Crayons is another non-profit organization looking to help the 400,000 children in the state of Massachusetts who live in poverty. They sponsor local drop-offs where people can donate their lightly used clothing, shoes, toys, and books. If you’re looking to volunteer your time, you can make a difference at The Giving Factory, where volunteers inspect, sort, and package the donated goods.

The Ebenezer Foundation
As one of the board members, this organization holds a place near and dear to my heart. The Ebenezer Foundation is a not-for-profit U.S.-based organization that provides aid to the orphaned children living in the city of Livingstone in Zambia, Africa. The foundation operates an orphanage, a school, a farm, and a community food program. If you wish to donate to this cause, you can visit the website here.

from Marilyn Gardner Milton and Volunteering

Great Museums in the Boston Area

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I don’t know if you heard about this, I certainly didn’t, but today is International Museum Day!  First established in 1977 (so today is its 40th anniversary!), it’s meant to raise awareness of the role that museums play in developing society throughout the world.  Since 1997, it’s been given a new theme each year to highlight the various experiences that museums can offer.  This year, the theme is “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums”, meant to highlight the role they play in opening discussion.  

In honor of International Museum Day, I thought it would be fun to discuss different great museums in the greater Boston area that you can visit, covering different areas of the human experience:museum of science boston marilyn gardner milton MAMuseum of Science: Spanning Boston’s Charles River, the Museum of Science featured over 700 interactive exhibits, live presentations, planetarium shows and even an indoor zoo!  Here, hands-on activities encourage interaction and learning for all ages, and even if you flunked biology in 10th grade, it’s still a great experience that’s just as fun as it is educational.  You could spend a whole day here, and still not see everything.  Plimoth PlantationPlimoth Plantation: While it wasn’t the first European settlement in the US, the symbolic value of Plymouth, where the Pilgrims landed in 1620, can’t be overstated.  This living history museum demonstrates various aspects of the Plymouth story, featuring a recreation of what the settlement would have looked like in 1624, a replica of the Mayflower, a grist mill, a farm and a Wampanoag village.  Certain staff members are able to answer any questions about this unique piece of American history, while others are trained to act, speak and dress exactly like our Pilgrim forefathers would have in 1624.  Museum of fine artsMuseum of Fine Arts: As the fourth-largest museum in the US, it goes without saying that there’s plenty to see at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, as its one million-plus annual visitors could tell you.  There’s a whole lot to see here, so clear your schedule for the day and don’t forget to bring your walking shoes.  The art collections here are unique and vary from ancient to Italian Renaissance to modern, so there’s guaranteed to be something for just about everybody.  new england holocaust memorial marilyn gardner milton MANew England Holocaust Memorial: As one of the darkest events in recent history, it’s essential that we never overlook the Holocaust, so that we never repeat the same mistakes.  Luckily, the New England Holocaust Memorial does an excellent job at remembering the six million innocent people who were killed during the Holocaust for no reason other than their birth.  Marilyn Gardner Milton MA Peabody museum of archaeology Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology: While the Peabody Museum of Natural History is in Connecticut (and it’s pretty great if you’re ever in New Haven!), the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology is conveniently located in nearby Cambridge.  Since its founding over 150 years ago, it’s one of the largest and oldest anthropological museums in the world, focusing on the ethnography and archaeology of the Americas through thousands of artifacts and interesting, engaging exhibits.  While it’s not as big as some other museums on this list, admission also gets you into the Harvard Museum of Natural History, but more on that in just a bit!Marilyn Gardner Milton MA harvard museum of natural historyHarvard Museum of Natural History: After paying for admission to the Peabody Museum, use that ticket to get into the Harvard Museum of Natural History.  As a museum run by one of the most prestigious schools in the world, it certainly delivers.  One of the more famous exhibits here are the “glass flowers”, a collection of beautiful and highly detailed botanical models made in 19th-century Germany.  It’s a small space, but packed well and is brilliantly curated.  Boston Children's Museum Marilyn Gardner Milton MABoston Children’s Museum: There are some great museums in this list, but they aren’t all suitable for all ages.  If you’re looking for something geared towards younger children, then the Boston Children’s Museum has got you covered.  It’s geared towards younger children (even those under a year old!), and does a great job at keeping the area clean, giving plenty for kids to play with and making sure that everybody is safe while having a great time.  

from Marilyn Gardner Milton and Volunteering

The Story of Riding Up Front

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Although America is a “nation of immigrants”, apprehension towards new arrivals and “the other” is nothing new in this country.  When Jewish refugees from Brazil arrived in New Amsterdam (modern-day New York) in the 17th century, governor Pieter Stuyvesant tried to turn them away, even if the colony was a free port whose government officially promoted religious freedom.  Even the “enlightened” Benjamin Franklin wrote with derision about the “stupid, swarthy Germans” who were arriving en masse to Philadelphia in the 18th century.  It seems like not much has changed, especially as official policies and public sentiment around the world becomes more and more hostile to immigrants.  One nonprofit community art blog, Riding Up Front, has been aiming to counter this by telling the stories of immigrant cab drivers through illustrations.

These stories are contributed from people around the world, relaying real-life conversations with immigrant cab drivers.  According to founder Wei-En Tan, herself a Singaporean immigrant living in the US, the blog, which focuses on interactions between cab drivers and passengers, is meant to “humanize” immigrants.  Although the blog started out as a way to counter Trump’s policies, it’s intentionally featured the stories of drivers around the world.  For much of Europe, for example, immigrants are still a relatively new phenomenon, who only began to arrive en masse due to a labor shortage in the aftermath of World War II.  For many countries, this was their first experience with en masse immigration since the fall of the Roman Empire, leading to a rise in xenophobia and far-right nationalism that are only being amplified.  That’s why it’s that much more important to think about immigration from an international perspective.

The site features donation buttons for readers to support the artists, as well as such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Rescue Committee and the American Immigration Council, all of which fight for immigrant rights.  Just a week and a half after launching, it’s received story submissions from more than 30 people and four different artists, a great sign for the site going forward.

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here, or go visit the site itself!

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Social Media and Narcissism

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Social media and narcissism by Marilyn Gardner milton MAAs I see my younger relatives grow up using social media, it does raise a few red flags.  Of course, even if I don’t fully understand teenagers glued to their phones and taking selfies, social media is a fact of life these days.  Some psychologists have argued that an obsession with social media is related to a rise in narcissism.  And data gathered on the subject has confirmed a sharp increase in narcissism in the past decade.  This corresponds directly with increased use of social media, and although there isn’t any data yet that conclusively links the two, it’s not too much of a stretch.  

Although young adults go through a narcissistic period in their lives, meant to establish their own identity and break away from their caregivers, a recent study in young teens showed a strong correlation between heavy Facebook use and some of the negative traits associated with narcissism.  A spike in social media has led to a growing body of research examining its positive and negative effects on teens.  Keeping in touch with people far away is great, but studies reveal that the bad outweighs the good.  California State University professor Larry Rosen has done extensive research that links excessive Facebook use to bad grades, poor health and antisocial personality disorders (including narcissism).  Nonetheless, various psychological and social skills can be enhanced by social media; Rosen has pointed out that active Facebook users show stronger empathy towards their peers both on- and offline.  It also serves as a great way for those with eccentric interests who would traditionally be considered outcasts to more easily connect with likeminded people.

The positive effects of social media are correlated strongly with an individual’s self-perception.  Yet there’s a fine line between high self esteem and narcissism.  At the same time, you can’t help but wonder if social media is to blame, or if it simply makes it easier to point out narcissists.  Some researchers have argued that these new social media behaviors aren’t a sign of narcissism, but rather the new norm, and require psychologists to redefine narcissism.  

Even though the link between social media and narcissism isn’t conclusively established, heavy use of social media is a clear indicator of narcissism.  It’s hardly the only factor contributing to narcissism; the cultural promotion of self-esteem and a focus on wealth and physical attractiveness play a large part as well.  Parents need to help their children create a healthy balance between online life and reality; strictly banning social media could make your children social outcasts, yet also not having any boundaries could prove problematic.

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

from Marilyn Gardner Milton and Volunteering

Defense Department Asks Volunteers to Not Guard Recruiters

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While volunteering is almost always appreciated and promoted, it turns out that some of it is unwanted and can even be dangerous to people nearby. Recently, the United States Department of Defense has asked armed civilians to stop patrolling and guarding US armed forces recruiters and the locations they work in. It seems as though a group of enterprising individuals have taken it upon themselves to defend recruiters from terrorist attacks after the shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee that targeted recruiters and the offices they worked in. Due to the fact that recruiters aren’t legally allowed to arm themselves, conservatives and conservative organizations have raised an uproar and these civilian defence squads seem to be a result of that clamor. While the thoughts of heavily armed civilians patrolling public spaces might seem like a good idea to some people, it is also causing a large amount of concern and consternation from both governments and people in the communities being patrolled.

So what caused this sudden rise in armed civilian patrols? After the Chattanooga recruiting center shootings, it became public knowledge (not that it was previously hidden or anything) that recruiters for the armed services aren’t allowed to be armed. This is has obviously led to eruptions of GOP politicians yelling at the government for not doing enough to protect our soldiers on their home territory. It also, unfortunately, has led to a group of civilians, some of which are former servicemen and police officers, taking up arms and wandering around strip malls and commerce centers in the name of defending the troops.

There are numerous reasons why this is a problem. Aside from the belief that the government doesn’t care at all about the troops, these armed patrols are causing chaos and are scaring other unarmed civilians. This is obviously causing an issue both with the police who get called by said scared civilians, as well as with the government itself. Now, after one of the volunteer guards accidentally fired his weapon in public, the government has stepped in and is asking those from Operation Hero Guard to step down and stop patrolling the streets. Will this happen? That remains to be seen.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

from Marilyn Gardner Milton and Volunteering

Volunteering is a Smart Career Move

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Volunteering can be a fulfilling, meaningful, and life changing experience both for the individual volunteers and for the organizations they support. It can increase happiness, decrease depression, and even make you live longer. But volunteering isn’t just good for the soul; it’s also good for your career.marilyn gardner milton, marilyn gardner, milton, massachusetts, volunteering

MovingWorlds has spent the past few years speaking with hundreds of volunteers, hiring managers, recruiters, and career coaches about their experience with job candidates who come in with solid volunteering experience. The perception of volunteer work on a resume was overwhelmingly positive, especially when presented in the right way. So what exactly does volunteer experience communicate to these career professionals?

It shows that you’re passionate.

People who volunteer are doing it on their own time, without pay. This alone displays a true passion for the cause and dedication on the part of the individual. These qualities are valuable to employers just as much as they are to non-profits.

It shows that you take initiative.

Volunteers are there because they want to be. They aren’t being handed an assignment or told to meet a quota. Volunteering shows that you create your own goals and follow through with them. This is a great predictor of an employee who will probably go “above and beyond” in the workplace.

It shows that you know what you’re strengths are.

Making a real impact on the world isn’t easy. Volunteering requires effective communication and strong teamwork. There’s often a lot to get done, and not enough people to do it. Volunteers therefore have to be able to focus on where they can create the most impact, meaning they need to be in tune with their own strengths and weaknesses as well as the organizational goals. This is an important quality to employers. An ability to make impactful contributions in line with personal and team strengths is exactly the kind of leader employers are looking for.

So how do you talk up your great volunteer experience? Include the volunteer projects you are most proud of as real work experience. Don’t put them under “interests” or in some other section that could diminish the experience or put it at risk for being breezed over. Make sure you list exactly what and how you contributed to each project, as well as the results. Give it the respect and recognition you would any other job on your resume. Recruiters and hiring managers will take notice.


from Marilyn Gardner Milton and Volunteering

Hundreds Volunteer After Texas Floods

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For those who haven’t been able to watch the news, Texas has had a terrible week in regards to weather. The state, which had formerly been in a drought and was in desperate need of rain, got its prayers answered in the form of massive thunderstorms. Unfortunately, these storms quickly overwhelmed the soil’s ability to absorb water, leading to massive flash floods across the state that have lead to multiple people dying and many others missing. Thankfully, in these times of need, people always seems to step up and show that they’re willing and able to help. This was shown by the huge numbers of people who volunteered for rescue parties across the state in an effort to find those that were missing after the devastation.

The volunteers come from all over the state and come equipped for any sort of environment, though mostly those focusing on mud and flooded rivers. They spread out and search on foot on vehicles ranging from ATVs and off-terrain vehicles to private helicopters. Some of the volunteers are related to those who have died and are still missing, others are simply people who want to help out those in need and felt like they couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. With at least 19 people dead in Texas and Oklahoma and another 14 in Mexico, the death tolls are most likely going to rise. Entire houses have been washed away, taking those inside them along with them; these are the bodies and the missing that are being searched for across the state.

How did this happen? Texas had faced years of drought and when the sudden storms came, the ground simply couldn’t absorb the water fast enough. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared 47 counties disaster areas and the rain is still falling. Just how bad were the floods? The Blanco River in Hays County, southwest of Austin, grew to 40 feet above flood stage, taking away houses, vehicles, roads, and bridges. As more and more people volunteer for these search-and-rescue missions, hopefully they find more survivors. At the very least, hopefully they find bodies so that the families can put them to proper rest.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

from Marilyn Gardner Milton and Volunteering

How the Nepalese Are Using Crowdsourcing for Quake Relief

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The earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25th has killed at least 7,000 people and left tens of thousands injured and missing with a possible death roll that will rise up to 10,000. There is no denying that this is one of the greatest catastrophes in recent history and it most definitely is one of the largest in Nepalese history. Due to the location of both Nepal and the areas most affected by the quake, avalanches, and subsequent aftershocks, aid has been slow getting to where it’s needed and this isn’t going to change any time soon as the whole country has been rocked.

In an attempt to alleviate the pressure on national and international aid workers, a number of Nepalis are using social media and mobile apps to help coordinate, supply, and guide those trying to help to where they’re needed most at the moment. It’s a truly ingenious use of things that we in the west take for granted every day and hopefully it can teach us just how powerful these sources are. Here are just three examples, amongst many, of technology being used to help the volunteers coming from around the world.

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Taken from the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund on Indigogo
  • Open-Sourced Mapping: Kathmandu Living Labs – This nonprofit is using open-sourced mapping tools to show where help is needed most urgently. They gather reports from around the country and have mapped around 70-80% of the earthquake hit zones. What started with 7-10 local volunteers has now become 2,400 volunteers from around the world that travel the country and use satellite data to find displaced peoples and damaged areas. They are then able to rank how urgently the aid is needed and direct resources more effectively.
  • Crowdfunding: Indigogo – Lokesh Todi has so far raised over $100,000 through Indigogo and is using the money in three specific areas: child care, women’s issues, and sanitation. Due to the lack of a centralized crisis management department in Nepal, the money is being used with local NGOs who have more information about what needs to be done where. While the money still hasn’t been released from Indigogo, it’s good to see that it’s going to people on the ground who know how to use it and are intimately connected with the regions damaged.
  • Volunteer Coordination: Google Docs – Google docs is being used by a number of local and international NGOs and organizations due to its ease of access and simplicity of use. Information about food, water, medicine, and shelter is being shared across the docs and through social media so that it can reach the people in need and let them know where to go for vital supplies. It is also helping coordinate volunteer efforts and keep things running smoothly and efficiently.

While this is just the beginning of the recovery process for Nepal as a whole, this is an amazing first step. If things continue to stay on this path then hopefully aid will reach those in desperate need quickly.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

If you’d like to donate to the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund mentioned above, the link is here.

from Marilyn Gardner Milton and Volunteering

Do Different Generations Approach Volunteering Differently?

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Every generation approaches similar tasks differently and volunteering is no different. The differences between traditionalists, baby boomers, generation x-ers, and millennials can be seen in everyday life and the way they approach tasks. Each generation is looking for something else and each one has been shaped by the time it grew up in. With each generation bringing different skills and desires to the volunteering table, it’s important to learn about how each is different and what they’re looking to accomplish both for themselves as well as for whoever they’re volunteering for.marilyn gardner milton, generational volunteering

The four generations that will be volunteering in today’s day and age are the traditionalists (born around 1922-1945), the baby boomers (1945-1964), the generation x-ers (1965-1984), and the millennials (1085-2004). Each generation differs in preferred communication and what motivates them to work hard. Learning how to best utilize the various generations is necessary for both being as efficient as possible as well as to make sure they get along well. For example, traditionalists and baby boomers aren’t as comfortable with today’s current technologies and prefer to communicate over the phone or in person. With that in mind, it might be best to put them in charge of outreach either over the phone or canvassing in person.

Getting the different generations to work together is also important seeing as how each responds differently to tasks and compliments. Millennials crave attention and praise and frequently volunteer as a way to gain work experience. Getting them to ask questions from the older volunteers is a good way to satisfy their desire for experience while also making sure your older volunteers are happy too because they just want to be heard and respected. The older and younger generations should mingle so that knowledge is shared and both gain from each other while coming to understand and empathise with each other better. Most importantly, promote passion amongst all the volunteers. It might be dying in the elder ones and it might never have existed in the younger ones. That passion is what’s going to truly make all the volunteers work their hardest.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

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