Enrich your Travel With Do-It-Yourself Volunteering

This past Thursday I talked with Columbus-based artist and traveler Eric Marlow at an event for the “Optic Nerve: Perceptual Art of the 1960s” exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio. Earlier that evening I saw him at the opening of “Outside the Box, ” a retrospective of “garbage art” at the Kings Art Complex. Marlow’s work was one of the pieces in the show. Both exhibits I recommend, but this post is about the traveling/volunteering experience Marlow told me about.

Recently, he went to Nicaragua on a beach vacation and while there decided to do something useful, not that one needs to do something useful on a beach vacation. But, he felt the urge and contacted a local school in San Juan del Sur to find out if the school would like a guest artist to do an art workshop with students. The school was delighted with Marlow’s offer so he spent three 3 hours leading a group of adolescents in a found-art collaborative sculpture. This endeavor did involve a trip to the beach. One of his comments was how the school didn’t have any resources. None. Zip. Zippo. Nada.

This is an example of a do-it-yourself kind of volunteer project. If you’re traveling in place with limited resources and schools are in session, perhaps approaching a school with your ready-made project idea would be something they’d be interested in. If you’re looking to hook up with projects before you leave for vacation, try International Volunteer Programs Association. If nothing else, its website lists ideas for what sort of volunteer projects are available. To learn more about volunteering in Nicaragua here is an article that goes into more detail. While you’re packing for a trip, tuck in a few boxes of crayons and a pad of paper. You might find yourself having a fine time with a group of kids somewhere.