Sunday, March 21, 2010

How to volunteer in Africa without taking babies

This afternoon, I stopped by my friend Bethany’s bon-voyage party.  Bethany is a much better person than I.  She would do anything for anybody and I adore her spirit.  She and I have bonded over mutual friends, shoes and red gummy bears (long story).  And now she has decided that she wants to give a year of her life to volunteer in Africa.  And not in a Madonna-buy-some-babies-from-Africa kind of way.  She is actually GOING TO AFRICA and NOT COMING HOME WITH SMALL CHILDREN. 

"Bitch makes me wear stupid overalls, but gives me junk food.  Viva America."

At least that’s her goal.

It turns out that actually becoming a volunteer is tougher than one might think.  Bethany networked, she made phone calls, she set up meetings with organizations who do fantastic things in third-world countries.

She said, “Yo, I have a year I’d like to donate please.”

And the volunteer-y people said, “Um, ok, it will only cost you $(enter large dollar amount here).

And she was all “GET OUT?!”

(I’m totally making up this conversation by the way…but you get the idea.)

It turns out that there are a lot of people out there who like to do volunteer-y type vacations.  I certainly don’t want to dis the volunteer-y vacations (it’s slightly more noble than an all-inclusive, drink-yourself-silly, fall-off-the-pool-bar vacation), but it evidently makes it more difficult for people who want to dedicate a significant chunk of their lives to volunteer service, like Bethany.  Who knew?!

So she said, “Really – a year, you can have a year.”

And they said, “OK…six weeks.”

Bethany leaves tomorrow morning for six weeks in Africa (South Africa, Rwanda and Zambia).  She is going to be working with two organizations – Seeds of Empowerment and TeachAIDS.

Have I mentioned that she is a MUCH better person than I?

You can follow her story over at her blog: "Hanging Up My Manolo Blahniks for Humanitarian Service”.  She has promised lots of pictures (and she is a FANTASTIC photographer).

I told her that while she’s off making the world a better place, I’ll be home writing about poo and shoes and to try not to miss me too much.


  1. hahahaha, this makes me want to go volunteer!

  2. Jessica - it ALMOST made me want to volunteer. Not quite though.

  3. You crack me up... I just love you! SO far so good in South Africa. And I concur NO babies in my future! xoxo