A few years ago, while visiting a small beach town on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, my husband Barry and I discovered a children’s library in the village. Since we planned to stay for several days, we asked the librarian if she’d like us to each give a talk.
Barry, a science writer, gave a presentation on dinosaurs. Judging by the grins on the kids’ faces as they eagerly pored over his iPad slides, the illustrated talk was a huge success. The next day, I led a workshop on freewriting.
“Write down everything you did today from the moment you woke up until you went to school,” I said to the kids in Spanish. One eight-year-old took the assignment very seriously, describing in careful detail exactly how she got dressed that morning and what she ate for breakfast. I like to think that 20-minute exercise planted a seed. Who knows? Maybe she’ll be a writer one day.
Like we did in that Mexican village, you can interact with local people beyond a superficial level by offering your skills while traveling. Often, the opportunities will arise organically when you meet people, ask questions, and see unmet needs in the community. Here are seven ideas to help you contribute in a meaningful and effective way.
1. Milk Your Expertise
Are you a social worker? Graphic designer? Teacher? Whatever your field, chances are you’ll be able to use your skills to volunteer.
Carlisle Douglas, a professional massage therapist, visited a friend living in the village of Teotitlan del Valle