20-time alumni Steve Fox is a retired teacher from Washington State who participated on his first Global Volunteers program in Minnesota in 2003. 15 years later, as a retiree and octogenarian, Steve has contributed 1360 hours of service on 20 service programs worldwide. Here he shares his reflections on volunteering in retirement. (pictured here with Polish students)
How is volunteering in retirement different from other types of travel?
Standard travel is to say “been there, done that.” To really get to understand the people is to really spend time with them. Of all the Global Volunteers projects I have done for one and two weeks, visiting with the people has been the most rewarding. No matter where I have been, I’ve learned much more about culture and individuals. The people enjoy sitting down and spending time with you even when language isn’t shared, and I need someone to translate.
What keeps you coming back as a Global Volunteers alumni year after year?
At this time in my life, during retirement, I appreciate getting to know the special people of Poland as a Global Volunteers alumni. In the early years with Global Volunteers, the attraction was a new place – a place I knew many people would not have the opportunity to visit – and yet I could still be somewhat in my comfort zone. Meeting and interacting with local community folks and especially working on projects for a week or two with my fellow Global Volunteers. It has always been a great experience being around other people (for a short time) that share the same interest in service.
Would you conclude that your perspective on the value of travel has matured over the years?
For me personally? No, I don’t think it’s really changed since my late wife and I spent a year in Australia. That was back in the early 60’s. As a couple, we continued to travel over the years and it’s something I continue to do to this very day. But, volunteering in retirement continues to be my preferred way to travel.
From your experience do you feel that travel has allowed you to remain active in your 70s and 80s?
It keeps my mind sharp, whatever that means. But there are many projects I do, that for my own health and well-being, I would not be interested in doing (in other venues). I study the facts closely before making a decision (about volunteer projects). I do appreciate other cultures, and stories I can bring back with me and share with others. That might be the real bonus.
So what do you feel you receive when you share your skills with people of other cultures?
I’m definitely not boastful, but have provided them with something they needed, as that is the whole purpose of Global Volunteers. It’s affirming to have that opportunity. You wouldn’t be there if you didn’t think it useful and rewarding. I’m just glad to be a part of it.
What advice do you have for other retirees about “active aging” and volunteering?
There are many people in my community that are volunteering. To me, it’s a second career. However, not everyone can afford to be doing what I am doing. Before my wife passed away we made a deal; two major trips a year. With her gone, I now do the two major trips, which includes Global Volunteers and Earthwatch. People are amazed to find out I pay to do this. My comment is “PAY TO PLAY” and I totally enjoy what I am doing!
Volunteering in Retirement Worldwide
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Related posts on this topic:
- Volunteer Abroad in Retirement
- Retirement Volunteer Work
- Volunteering in your Golden Years
- Five Popular Volunteer Programs for Boomers
- Reflections from a 10-time Global Volunteer
- Grandmother-Grandson Volunteer Duo in Cuba
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