Village communities in Southeast Asia get nurturing help from within and with the assistance of international volunteers via short breaks (a week or so) or longer stints for service (month or more) from Journeys Within Our Community. By working at the local level and focusing on community-determined needs like clean water, education, health, shelter, and emergency relief, JWOC starts projects small that then grow with outside support, gaining momentum and changing lives.

Volunteering during a service travel break has a huge impact on you and on the communities you visit. Work projects are in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma). Over the last five years of work, there are now over 70 students in those three nations going to university thanks to the JWOC Scholarship Program. There are three JWOC Free Schools in Cambodia and Laos that operate six days a week.  There are over 300 wells offering clean water to villagers in the Siem Reap area and in Laos local children now have the resources they need thanks to the JWOC Village School Sponsorship. JWOC has also given out over 200 micro loans to families living below the poverty line.

Volunteers work with specialized programs based on the skills you bring (and your skills need be no more elaborate than a willingness to work…but if you have teaching experience or carpentry skills or medical training, let them know when you sign up), and a nice element of the management of this grassroots organization is that long-term projects are re-evaluated regularly, and monthly priorities are established in response to the shifting terrain of change. This responsiveness is hugely important and surprisingly rare among NGOs.

JWOC was founded under the ideal of See a Problem, Solve a Problem…words to live by.

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About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF.org) and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project (mentorartists.org). Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at www.ChangeByDoing.com. As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing

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