By Saleem Khan
Sun, sand and … school — building one, that is. It’s not the typical vacation, but for anyone interested in more than just tourism, working with a foreign aid agency may be an attractive alternative.
“I wanted to go to Nicaragua,” teacher Deborah Adelman says. “So I looked up Nicaragua in the telephone book, found Nicaragua Brigade and called them. I said, ‘Is anyone going to Nicaragua soon?’ and they said yes.”
Three months after that first call, she was installing electrical wire at a school the group had built in Managua. That was in 1989.
The people she met in both countries, “had a totally different relationship to the world than I did… a whole world of experience that living in the West doesn’t give you.”
That cultural divide can be an obstacle in aid work. “How do you bring health education to people when they have a vastly different way of looking at the world?” Adelman asks.
Water, agriculture, health care, infrastructure, education — project areas varies as the the type of experience an aid worker chooses to have, she says.
“There’s the real experience — living in the village, adapting to the culture, speaking the language.”
Canadian Crossroads International (CCI) is a group that helps people over 19 who are interested in relief work.
“We facilitate trips for volunteers who want to work on aid missions,” spokeswoman Aminah Soobratty says. “If someone is interested in working on a mission, we have them talk to one of our representatives to see what it is they want to do.”
If the project is approved, CCI pays 80 per cent of a trip’s cost for up to 14 weeks. The remaining funds are raised by the volunteer.
In spire of the cost, Adelman says she’s like to go on another aid mission somewhere. “I was a traveller; curious about the world. I wanted to know other cultures and share their experiences. I’d still like to do more.”