Voluntourism in Appalachia

I recently watched the Diane Sawyer special on Appalachia, it got my attention enough that I tweeted a simple note wondering why we send people to volunteer abroad but Appalachia needs our help just as much. In reply to that tweet I got a bunch of volunteer operators saying they would love to get involved in Appalachian programs but they don’t know of any good partners. I also got a reply from Rachel Gossett of the Appalachia Service Project saying they needed volunteers. I asked her to write a little blurb for me, so have a look below.

It’s an interesting option for voluntourism operators – as people are keeping their budgets tighter but still want to volunteer – why not introduce some domestic opportunities?

Appalachia Service Project (ASP) is a home repair mission organization that makes houses warmer, safer and drier at no cost to families in need, while offering life-changing experiences for the families, volunteers, and staff alike.  Each year, ASP brings 15,000 volunteers from all over the country to repair 500 homes throughout Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.  High school students can serve with ASP during our summer Youth Program, and we also offer a program designed specifically for adults that operates September-May each year.

Even with all the volunteers and resources we have today, ASP can serve only one in ten families that apply for our home repair assistance. Choosing which family we serve (and which nine families we have to turn down) is a difficult decision, and we base it on a number of factors, including proximity of the house to the center and hardware store, depth of home repair need, whether children are present in the home, monthly family income, and the list goes on and on.

The communities in which ASP serves generally have poverty rates up to three times the national average. In the Central Appalachian region we serve…

  • 8,500 homes lack adequate kitchens
  • 9,000 homes lack complete plumbing
  • Nearly half of the families have household incomes below $20,000
  • One in four lives below the poverty level – more than 50,000 children, 90,000 adults, & 15,000 elderly

For more information on ASP’s Adult Program please visit: http://asphome.org/getinvolved_vol_yearround.html or call Rachel Gossett at 423.854.4408.

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