CNN Covers Voluntourism (Again!)

According to our survey results which will be released in the next couple weeks and the abundance of recent press – voluntourism is definitely on the rise!

Below the latest story from CNN. Question: Do you really feel there is an increase in boomers volunteering? I have heard a lot of you talk about expecting a surge but not many that have actually experienced it.

More Older Americans Signing on to Volunteer Abroad

By Stephanie Chen

(CNN) — When Autumn Preble was a teenager in the 1960s, she spent hours gazing at black-and-white LIFE magazine photographs that documented the journey of Peace Corps volunteers all over the world.

George Stouter, 67, is helping build mental health programs in Saint Kitts for his Peace Corps stint.

George Stouter, 67, is helping build mental health programs in Saint Kitts for his Peace Corps stint.

Preble, of Whidbey Island, Washington, wanted to join, but after college came marriage and a child.

Now at 58, with her son off to college, she has begun her two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer working in the public health sector in Francistown, Botswana, where nearly one in four individuals are infected with HIV.

“I’m getting to experience what it’s like to live in another culture, and that has a lot of value to me,” Preble said from her simple two-bedroom bungalow in Botswana. Preble is known to natives in her community as Masego (Ma say ho), which means “many gifts.” “This is the kind of travel that I’m interested in.”

Forget the mapped-out cruises or packaged vacations to see the world. A growing number of Americans over 50 are dedicating time in their golden years to volunteering abroad. The decision is becoming more attractive with a sickly national economy sparking more layoffs and early retirement packages.

“The economic crisis is giving them an opportunity to take a break,” said Vanessa Noel, an associate director in the nonprofit department of Alliance Abroad Group. The Austin, Texas-based company offers work, teaching and volunteer programs to students and graduates in the U.S. and abroad. Noel coordinates volunteer trips abroad that typically last between two and 12 weeks.

Inquiries from eager adults over 50 have flooded her office in recent months — so much so that she is creating new programs this summer to Costa Rica and Ecuador tailored to older volunteers that will last several weeks. “Life is short, and now they can seize the opportunities out there.”

Applications for the Peace Corps from adults over 50 have spiked 44 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, driven largely by the weak economy and a campaign launched in 2007 to lure mature volunteers. All applicants to the Peace Corps — a federal program created in 1961 that puts Americans overseas in places of need — must pass background checks and a health test. Married couples are allowed to join together.

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