Summer jobs that give back

School ended and they were heading off just days after their last exam. We all went to the airport to send them off. They flew first to Beijing. It took them about 10 days to get to Llasa, the capital of Tibet, as they explored three other cities in China en route. The program coordinator met them at the Llasa airport. She showed them the orphanage where all three of them would work in one classroom, teaching two groups of about 25 kids per classroom basic Math and English skills, and also the hostel where they would live. There were a number of other young people there, all of whom worked at the orphanage, which actually had a wide variety of programs not just for kids but for adults. Their expenses were quite modest, the hostel and food costing little more than a few dollars a day. We did have to get them there and back – they took three planes to get to Llasa, two on the return – but compared to some work/travel programs, this one was quite reasonable.

In their free time, they explored the area, traveling by bus and on foot. He was thrilled with the experience, taken by the culture, interested in the China/Tibet tensions, and mesmerized by the beauty. He and his friends also loved their students, who spanned a wide range of ages and abilities. Their cell phones worked in Tibet, which was wonderful, as we could connect with him every few days. We knew he was safe, happy and learning a lot.

He’s got friends who this summer are WOOFing (working on an organic farm) in Mallorca, working in an AIDS clinic in Russia and building houses in Central America. These are such amazing opportunities for young people, and older ones for that matter, to combine the adventure of travel with learning and helping others. All it takes is a little imagination, interest and dedication to put a truly unforgettable experience together.

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