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Here to help

Teaching, tinkering, and other opportunities for eco-friendly volunteering

(Globe illustration / Ben Kirchner)


By Aubin Tyler

Globe Correspondent / October 10, 2010


Besides doing good, volunteering can be a way to meet new people, find a hobby or even launch a career. Here are five opportunities that cover a range of interests, from environmental activism to organic farming. All are nonprofit, some seasonal, others year-round. Check them out.


1) Become a political activist

Aaron Myran wanted to do something to fight global warming after graduating from college. Then he heard through an acquaintance about Green Corps (greencorps.org), a Boston-based program offering a yearlong paid fellowship teaching environmental activists to organize community campaigns. He applied, did his stint, and today, after graduating from last year’s class, he’s the nonprofit’s new recruitment director. (The deadline for early application for the 2011-2012 class, which you can submit through the Green Corps website, is Friday.)


Deborah Lapidus, now a senior organizer with Corporate Accountability International, also in Boston, joined Green Corps after college in 2005. In her first campaign, she says, she was already “working directly to influence decision makers on national environmental legislation.” By organizing college and community volunteers, running phone and letter campaigns, and setting up events to draw media attention, Lapidus and her crew helped persuade five members of Congress to withhold support for a budget bill that would have allowed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


2) Teach a child

Looking for college credit or to parlay writing or graphic design skills into experience in the environmental education field? The Walpole-based Green Education Foundation (greeneducationfoundation.org) relies heavily on unpaid volunteers to develop its environmental teaching tools, books and curriculum for school-aged children.


Just out of college, graphic artist Geoffrey Hewer-Candee [cq] illustrated a children’s book on composting and soil, creating a cartoon character, Willie the Worm [Anne: Graphics attached].


“I pretty much got to put my own mark on it. It was in my style, endearing and engaging, but scientifically accurate,” he says. “It’s very alluring working at a place like this where you know that the work you do is beneficial for school kids and the future of the planet.”


3) Wilderness work

Suburban Boston high school senior Hannah Krieger spent the month of August camping in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, building wooden boardwalks and prying 80-pound boulders out of the ground. The goal? To help the Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org) improve and maintain its 1,500 miles of hiking trails.


“It was a lot of strenuous work but we liked being outside and wanted the challenge,” she says.


For a nominal fee that covers food, lodging and transportation, AMC also offers one- to four-week programs for teens (15 – 19) or adults in Maine, the Berkshires and the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park.


4) Keep computers out of landfills

The mission of the World Computer Exchange (worldcomputerexchange.org) is to  “keep computers that still have life in them out of landfills and give them a new life in developing countries,” says Timothy Anderson [cq], who founded the Hull-based nonprofit in 1999.


Bryan Barton, one of its 700 volunteers, completed two “eCorps” trips in 2008 and 2009 to rural Nigeria and Kenya, where he repaired computers, set up networks and taught teachers at a local school how to use them.


“The communities are so appreciative, they take you in and really immerse you in their lives,” he says. “Some of best times I had were sitting down with people for a local meal or experiencing their music, things that are just not possible as an everyday tourist.”


5) Become an organic farmer

If you’ve never heard of “wwoofing,” it stands for World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, a cultural and educational exchange in which participants trade a half-day’s labor for room and board on an organic farm.


“Our members become ‘wwoofers,’” says Leo Goldsmith, program manager and founding member of Wwoof-USA (www.wwoofusa.org). “We promote small-scale farmers who are not using chemicals on their farms.”


A yearly membership fee of $30 provides anyone 18 or older access to an online directory of 1,300 organic host farms across the country. The organization currently has 10,000 members. Wwoofing started in 1971 in the United Kingdom; 50 countries now offer programs internationally (www.wwoof.org).



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