Cross Cultural Solutions is one of the premier international volunteer NGOs based out of the United States. Founded in 1995 by Executive Director Steven Rosenthal, CCS has provided volunteer opportunities abroad to thousands of individuals. The programs are diverse not only in geographical location (CCS has local partnerships in 12 countries) but also in focus. Through these partnerships, volunteers are able to tailor their time abroad to fit their interests while contributing in meaningful ways to local communities on the ground.
CCS is a great option for people who are interested in doing volunteer work but who want the structure and security of firmly established programs. There are several from which to choose: the most popular Volunteer Abroad offers the greatest flexibility, Intern Abroad is for students seeking academic credit, Insight Abroad, a one-week program, is for folks with limited vacation time. There is even a volunteer program for teens. The categories of interest range from working with at-risk youth, to elder care, to HIV-AIDS education and women’s empowerment.
While one does have to pay for the trip, much is included: pre-departure information, airport pick-up at the destination, full room and board during the stay, travel insurance, drivers to shuttle volunteers to and from local partnerships. CCS also provides a detailed fundraising kit to all volunteers which can significantly reduce the out-of-pocket fees while simultaneously being a crash-course in basic fund-raising for the individual. It certainly was a crash-course for me.
I write this blog from personal experience. I chose to work with CCS in 2002 when I decided I wanted to volunteer in India, a country I had always wanted to get to know. While I had traveled extensively prior to my trip to India, I also knew I didn’t want to be solo and aimless once there, bouncing from one tourist attraction to another. I wanted an experience that would be meaningful; I wanted to be engaged with something bigger than myself that went deeper than tourism. CCS was the perfect solution.
Once I connected with them, I found the CCS staff to always be available to field my questions or give me words of encouragement. They provided support and education, as well as the pre-departure fundraising kit that helped me raise the bulk of the cash I needed for my trip of three months. I was able to spread my time in India over 3 different sites (at that time they had a program in Rajghar, a very rural mountainous area in Himachel Pradesh that has since been discontinued). I spent time in New Delhi, Rashgahr and Dharamsala. I assisted with an important healthcare survey focusing on women’s access to healthcare in the rural area around Rajgahr and helped network and establish CCS in Dharamshala. I spent time in local schools and nurseries as well as a hospital helping the nurses and learning about women’s issues.
My experiences in India were rich, diverse and intensely memorable. I attribute this to how well the programs, both in the United States and in India, were organized. I’m heartened to see that CCS is thriving, providing excellent volunteer opportunities in Africa, Eastern Europe, Lain America and Asia.
16 Days of Activism to end Violence Against Women is from November 25 through December 10! StF will be posting about a different organization and their volunteer opportunities each of the 16 days in participation with take back the tech blog-a-thon campaign.