The Volunteer Traveler's Handbook by Shannon ODonnell

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Latest Review: "The Volunteer Traveler's Handbook" by Shannon ODonnell

The Volunteer Traveler's Handbook by Shannon ODonnell

Post by liliaceous » 09 Dec 2012, 16:55

[Following is the official review of "The Volunteer Traveler's Handbook" by Shannon ODonnell.]
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The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook is a must-read for anyone that is seriously considering undertaking international volunteering. As someone who has volunteered internationally extensively, the book caught my interest immediately and I was interested to see what O’Donnell could add to the ad-hoc knowledge I have accumulated over the years.

The book is well structured and written clearly and persuasively. It starts with an introduction to volunteering and overview of reasons why people choose to volunteer. Outside influences, such as media coverage are also discussed in an intelligent and rational section.

The rest of the book covers the reality of the experience, from selecting a volunteer organisation through to completing the placement right up to how to survive on your return. The book contains many real life stories, from contributors other than the author, which bring the theoretical discussions to life.

However, while the author shares her personal experiences, I personally one in particular – her decision to take her niece out of school to undertake a volunteering experience in Thailand – quite controversial. Despite an opening chapter discussing the benefits of volunteering, there was no discussion regarding the decision which is extremely unusual for an eleven year old.

As a result, it is not surprising to see that the book presents volunteering in an overwhelmingly positive light and does not touch heavily or realistically on the negative side of travelling internationally to volunteer. Therefore, I awarded this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is well written and a valuable tool for someone that has committed to volunteering internationally. However, someone that is new to the concept will not find a balanced discussion or suitable pointers to undertand whether this is truly right for them. This book is designed to sell voluntourism as an activity for every person on this planet – which is simply not the case.

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