We’re working on producing a full set of guidelines for doing this. In the meantime, you could send any of us an email message with any questions you have. Basically, you need a lot of energy and determination. The first few times you propose leading a trip to Honduras without a faculty member organizing it for you, you’ll need to persuade the administration at your school that you know what you’re doing and won’t get everyone killed. Then you have to convince parents of the same thing. After that it is easy!
Seriously, we would be delighted to help others create their own Honduras Project. As the founder of the Drew project said, “It will change your life.”
You could get very ambitious and begin something like Lafeyette’s “Alternative Spring Break” program (although Lafeyette’s trips are organized by faculty, not students as Drew’s trips are).
Is there an organization that connects all volunteer efforts and allows them to work together?
Yes there is! It is called “Project Honduras,” and you should very definitely check it out. The project serves to “to maintain a website and to develop and moderate listserv forums of individuals worldwide with special interests in Honduras.” Project Honduras also has adopted a number of projects that you might want to check out.
Each fall Project Honduras organizes an annual conference where you can learn the answer to many questions and get ideas about how you can help, and learn about other projects and strategies for improving your own. For the first few years the conference was held in Washington DC, but more recently it has been held in Copán, Honduras–a beautiful city with an amazing Mayan site.
Special Missions Foundation is another group to look at. They are affiliated with Project Honduras, but also have their own website and goals.
I’m concerned about the politics of volunteering, do you have anything to say on that issue?
Yes we do. In our opinion, all volunteers should consider this question and think seriously about what they are doing and why. You need to ask about your personal motivations and about the structure and motivation of the group you are volunteering with. How do you define “doing good” and “helping”? Would the people you are working with offer the same definitions? Have you asked those people what they would like you to do? Have you asked how much money the organization you give to actually spends helping those it was founded to help? How much do you know about the people you are “helping”? How much do they know about you?
There are a number of books you might read to help you work through some of these issues. It is very easy to do harm while trying to do good (which is why one of these books is called “The Road to Hell...”)
As you read about and plan volunteer work, remember this advice: if you find something you don’t like, DON’T GET CYNICAL: GET ACTIVE!