Saturday, September 30, 2023

Volunteer Service, RV Style | MIT Technology Review

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For Fields, it’s the latest expression of a passion for volunteering that has shaped his life. He discovered his zeal for volunteerism when he was 15, working for his local Red Cross branch and volunteer fire and rescue team.

Although he originally intended to do medical research, his volunteer work inspired a change of direction. “I discovered that I had a talent for working with people,” he says. “I spent a few summers working for the Mexican Red Cross, helping them develop programs for young people.” That prompted him to stop and rethink his plans.

After graduation, followed by military service in Vietnam, Fields married, earned a master’s degree in international management from UC Berkeley, and spent much of his career helping set up and operate manufacturing facilities around the world. Upon his return to the US, he started working as a management consultant and part-time teacher.

Fields and his wife, Alma, began volunteering for Care-A-Vanners shortly after purchasing a small RV in 2014 and have been building for two to four months a year ever since. They were involved in 25 construction projects, with projects in California, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Florida, each lasting a week or two.

The work offers multiple rewards. “One of the great things about volunteering is that you’re a broad spectrum worker,” he says. “You don’t just do carpentry or just laying floors. I’ve installed cabinets, installed countertops, installed tiles in the bathroom, installed rafters. I’ve put roofs on, built fences, laid turf, swept the floors—just about anything you can think of.”

But the best thing, he says, is that they can go back to a house they helped build and watch children play in the yard. “So many families come from living situations where the children don’t dare go outside,” he says. “And suddenly they’re here—they’ve got their tricycles, they’re yelling up and down the street, they’re playing with their dogs. That is the most rewarding for me.”

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