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Global Volunteers - Italy Suzanne Hainsworth of Bozeman, Montana tutors an Italian student.

Thomas P. Valenti (Italy)

Why did you decide to volunteer in Italy?

The Italy service program involves teaching, which I enjoy, but primarily the reason was that it gave me an opportunity to visit Italy in a different way. In this program we were to be in Ostuni, a town of about 33,000 inhabitants, for two weeks. I felt the trip would give me the chance to experience the local culture on an intimate and protracted basis. And, I would be meeting local people other than waiters and hotel staff.

Why the Global Volunteer program?

I've done service work all my life, and I've traveled all my life. So this offered me the chance to satisfy two passions of my life at the same time.

Also, I was impressed by Global's operation. Their staff was friendly, passionate about service, and seemed genuinely interested in me. There was no hard selling, merely providing information. Their style was my style.

Can you tell us a little about your experience?

The warmth, caring, and gratitude of the Italians with whom I worked just amazed me. It was like no other experience I've had. The people I met became my friends. They care about me and I care about them, and we are miles and miles apart. We still communicate.

Ikenw when I left Ostuni the first time that I would return. So I did. I returned with my three children to do a second Global service program this last July. It was just as rewarding as the first. My sons and daughter left there asking when they can return and knowing somehow they will.

Do you speak Italian? Is Italian speaking ability necessary to volunteer?

I understand more Italian than I speak. I'm now taking Italian lessons, but it isn't necessary to speak Italian to volunteer.

Are there any other details you'd like to mention?

On my first Italy trip, there were nine volunteers and one leader. On the second, there were 18 volunteers and one leader. This is more the norm. (I'm now trained and qualified as a team leader.)

So you'd recommend Global Volunteers to other travelers?

Global Volunteers is a great organization. The trips are well organized. Many people who participate in Global's service programs speak of "life-changing experiences." And this is from an organization that doesn't have any religious affiliation and doesn't preach. Their mission simply is to give people a real opportunity to work with, learn from, and learn about local people.

I learned that many team members had these life-changing experiences for a variety of reasons. Some had never experienced the gratitude of service work, some had never experienced the joy of learning from people of other cultures, and some had never had the opportunity to learn what skills and insight they themselves could bring to others.

Thomas P. Valenti

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