My Time: Voluntourism

Short with bead maker in
Short with bead maker in
Short with kid
Short with kid

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Charles Short taught at the LSU Vet School for 30 years. He was head a department at the school for 18 years. Now in retirement, he checks on his neighbor's horses; but he doesn't own a pet.

Chuck wants to be able to travel without having to worry about care of a pet while he's gone. His horse and large animal expertise takes him globally, including a trip to the boonies in Mongolia!

"I had to evaluate a model herder program with some of the vets who were there. And we had horses, and sheep and goats... and yak." Donna Britt asked, "Did you have to read up on yaks before you went?" Short answered, "They're pretty much like cows, except they're ornery," he chuckled.

As a volunteer, Short finds out about specific needs through Christian Veterinarian, a volunteer group. He'll spend one or two weeks, usually, possibly a month, sharing his knowledge of animal medicines, basic treatments. One of his favorite trips was to Tanzania. There, he showed people how to de-worm their cattle, including goats.

In his country home near Slaughter, Louisiana, Dr. Short pulled out his projector and travel pictures.

He clicked on his file for Tanzania.

"This is a picture of me holding a little goat kid my colleagues had given me. We were looking at the abscess under its chin, which is quite large. I cut it open and drained it out. It was a mess! And I got the thorn out. (an acacia thorn) I just, ya know, did the normal thing..covered it with antibiotics, some iodine, and then I put it down. The Chief came over, and grabbed me by the arm! He towed me off! And I thought I was going to jail! I'm thinking, 'ya know, what did I do wrong?' Turned out, he was setting me up in front of his family, the extended family. He stood up straight next to me, held my hand, and got somebody to take a picture! That was his gift to me!"

Short's vacation pictures show that he relishes meeting the people. He might sleep on the ground, but it's an adventure. With his voluntourism, he can see elephants grazing near a water hole. He can feel the throb of feet in a church rocking with music. He can hear children salute him with a song. "Can Chuck Short ever enjoy a leisurely vacation again?" Britt asked.

Short answered, "I took a trip to Hawaii recently, solo. And I got down on the beach one day and snorkled, saw the beautiful fish and the green turtles and all, and that satisfied me for a while! I mean, that was good for about a year!" He laughed.

Short has a table spread with gingerbread cookies cooling on racks that make them look as if they're sitting in chairs. He is making a fund-raising display for a church in Baton Rouge to encourage donations for a project in Africa. A $25 donation puts a child in school for an entire year.

Not every voluntourism job is Mother Teresa- or Chuck Short-style.

Britt said, "You have so many choices! You can check the Internet. On, I found great books! One especially good one was written by National Geographic, a reputable source. 80 percent of the jobs listed in all the books require you to pay something in the way of a donation.

Dr. Short agreed, "They all cost money. I think the cheapest one I got away with was about $2,500, and I've paid as much as $4,000."

Short's vacation photos are rich with grateful people who may not speak English, but know when a man's heart is generous. Donna Britt says there are also voluntourism packages in very popular tourist destinations. You can work among the poor in Paris, Buenos Aires, and Rome. You name the place!

Donna recommends these books as great listings of volunteer opportunities:

  • The 100 Best Volunteer Vacations to Enrich Your Life, by Pam Grout
    Published 2009, by National Geographic Society
  • Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That will Benefit You and Others
    By Bill McMillon, Doug Cutchins, and Anne Geissinger. Copyright 2012
    Published by Chicago Review Press
  • 700 Places to Volunteer Before You Die: A Traveler's Guide
    By Nola Lee Kelsey. Copyright 2012, Dog's Eye View Media

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