How to Help Others by Volunteering During COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Wondering how to help during the novel coronavirus pandemic that has affected the entire world in unprecedented ways? There are actually numerous local and at home (online) volunteer opportunities for those who want to help while COVID-19 continues to cause widespread pain to people, communities, and livelihoods. Entire industries are crippled. Small businesses all over […]


The Psychology & Ethics of International Volunteering

The ethical landscape of the international volunteering industry is complex. It’s a twisting network of ideologies, methodologies, and different approaches to development and aid. It’s also the cornerstone of any discussion on volunteering. There’s an automatic trope in the West that volunteering is inherently “good.” This is sold by the media, by colleges, and by […]


Invention Series Part 4: Travelers

One of my favorite parts of travelling is escaping into a different world and immersing myself in other cultures. And, of course, my iPhone, camera, laptop, and Kindle are immersed right alongside me. While I like the idea of going off of the grid, this means checking Facebook once a day instead of fifteen times. What can I say, it’s an […]


Invention Series Part 3: Healthcare

I’ve been running quite a bit lately to train for an upcoming half marathon. I’m a very competitive person, so any time I mention the race in conversation I have to fight the immediate urge to explain why I’m doing a half marathon instead of a full one. It’s nothing too exciting — I just have really bad knees. […]


Invention Series Part 2: Solar

For the Western world, “going solar” generally means costly investments, a degree in tax law, and being labeled a treehugger by neighbors. Until this past month, my knowledge of solar energy began and ended with the large panels placed on rooftops. In the past, I’ve worked on clean energy campaigns and I did some work in the […]


Invention Series Part 1: Water Filters

I recently started working with a social enterprise in India; it’s mission is to improve the lives of the urban poor. They sell items like solar lights on an affordable payment plan to people living in slum communities to both meet basic needs and to improve quality of life. The company is pretty great; they employ local […]


Sitting Down with NPR to Talk about Social Enterprises

Last month Grassroots Volunteering’s founder, Shannon O’Donnell, sat down with Rachel Martin on NPR’s weekend travel show to talk about the relationship between travel and international volunteering. The segment looks more closely at the idea of supporting social enterprises as you travel, and explores the many ways travelers can think of innovative ways to support […]


Fighting Apathy, Fighting Poverty

I recently watched a recording of rock legend Bono giving a rousing TED Talk  filmed at the 2013 TED conference. The topic, which he framed in the context of a brief ten minute presentation, was on the current state of world poverty. I think that, if you’d asked me to comment intelligently on the topic […]


Rethinking Orphanages

When you talk to your average non-traveler about international volunteering, it’s a given that a few things are going to come to mind: saving the animals! Providing compassionate disaster relief in areas torn asunder by tsunamis! Caring for adorable orphans! (Optional: “you know, like Angelina Jolie or whatever.”) The reality of grassroots volunteering is, obviously, […]


Is Our Enthusiasm for Quinoa Misplaced?

Quinoa is kind of a thing. As far as grains go, it’s definitely having a moment. Foodies and healthy eaters alike go gaga for this Peruvian export that was, in recent memory, an obscure offering sold only at whole food shops. Quinoa is tasty, low-fat, and packed with protein and amino acids. It’s a delightful […]