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Invest Yourself — The Catalogue of Volunteer Opportunities
Susan G. Angus, Editor

New York: Commission on Voluntary Service and Action, 2001
260 pp., $8.00, paper
ISBN 0-9629322-5-6

The Commission of Voluntary Service and Action (CVSA) has been in existence since 1945. An exclusively volunteer organization, they have published Invest Yourself - The Catalogue of Volunteer Opportunities periodically over the last 55 years, providing worldwide listings of volunteer opportunities with North American non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This edition of Invest Yourself celebrates the United Nations General Assembly's proclamation of the International Year of Volunteers 2001, recognizing the hard work of volunteers worldwide and their impact on society at large, and encouraging more people to volunteer.

Investing Yourself contains articles written by actual volunteers, and advice for those wanting to volunteer for the first time. It is insightful and should be used as a reference for volunteer programs. The section "Volunteering — It's a Way of Life" by Rev. Randle B. Dew, explains why you should volunteer, guidance in deciding who you should volunteer for, and questions to ask about the organization before you make the commitment. All important when considering volunteering for the first time.

Divided up into an alphabetical listing of Voluntary Organizations, Volunteer Placement Agencies, and additional Agency Resources, Invest Yourself is an excellent resource for volunteers interested in working for real social change. Organizations are alphabetically listed, with indexes in the back for geographic locations and categories of interest. The geographic locations are divided into international programs, individual countries, and in the United States it is divided up nationally, and down to the state-by-state level. Categories of interest include: Advocacy/Counseling, Children/Youth, Education, Environment/Conservation/Natural Science, Indigenous Rights, and Public Interest/Policy, among others.

Included with some of the listings are photographs of volunteers doing what needs to be done. From repairs of houses damaged from Hurricane Floyd in September 1999 by the North Carolina Conference/United Methodist Disaster Recovery, to the Farm Labor Organizing Committee's (FLOC) organizing to improve living and working conditions of farm workers. And Citizen Schools in Boston that promote education programs for children, apprenticing them with trained professionals.

Yet all of these volunteer organizations seem to have the same, underlying desire — maintaining their independence from government co-optation. CVSA is critical of government-sponsored volunteer programs. Many of these programs either exploit workers as free or cheap labor, are used as the means of union busting, and/or generate profit for subsidized private corporations. In addition, some church-sponsored aid programs that had ties to government agencies often had to turn away people after government "screenings." In response, CVSA now works primarily at the grassroots level. However, CVSA does understand that for many volunteers, there is comfort in a government "seal of approval." In response, CVSA quotes the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin:

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Words that today, mean more than ever.

Annette Aguayo

Available from:
Commission on Voluntary Service and Action
1 Union Square West
Suite 902
New York, NY 10009
(646) 486-2446

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"Look at the land. Our grandfather lived here. So do we. It is our land here, her we used to live. Stranger, touring around you will not come, you will not come. We lived over these hills, we still do, because the forest is our life."
--Huaorani chant,
translated by Laura Rival

"I want to stamp on the ground hard enough to make that oil come out. I want to skip the legalities, permits, red tape, and other obstacles. I want to go immediately and straight to what matters: getting that oil."
--Rick Bass,
Petroleum Geologist

1989, taken from Amazon Crude, Judith Kimerling

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