Written by: JANN A. NIELSEN, Ph.D.

Last night Dave and I spent several hours together at Cafe Lucia, Tacloban, the Philippines getting to know each other better. We met three weeks ago when I started volunteer teaching here. Dave has been here a while. In fact, he has Volunteer taught here about 2 months a year for the last 6 years. I have a lot of respect for that.

We chatted about British culture (Dave’s a Brit), American culture (that’s me), and other things, but mainly about retired people Volunteering, or rather not Volunteering. I asked Dave why he thought that was. He told me his friends call him “brave” for his Volunteering. He doesn’t consider himself to be brave. He says he’s just a guy that likes adventure, loves kids, and enjoys being in the dry part of the tropics during bad weather in the UK.

So why aren’t you Volunteering (I’m talking a lot to my PNHS classmates)? Let’s explore some obvious possibilities.

Tugop Elementary School and the lovely kids themselves, with whom Jann did his Teaching Project.

Money. Yes, it costs money, but maybe not as much as you thought. For the 4 organizations I’ve volunteered with there is an application fee, and the first week Volunteering can be a few hundred dollars, but the rate goes down to $100 per week by the third week. Where can you live overseas, with the support system these organizations provide for $100 per week? Plus if you have lots of great friends and relatives like I do, or do a little promotion like Dave does, the cost to you comes way down. So money shouldn’t be an excuse.


Jann and fellow volunteer John, with the teaching force of Tugop Elementary School.

Fear of the unknown. That’s where the support organization comes in. I’ve used 4 organizations in the 4 different countries I’ve been in. They have all been very helpful in providing Predeparture support and Onsite assistance. Always answering email questions and being travel agents to maneuver local and weekend sightseeing options. So fear of the unknown shouldn’t be an excuse.


Health. So none of us are as healthy as we were when we were 20 or 25 like most of the volunteers around me. But I get no more exercise than I want during a day of Volunteering, about what I would try to get at home. I’ve had my share of bumps and bruises along the way, even went to a doctor here in the Philippines for an infection that wasn’t healing with the antibiotic I brought (with a new antibiotic it’s under control now). So health is not likely to be an excuse.

Teacher Jann in action.


Don’t have any skills. You’re wrong. Anyone can teach 4th and 5th grade foreigners English and probably math and science. Or you could volunteer in a women’s shelter, orphanage, at a hospital, teaching nutrition to and providing lunch to kids, tending to elephants, or other conservation projects, or building houses, or … . So not having any skills is not an excuse.

If you require luxury accommodations, or don’t like trying new foods, or are lazy; then it’s probably not for you. If you like adventure, learning about new cultures (including the dozens of cultures of volunteers I’ve been with), being around young people (did I mention most of the volunteers are 20-25), feeling like you’re doing something worthwhile, and maybe most importantly being surrounded by love from your housemates, Volunteer placement people, and the locals; then message me and we can communicate more.

Doting Granddad Jann

(About the Writer: Jann Nielsen is a happily-retired expert in the fields of Neurosciences, Psychology, and Pharmacology who was instrumental in the research and development of leading ethical drugs in big pharmaceutical companies in the USA, Europe, Japan, and China. He is one of VFV’s hardworking volunteers who wholeheartedly lent us a hand in our Teaching Project in Tugop Elementary School, one of the far-flung rural elementary schools that VFV is supporting. You may catch him or shoot him a message at  https://www.facebook.com/jann.nielsen or jann_nielsen@hotmail.com )

Thank you so much Jann. See you again next time!

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