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Robin Currie: Volunteering Around the Globe

Robin Currie spends three weeks out of the year in remote areas around the world volunteering to teach English literacy.

By now Robin Currie should be settling in to her temporary home away from home.

Currie left last Friday on a three-week volunteer trip to Morocco where she will help students learn English language skills.

Since 2008, Currie has taken the three week volunteer vacations, where she gives back and helps others. The Glen Ellyn resident and pastor associate at has previously volunteered in South Africa, India, Russia and China.

“In retirement you don’t quit doing things, you just do what you love,” she said.

Though many people make visits to the countries where Currie has volunteered, her work is often in small rural villages that are anything but cosmopolitan. While many Americans may visit Marrakesh or Fez, she will be living in an area that will be less affluent, she said.

When she was a minister at she said she didn’t have a lot of time for vacations. Once she retired she decided to find a way that would allow her to travel and give back at the same time.

“[The volunteer trips] allow me to share my enthusiasm for learning and for this country and to give back out of gratitude for everything I’ve experienced,” she said. “To say, here I am, and I’m an American and a person who cares about other people and that there are a lot of us out there.”

The trips are like a mission for Currie, because she is living and working in the areas, which are not affluent, but her volunteer work is about literacy and not about religion, she said.

The trips are long enough to allow Currie to learn about the community where she lives, learn some of the language and get around to see some of the local sites.

Until recently, Currie also worked at the , she said. On her trips she was able to take the skills she learned working in childhood literacy and use them to help her students.

The last three trips Currie has made were through Cross Cultural Solutions, which organizes the volunteer trips. She said she’s always had a choice on where she went to volunteer. Morocco was one of the places on her bucket list to visit.

“Morocco is one of those place that kind I’ve wanted to go for sometime,” she said. “It’s really a dream for me.”

She will have a class of about 15 students ranging in age from 15 to 21, all who want to improve their language skills, she said. Currie will share her teaching duties with a man from England.

Typically her week involves her teaching daily two to three hours a day, with additional time scheduled to prepare lessons for students. There is also time to take cultural tours and usually special programs are planned for the volunteers, she said.

Taking the trips has changed Currie’s world view and helped her impart what she has learned with others, including those at her church.

When she visited China, Currie said that since the country was really new to being open to westerners, there were a lot of differences the students didn’t understand, such as the fact that Currie would volunteer to go there and not get paid.

“It had never occurred to the teachers that I worked with to volunteer,” she said, about her time in China. “One of the girls wrote me a note that said: ‘This has shown me a side of life I didn’t know existed.’ That grabbed me the most.”

She is a light packer and takes only what she needs, but after making so many trips, she knows English books are in demand, and tries to pack books she can leave behind.

She plans to continue to take the volunteer trips and said her husband has been very understanding of her need to travel and volunteer.

“I wanted to know people and cultures as they truly lived,” Currie said. “Tourist things are terrific and I’ve done tourist trips, but by living and working in the community I get to know people better. It’s my mission because I have so much. I live in Glen Ellyn for heavens sake and have a parish that was just blessed. … The more you travel the more you realize how much you have.”

Follow along with Currie through her blog about her trip to Morocco.

 

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