Volunteer service, RV style | MIT Technology Review

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For Fields, it is the ultimate expression of the passion for volunteer service that has shaped his life. He discovered his zeal for volunteering at age 15, working for his local Red Cross chapter and the volunteer fire department and rescue team.

Although he initially planned to pursue medical research, his volunteer work inspired a change of direction. “I discovered I had an ability to work with people,” he says. “I spent a couple of summers working with the Mexican National Red Cross National Society, helping them develop programs for young people.” This led him to stop and rethink his plans.

After graduating, followed by military service in Vietnam, Fields married, earned a master’s degree in international management from UC Berkeley, and spent much of his career helping start and run manufacturing facilities throughout the world. Upon his return to the US, he began working as a management consultant and part-time teacher.

Fields and his wife, Alma, began volunteering for Care-A-Vanners shortly after buying a small motorhome in 2014 and have since been building two to four months a year. They have participated in 25 constructions, with projects in California, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Florida, each lasting one or two weeks.

The job offers multiple rewards. “One of the fun things about being a volunteer builder is that you’re a broad-spectrum worker,” he says. “You don’t just do carpentry work or just put earth. I put cabinets, I put counters, I put tiles in the bathroom, I put trusses. I’ve put up roofs, made fences, put up grass, swept the floors, just about anything you can think of.

But the best thing, he says, is to be able to go back to a house they’ve helped build and see kids playing in the yard. “Many of the families come from housing situations where children don’t dare go outside,” he says. “And suddenly, here they are, they have their tricycles, they shout up and down the street, they play with their dogs. That’s the most rewarding thing for me. ”

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