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All the News That's Fit to Print. But Where's the News That's Not?

Let's look past the Y2K stuff, the year 2000, the new year, New Year's Eve and all that for a moment. Let's look at the year 2001. This first Odyssey Trek will have finished, you'll be two years older and two years' worth of experiences wiser; you'll be two grades higher and maybe graduated, or even in college by then. And I'm *hoping* that in the year 2001, you'll take some time to be a volunteer in your community. The year 2001, after all, is the International Year of Volunteers, as declared by the United Nations General Assembly.

But did you know that already?

Volunteering can take many different forms. It can be a letter-writing campaign, a beach cleanup, involvement in a council or office, or work with a nonprofit organization. Nonprofits also can take many forms. The Odyssey is a nonprofit organization, for example, as well as a non-governmental organization (which means we don't receive government assistance in the form of aid or funding). NGOs can also offer many ways for you to volunteer, from one hour a week to 40 hours a week, for just a few days to a whole year-or even two!

Do you know of NGOs in your community? Do you see a need for people to work together to solve a problem?

We've highlighted many different groups for you throughout our travels. Across the Internet, as well as on our site, you can find NGOs that focus on "Youth and Society" like Casa Alianza in Mexico and CHIYSAP in Zimbabwe, and nonprofit groups that work for "Indigenous People" like CONAVIGUA (in English) and (in Spanish) and Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (in English) and (in Spanish) in Guatemala. We've also highlighted a few large nonprofits like UNICEF and their efforts in Mali, one of the five poorest countries in the world.

What does it mean to live in a poor country? What does it mean to live in a poor neighborhood, or a poor city?

You hear about groups like these because you log on to our Web site (and good for you, keep at it!). But why don't you often hear about groups like these during your normal day, say, on television or on the radio? Did you hear about the "Hague Appeal for Peace", held May 11-15, 1999, in The Netherlands? Almost 8,000 people working with 2,000 NGOs around the world were there, 100 years after the first International Peace Conference was held in the same spot. This past October, the city of Seoul in South Korea hosted yet another large conference (5,000 attendees) called "The Role of NGOs in the 21st Century: Inspire, Empower, Act!".

How come you didn't hear about that?

One reason why "the news" doesn't include things like a "peace conference" or an "NGO conference" - even if they're huge-may be that the sources of our media are often controlled by transnational companies which do NOT want you to know about other people's efforts toward peace, building community or volunteerism.

Is it possible that the media thrives on scenes of soldiers, guns, tanks, military warfare and violence? Is it possible that there might not be an interest in disarmament, because then sales of military supplies would drop off, that part of the economic sector would slump and the media would then have to report on other, maybe more positive things, rather than wars and ethnic conflicts?

Think about it. Try and get your media from lots of different sources: the radio, the Internet, local, national and international newspapers, books and other people. You'd be surprised what you find out! But have hope... the year 2001 is quickly approaching, and more volunteer opportunities are opening up every minute.


p.s. - Please e-mail me at


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