Volunteer in Appalachia – West Virginia Coal Country

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About

Volunteer for one week with the resilient people of Fayette County in West Virginia. Contribute your time and skills and work one-on-one with children, teens, and adults. Experience a world largely misunderstood by casual visitors.

Possible volunteer work projects include:
• Building repair and rehabilitation
• After-school and GED tutoring
• Summer enrichment program
• Housing assistance

Volunteers of any background are encouraged to share their skills. This program is great for families volunteering together. (The minimum age is 8.) Through important, full-day volunteer assignments and free-time activities, you learn about Appalachian culture and the significant ways you improve children’s and families’ lives.

Highlights
  • Learn about Appalachian culture.
  • Work alongside people in West Virginia to support a community in need.
  • All logistics (except for airfare) arranged by our staff, so you can focus on volunteering.
  • Global Volunteers' policy: safety trumps everything. Volunteers are well taken care of by their Team Leader while on a service program.
  • Explore the hills and hollers of Appalachia.

Impact

Much of southern West Virginia is designated a federal "empowerment zone" because of high poverty levels and limited employment opportunities occurring in the past five decades. Because of this modern legacy, the people of West Virginia have been frequently stereotyped as "backwoods" and "hillbilly" in the political and entertainment media. In truth, the opposite is true. West Virginians are a resourceful, industrious people who have worked hard to overcome the exploitation and subsequent abandonment of the large-scale logging and coal mining firms which dominated their economy in the early 20th century. Improved education, health, and nutrition are state goals.

Global Volunteer’s host partner has developed many innovative community revitalization programs to help provide essential services addressing the significant social challenges of the area. This is where our volunteer teams have had a great impact since 1999. You can join this legacy of service enriching the lives of bright and eager youth and young adults while experiencing the resilience of their culture first hand.

No matter your background or skills, you’ll be treated as a valued resource for bright students in this welcoming community!

Questions & Answers

Reviews

10 Rating
based on 2 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 100%
  • 7-8 rating 0%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
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  • Impact 9
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Value 8
  • Safety 10
Showing 1 - 2 of 2
Default avatar
Jason
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

West Virgina

Our second experience with Global Volunteers to us to Beard's Fork, West Virginia, and I'd like to tell you that we changed the world. But that's not what happened and we had no illusions that it would. That doesn't happen in a week. What did happen is that we changed ourselves. We saw West Virginia, lived it for a week, and came out with an appreciation for its history, struggles, joys, and daily rhythms. I'm not saying we didn't do any good. I'm sure we were useful: we helped teach kids and we played with them. We cleaned up the gardens at SALS quite nicely. But we were just part of a river of support that Global brings week after week, year after year.
We made good friends and bonded over the experience. Our leader Celida Dottino did a wonderful job in keeping us busy, well-fed, and well-educated. We hope to return.

What was your funniest moment?
Chasing a chicken around the grounds. It was futile.
Default avatar
Barbara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

SALS Labor School

It was one of my most amazing Global Volunteer experiences and I've had 3 others. I knew nothing about Appalachia, including how to say it. To learn how impoverished the coal mining communities are, how in need of ongoing support and acknowledgement, and how dedicated were all the local volunteers, was mind-expanding to me.

It would be of enormous benefit if the program were to be longer than one week. The summer school for the children, the Read and Feed component, the driving around to distribute food to families, the organic gardening and animal care, all of this is needed for more than a week of Global Volunteering. I wanted a longer program and SALS was only available for a week.
If at all possible, I would do it again next year, and perhaps a close friend of mine would come with me.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Expand the program to at least 4 weeks. Find ways to encourage local families to take advantage of the Read and Feed program. There needed to be more incentive than we were able to provide to make Read and Feed viable.
Make sure that the volunteers read to the classrooms as often as possible. Make sure the volunteers have opportunities to share their skills and interests with the children, with local volunteers, and with each other.
Finally,, as a single gay woman, it was difficult to be with two families who had teenagers as part of the Global Volunteers in the dorm, at meals, and at work. Because they already had comfort with each other, mothers, fathers and adolescents, I felt like an outsider, and I coped as best as I could. I
Response from Global Volunteers

Thank you so much for your wonderful review of your service program in Appalachia! We are so glad that you had such an amazing experience volunteering at SALS. We also thank you for your feedback. We are taking your concerns into consideration here at Global Volunteers. Longer volunteer stays can be pre-arranged with the community partner on a case-by-case basis. Thank you again for your service, Barbara!