Volunteer with Plenty International

Plenty International has an unusual history for a development organization. Plenty was founded in 1974 in Tennessee by the several hundred members of an intentional community called the Farm. The Farm was created in 1971 as an experiment in living based on non-violence, compassion for each other, right livelihood and environmental responsibility. In the process of creating a community on 1750 acres of rural meadows and woodlands, Farm members had to learn the practical skills needed to make a small village work, including farming, construction, water systems and primary health care. Realizing the value of these skills, Farm members created a vehicle, Plenty, by which they could share these newly-acquired technologies and resources with others.

Plenty's first projects involved helping the neighbors - cleaning up after tornadoes in the south and midwest and supplying food from farming surpluses to poor local communities. When a major earthquake ravaged Guatemala in 1976, Plenty volunteers got their first experience in the "Third World." What began as earthquake relief evolved into a large-scale project which included training health promoters, installing village water systems and teaching Mayans to grow and make high-protein foods from soybeans. A similar program then developed in Lesotho, southern Africa. This was followed by the launching of the Plenty Ambulance Service in the South Bronx, New York, and many other projects.

Plenty's name came about because of our belief that if we wisely and cooperatively protect, manage, and share the earth's resources, there will be enough for all - plenty.

We believe that with basic understanding and cooperation between people, and understanding the role of human beings as caretakers of the natural world, the seeds of real change can take root. Those roots enable the goal of protecting, managing, and sharing resources - planetary stewardship – possible. Ultimately, while Plenty is our vehicle and it's make and model is "international development assistance", our goal is to strengthen good relationships - between people, and between people and the natural world, and in the process, bring about a more healthy and humane world.

Practically speaking, Plenty International assists a small number of partnering community-based, grassroots groups in the US, Central America, and Africa that are trying to bring about positive change in creative and environmentally responsible ways. To this end, Plenty International helps these groups implement their own good ideas (or develop new ones) by offering whatever help might be appropriate to them - fundraising, small grants, technical assistance and training, material aid, and networking with others. Assistance is offered in practical skills such organic agriculture, soy foods production and utilization, crafts marketing, computers, construction, primary health care and other appropriate technologies; as well as in organizational development and management and related skills in consensus building and non-violent conflict resolution. Plenty staff, board members, and volunteers carry out this work.

Over Plenty's 32 year history, several projects have developed into long term partnerships. We've found that despite development theories which say that our job is to go in, do a job, and get out, it's almost against human nature. We've found that people appreciate and thrive on the knowledge that they're connected to a greater world community, no matter where they live. Why would any of us want to give up those connections? They inspire and give us all hope and a greater sense of purpose.

How many volunteers are placed in a year?
The number of international placements we're able to facilitate is small - on average, 8 - 10 volunteers a year. U.S. based programs utilize a larger number of volunteers.
Where do volunteers serve?
Internationally, Plenty has longstanding relationships with a small number of grassroots and indigenous groups in Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in Central America; Mexico; Dominica in the Caribbean; and Liberia in western Africa. In 2007 most international placements will occur in Belize. At this time Plenty has no volunteer positions available in countries other than those mentioned above. In the U.S, Plenty places skilled construction volunteers in New Orleans for Katrina recovery, skilled construction or agriculture volunteers at Pine Ridge reservation; and as counselors in Tennessee with our Kids To The Country program.
What kind of criteria do volunteers have to meet to work with Plenty?
Volunteering is a two way street – we believe it should benefit our project partners first and foremost and should also expand the volunteer’s experience, understanding and awareness. Volunteers should be highly committed to service, flexible, and willing to cooperate and learn as part of a project team. Volunteers have to be able to pay their own expenses, including transportation to the project site and living expenses while in country. Costs will vary according to where the project is located. Specific skills may be needed depending upon the position – please check the current opportunities listed. Length of time commitment varies according to the position.

How do I apply to volunteer?
Fill out the application form plus the waiver and release form and send them back to us. After reviewing your application, if we have a position for you to consider, we'll contact you. For volunteers considering long term placement (more than three months), we may also arrange a screening meeting between you and Plenty representatives, who will make any final decision about placement. Depending on your location, a screening meeting could take place at Plenty’s headquarter office in Tennessee, the San Francisco Bay area, or in Austin, Texas. The potential volunteer must cover any travel expenses related to a screening meeting.

What will and won't Plenty provide me as a volunteer?
If you are placed on a project, we'll provide you with background information about the group and area where you'll work, as well as travel, housing, and contact information. Plenty or our project partners will provide on-site orientation and in-country support. Please note that Plenty does not provide travel or living expenses, health, life or liability insurance for volunteers. Housing and stipends to help cover living expenses may be available for long term volunteers as funding allows. This will be listed on the opportunity description if applicable.
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