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Women helps others with her adventures

Katherine Morris
Courtesy PhotoVirginia Knittle standing front of a volcanoe in Costa Rica.
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Virginia Knittle has done more traveling since her retirement than most people do in a lifetime.

In the past few years alone, the Truckee resident’s globetrotting has taken her to Poland, Vietnam, China and most recently, Costa Rica in June.

Her travels haven’t been all sunbathing and sightseeing, though, for Knittle has found the perfect way to see the world and make a difference at the same time through the Global Volunteers program.

Every year this non-profit, nonsectarian organization coordinates nearly 150 teams of volunteers working on development projects in 19 different countries.

“The thing I like most about this program is that it really provides a hands-on learning experience rather than being stuck on one those tour buses with 100 other people,” Knittle said. “I like interacting with the locals in countries I’m visiting because it gives you a much better understanding of the culture, the language and the people. This program really allows you to do that.”

On her most recent excursion to central Costa Rica, Knittle volunteered at a struggling women’s craft cooperative, where she and nine others landscaped, performed construction-type tasks, cooked and even did a little craft work of their own.

“We cooked and ate meals together, so I learned about the food,” she said. “It was really nice, especially working for an place like that, that was working for the betterment of the local women.”

Other times she’s helped teach English in countries like China, which turned out to be one of her most memorable of volunteer experiences.

“I’ve never had any formal training to be a teacher, but it’s been great to try and help others learn our language,” she said. “It was fun just talking about America. Everyone wanted to know about Monica Lewinsky and Michael Jordan. It was funny.”

Trips typically last two to three weeks, and cost volunteers anywhere from $1,395 to $2,595, excluding airfare.

“The great thing is that both the price of the trip and the plane ticket are tax deductible because this is a non-profit organization,” she said.

Knittle stressed that the room and board is high quality, unlike what you’d expect from such a program, and weekends are used as time to see the sites and travel on your own.

During her time in Costa Rica, she was able to visit an active volcano, as well as wander through the lush Cloud Forest where she saw treetops full of iguanas.

“For the younger crowd, there’s also more extreme activity opportunities like river rafting through the rapids, ” she said.

The trips are also a great way to meet others from all over the world, she said.

“I was kind of the grandma of the group this last time, but I met so many nice people,” she said. “It’s really just an excellent way to see the world, make friends and do something good for others.”

For more information on Global Volunteers, call 1-800-487-1074


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