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Guest Article: The Global Citizen Project, By Charyn Pfeuffer

December 21, 2009

Today's blog post is courtesy of Charyn Pfeuffer, who is embarking on the Global Citizen Project, which will take her on 12 volunteer projects in 12 different locations over 12 months. You can read more about it here and donate here. Thanks, Charyn!


 More than a decade ago, I stumbled into a writing career while running the Personals and Promotions department at The Philadelphia Weekly. I came from a fine arts background and the thought of a career in writing never crossed my mind until I realized it could serve as some pseudo-form of higher education where I could get paid to learn about topics that interested me (versus filling random college credit requirements).Global Citizen Project - Charyn Pfeuffer - Volunteer Global

Surprisingly, this January marks my 12th year working full-time as a freelance journalist. During this time, I’ve authored, co-authored or ghostwritten a dozen books and contributed to more than 80 publications, including TravelChannel.com, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Sunset, San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Times.

I’m extremely grateful for the professional success I’ve achieved, but more than 150 annual flights and the disheartening state of print media over the past year-and-a-half has been a bit intense, even for me, Little Miss Positive Mental Attitude. It’s a tough pill to swallow when editors say,“We love all the work you’ve done for us, but we can only pay you 10% of what you’ve been earning.” Oh really?

There has to be a fair balance between the passion and the paycheck when you’re trying to make a living, and when you take away the paycheck, despite the best-intended efforts, it’s hard to motivate the passion.

I love working as a food and travel writer, but I feel much of the publishing world is in flux as it figures out how to adapt in an ever-changing online world. If I’m going to give away my time and passion at a deeply discounted price, I’ve decided, it’s going to go to someone who genuinely needs (and deserves) it, instead of some cash-strapped newspaper, magazine or website who’s operating from a place of panic.

Coincidentally, 2010 also marks the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death to lung cancer. Two weeks before her passing, she disclosed a very short list of end-of-life regrets, including: “I never went to Europe.” Her words, now my raison d’être, have inspired me to live life fully, spontaneously and with purpose. Obviously, my mother is a huge force behind my insatiable wanderlust.

Since nice round dates, numbers and new years always seem like a good time for introspection, I’ve spent time brainstorming solutions to detour my road to writer burnout. I came up with The Global Citizen Project. The project combines the elements I love about travel and writing, but focuses on volunteerism, an element missing from my life due to an unpredictable travel schedule.Global Citizen Project - Charyn Pfeuffer - Volunteer Global

I launched The Global Citizen Project on Kickstarter.com, an online funding platform for creative endeavors, and raised $625 towards my estimated budget of $20,000 within hours. Currently, $2,030 has been pledged and I have until February 22, 2010 to reach my goal. If The Global Citizen Project is not fully funded, I will not receive any pledges and the project will not happen. It’s a “winner-take-all” scenario and I’m fully committed to making it happen.

Several years ago, I volunteered eight hours a week (Wednesdays, to be exact) at the Women’s Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, CA answering the Information & Referral Hotline and helping to organize its annual fundraiser, the Swim-a-Mile. I desperately miss contributing my time to a bigger picture, so it’s my plan to swap my BlackBerry for a backpack and take a one-year sabbatical to volunteer around the world. I know it’s impossible to save the world with bite sized stints of service, but I hope to promote responsible travel and volunteer tourism by volunteering with 12 community projects in 12 countries over 12 months. I admit, it’s an ambitious plan, but I am more than ready for the challenge.

So far, I have committed to volunteering in the Caribbean, Chile, Ecuador, Europe, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, USA, Canada, plus three destinations to be determined. Ultimately, the volunteer projects and programs will dictate the destinations and I’m open to suggestions. As of now, I’m most interested in serving in the following areas:

  • Animal Rescue/Humane Shelter-related projects
  • (Re)building
  • Children/teen projects
  • Conservation
  • Eco-tourism/Hospitality
  • Writing/Social Media/Marketing
  • Heath Education/Outreach
  • Outdoors/nature (i.e.; parks, forest, etc.)
  • Hunger-related projects
  • Reef/Ocean-related projects
  • Sustainable Agriculture/Farming
  • Women-related projects (especially if involves women with cancer)

I’m awed and humbled by the response The Global Citizen Project has received so far, from both friends and strangers. People have pledged generously, taken the time to send thoughtful suggestions and feedback and the media has been kind with its interest. If you are interested in learning more about The Global Citizen Project, please check out my blog: http://globalcitizenproject.blogspot.com or visit the Kickstarter page at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/432348339/the-global-citizen-project. Even if a donation is not feasible in your future, if you like what I’m doing, I’d be grateful if you passed the word along via your social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). I’m not asking for a single thing this year for Christmas, but to make The Global Citizen Project a reality.

Photo credits: Mazzali, schlaeger