Tales of a Silver-Haired Volunteer
by Carole Howard

Gatekeeper Press, 2016. ISBN 978-1-619-84456-8.
Reviewed by Pat Bean
Posted on 03/29/2017

Nonfiction: Travel/Adventure

Carole Howard wanted to add a bit of adventure to her life after retirement. And so she and her husband of 33 years, and business partner for 20 years, decided to become international volunteers. You can read all about the outcome of that decision in her book, Tales of a Silver-Haired Volunteer: Going Far and Giving Back.

Most of the adventures Howard encountered were pretty tame. It was the exposure to people and worlds—as different as an American toilet and an African squat hole—that enriched her life, and her writing. That specific difference, by the way, was about the only thing that Howard found difficult to accept during her time spent in five countries.

The author tells the story of her adventures in a funny, self-deprecating kind of way, but the beauty of the book is that we see unfamiliar worlds and its inhabitants through her eyes. It is both a memoir and a travel book, and one that is told by a gracious lady who comes to respect all she meets. This includes sex workers in Ghana, teenage boys in Senegal who wanted to know all about the three American Michaels (Jordan, Jackson and Tyson), a gorilla vet in Uganda, orphaned children in Namibia, and a transgender woman in Thailand.

Tales of a Silver-Haired Volunteer is an inspiration for all, despite their age, who wants to use their talents, whatever they are, to give back to the world. Howard did it by using her skills as a former teacher and management consultant, and by volunteering with American Jewish World Service. Her book includes a list of other organizations that need volunteers.

"Perhaps the most important change that volunteering made in me, was in letting me know that taking one step, to help solve one problem for one person, proved to be a pretty good antidote to feeling impotent in the face of the world's enormous problems," she wrote, when reflecting on her experiences.

Reading about Howard's "adventures" inspired me to want to take that step, and reading her book lifted my spirits. Perhaps it will lift yours, too.

Carole Howard has previously written two fiction books, About Face and Deadly Adagio. She is a former teacher and corporate training consultant. Currently she and her husband live in New York State's Hudson Valley, where she writes and is a globe-trotting grandmother. You can learn more about her on her blog.

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