Volunteer Service, RV Style | MIT Technology Review

For Fields, it’s the latest expression of a passion for the volunteer service that has shaped his life. He discovered his passion for volunteering at the age of 15, working with his local Red Cross and volunteer fire and rescue squad.

Although he originally planned to pursue medical research, his volunteer work inspired a change of direction. “I discovered I had a knack for working with people,” he says. “I spent several summers working with the Mexican National Red Cross Society, helping them develop youth programs.” This made him stop and reconsider his plans.

After graduation, followed by military service in Vietnam, Fields married, earned a master’s degree in international management from UC Berkeley, and spent much of his career helping to start and run manufacturing plants around the world. Upon his return to the US, he began working as a management consultant and part-time teacher.

Fields and his wife, Alma, began volunteering for Care-A-Vanners shortly after they bought a tiny motor home in 2014 and have been building two to four months a year ever since. They were involved in 25 builds, with projects in California, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Florida – each lasting a week or two.

The work offers multiple rewards. “One of the fun things about volunteer construction is that you’re a broad spectrum worker,” he says. “You’re not just doing carpentry work or just laying the floor. I installed cabinets, installed countertops, installed bathroom tiles, installed grates. I put up roofs, built fences, laid sod, swept floors – just about anything you can think of.”

But the best part, he says, is being able to go back to the home they helped build and see the children playing in the yard. “So many families come from housing situations where children don’t dare to go outside,” he says. “And all of a sudden, there they are – they’ve got their tricycles, screaming down the street, playing with their dogs. That’s the biggest reward for me.”

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