By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
Since retiring last year, new Greenhorn Creek residents Ron and Amelia Stovall have traveled the world.
They've enjoyed Parisian cafes, the sidewalks of Italy, temples in China and markets in Tibet and Bali.
But their three-week trip to the Cook Islands in the South Pacific last August made all the others seem a bit shallow.
The Stovalls left their home near the golf course to work as volunteers in Rarotonga, the main Cook Island, as part of the Global Volunteer program.
The couple, who have four grown children and three granddaughters, went to teach island children how to read and to help people wherever needed.
Global Volunteers is a private nonprofit corporation that matches people who want to volunteer for projects in countries and communities worldwide.
Founded in 1984, its programs are one- to three-week-long volunteer stints in Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe or the South Pacific.
Amelia Stovall, 61, saw an ad about Global Volunteers in a magazine and called.
"I believe in spending the gift of time well, so when I heard about Global Volunteers, it seemed my love of travel and my wish to help others were perfectly matched," she said.
Ron, 67, a retired MCI international communications specialist, had been interested in the Cook Islands since he worked on a South Pacific project in the early 1990s.
"At that time, it seemed like a really interesting place," he said. "Kind of like Hawaii before all the commercialization."
The Stovalls filled out lengthy questionnaires, telling Global Volunteers about their desire to serve, their experience and other pertinent information. They collected three letters of reference, read the Global Volunteer training manual and made their airline reservations.
Just like they would on a regular vacation, the Stovalls paid for everything.
"We had volunteered before," said Ron. "We had worked with Christmas in April and the Boy Scouts and done volunteer work through our church, but nothing to this magnitude."
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Weekly Arts and entertainment guide for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties