A One-Man International Aid Organization
At 38, Brooks is what you might call a professional helper. Simply put, he spends most of his time doing the two things about which he is most enthusiastic: traveling and volunteering. Getting to this point involved swapping a career as a real estate broker in New York for a bare-bones, itinerant existence, which he says is far more fulfilling than making money ever was. "I felt lost for a long time," he says. "I had a bit of wanderlust and somehow never felt like I was home." But four years ago, inspired by an exuberant and needy group of kids he'd met outside a temple while vacationing in Cambodia, he left his job and launched a grassroots organization called Global Colors, a deliberately small outfit with a deliberately simple purpose: connecting people who could use some help with others interested in helping. Most of the actual work gets done by Brooks himself, fueled by small donations made via his Web site ( GlobalColors.org ), but he happily encourages fellow travelers either to meet up with him on the road, or to take a few days out of their vacation time to engage in his particular form of international volunteerism, which he calls Guerrilla Aid. "Those guys who go out and drop 10,000 pounds of grain out of the back of a military plane over Sudan? That's fine, but it's not what I can do," he says. "So why not do what I can do?"