Category: Volunteer travel
The Festive Traveller – Q&A on Volunteer Travel

Kimberly Haley-Coleman, founder and Executive Director of Globe Aware, recently sat down with Jessica Wynne Lockhart, contributing editor at Travel with Purpose’s Verge Magazine to discuss how to make the most of  Volunteer Travel and a volunteer vacation. The Q & A is below.

How to be an effective global citizen during the holiday season.

santa-volunteer-vacationsAs the holidays approach and the fiscal year draws to an end, it’s a natural time to think about how we can support our global community. But with thousands of charities to choose from, how do you select a reputable organization to donate your time or money to?

It’s not an easy question, which is why we called in the experts: Nick Beardsley is the Project Advisor for Gapforce, a provider of structured gap years and summer abroad programs; Justine Abigail Yu is the Communications and Marketing Director for Operation Groundswell, a non-profit that facilitates service-learning experiences; and Kimberly Haley-Coleman is Founder and Executive Director of Globe Aware, a charitable organization that mobilizes small groups of volunteers to promote cultural awareness around the world.

Nick, Justine and Kimberly shared with us how they believe we can be effective global citizens this holiday season:

Why do think it’s important to reflect on global citizenship during the holiday season?

Nick Beardsley, Project Advisor for Gapforce: It should be important at all times to both pursue and reflect on global citizenship in one way or another. What the holiday season does is offer us the opportunity to think about others at a time that is infamous for being selfless. It is a time to remember those less fortunate than ourselves. It is the perfect time to transcend geographic, political, and cultural boundaries and recognize oneself as a citizen of the global community.

Each year, the popularity of “charitable giving” instead of “gift giving” increases. What are your recommendations for choosing a charitable organization to support?

Nick: You should choose an organization that means something to you. It may be that you have a personal connection to the cause or it may be that the organization has simply touched you in some way. Choose with your heart.

Kimberly Haley-Coleman, Founder and Executive Director of Globe Aware: Start with what you know. If you belong to a trusted community centre, school, animal shelter or faith-based organization, this is a wonderful place to start.

If you are just now setting out to find an organization, know that this takes time. Ask friends and family whom they support and why. Make a list of what world issues most concern you and which entities seem to do a good job of addressing those issues. Look at the publically listed financials to get a better understanding of how the organizations spend their revenues. Don’t hesitate to call the organizations to find out more about them. If you aren’t ready to make a financial contribution, see if you can volunteer with the organization to get a better feel for how they operate.

Justine Abigail Yu, Communications and Marketing Director for Operation Groundswell: Really do your research here and look at the actual impacts of the organization. First of all, does this organization’s values align with your own? Are they addressing the problem they set out to solve? Do they show evidence that demonstrates that their approach is effective? How do they measure their progress? Does the charity receive feedback from the people it intends to serve and are they using that feedback to improve their programs?

I know that it’s fashionable to assess an organization by looking at how much of donors’ dollars are being put towards overhead as an indicator of efficiency and legitimacy. The thinking here is that the lower the percentage that’s going to things like administrative costs, the more effective an organization is. But that’s not necessarily the case. I would challenge people to look deeper than that and ask harder questions. Although keeping a low overhead may be important, the bottom line is that we all want to support organizations are actually solving the social problems that will change our world.

For those who are going away for the holidays, how can they turn their vacation into travel “with purpose”?

Nick: My suggestion is to learn about local traditions and join in. It could become a new tradition that you practice even when you return home.

Kimberly: Picking an eco-conscious hotel, bringing needed donations to a community that has requested them, steering clear of handing out candy and money (which only builds dependency), reaching out to connect with locals in a non-consumer fashion (attend a local faith service or eat a meal with a family) and, of course, volunteering.

Justine: Wherever you’re going this holiday season, take the time to find opportunities that get you off the beaten path to really connect with the local culture and people. Try local delicacies that you’ve never heard of and learn the local language—that genuine attempt at connection builds cultural competency and empathy. And if you want to get your hands a little dirtier, look for opportunities that combine responsible volunteering with cross-cultural dialogue and critical learning.

What are your favourite gift ideas for travellers and global citizens?

Kimberly: Take the time to experience a new culture with a friend or family member while volunteering abroad—this is a bucket list item I hope everyone gets the chance to experience in his or her lifetime. Or, for an easy and incredibly practical gift, I love the luggage scales you can get for less than $10. Highly compressible extra bags, gift cards for phone apps (with suggested list of latest travel apps), and travel guidebooks are awfully nice too.

Justine: Find something handmade and artisanal from a place that means something special to you or to the person you’re giving the gift to. There are a lot of really great cooperatives and organizations that sell their goods through direct trade and this is a really great way to support the local economy of another country.

For example, we all love coffee here at Operation Groundswell. One of our partners, De la Gente, is this awesome agricultural cooperative in Guatemala that creates direct connections with buyers and consumers to improve the livelihoods of the small-holder coffee farmers they work with. All profits generated from the sales of coffee go directly to these farmers. It takes a little bit more research and thought to find these gifts, but it’s so worth it.

Seven reasons why you should travel with your kids

Travel abroad with young children? Are you NUTS? All the crying, nagging, and the money!! They won’t even remember it.


Why on EARTH would I do that to myself? What will they eat over there? Fried monkey eyeballs? No thanks! I get these responses all the time. I have been traveling with my children since they were infants all over the world. — all over Southeast Asia, Latin America, Europe, Russia, China, Africa.

Here are my two cents. First: young children are often more portable than older children. They still think you know something and they actually want to be with you. Second, until age 2, they can ride in your lap for usually 10% of the cost of a normal ticket. Third: with all the ipads/iphones electronic gadgets, keeping them happy with videos, games and more is much easier today on a plane than it was even 10 years ago. Fourth: You’re right, they may not remember all of it, but YOU will. Are •your* memories worth anything? Life is short, you never know what could happen. Take the chance while you can. Additionally you’d be surprised what they *do* absorb. Young globetrotters don’t take for granted what Perreault Magazine – 80 – language, music, dress or food is the norm.

perraultThey pick up on languages much faster than you do. Their palate is developing: at this stage and their capacity for learning, of course, is fertile.

Fifth: Interestingly they have fresh fruit, veggies, rice, and chicken, freshly prepared and usually not processed all over the world. Sixth: Traveling with a child is the greatest ice breaker there ever was. With the exception of a few Western Countries, most countries view children as a loveable, non-political human with whom to interact rather than as an irritant. Many more people will stop to talk with you simply because you have a child with you. Not too different in some ways than walking a puppy in the park.

Safety: I know some are worried that to travel with a young human is to dangle bait in front of human traffickers. But it’s all about common sense and where you go.

This topic deserves a whole chapter, but the sum of it is, staying safe abroad is usually not much more complicated than staying at home, it just takes knowing the danger zones. Seventh: because you will love it. Seeing your kids react to roaring lions on safari, or learning the joys of giving while building an adobe stove in Peru, or seeing food delivered by mini trains at Japanese restaurants in Tokyo is quadruple the fun. Bon Voyage! JOURNEYS 4 GOOD: CAMBODIA Journeys for Good is an original television series about transformative travel which inspires and uplifts. Each episode profiles a group of voluntourists, who travel the world to make a difference and reach across cultures to connect in a meaningful way. They go far beyond the tourist track to experience the heart and soul of a place, as was the case in 2012 when Journeys for Good traveled to Cambodia.

Voluntourism combines the adventure of travel with the purity of true charitable work.

Emmy award winning husband and wife production team Joanie and Steve Wynn have traveled the world together, producing stories that touch the heart.

Their mission is simple- they believe that engaging in a service project working alongside locals creates a unique opportunity for understanding and exchange, that volunteer traveler helps young people develop self-confidence, empathy and leadership skills, and that by sharing in sweat equity a deeper connection is forged between the volunteers and the communities visited.

Inspired by an earlier visit to Tanzania, the Wynn’s decided to develop Journeys for Good as a vehicle to spread the message of the importance of volunteer travel and to focus awareness on important underlying humanitarian issues and challenges facing communities globally.

In 2012, the Wynns embarked on another volunteer trip with their son Ryan. This Journey took them to Cambodia with the non-profit volunteer operator Globe Aware ( On this journey, the Wynns and a group of dedicated volunteers built wheelchairs for landmine victims, taught English to local school kids and worked on several short-term construction projects.

The result “Journeys for Good: “CAMBODIA” is the pilot for a series that the Wynns are currently developing for public television. After its original airing in 2013, the film garnered two regional Emmy awards, including best cultural/ historical program. Journeys for Good celebrates the everyday heroes who connect to the world in a meaningful way through voluntourism.

View half hour program on Vimeo HERE


Volunteer Travel: Alumna Returns Service to Community

Hockaday travel program connects with alumna Kimberly Haley-Coleman’s organization Globe Aware

By Megan Philips
Features Editor

Downoad Article

kimberly-hockaday When alumna Kimberly Haley-Coleman ‘88 was a Hockaday student, she was involved in many local community service projects from candy stripping at hospitals to working in women’s shelters. Today, she is giving Hockaday the opportunity she never had: to do community service abroad.

Haley-Coleman found interest in other cultures and languages from a young age, and her five years at Hockaday “helped wet [her] appetite for learning about and understanding other cultures,” Haley-Coleman said.

After graduating, Haley-Coleman continued her education in international cultures and held many jobs that required her international relations skills. She received her masters in French and Art History and got her MBA in international business.

“It was all related to other cultures from the earliest I can remember, and Hockaday was certainly an integral piece of that,” Haley-Coleman said.

From this foundation, Haley-Coleman founded Globe Aware in 2000.

This past summer, 13 Hockaday Upper School students traveled to Peru, in connection with Globe Aware, to expand their learning about other cultures through hands-on service while visiting two communities, San Pedro and Cuzco.

Junior Allie Charlton, one of the students who traveled with the program, found the organization’s guidance crucial to her trip experience.

“[Globe Aware] had a lot of connections within the cities because people had gone there before us, people were waiting for us to help. If we had just gone to Peru and said

‘Oh, we are going to go help this place” no one there would have known us. It was nice because they already had an established organization there that we could help without intruding,” Charlton said.

According to Haley-Coleman, around 15 to 25 percent of those who participate in Globe Aware programs outside of their school community are teenagers.

“I think it’s critical that in order to be a really involved, successful person, I feel it almost requires that one be a globally aware citizen. It helps find resolutions, on a global scale, to conflicts that are important, whether it’s political peace or bringing groups and different nationalities together to find a solution to problems that we all face,” Haley-Coleman said, “But it’s also a huge source of joy for someone for their whole life, to have those wonderful moments of cultural understanding.”

Community Service Director Laura Day felt that students learned similar valuable lessons from their experiences with Peruvian culture.

“I think the girls learned what you really need to be happy. I think we learned about material possessions and what people, in general, need to be happy, because we saw people who didn’t have anything who were having happy and wonderful lives,” Day said.

The Peru trip, still in connection with Globe Aware, is offered again in Hockaday’s travel program for next year. For Haley-Coleman, this recurring trip connects the school community in which she formed the foundations of her passion for international cultures, and the organization she founded to facilitate this passion for others.

“It’s such a wonderful, full circle feeling of kind of a bit alpha-omega to get a chance to come back to a place that was so instrumental in shaping my life,” Haley-Coleman said. “It’s such a wonderful feeling. I’m so grateful.”

Other projects Globe Aware is organizing include assembling wheelchairs in Cambodia, building adobe stoves in rural Peru, installing concrete floors in single-mother households in Guatemala and working with elephants in Thailand.

Students who are interested in getting involved with Globe Aware besides through a travel program can apply for internships. Globe Aware will find ways to help based on the applicant’s interests and strengths.

“We are really open to creating various internships and volunteer opportunities that can be done either at home or in our offices as well. We try and structure it based on something that the student is already interested in,” Haley-Coleman said.

Contact Haley-Coleman at to learn more about the internship opportunities. F

Megan Philips

Features Editor

Volunteer Travel Helps Students Become Globally Aware

By Karley Kiker

September 2014

By the time she was blowing out the candles on her 30th birthday cake, Hockaday alumna Kimberly Haley-Coleman had already earned an MBA in international business, worked as the VP of business development for a Houston-based aerospace company, and done more international traveling, connecting, communicating, and strategizing than most ambassadors.

And yet, would you believe it? Her mission to take on the world was just getting started.

“I grew up traveling with my grandmother and family,” Haley-Coleman recalled

Years later, after accepting career opportunities that required globe-trotting, “I would find myself abroad over the weekends, and I’d done so much tourism growing up that it lost its intrigue.” A long-time lover of volunteerism with a background in nonprofits, Haley-Coleman attempted to start volunteering in countries where she was already traveling for business purposes – emphasis on attempted. Due to her short-term availability, “Nobody wanted me.” But she wanted them – the people living beyond the tourist checkpoints, that is. And so she founded Globe Aware, a nonprofit that’s been sending volunteers to countries all around the world for short-term service projects since 2000.

kimberly-hockadayNo matter the project emphasis, the purpose of each Globe Aware trip is twofold: to offer aid without changing culture, and to teach sustainable skills.

“If you’re able to give two-and-a-half years, you will learn much more about that culture,” said Haley-Coleman, who has traveled to 75 countries. “It’s not that [Globe Aware] is the only way or the best way- it’s a way that’s accessible to people who otherwise aren’t able to do this .” Take high school students, for example – in particular, the kind who really want to help, but only have a few weeks of summer to spare.

“This was really the first time I’d done anything like this,” incoming Hockaday freshman Amelia Brown said of her recent Globe Aware trip to Peru, from which she returned in early June. “We have so much and we live with so many luxuries [in America] – they live with so little but they’re all still really happy. Everyone basically relies on each other.” Sophomore Ashna Kumar came away from the service trip with similar impressions.

While she has volunteered locally by tutoring and visiting hospitals, projects such as installing pipelines in Peru and renovating a boarding house proved to be completely eye-opening experiences for the Hockadaisy.

“I really appreciated all the stuff that we have at Hockaday and in Dallas, and all the accommodations we have here,” Ashna said. “I never realized that there are people actually living in huts. I obviously knew that, but we just have it so great here.” There’s a difference between knowing facts and statistics about third world countries, and experiencing the poverty and the need firsthand. The latter incites a revelation that Haley-Coleman, who graduated from Hockaday in 1988, can still relate to.

“Going to a school like Hockaday – even living in Dallas – it’s hard to understand the level of privilege that we experience,” Haley-Coleman said. “People go into [Globe Aware trips] thinking they might save someone or help someone.

Really, we’re working side-by-side with individuals in the community.” Not to mention, with each other. Despite the fact that Ashna didn’t initially know any of the other Hockaday students who served alongside her in Peru, “We all became really close over the two weeks we were there. We bonded in a different way than we would have at school.”

Do you want to take a holiday that benefits the world?

AW Media Inc. of Austin, Texas publishes austinwoman Magazine, Austin Man Magazine, Pink Pages, Guide to Good Health and produces an annual AW Aniversary Event as well as numerous other events throughout the year. In the April 2014 edition of austinwoman Magazine, the focus was on volunteer travel and vacations and on Dallas’ own Globe Aware.

Holidays That Help

Want to take a holiday that benefits the world? Here’s how to do it right.

By Carla Avolio

Austin-Woman-2014_Page_1It was during a trip to Croatia’s gorgeous, glittering coast that Misha Donohoe realized she wasn’t enjoying her holiday.
“I just had this uneasy feeling that I wasn’t contributing,” says the science communicator and travel lover. “The culture there is so rich and yet, by doing the typical touristy thing, I was just an outsider. I really wanted a holiday where I could give to a society rather than take away from it.” For Donohoe, the solution was to combine travel with volunteering. She signed up with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and went to work on a goat farm in the Yukon, on Canada’s Western frontier.
“I forged deep connections with the land and people, which made my stay so much richer than your average holiday,” she says.
Donohoe is one of millions of travelers who are seeking more from their vacations than the usual sightseeing and relaxation. This growing breed of conscious traveler wants to know that spending their tourist dollars somewhere might also mean that wildlife is better protected, more homes are built in disaster-ravaged communities or fewer trees are cut down.
It’s a concept that has been gaining momentum since the early 1980s when the term “eco-tourism” was first coined. Defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people,” eco-tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments of the global travel industry, increasing 20 to 30 percent every year, according to TIES.
While eco-tourism generally focuses on natural areas, another increasingly popular form of tourism seeks to help people in need. Volunteer vacations, also known as “voluntourism,” see philanthropic travelers combining short-term travel with contributing labor or skills. Unlike simply donating money, volunteering shows you exactly how your efforts are helping to build wheelchairs for landmine victims or more village schools. And it’s no longer just for skilled professionals like doctors and engineers. The volunteering industry now offers a wealth of opportunities for all kinds of passionate and adventurous people. With the huge growth in this sector, there are literally thousands of eco-lodges and charities offering holiday experiences for conscious travelers. So how do you know where to go? To find out, we asked the experts to list their top tips on doing conscious traveling the right way.


Austin-Woman-2014_Page_2Andy Drumm, a sustainable tourism and eco-tourism expert who has been working with indigenous communities for more than two decades, says while many tour companies offer trips to natural areas, sadly, most are contributing to the pressures rather than helping.
“Surprisingly, it’s usually the cheaper tours that actually pass on benefits to the community and environment, rather than just to the tourists,” he says.

  • Drumm suggests asking the following questions to identify responsible operators: R How do they contribute to conservation? For example, do they give money back to conservation projects and national parks in the areas they visit? Legitimate operators should provide clear evidence of this on their websites.
  • Do they engage local communities? Responsible operators will provide social benefits to the indigenous community either by hiring local guides, contributing financially or providing skills training. They also should have safeguards in place to protect the cultural integrity of the community.
  • Where are you staying? Accommodation must have sound waste-management strategies and employ sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind or hydro.


The Cultural Experience: Huaorani Ecolodge, Ecuador

This multi-award-winning operation, conceptualized and developed by Drumm, is the gold standard in eco-tourism. Tucked in to a remote corner of the Amazon jungle, the lodge is owned and operated by the Huaorani, an indigenous tribe that has been in contact with the outside world for less than 60 years. This truly environmentally and socially sustainable operation provides visitors with a rare glimpse in to the culture of one of the most isolated tribes on earth.

  • Do: Huao-guided rainforest hikes, kayaking and experiencing the Huaorani way of life.
  • Sleep: one of five palm-thatched cabins built by the Huaorani from wood handpicked by a forest engineer.
  • Operated by: Tropic Journeys in Nature, an award-winning eco-tourism company specializing in Ecuador.

Austin-Woman-2014_Page_4With 10 days of elephant spotting, bush walking and sipping gin and tonics at sunset, this trip has all the trappings of a luxe safari. But don’t be fooled; conservation is the main goal of this eco-tourism experience. Ingwe Leopard Research teamed up with a tour company to create an unbeatable trip that raises awareness and funds for threatened leopards

  • Do: game drives, bush walks, behind-thescenes tour at a wildlife rehabilitation center, setting camera traps to help track leopard movements
  • Sleep: stylish, tented camps with plunge pool overlooking a mountain gorge
  • Operated by: Tribes, a U.K.-based tour operator offering tailor-made eco-holidays.


Kimberly Haley-Coleman, executive director of volunteering site Globe Aware, says there are countless benefits to voluntourism, from gaining deeper cultural understanding, to increased personal happiness.

“It’s such a unique, fulfilling sense of empowerment that there’s simply nothing else like it!” she says.

To gain the experience of a lifetime, Haley-Coleman suggests considering the following:

  • What’s your story? Good organizations will assess your interests, language skills and how much travel you’ve done before suggesting a destination. For example, an English speaker who’s never left the U.S. might be better matched to Puerto Rico than Cambodia. Deciding on a culture is probably more important than the type of volunteer service, be it building homes in Nepal or stoves in Peru
  • Show me the money. Volunteering organizations charge a huge fee, so you should find out how much of this is actually going to the community versus administration costs of placing volunteers. All nonprofits are required to publish their financials, which you can read on the website Guide Star.
  • They know best. Make sure the volunteer project has been determined by the community rather than a foreign charity. It’s far more likely that your work will have real benefits that way
  • Safety first. Your selected organization should come with medical insurance, liability insurance and a crisis plan in the event of a disaster.

The Visionaries:

Zábalo Cofán Community, Ecuador

Eco-tourism is just one of many innovative programs coming from the Cofán indigenous community in Northeastern Ecuador. In addition to tours, the Cofán run programs for training local rangers to protect 1 million acres of land, turtle repopulation, carbon management and making sustainable eco-canoes using traditional methods.

  • Do: trekking, canoeing, fishing, rainforest camping.
  • Sleep: swinging hammocks strung up in thatched roof huts.
  • Operated by: Cofan Survival Fund.


The book: Recently updated in 2012, Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others by Bill McMillon is packed with 150 in-depth profiles of select organizations.
The website: Catering to families and the time-poor, Globe Aware offers weeklong programs in 15 countries.
The international option: In Habitat for Humanity’s international program, Global Village, volunteers build and renovate homes to create sustainable communities throughout the world.
The domestic option: The American Hiking Society offers 60 volunteer vacations each year, contributing to the beautification of trails in America’s most iconic natural landscapes.
On the cheap: While volunteering usually comes with a hefty fee, Peace Corps ( pays you a stipend for 27 months service and WWOOF ( provides board and lodging in exchange for a day’s work on the farm.