Volunteer Vacation Primer

By: Manya Chylinski

No longer on the fringes of travel, voluntourism has attracted increasing numbers of travelers looking to learn new skills, meet people, and give back to the global community. In a recent Travelocity poll, 38 percent of repondents said they planned to volunteer while on vacation; thats up from just 6 percent in 2006. “People tell me that a vacation with us is the most meaningful experience of their lives,” says David Minich of Habitat for Humanity. Here’s how to plan one.


Go with your interests when deciding to work with people, animals, or the environment. Most programs don’t require you to have any special skills. Despite the short-term naure of these trips, you may complete a significant task, such as building adobe stoves in an Amazon village. “We’re not solving the world’s problems,” says Globe Aware’s Kimberly Haley-Coleman. “But volunteers do make a difference.”

A Global Partnership Pulls Together to Serve Ghanaian Youth

Big changes are coming to the small village of Kpedze Todze in Ghana thanks to an incredible partnership between a dynamic group of volunteers in Canada, a nonprofit, international volunteer organization in the U.S., and a humanitarian aid organization in Ghana.

Jamie Piekarz, of Toronto, is a Globe Aware volunteer and communications executive in Canada. She, along with some co-workers spearheaded a special initiative to build a school in Ghana. They aspired to leave a bigger mark in rural Ghana than their one week volunteer program could provide. The solution? Raise enough money to build an entire school.

Says Piekarz, “We didn’t think too much about the fundraising, other than the fact that we had to do it. Kids need a school. It was that simple and that need alone, gave us all the energy and drive that was necessary for the task at hand. We gave ourselves 6 weeks to (raise the money) fundraise and it just seemed natural that with our energy, time, resources, and ideas, we could raise enough money for a much needed school.”

The idea gained momentum and kept growing bigger and better. Soon, in addition to raising all the funds needed, Piekarz was able to enlist the help of architectural students from a University in Toronto to assist with designs for the building, and eventually build it.

The school, which is being built during the month of May, will serve over 30 kids from Kpedze Todze and surrounding communities. With the commencement and completion the new school building there is expected to be an increase in enrollment due to the fact that the school will be more safe and convenient. Additionally, the new structure is expected to promote effective teaching and learning, increase morale for the students, and provide immediate access to better education through the use of chalkboards, desks, and materials.

On the topic of how efforts of volunteers like Piekarz can impact communities around the world, Richard Yinkah, Globe Aware’s Ghana Coordinator states “We must accept our roles as global citizens and work in union to achieve a brighter tomorrow. Working with Globe Aware, we have been able to help many communities that are in dire need here in the Volta region of Ghana.”

Kimberly Haley-Coleman, Founder and Executive Director of Globe Aware says, “Thanks in part to global citizens like Jamie Piekarz and her co-workers, the Globe Aware family of volunteers, Ryerson University students and leadership like Richard Yinkah and Disaster Volunteers in Ghana, class will soon be in session for the children of Kpedze Todze”.

About Globe Aware (R)

Globe Aware(R) is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit charity that mobilizes short term volunteer programs around the world. These adventures in service focus on promoting cultural awareness and sustainability and are often compared to a mini “peace corps” experience. All volunteers are accompanied by a bilingual volunteer coordinator to assist the volunteer throughout their program. The program fee and the airfare to get there are fully tax deductible to the full extent of the law. Globe Aware is a member of International Volunteer Programs Association, Volunteers for Prosperity, the Building Bridges Coalition, was recommended for United Nations Consultative Status for Social and Economic Council, and administers the President’s Volunteer Service Awards. Additionally, Globe Aware offsets its carbon emissions with Carbonfund.org, the country’s leading carbon offset organization. Our carbon footprint is estimated at less than 70 tons annually, and we have chosen to support carbon-reducing projects in renewable energy to offset the CO2 that is produced in running our offices worldwide, from powering our offices to the transportation used to get to and from our work sites. This commitment places Globe Aware as an environmental leader in the volunteer abroad community and demonstrates proactive steps being taken in the fight against global climate change.


If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Globe Aware’s founder and Executive Director, Kimberly Haley-Coleman, please call Catherine McMillan at 214/824-4562 or e-mail Catherine@globeaware.org.

Commentary: Global Volunteerism

Commentary: Global Volunteerism

Barack Obama’s campaign for President pushed the idea of change – both in terms of what can be done in Washington and what the public can accomplish on its own. Commentator Brandolon Barnett has witnessed the latter first hand. Listen below:

Flash 9 plug-in is required to listen to this audio.


A unique volunteer opportunity

LeeAnn Webster spent a week in Costa Rico in August 2007 working side-by-side with members of a village painting a community center and digging irrigation ditches.

She ate lunch and dinner with the village residents, and learned first-hand about their culture.

In 2008 she volunteered in an orphanage in Peru. Families living in the nearby mountains used the orphanage as a place for their children to live during the week so they could attend school. She also helped build clay stoves for those families.

These trips were possible because of her involvement in Globe Aware, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) develops short-term volunteer programs in international environments that encourage people to immerse themselves in a unique way of giving back.

Every activity is intended to promote cultural awareness and/or promote sustainability, according to globeaware.org. Chosen projects meet several criteria: safe, culturally interesting, genuinely beneficial to a needy community, and involve significant interaction with the host community.

The organization has no political or religious affiliation, and volunteers help to empower the host communities in creating renewable, sustainable programs, according to the site.

Webster, assistant director of marketing and business development at Mayer Brown, said each trip really changed her and how she lives her life. She typically spends one week working with Globe Aware, and a second week traveling on her own.

Most programs, she said, cost about $1,100 a week, and that includes accommodations and food for the week. But those who participate must also pay for airfare, but it’s tax-deductible.

She said Globe Aware really strives to put the money it receives back into community the volunteers are working in. She plans to go this year back to Costa Rico, but this time will work with a coastal program involving sea turtles. And she will bring her nephew, who just graduated from high school.

Globe Aware could be an option for those lawyers in-between jobs.

“It’s going to give them a unique experience, especially if they’ve never traveled somewhere like that, and an understanding of how these people live, how a different government structure or different supply structure can affect what you’re able to do,” she said.

“As a new attorney you suddenly get on [your firm’s] timetable… Your life really becomes usurped by the firm. This is their last opportunity to do something totally for them to help them gain a different perspective, and I think give them a different view of the world at really unique time. It’s hard to break away after you start practicing.

“And in the jungles of Costa Rico your BlackBerry doesn’t work. That is another reason I like these trips. You can really get away.”

Ghana with Grace

by Megan Quitkin – When I promised to take Grace to any country she could conjure up, I intended to fulfill my end of the bargain. But I was worried and, as such, rational thought went out the window. I imagined the worse case scenarios: Grace would contract a mutant form of malaria; civil war would suddenly break out; my family would disown me for endangering both of our lives. I wanted Grace to see the “real” Africa, but I could not schlep her around the continent as if I were traveling solo. At the same time, I didn’t want to take her on a luxurious safari where we’d encounter the big five but be deliberately sheltered from the pervasive poverty that plagues some of the world’s most beautiful countries.

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