School Built For Guatemalan Community

ga-logoDallas-based nonprofit gives disadvantaged children opportunity for higher education

Dallas, TX April 23, 2014 –  Globe Aware, an internationally recognized leading international volunteer vacation organization, has built with its volunteers and local community members a school for disadvantaged youths in El Remate, Guatemala, its newest program site to date.

Globe Aware is a Dallas-based nonprofit organization that mobilizes teams of volunteers to carry out international service projects in 17 countries. The organization led over 90 North American volunteers in a week-long effort alongside locals from the community to build a kitchen and lunchroom area, concrete sports field, computer lab, a groundskeeper house, as well as improve bathroom facilities.

Recognizing that many buildings are erected without funds for staff, money was also raised to cover salaries for an initial period of three years. Materials and the building design were sourced locally to promote sustainability. Community involvement was high, ranging from volunteers working side by side with local students, teachers and parents, as well as enthusiastic community residents who gathered to play musical instruments at the work site, or bring meals to the volunteers.

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"We must accept our roles as global citizens and work in union to achieve a brighter tomorrow," said Kimberly Haley-Coleman, Executive Director of Globe Aware. "Through such service, and in this globalized world, we all learn solutions that benefit all involved, not the least of which is learning to create solutions in an environment of different cultural conditions. We look forward to working on many other projects to come as the communities further scope their needs."

The remote community, a half hour from Flores, suffers from poor nutrition, disease and lack of access to education, social services and basic infrastructure. Unlike more tourist-destination countries in Central America, such as Costa Rica, Guatemala has not yet seen significant investment trickle down to many of its communities. The average educational level of residents in El Remate hovers at 6th grade, and the new school will offer curriculums from 7th to 9th grade, increasing the educational level and opportunities offered in the community.


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 and administers the President’s Volunteer Service Awards. Globe Aware is also in Consultative Status for United Nations Social and Economic Council.

Additionally, Globe Aware offsets its carbon emissions with, the country’s leading carbon offset organization. Its carbon footprint is estimated at less than 70 tons annually, and has 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 Shanti Shahani at 214-824-4562 or e-mail

Volunteers share hearts, experience

A former school principal and business executive look abroad for adventure and volunteer opportunities. They find their calling overseas working with communities in Africa and Eastern Europe:

LI volunteers share their hearts, experience abroad

Published: April 4, 2014 8:56 AM
By CARA S. TRAGER  Special to Newsday

For Helen Boxwill, it was as simple as this: Retire? YES. Rest and relax? NO!
So, in 2003, after a 23-year career in education, including three years as principal of Southdown Primary School in Huntington, Boxwill answered an ad for volunteer teachers in Africa. Nine months later, Boxwill landed in a remote Ethiopian village called Hosanna. It has since become her home away from home, she said.
Boxwill, 68, a divorced Huntington Station resident with three grown children, returns at least once a year, staying three weeks to 12 months, while pursuing different projects. During her time there, she said, she has developed a community library in Hosanna; expanded and refurbished a school in Tetema, a community 25 miles from Hosanna; and instructed college faculty on training new teachers. h2Empower, a nonprofit she established in 2006, provides financial contributions for her projects, and Long Islanders, including schoolchildren and her church’s members, have supplied books and other materials.
“I have found my purpose in life,” said Boxwill during a Skype interview from Ethiopia. “Everything I’ve learned or done professionally, I can apply in a place where my experience can make a difference.”
For some Long Islanders, retirement, sabbaticals or vacations are an opportunity to volunteer, pursue an interest or travel to distant lands. Some manage to accomplish all three by volunteering overseas. “It gives you the advantage of seeing a new culture and new ways of living and looking at the world and an appreciation that the grass is not greener on the other side or, if it is, it can give a new sense of purpose,” said Jaye Smith, 59, a Sag Harbor executive coach and author of “Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career & Life by Taking a Break.”

More boomers volunteer

There are no hard statistics on how many boomers volunteer abroad, but the 50-plus crowd has represented a steadily increasing percentage of Peace Corps volunteers since 2006, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Chamberlain. Currently, 8 percent, or 577, of its 7,209 volunteers are 50 or older.
With many retired from teaching or running a business or nonprofit, the corps’ older volunteers know how to work with groups and motivate the local population to ensure a project’s continuity, Chamberlain said. And because the organization typically places volunteers in areas where the culture venerates elders, their age is an asset, too, she said.
But volunteering can be challenging, experts said. In underdeveloped regions and non-Western countries where volunteers often serve, Internet service can be sporadic and local cuisines may not be compatible with the average gastrointestinal system. In addition, certain prescription medications may not be available, and top-notch medical care may be difficult, if not impossible, to find, experts said.
Volunteering overseas also means acclimating to new environments. For instance, in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, where few traffic lights exist, Boxwill said she follows other pedestrians when crossing a street, and during rush hour traffic jams, she forgoes public transportation and walks everywhere.
For the adventuresome and altruistic, though, overseas opportunities abound. A Google search for “overseas volunteering opportunities” will generate a lengthy list of nonprofits with programs abroad. The Peace Corps, which generally requires a 27-month commitment, offers assignments in 40 countries, such as teaching English in China. Globe Aware, a nonprofit that develops short-term, international volunteer programs, has projects in 17 countries, including Cambodia, where volunteers assemble and distribute wheelchairs to land mine victims, an official said. Project HOPE has been sending health care professionals throughout the globe to provide medical assistance since 1958, according to its website.
Agency policies differ regarding program duration and who picks up the tab for transportation overseas, daily lodging and meals. For example, Globe Aware’s tax-deductible program fee, which covers food, accommodations, medical care and a bilingual coordinator, costs each volunteer $1,100 to $1,500, depending on the project, a spokesman said.
Given the commitment that overseas projects often require, Smith suggested that potential volunteers test the waters by participating first in the efforts of a local nonprofit involved with international programs. The local experience can help volunteers become confident and comfortable working with the population the organization serves and determine whether they can add value to its overseas work, she said.

Back to Kenya

Since 2005, Kenyan-born Anne and George Mungai, who live in Baldwin, have volunteered annually for one month in an orphanage and school they founded in Wangige, a suburb about 16 miles from Nairobi. The Caroline Wambui Mungai Children’s Home pays tribute to their daughter, who died nine years ago of lupus. Caroline, then 25, was pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education and had envisioned starting a school for Kenyan children in need.
“We lost our daughter and gained 40 children,” said Anne Mungai, 60. “We are carrying on her dream.” Both parents have doctorates. She is chairwoman of the Curriculum and Instruction Department and director of the Special Education Graduate Program at Adelphi’s Ruth S. Ammon School of Education. George, who is 63, teaches math at a Brooklyn high school.
They started the children’s home by donating a four-bedroom house and 31/2 acres they inherited. The site now encompasses nine buildings, including classrooms, dormitories and a dining hall. George designs the classrooms and supervises the construction, keeping track of their progress through photos that are emailed to him.
“We are rescuing these children from poverty to destiny, which is our motto, and we want them to be independent and stand on their own,” said George. “And that’s what the kids want, too.”
With three daughters, all in their 30s, accompanying them to the orphanage, the Mungais work in the kitchen, read to the children and take them to the doctor, pitching in wherever they are needed.
“If they need a hug, I give them a hug,” Anne said.
“I feel so gratified and so fulfilled that we are living my daughter’s legacy, multiplied many times over,” George said. “It’s not just what we are doing for one generation, but I believe the children will give back.”
Along with organizing fundraisers, receiving financial support from Adelphi students, alumni and her colleagues, many of whom have volunteered at the home, the Mungais contribute part of their salaries to the Caroline Wambui Mungai Foundation, which sustains the facility.
“When I go to the orphanage, I think I am going to help, but the children help balance me to see what’s important in life,” said Anne. “When we see the children in good health and the love they feel, it gives us joy.”

Philanthropy and photography

Volunteering has allowed Hollis Rafkin-Sax, 58, to channel a passion for travel overseas and photography into a philanthropic endeavor.
In 2008, Rafkin-Sax left the global crisis communications company she helped build. After enrolling at the International Center of Photography in New York City, she completed the yearlong general Studies degree program in 2010. Since then, she has participated in humanitarian missions with various organizations. On each trip, she has gone beyond the group’s activities, taking photos and providing them at no charge to the nonprofits to use in printed materials and websites.
“I have always loved photography and wanted to use it in a way I could give back,” said Rafkin-Sax, who is married with two grown sons and has homes in Sag Harbor and Larchmont.
In 2012, she spent two weeks in Bosnia, courtesy of a mission organized by the nonprofit Women’s World Banking. While there, she took photos and shared her marketing experience with young women entrepreneurs.
And as a participant in a one-year fellowship last year under the aegis of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, an international social service agency, Rafkin-Sax delivered food staples and medicines to the homes of impoverished, elderly men and women in the Ukraine and Hungary. The fellowship also involved a mission to Haiti, where she advised student leaders on entrepreneurship.
Wherever she has lent a hand, Rafkin-Sax said, she has not only been moved by the people she helped but also by other volunteers.
The committee “changed my whole way of thinking about the world and who the unsung heroes are,” she said. “You go to disaster places, like Haiti, and you see people who have given up their relatively comfortable lives because they want to help, and that’s hugely impressive.”


Think you might be interested in volunteering overseas? Here are experts’ tips for a positive experience.

  • Learn about the destination and its year-round climate, which could include drought and rainy seasons, as well as scorching temperatures, by contacting former volunteers and by researching online.
  • Visit a doctor specializing in travel medicine for vaccinations, medications and health-care advice.
  • Review the U.S. State Department’s website for travel alerts and warnings about your destination.
  • Don’t bring expensive or flashy jewelry.
  • Limit how much cash you carry each day.
  • Follow the local dress and etiquette code.
  • Only drink bottled water.
  • Keep travel documents in a safe place.
  • Be open to different people and a different culture.

Long Island Newsday

Holidays That Help

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

volunteer-vacations-for-WomenIt 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.


volunteer-travel-for-WomenAndy 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.