Voluntourism will boost your career

Just how important are the hobbies and extracurricular activities job applicants list on their job application resumes? Very important according to Rebecca Delaney writing for Consulting-Specifying Engineer. Employers are looking for worldly employees with experience working with people and communities around the world. Rebecca suggests that voluntourism can help bolster an applicants life experience and job prospects:

Voluntourism will boost your career

Four reasons becoming a global citizen will help you at work.
Rebecca Delaney, PE, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Chicago

We have heard for years employers are looking for “well-rounded” candidates. In the past it has meant a list of your hobbies/extracurricular activities on your resume, which many employers promptly gloss over. Today, it’s clear the world is getting smaller as technology advances, and we find ourselves collaborating with both our cubical neighbors and our coworkers on the other side of the world. Therefore, employers are looking for people who have experienced the world and can bring a global perspective helping us to recognize our common engineering challenges and find solutions together.

One way I have become a global citizen is through “voluntourism.” The term describes trips encompassing both volunteer work and tourism. Here are the most beneficial skills I gained from my trips and how they have made me a more valuable employee.

1. Always be a student: It is of the utmost importance to always enter a new culture with sensitivity and respect. You must acknowledge you are there to teach and learn. This same principle applies in a rural Ugandan classroom as in the American boardroom. Ethnographic skills are defined as the ability to systematically study people or cultures: their communication style, social structure, and spirituality. These skills allow us to observe and absorb new surroundings, rather than judge and reject, which is particularly useful when trying to land new clients and understand their needs. We often forge ahead as though our way is the best, especially when in comparison to developing communities, when in reality we too have so much to learn.

2. Time is not money: During my first trip to Uganda, I planned activities starting at 10 a.m. When no one showed, I was introduced to the phrase “TIA,” meaning “This is Africa.” The phrase encompasses the laid-back attitude toward time, often a result of limited access to electricity (the day starts at sunrise) and limited modes of affordable transportation. This mind-set came as quite the shock for a high-strung American with a schedule to keep.

According to a New York Times article, the American diet is 34 GB a day. Our increased access to information has drastically reduced our ability to wait. The American standard is to monetize time, which puts exponential stress on daily productivity. However, the value of time cannot be explicitly expressed in dollars, and striving toward “working to live” not “living to work” will make us happier and more productive employees.

3. Listen with your eyes open: My work with Engineers Without Borders has been particularly enlightening regarding the intricacies of communication. For example, a community explicitly stated they wanted composting latrines to resolve waste management issues. We helped fund-raise and built a composting latrine. We returned to discover the latrine unused and a new septic tank installed instead. We didn’t realize the community was familiar with more modern waste infrastructure and that using outdoor latrines was not in line with cultural habits. Despite the best intentions, we learned communicating is more than listening; it’s observing the culture.

I had a client who stated he wanted a popular, new system in his building. Knowing it required significant maintenance and that the client struggled with regular maintenance, we were able to propose a slightly different system better suited to the company’s observed culture. We must always listen with our eyes open.

Rebecca Delaney is a mechanical team leader at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s sustainable engineering studio. She is the 2014 ASHRAE New Face of Engineering, recognized for her industry leadership in mentoring students and sharing her passion for engineeri4. Never give up: Most recently I was in Uganda conducting workshops for the microfinance nonprofit, Umama. I met Joyce Nakanwagi. She was born into war and married a man who left her for dead after dousing her with boiling milk. Joyce survived but was struggling to raise her children alone when she applied for a loan to start a charcoal business. She learned to save money for school fees, knowing education is the best long-term means out of poverty. Joyce is persevering despite her circumstances. I get so caught up in the daily busyness of my job with meetings, deadlines, and emergencies that my dream of changing the world may often seems like a distant goal. However, I know every client meeting and project is an opportunity to have small influence toward greater change.

Experts in developing communities suggest all college graduates be required to spend time in the developing world. Voluntourism provides a global perspective that will allow us to engineer for the global population, not just the wealthiest nations, creating simple, affordable technologies that can be applied in any culture/context. With all this, who wouldn’t hire you?

Rebecca Delaney is a mechanical team leader at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s sustainable engineering studio. She is the 2014 ASHRAE New Face of Engineering, recognized for her industry leadership in mentoring students and sharing her passion for engineering around the globe. 

Consulting-Specifying Engineer

Globe Aware Costa Rica featured in CNN

Costa Rica’s ‘connection to nature’

CNN’s Holly Firfer takes you on a beautiful getaway to the tiny nation of Costa Rica with the help of Globe Aware.


Helps Students Become ‘Globe Aware’

Lightbox Image

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.”

Park Cities People

Voluntourism: Travel and give back!

Lightbox Image

0650060292013Costa Rica Orosi Valley

VOLUNTOURISM A new way to travel and give back! Costa Rica Orosi Valley About an hour from the city of San Jose, in a gorgeous, hidden valley (Orosi) rests the tiny community of El Yaz known for Its clean water, rich soil eternal, spring-like temperatures (about 75 degrees every day) and organic, agricultural way of life. Although the villagers love their natural paradise they have struggled to make ends meet as even low paying jobs are rare. Most Villagers are not in abject poverty, but have no access to hot water, cars, or the quantity or protein sources to which a North American may be accustomed. Volunteer vacationers in this paradise location stay in one of two side by side mountain top houses.

Built In traditional Costa Rican style, furnished with fans and comfortable beds. These include Western-style bathrooms and showers, and hot water. On the nine-acre property are many fruit trees, spectacular views, hiking paths, many tropical birds, a covered gazebo social area, basketball court and hammocks.

Volunteers are fed plenty of fresh, healthy, abundant, Costa Rican dishes, heavy with fresh fruits, vegetables, rice and beans, with some chicken egg and beef dishes. Electricity is available, though on a more limited basis than you may be used to at home.

While traveling for business in the late 1990’s, Kimberly Haley-Coleman often found herself in foreign countries with free time on her hands, and a desire to see beyond the traditional tourist attractions.

On one trip to Brazil she remembers looking for short volunteer opportunities but could only find multi week options.

“I found that so many people wanted the same thing I did, but once you’ve got kids, a mortgage and a busy lifestyle, you can’t go and take three weeks off," says the former global strategist and business development officer whose portfolio Includes CNBC.com. “Everyone dreams of going Into the Peace Corps. but that’s a two-and-a"half year commitment."

In 2000, Haley-Coleman founded Globe Aware, a nonprofit specializing in weeklong service-inspired vacations around the world. Since then, the voluntourism movement has taken hold, and many of the nonprofit and for-profit companies are offering shorter trips catering got busy Westerners with limited vacation days. Most of Globe Aware’s programs are built around a predetermined service project that can be finished In seven days. From installing concrete floors in the homes of Guatemala single mothers to building wheelchairs for Cambodian land mine victims, participants spend 30 to 35 hours working in an immersive environment, with the option of visiting the area’s important attractions in their free time. But even the traditional tourist activities are designed to promote cultural awareness.

"Our volunteers come away with a real understanding of both the beauties and the challenF.es of a culture," says Haley-Coleman. "I would argue that' s more Important than the physical projects we work on-being able to make that human connection and understand each other’s view of the world.”


Perreault Magazine