Kimberly Haley-Coleman’s circuitous journey from the world of finance and museums, to founding Globe Aware

Follow along on this reporter’s account of Kimberly Haley-Coleman’s circuitous journey from the world of finance and museums, to founding Globe Aware, an organization facilitating one-week volunteer vacations in 21 countries, catering to individuals with demanding work schedules. Her initiative emphasizes mutual learning, community involvement, and sustainable progress, transcending traditional volunteerism narratives. Additionally, she launched an innovative affordable luxury concept, The Tickle Bar, during the pandemic, aiming to spread joy and create jobs. Through her ventures, Haley-Coleman embodies a fusion of business acumen and compassionate engagement, fostering a global community invested in sustainable change and meaningful connections.

By Kathryn Orr
SMU Journalism Undergraduate for Southern Methodist University’s “The Daily Campus”

Kimberly Haley-Coleman is an entrepreneur redefining the contours of philanthropy, transcending conventional business paradigms to foster impactful global change.

A graduate of Emory University, she embarked on a journey through the realms of finance, working for various organizations such as and developing the stock prediction tool Dcipher. Haley-Coleman defined her work as fulfilling and found that her constant travel liberated her from a desk-bound routine.

However, Haley Coleman’s childhood was also filled with perpetual travel, encouraging her wanderlust, and thus, by the time she began traveling for work, she found a need to engage in cities beyond the tourist attractions. Haley-Coleman approached non-governmental organizations abroad on her days off but found getting involved with short-term volunteerism challenging. NGOs needed her help, but with the time it takes to train someone, they needed her to be able to stay long-term.

Haley-Coleman, however, began taking matters into her own hands and organizing her own service opportunities. Instead of going through NGOs, Haley-Coleman would go directly to schools, people’s homes, and corporations and ask them what they needed, if anything could be done, and how they wanted it done. After a few trips, she began to realize the level of demand these communities had for her help. In addition, each time she returned home, she found a high level of interest with her peers in what she was doing and would have several people ask to join her on her next trip. 

After witnessing the overwhelming interest from others to join her cause, she began to reflect on the life of an individual who works a typical nine-to-five. She expressed difficulty fathoming a life without travel or physical engagement. These contemplations drew the realization that there is a widespread desire for greater life experiences and that many countries need assistance, prompting Haley-Coleman to carve out a new path. 

She explains that starting her own business scared her, but the idea of people being bound to a cubical devoid of physical connections scared her more.

“Clearly, if you’ve got a mortgage, children, or a job, you just can’t be away that long. And while things have been changing for many years in the United States, five or ten days of paid vacation has been a typical top-out. And that’s the genesis of how this all came about, to begin with.” Said Haley-Coleman

Thus, with the yearning for impactful travel experiences in 2001, Globe Aware was co-founded. The paradigm-shifting organization curates one-week volunteer vacations across 21 counties.

“Clearly, if you’ve got a mortgage, children, or a job, you just can’t be away that long. And while things have been changing for many years in the United States, five or ten days of paid vacation has been a typical top-out. And that’s the genesis of how this all came about, to begin with.”

Kimberly Haley-Coleman

This novel venture caters to individuals entrenched in demanding work schedules, offering them a gateway to contribute to communication worldwide. The ethos of Globe Aware revolves around fostering meaningful engagements devoid of the stereotypical volunteerism narrative. Its initiatives aim not for fleeting gestures but for sustainable, meaningful engagements.

Probably the best week of my life. We helped renovate a worn-down school for young kids. We added gardens and a driveway, painted it, re-did the roof, and made it more current. To be able to travel and volunteer with all my friends from my company was something I’ll never forget,” said Nori Schiller, volunteer in the 2022 Mérida, Mexico Volunteer Vacation.

The organization stands apart in its approach, advocating mutual learning and collaboration through the patronizing lens associated with volunteerism. Haley-Coleman emphasizes community involvement, ensuring locals lead initiatives and define their needs for sustainable progress.

In addition, Globe Aware offers financial assistance to the community during volunteer vacations. However, Haley-Coleman finds that the most benefit comes from the involvement between the community and the volunteers. The bond forged provides a unique insight into the local culture, providing an experience beyond the reach of ordinary tourists.

“…there are no heroes on our end…. Voluntourism has rightly been criticized for having a white savior complex where people are taking pictures of poor people and pretending to be Angelina Jolie. Well, here, that doesn’t happen.” Said Haley-Coleman

During her time in Cambodia, helping assemble wheelchairs for children impacted by landmines, Haley-Coleman experienced a profound emotional connection to the impact of Globe Adware’s work. She vividly recalls the immense appreciation from her parents, understanding that the gift was more than a wheelchair but a gift of mobility and sustainability. It was the realization that the volunteers also have care and concern for their child’s well-being.

“I mean, in many ways, this kind of service is incredibly selfish because of what it does for you,” said Haley-Coleman.

With over 20 years of volunteer vacations, Globe Aware came to a halt amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 lockdown. However, Haley-Coleman remained persistent in creating positive change. Her entrepreneurial spirit surged forth in creating The Tickle Bar, a venture born from the desire to spread joy and create jobs in her hometown of Dallas, TX, in a beneficial way that would help people get back on their feet.

Haley-Coleman articulates that, even with the evident lockdown conditions, she longed for the physical sensations of massages and nail salons, especially the nostalgic, childlike sensation of back tickles. Thus, in a time of isolation, she was resolute in reintroducing the community back to Dallas.

Originally, Haley-Coleman aimed to manage The Tickle Bar until resuming full-time work with Globe Aware during post-pandemic travels. Yet surpassing its initial expectations, The Tickle Bar flourished far beyond the pandemic’s scope. Haley-Coleman noted even after tripling the prices, the demand continued to soar.

Globe Aware and The Tickle Bar testify to Haley-Coleman’s business acumen and dedication to community impact. Through these ventures, she demonstrated a keen ability to create sustainable models that benefit local and global communities.

“Working with Kimberly is nothing short of amazing. She and Globe Aware do an excellent job of making you feel at home in a place far away.” Said two-time Globe Aware Volunteer Kate Underwood.

Kimberly Haley-Coleman’s transition from finance to founding Globe Aware epitomizes an entrepreneurial journey underscored by a profound commitment to impactful change. Her venturers exemplify a fusion of business acumen and compassionate engagement, forgiving a global community to invest in sustainable change and meaningful connections.


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