Meet Kimberly Haley-Coleman of Globe Aware in Lakewood

Voyage Dallas October 4, 2017

Today we' d like to introduce you to Kimberly Haley-Coleman.

Kimberly, let' s start with your story. We' d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

kimberly hockadayI was raised with a deep love for different cultures. Before I got an MBA in international business, I got my masters in Art History (here at SMU). After working for a few nonprofits, I ended up in the for profit world doing business for multinational corporations. I found myself often traveling to developing countries where I sought to volunteer. I found that organizations just didn' t want short term volunteers, as the time and energy to train someone wasn' t worth it if the volunteer couldn' t commit a significant chunk of time, usually a minimum of a few weeks.

Since 1990 Ms. Haley-Coleman has been establishing long-term strategic partnerships and projects in non-profit and for-profit international arenas. Prior to founding Globe Aware, she was Vice President of Business Development for an aerospace company, Space Services International. Previously she led Business Development for Infotriever, which facilitated global contacts. As the Director of International Business Development at Investools, she created strategic international relationships and developed a globalization strategy to give free financial education tools to millions. During launch of, was Product Manager, managed and supervised product development efforts and trained on-air staff in using online stock evaluation tools. She developed and patented Dcipher, an artificial intelligence engine for free, real-time analysis of stocks and portfolios which helped provide investment analysis for those who could not afford financial advisors. At FCA, she created international joint ventures for small companies to develop sustainability of West African markets. Certified with Series 7, 65 and 63 licenses, she spent 2 years as Associate Portfolio Manager of the closed-end Capstone Japan Fund, she researched international stocks, made investment picks and placed trades. At Documentary Arts and Contemporary Culture, two Dallas-based non-profit organizations, she served as Associate Director of Programs, where she organized programs, wrote grants; prior nonprofit work includes internships at Dallas Museum of Art and High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. She squeezed in volunteering while traveling internationally on business and consulted with various international NGOs on achieving their goals.

Frustrated by the difficulty to give time effectively in needy communities within confines of busy life, she began Globe Aware to give Westerners a forum to serve in a meaningful and fun way for both the recipient communities and the volunteer. She wants Globe Aware to serve as a lamp to light that flame of inspiration in people who might otherwise have very little time to give abroad. She has an MBA in International Business from UD, grad with Highest Honors, received Texas Business Hall of Fame Scholarship Award, has an MA from Southern Methodist University and a BA from Emory University.

She is currently serving as Chair on the Executive Board of IVPA (International Volunteer Programs Association), on Dallas Opera Board of Trustees, on Board of Groundwork Dallas, is President of Dallas' Shore Acres Beautification and is Leadership Member for Service Nation.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?

The problem is that most Americans with jobs simply don' t have that kind of time (weeks or months) to give. And yet they are frequently in a position where not only can they give more financially, but their souls actually need that meaningful interaction, perhaps even more than those who have flexible schedules. It can be such a grey, dog-eat-dog world. To get out of it, to stand side by side as equals helping people one projects that are important to them, that' s something that can bring new meaning and color and even appreciation to life.

Also 2008 was a bumpy year for sure. Expenditures on travel and donations are often the first areas cut so we, like most nonprofits, took a huge hit 2008 to 2009.

"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."

Please tell us about Globe Aware.

Short term, one week volunteer vacations in 20 countries around the world. Volunteers typically work about 35 hours a week, but they also have cultural activities scheduled and free time. The cost of the program and the airfare is 100% tax deductible against the participant' s income.

Specializing in well organized, short-term abroad volunteer opportunities. We usually focus on concrete projects. As examples, we assemble wheelchairs for landmine victims in Cambodia, install concrete floors in the homes of single moms in Guatemala, build adobe stoves in Peru, etc.

What sets us apart? That our volunteers typically feel they have received much more than they have given, because this generally inspires them to do even more and to stay engaged. When we know we are making a difference, it not only helps others but clearly improves our own sense of well-being. What better win-win is there than that?

How are we different? People calling us will not confront a voice mail tree or unanswered emails. We are committed to human interaction. We let locals decide which projects they need. We allow families of all ages to participate. Also, this isn' t just fulfilling. It is outright fun. If it isn' t fun, we aren' t doing our job. Our motto is, "Have Fun, Help People"

Also, most of our peers don' t believe in contributing financially to project work, seeing that as a way to increase reliance on outsiders. We take a different approach. If you spend money on wheelchairs and give them to people who need them, this increases their self-independence. We engage in projects that the locals have asked for, do them in a way they decide upon, we don' t choose projects involving heavy equipment or machinery or high on ladders, don' t handle bodily fluids or require certain skills.

Doctors Without Borders is a great organization, for example, if you' re wanting to do surgery. That' s not our forte!

Every organization is different. Ours are specifically geared toward those without specific work or language skills who have *very little free time*. Our most often call is someone who knows they want to volunteer but have no idea where. We spend a fair amount of time assessing how much travel they' ve done before. For example, if they' ve never left the country, we generally think its huge amount of culture shock to go straight to India or Cambodia, for example, and we might recommend Costa Rica, as its culture isn' t quite as drastically different from North America. If they have traveled and they speak another language, such as Spanish, we might steer them to a country like Peru. See its very much based on the specific volunteers past service, travel, and languages. Oddly not many people decide where to go based on what TYPE of service is offered. For example, we assemble wheelchairs for landmine victims in Cambodia. I really don' t think that the service itself is ever a deciding factor, and really that' s ok. There is REAL NEED everywhere. Start with your interest, inclination, and perhaps any culture you have personal connection to.

Globe Aware has just launched a 3-part initiative in an effort to aid the post-earthquake Mexico reconstruction effort in the villages of Hueyapan, Zaucalpan, Tetela del Norte, Jojutla and Yautepec, as well as their main program location, Tepoztlan.

The organization has a deep connection with Mexico, and recognizes that these smaller communities are not receiving the help they need. The organization immediately connected with program coordinators and began relief aid by coordinating the delivery of supplies for assistance in these areas.Globe Aware has now begun work directly with families in those locations in rebuilding their homes, prioritizing building homes for those with single mothers and young children, as well as the elderly. Volunteers who register for the Globe Aware Mexico volunteer vacation program will have the opportunity to be a part of these critical reconstruction efforts. Haley-Coleman, stated that "In a world where many of us may feel helpless in the face of seemingly constant manmade and natural disasters, this kind of effort means not only getting much needed supplies and housing directly to those who most need it, but also allows our hearts to heal as we participate in the mending."

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?

Yes, luck played a part. We were fortunate to come up at a time when there is a generally growing sense of social consciousness that has allowed us to succeed. Also, our volunteer demographic happens to coincide with an attractive ad demographic for a lot of mainstream media, so we have been the fortunate beneficiary of being the subject of their stories and segments. If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?

It certainly would have been easier if I started earlier before having children, but I think things work out the way they do for a reason.

Janet Robinson, a recently returned mother who volunteered in Cuba says "I think my children 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."


Programs cost about $1000 to $1500 a week and include food, accommodations, bottled water, project materials, medical insurance, bilingual coorindator, in-country transportation, etc and are fully tax deductible against your income.

Contact Info:


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Make a difference with your family on a volunteer vacation

Family volunteering holidays

Is your family ready to really make a difference on your next overseas trip?

By Carolyne Allmark
April 2, 2017

Nobody wants to raise spoiled, entitled kids with no sense of empathy, or any idea of how lucky they are to live a life revolving around happy school days, a lovely home and " if you' re living here in the UAE " world travel at their finger tips. And it' s exactly this desire to travel and immerse in another culture that' s presenting families with the most exciting, and potentially life-changing, opportunity to do something really useful " and to give back " with their next holiday.

Globe Aware is a non-profit organisation that plans volunteer vacations for families around the world, helping to rebuild remote communities, install clean water sources, repair roads and teach languages in some of the poorest villages, towns and cities on earth. This means children experiencing these holidays are exposed to global issues they might only learn about in the classroom.

"Few opportunities in life offer the ability to experience another culture at the same time as serving in a meaningful way and we have definitely seen an increase in young families taking volunteer vacations," says Globe Aware' s director of communications Shanti Shahani. "We are becoming more adventurous in our travel as parents, and many families are recognising how important it is for our children to be compassionate global citizens, to appreciate their surroundings and develop an interest in helping those around them. Words and values like tolerance, inclusivity, diversity and kindness are more important now than they have been before in our generation."

volTrips vary, depending on which provider you choose, but Globe Aware cites one week as the perfect length of time for families to volunteer. It also gives you the option to enjoy travelling and sightseeing at your chosen destination. Once you' ve decided where you' d like to go, they' ll put together an itinerary " including accommodation, guides and transfers " based around the ages of your children and the kinds of activities you' d like to get involved in, or the skills you think you can offer.

"Projects are adapted to volunteers and we always make a point of explaining to children why what they are doing is important," Shahani explains. "We make sure the activities are safe and interesting, so a child may be able to help plant a tree, and they can also provide unparalleled help in teaching English as a Second Language through songs and games to kids their own age.

"This language instruction also provides future job opportunities for children in the communities Globe Aware serves," says Shahani.

One Dubai-based family recently travelled to Siem Reap in Cambodia to visit friends who had moved there for a family gap year. Before they left, they launched a campaign at their school in Dubai Sports City, asking parents to donate toothbrushes and toothpaste for a local village school. Mum Louise Reynolds explains: "When we travel, we like to take the opportunity to teach Alula and Lana [her children] about other cultures and ways of living, hopefully instilling a bit of empathy and the desire to help others when possible.

"In Sri Lanka we took tuk-tuks into poor communities so that the girls could give pencils, notebooks and soft toys to children and were invited into a lovely family' s home as a thank you," Reynolds recounts. "It was good for the girls to see that, although the family really had nothing, they were more than willing to share what they had with us."The Reynolds family visited the Kompheim Community School, run by local non-governmental organisation Husk, which provides English language lessons to village children, who earn "Husk dollars" for attending the school. They can then spend those "dollars" at the school shop, where the toothbrushes and toothpaste were donated. Education is recognised as a major key in breaking the poverty cycle for future generations and, sadly, less than 30 percent of Cambodian children will complete primary school, meaning that encouraging this attendance is key.

"We saw a few schools while we were there and the girls seemed quite surprised that the government school didn' t have four walls and really was just a bit of a shack. They wondered what would happen to the kids and their work if it rained!"

Overall, however, the family really enjoyed their time in Cambodia. "But, probably the biggest thing they' ve come away with is the absolute shock that people over there fry and eat bugs. I tried bribery, but they were adamant they weren' t going to sample any!" laughs Reynolds, who also tells us she' s already looking into their next volunteer trip, helping to rebuild schools in Kathmandu, Nepal, which were destroyed after the 2015 earthquake.

 Aside from India and the Far East, other popular locations for volunteer travel are Costa Rica, Mexico and Guatemala. But researching before you book is crucial, as Shahani points out. "Make sure you go with a registered non-profit organisation so there' s transparency about exactly how your money will be spent. Ask if they are a member of the International Volunteer Programs Association and talk to past volunteers."

It' s also important to remember that projects shouldn' t take work away from local people and should be fulfilling a genuine need in a community. And families with young children should think about the overall travel time to get to their chosen destination and ensure they have all the relevant vaccinations.

"I would say there is no better way to truly immerse yourself than to work alongside members of the community as equals, in projects that are important to them, to be able to truly appreciate the beauties and challenges of another culture," Shahani adds.

"No other tourist experience can truly provide that and being able to experience that with your family is an opportunity comparable to none."

What are you waiting for? It' s time to start collecting those dirhams (for others).

Time Out Dubai

Can Volunteering Boost Your Career?

Huffington Post

How Volunteering Can Boost Your Career?

03/31/2017 06:46 am ET

Volunteering abroad is definitely the best way to travel to a new destination and make a difference to the people of the host community.Beyond the obvious benefits of volunteering, it also adds some brownie points to your Resume, and boosts your career. Employers are always looking for candidates who have an extra edge over others, when it comes to work experience and grassroots level involvement.

The question might arise in your mind – Why Corporate Houses and Hiring Managers are more keen of employing volunteers?

The answer is – While full-time work experience undoubtedly counts, there' s a financial interest attached to it. To put it more clearly, one draws a salary in lieu of the work done. In case of volunteering, the matter is totally different, and one works with the objective of giving back to the society, without any vested self interest.

Naturally, employers tend to give more preference to volunteers than the rest of the candidates.

"It' s easy to make a buck. It' s tougher to make a difference." " Tom Brokaw, Journalist.


For gap year travelers, students in their high school or college, as well as people who are in the phase of a career break, consider volunteering as the option to alleviate your chances of getting a better employment opportunity.

Let' s take a look at how volunteering abroad can boost your career.

Volunteering will help you to polish your skills.

We all have certain qualities and skills which need to be polished for getting better. In an educational course, most of our time is absorbed in gaining more knowledge about the subject, but volunteering gives us the opportunity to polish our skills. If you think you are a good storyteller, but have never tried telling stories to many people at one time, then go for volunteering with kids, and spend time telling them stories in the best manner that you can. After a few days, you will realize that you are more confident and able to tell stories in a better way than you could do previously.

While polishing your existing skills, volunteering also gives you a chance to acquire new skills.

If you choose a project that perfectly suits your skill sets, then you will get an opportunity to polish those skills, and perhaps discover a side that you never knew you possessed! You might have always loved to be around children, but only when you join a teaching project, will you understand that you have the ability to share your knowledge effectively while nurturing them with love and care. Usually, in most of the projects, people from all over the world come together, and thus, there' s immense scope of peer learning. You will return back with several new skills, which will help you in the long run.

Volunteering will enhance your network.

As you step out of your comfort zone, you' ll realize that the world is much wider than it otherwise appears to be! Meeting people from different countries will enhance your network, and that will be immensely useful for your future. It will also increase your chances of getting a job abroad – what more can one ask for? And if you have an excellent experience of volunteering, your supervisor might serve as a reference when you' re applying for jobs.

Volunteering helps in self-improvement and uplifts confidence level.

Lack of exposure is often a reason for the lack of confidence. Being in that known circle of yours, you grow so comfortable that you are always hesitant of breaking the ice. If you travel abroad to volunteer, you' ll get to work on yourself – learn how to deal in adverse situations, learn how to adjust with people of different habits, learn to communicate with people through emotions rather than words, learn to be self-sufficient. All these will eventually uplift your confidence level, and you will be more groomed than others in several ways. This will be a positive point shining brightly on your CV.

Volunteering will make you more focused.

Each one of us have a particular concentration level, and there are times when we get distracted by little things, and find ourselves completely clueless, not knowing what exactly should be done. Volunteering will help you a lot in that way – as you plan your day around things that would bring inner satisfaction, you will generally be more focused. This is a good habit that you can inculcate in your life in future. Employers are always keen to hire people whom they think are more focused.

Volunteering is one of the best options for career exploration.

In most cases, High School students are confused about what to pursue in future. Volunteering during course break with bring much more clarity to the thoughts as one gets to know about the area of interest. If you are an animal lover, then volunteering with animals might show you a path of what you can do in future – perhaps take up vet studies or something that would engage your time with animals. Volunteering is the best career exploration option, than to go for job hopping later in life!

Volunteering will help you to grow as a person.

Volunteering helps people to be happier in life, fostering the scope of self-containment. A research study revealed that volunteers have a 20% lower risk of death than people who don' t volunteer. You become more humble, compassionate and empathetic after a volunteering experience. You will learn to feel other people' s problems and rather than holding on to issues, you will try to seek solutions. Volunteering will not only give you a chance to serve those in need, but will also enable you to be a better person.

The Huffington Post

Globe Aware named one of top eco-travel providers

Globe Aware named a Top Eco-Travel provider for 2017

In its annual list, GreenMatch, an online service which provides you with quotes for green energy products from multiple providers, identifies sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways of travelling and recognizes Globe Aware for the work done in many countries around the world:

Traveling is an exciting and eye-opening adventure that many individuals and organisations like to partake in. However, many travelers are unaware of the carbon footprints that they leave behind when they visit, and that can be harmful to these communities and countries.

Fortunately, as environmental awareness and engagement gain popularity, there are a growing number of individuals and organisations that travel sustainably. This means that they are engaging in ecotourism activities, giving back to the environment in community projects, reducing their overall carbon footprint and much more!

After extensive research by the GreenMatch Team, we have nominated and selected the Top Eco-Traveling Enthusiasts of 2017.”

Globe Aware is recognized for “Sustainable Voluntourism”

Learn more here


Five volunteer vacations to take with your family

By Matt Chernov

February 14, 2017

Though some might imagine the typical volunteer as a college student gaining valuable life experiences in a far-off country, the truth is that all types of people generously donate their time and energy every day. More than ever, this includes families volunteering together while on vacation.

Beyond the benefits that volunteering can have on the community, the values it instills in young people are priceless. Children and teens who volunteer learn life skills, develop empathy and gain a feeling of self-respect and confidence that will last well into the future. To help you plan a volunteer vacation, here are five destinations and programs that you can share with your entire family.

Globe Aware – Orosi Valley, Costa Rica

Since 1990, the nonprofit organization Globe Aware has been creating short-term volunteer opportunities around the world for people who want to give back, regardless of their experience levels. Though they regularly assist solo travelers, church groups and corporate clients, family volunteering has become one of their most popular categories. The program they offer in Costa Rica’s stunning Orosi Valley is particularly suited for families with children. All projects are designed for unskilled volunteers and include tasks like teaching English, installing road signs, building recycling stations and constructing chicken coops. Volunteer vacationers in the Orosi Valley can stay in one of several mountaintop houses, complete with electricity and laundry facilities onsite and healthy and delicious Costa Rican meals.

When you’ve decided which volunteer vacation is right for your family, visit to book your trip.

United Airlines Hub

How Should Americans Travel In The Trump Presidency?

From The Huffington Post January 17, 2017 

By Christopher Elliott, Author of How to be the World' s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money and Gassle)

How should Americans travel abroad in the age of Donald Trump? No matter how you voted in the last election, the answer is the same: carefully.

But also, definitely.

As the president-elect prepares to take office Jan. 20, travelers have expressed worries about how they' ll be perceived internationally after a lengthy campaign that tested the limits of civility.

"A potentially controversial president means you have to prepare," says Colby Martin, an intelligence director for Pinkerton. "Americans traveling abroad need to have a comprehensive plan for staying safe."

Reality check: Most international trips abroad will probably ' hopefully ' be uneventful, regardless who' s in the White House. That' s because our most popular destinations are Mexico and Canada, in that order. And they' re used to the ups and downs of our political system and accustomed to American visitors. Roughly the same number of Americans visit Canada as they do all of Europe. But wander outside the well-trodden areas, and things could get interesting, say experts.

"The likelihood of any impact on American travelers abroad" will depend on what policies the new administration enacts, says Scott Hume, the director of security operations for Global Rescue. He says you shouldn' t be surprised by people who ask you direct questions about American foreign policy and politics.

If your goal is to avoid those conversations, "Take care not to stand out as an American," he says.

So how do you do that, exactly?

Taryn White, a writer and frequent traveler based in Washington, tries to maintain a cover. "You have to look the part," she says. "This means no white sneakers, " I ? NY' T-shirts, or sweat pants. It also means being considerate of local customs and dress."

One simple trick: Pack black. Darker colors are versatile and ensure you don' t stand out. Beyond the wardrobe selection, it means downplaying American mannerisms like laughing out loud, smiling a lot or using hand gestures.

But others say now may also be the best time to identify yourself as an American. Kori Crow, a political consultant from Austin, Texas, and a world traveler, says that counterintuitively, the more fractious a country' s politics are, the better your experience could be.

"They' re more forgiving because they don' t usually equate elected leaders as a reflection of its citizens," she says.

Crow says people understand that American visitors are not its ambassadors. "You' d be surprised at how many foreigners will over-compliment you just to try and make you feel more welcome," she adds, mentioning a particularly warm welcome at Vietnam' s American War Crimes Museum.

All of the above is true. There are times when you' ll want to fade into the crowd, but ultimately you have to be true to yourself. And as the experts say, don' t leave anything to chance.

How do I know? Because I grew up in Europe during a time of controversial American leadership. Most people I met were smart enough to know that American citizens do not represent the American government, and they knew from personal experience that democracy is imperfect.

In fact, I think we should all travel more internationally during the next four years. Just to show the world that Americans are a far more varied lot than the politicians they see on TV or read about in the paper.

Three things you should do during the Trump years:

Apply for a passport. Less than half of Americans have a passport. You' ll need one if you want to travel abroad. Go to the State Department site to start the process. Cost: $110 for adults, $80 for kids under 16. Does not include a $25 "execution" fee.

Learn another language. No matter where you go, knowing a few words in the native language will take you far. The next four years are a perfect time to pick up Spanish, French, German or Mandarin. Check out Duolingo for a crash course on your chosen language.

Build a bridge. Whether you strike up a friendship with someone who lives outside the U.S. or take a volunteer vacation outside the country, you can use your travel to show the world what Americans are really like. Check out organizations like GlobeAware or tour operators such as REI, which offer extensive volunteer vacation programs.

The Huffington Post

What do you know about volunteer vacations?

Oct 18, 2016, 04.26 PM

Volunteer vacations or " voluntourism' are exactly what they sound like; individuals spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of months working on social and environmental projects.

Would you rather spend your annual two weeks of vacation sipping sangrias on a tropical beach or building greenhouses in the mountains? Would you opt to spend your time on a luxurious Caribbean cruise or teaching school kids in a remote area? Today more and more people are signing up for the latter options, in line with a rapidly burgeoning tourism trend known as volunteer vacations.

Volunteer vacations or " voluntourism' are exactly what they sound like; individuals spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of months working on social and environmental projects.

These can include building houses, bathrooms, and other amenities, teaching children as well as the underprivileged important skills, studying the environment or animals and even typing up data; an exercise which may seem dangerously close to your regular job.

Why are more and more people choosing to spend their vacations working, rather than indulging in some well-deserved relaxation? Perhaps society is developing a stronger social conscience; in a world where celebrities are quick to pledge themselves to causes, and educational boards demand their students get involved with social work, several individuals prefer spending their free time improving the lives of others to make a difference.

Aside from the feel good factor, volunteer vacations are the perfect way to experience a particular place in an entirely unique way. Travelling in the 21st century is no longer about following a structured itinerary that takes you through all the regular tourist traps in a city. Today, travelling is more about authentic experiences " volunteering vacations allow travelers to interact with locals in an organic way teaching them more about their culture than any regular resort stay would. While travelling is always an opportunity to broaden your horizons, volunteer vacations will introduce you to entirely new approaches to life and ways of living.

When it comes to ways of living, be prepared to rough it out should you decide to take a volunteer vacation. As most organisations which take volunteers for short amounts of times are non-profit groups, they' ll offer humble digs which one may have to share with other volunteers. Food is typically simple, and while most volunteers do get leisure time, the work can be tough and challenging. Additionally, most volunteers are required to pay the organisation for the chance to volunteer; the payments are used for boarding, supplies and sometimes partially as a donation to the cause.

Despite these considerations, people across the world " especially the youth " are getting on board with the concept. There are various organisations to look to if you' d like to explore the idea of volunteer vacations yourself; WWWOOF India, for instance, aims to improve the practice of organic farming in India while Dakshinayan in Jharkhand asks volunteers to teach health education as well as basic Maths and English skills to the local population.

If you’re looking to volunteer overseas, Projects Abroad is a platform for a variety of organizations which require volunteers in countries like Italy, Romania, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya, Morocco and Fiji. Global Aware is another international organization which offers international programs as well information about volunteer vacations.

These organisations are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to commit to their cause; if it seems up your street, there' s no nobler way to spend your days off.
Tags  Caribbean cruise vacation

Volunteer in Thailand with Globe Aware

Kris Depowski O’Donnell

Kris is an education and communications professional, teaching at the University at Buffalo and working as a field producer providing medical reports to more than 100 television stations around the country. She loves making a difference through international volunteer work.

Why did you choose this program?

Globe Aware offered a program that helps better the lives of captive Asian elephants. With this program, unlike some others in Thailand, the elephants’ welfare is front and center at all times.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Globe Aware provided detailed descriptions of the project and outlined what volunteers should expect and bring with them to Thailand. They suggested hotels for me in Bangkok that were close to the meet up point and assisted with a reservation that I had an issue with. I took care of finding a hotel near the airport (flights from the U.S. almost always land around midnight and depart in the early morning hours).

program interview 177139What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone going on your program?

For this particular program, there wasn’t much I didn’t already know prior to arriving in Thailand because Globe Aware prepared me so well and I did a lot of research on my own as well. For friends who are thinking of going abroad I tell them GO! You will never regret it as long as you have an open mind, a sense of adventure (and humor) and love learning new things.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The days at Surin Project are well-coordinated. Everyone has breakfast together around 7 am. The food is freshly prepared and delicious. I’m vegan and they could easily accommodate my needs. We then have a work project for about an hour or so, which includes cleaning enclosures and chopping sugar cane. Then we walk the elephants in the forest for an hour or so. Then there’s a break for lunch at a local eatery, then an afternoon work project followed by another walk in the forest where the elephants get to hang out with their friends and enjoy being elephants. We end the day by having dinner together. On two of the days, we walk the elephants to the river to bathe them, one of the highlights of the experience.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I have traveled extensively through Europe, mainly on my own, so my fears were relatively limited. I think the biggest reservation I had was that I had never been to Asia (and was traveling on my own). I was also traveling to a very remote part of Thailand to work in a village with no air-conditioning, indoor plumbing, showers or hot water.

The way I overcame the fear is by reading as much information as I could ahead of time about what to expect and making sure I had the proper travel shots, medication, etc. Knowledge is power.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with prospective volunteers?

There is one important thing to know and it’s something I’ve been asked about. Travelers should educate themselves about the plight of captive elephants in Thailand. It is a sobering and complicated issue. Elephants in Surin Project are allowed off chains for at least 5 hours a day and mahouts are not allowed to use the bullhook. But the Project exists alongside elephants who are used for the local circus. These elephants are chained 24 hours a day (when they are not performing), sometimes by all four feet.

It’s difficult emotionally at times to see them in these conditions but I remind myself (and tell prospective volunteers) that it’s critical the Project continue to receive support from volunteers. It shows the local people that tourists want to see elephants treated humanely and interacting with each other in a natural environment. I have taken part in Surin Project every year for the last three years so there isn’t anything I would have done differently.

I can say that on the first day of my first visit (in 2014) I sat on my bed, on the floor, in 100 degree heat, with only a fan and mosquito netting and thought ‘what in the world have I just done!?! I can’t survive this!’ Fortunately, that feeling lasted less than 24 hours. Then I was hooked. But it was briefly terrifying!


Using your vacation to do good

August 23, 2016

Wisconsin State Journal
By LISA M. DIETLIN For Lee Enterprises

Are you always in search of that one-of-a-kind special vacation? Are you constantly trying to find time to do good?

There' s a tremendous opportunity to have a very special vacation, meet amazing people, visit places you' ve never been all while making a difference by taking part in voluntouring or in a do-good vacation.

China Calvin 167Voluntouring is a chance to  participate in programs around the world that make a difference within a short time frame " anywhere from one week to about three months, while vacationing!

Because you’re donating your time and effort to a nonprofit organization, a significant portion of your vacation costs may even be tax deductible.

Here’s how voluntouring works:

You will be working side by side with a community and its residents.

Voluntouring vacations are available around the world in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia.

The projects cover many important areas, such as children, the environment, health care, education, historic restoration, animal conservation, senior care, construction and others.

Voluntour participants often speak about building tremendous new friendships that last for many years.

While some trips are for adults only, there are many that are appropriate for families and young people.

Voluntourism has become both a big and global business primarily supported by the increasing desire of travelers to take worthwhile and meaningful trips while trying to do some good.

Examples of voluntouring vacations

Through Projects Abroad, a two week program offers voluntourists the opportunity to work in archaeological ruins of ancient pre-Inca structures in Peru. Anyone 16 years or older can participate. The work would include preliminary investigations, excavations, analysis and registration of cultural materials, site visits, office registry work, working at museums, archaeology presentations, classification of ceramics and community activities including working at an elementary school. The group also organizes social events for volunteers.

Another example of a trip takes place with Greenforce (; for approximately $3,900 you can work to save the endangered orangutans in one of the oldest and most beautiful rain forests in Borneo.

Other types of trips include voluntourists working on restoring temples by spending half the day cleaning paintings or building walls with the monks. The rest of the afternoon they spend their time sightseeing.

Or a penguin rescue and rehabilitation program in South Africa with accommodations and a meal allowance during six weeks of catching, feeding and cleaning up after penguins and other seabirds. But you also have two days off per week to sightsee.

The possibilities and opportunities are truly endless.

Alternatively, you might also want to consider a do-good vacation, which includes travel to more common holiday destinations in places like Ireland, Italy and Spain. These vacations are different from voluntouring in that you will be working with a nonprofit to raise money for a cause and not be working in a local community.

Often travelers create their own trip by raising money or awareness on behalf of a cause or organization that is near and dear to their hearts. Work with your favorite nonprofit organization to create a plan of action that includes doing good on your next vacation.

Tips for voluntouring

  •     Find an organization that matches your passion and has a proven track record.
  •     Select a trip that suits your abilities and interests and be prepared to work!
  •     Speak with people who have been on the excursion before or worked with the company you choose.
  •     Learn about local customs " even a bit of the language " before you go, but be prepared for a trip that may be tremendously different from what you might expect.
  •     Expect none of the comforts of home, in other words, you will be “roughing it.”

Wisconsin State Journal