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Global Volunteers

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Economic Development, International, International Cultural Exchange, International Development, International Economic Development, International Exchange, Microfinance, Philanthropy, Voluntarism Promotion

Mission: Global Volunteers encourages and enables individuals and families to spend short periods of time working with and learning from local people in host communities throughout the world. Founded in 1984, Global Volunteers is a private, nonsectarian, apolitical nonprofit corporation, established to help promote justice and peace through mutual understanding. Each year, over 200 teams of volunteers work at the invitation and under the direction of local people and project directors on six continents

Geographic areas served: China, Costa Rica, Cook Islands, Ecuador, Ghana, Greece, India, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, USA, Vietnam

Programs: Projects include: Nurturing at-risk children (caring for children in orphanages, hospital wards, day care centers and childrens' homes); Education (tutoring students, teaching conversational English, assisting in high school sciences and math and elementary level summer school classrooms); community infrastructure (constructing school buildings, health clinics, community centers, building tables, chairs, desks, assembling playground equipment, and painting homes, etc); Health care (training rural health care providers in nutrition, hygiene and other public health issues, checking for high blood pressure and diabetes, extracting teeth, examining newborns, performing surgeries for physically disabled children, and providing prenatal care

Community Stories

26 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

3 northerngirl

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I have been on the Global Volunteers trip (to Peru) & I was so impressed with this organization, the way the planning process was all the way to the last night in Lima, with our local team leader (Edith:). Both my husband & I found meaningful work to do, from childcare to kitchen duties, our entire time was pleasantly "busy". The food, lodging, and Peruvian hospitality was wonderful. We are now planning a 2nd trip, to St. Lucia, again with GV.
I do agree that only negative is the fees being a bit high for the average traveler. Also, we live in Canada, so flight costs can be higher for us (especially to South America in winter!). and our fees cannot be claimed as charitable expenses in our taxes- as any American traveler is allowed to do. I did ask about this but was simply told that is due to Global Volunteers being an American based organization & they do not have any agreement in place with our CRA. But after travelling for years & living abroad, I realize that you also get what you pay for.
I know several people that have taken "volunteer" trips with other groups, saying that the others were much cheaper than GV but the experiences they had were not good at all (little or poor support from local staff, inconsistent/bad food, dirty/unsafe lodging, NO actual valuable work for volunteers to do). My daughter opted to take a volunteer trip with another organization based in the UK (projects abroad) with only budget in mind, but she quickly regretted it after she was forced to share a volunteer house with a group of students that had more interest in drinking & partying all night than doing any kind of work. After she found herself pretty much left on her own every "workday" with a map & a bus schedule, wondering when the promised "lunch" was going to be served, she certainly wished she had chosen Global Volunteers!
Honestly, I feel that the fees we pay are well used; salaries for the local team leaders, quality food & housing for the volunteers, safe transport to & from airport & volunteer sites, and so forth.
I would prefer to have 1 quality trip every few years with GV (which really does make a difference to the local communities they serve) than an annual "cheaper" volunteer vacation with any of these other bargain basement deals.

3 Margaret28

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I have a husband that does not like to travel so this is the way I can see the world. I just took my 10th Global Volunteers trip and traveled to Chennai, India. This is also the first time there was a husband and wife team. I enjoyed the family and 4 year old son very much. This is the way to travel to see, feel, and stand in their shoes for a culture experience.
Margaret Gabriel, Columbus, Ohio

Review from CharityNavigator

1 Joe T.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

During my 23 years associated with Global Volunteers I have had the pleasure of befriending many wonderful people. I have learned and witnessed the common thread of humanity—the desire by all to provide for their families and the hope and optimism for a better life for their children.

I believe what makes GV unique is our philosophy of service. First, we only go to where we are invited. We partner with the community and work on projects of their choice. Our only requirement is that it serves the community and that they provide an equal number of community volunteers. Local people are in charge.

This allows us the opportunity to work together with our new found friends on a common goal and share our life experiences. We learn of their day to day struggles and share with them “life in America”—the good and the bad.

We depart proud of our contributions but realizing that we have received so much more than we have given.

Review from CharityNavigator

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Global Volunteers will change your life. It is an organization with integrity at its core, with unassailable foundational principles of bottom-up international development, and with talented and committed staff and founders. I have been involved with Global Volunteers since 1994 as a volunteer, a team leader, and a National Board of Directors member. Every team is a unique experience, guided by the needs and direction of the community and the diverse personalities of the local people and the volunteers. Service learning often seems like an abstract ideal; with Global Volunteers it becomes a reality. You have the chance to enact the Philosophy of Service in real time with concrete results (and you should read it thoroughly as well). Life is short, get out there and volunteer!

Review from CharityNavigator

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My three daughters and I have volunteered on several trips. Our first trip was working on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 2005. We have been on three subsequent trips, and we are hoping to volunteer again with Global Volunteers this summer. Initially, my husband was very concerned about our safety, but Global Volunteers is a top-knotch organization. Our Global Volunteers' experiences have truly positively impacted our lives in many, many ways.

Review from CharityNavigator

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Global Volunteers has been a part of my world for over 15 years. My first experience with Global Volunteers was in Metcalfe, Mississippi, a town of 1400 African Americans. Our volunteer group consisted of 10 Caucasian women ages 17 to 84, none of whom knew one another. The community was gracious and welcoming. The volunteers were fun and anxious to serve. Most of us had never had the chance to peer into another community so closely. We learned and bonded quickly; through stories, laughter, and working alongside one another. Since then, I have had the privilege to volunteer as a team leader to various states and countries, on behalf of Global Volunteers. Global Volunteers is one of the best run organizations in which I have ever been associated. For individuals with open minds, flexible mindsets, and the desire to contribute toward a more just and peaceful world, there is no better organization. Join us! You will be rewarded beyond what you can imagine.

Review from CharityNavigator

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Good programs, well planned and executed! I speak from experience - as a volunteer team leader who has led several Global Volunteers teams. (Full disclosure: I am also a former staff member, having worked there from '97 to 2007.) This is a great way to immerse yourself in another culture and meet the local people on their terms. In addition to helping others, you can also learn a lot about yourself through these programs. And you really are making a difference. Thumbs up!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a Global Volunteers team leader since 2000. I have lead about 50 teams.......and I am passionally dedicated to the philosophy of the organization. Among the many goals is to build relationships and friendships between people.....one person at a time. When we go to a site....we go as "servant learners" meaning we do what the community wants us to do....and we respectfully follow their direction. I have met extraordinary people in each community I have volunteered in. The men and women on the teams I have lead are equally dedicated to the work we do.....so I see many of the same people on other teams. My husband and I went on our first team to Xian China in 1999. I have been a loyal volunteer ever since.

Review from CharityNavigator

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a team leader for Global Volunteers for 12 years. My husband and I went on our first team with Global Volunteers to Xian China in 1999. I volunteered at a private school teaching English and my husband worked with a group of business men and women. It was our first experience volunteering with a non profit organization. We were so impressed with the integrity of the organization. Everything they told us was as they said. We were sent valuable and useful information that shared with us the philosophy of the organziation. We found their goals and values to be exactly what we were looking for. The goal of the organiation was to build friendships and promote peace....one person and one community at a team. We had a team leader who guided us through team building meetings.....and then saw to it that we were taken care of for the three weeks we volunteered. We stayed in comfortable accomodations....were treated to decilcious meals and were assigned to interesting work sites. We have maintained email relationships with many of the people we met in the community. I was so impressed with the organization that I have since become a volunteer team leader. I went through an intensive training program in St. Paul MN.....and over the past twelve years have lead about fifty teams. I am more and more committed to the philosphy of the organization.....being servant learners....doing what the community asks of us and following directions in a respectful way. I am very proud to be a Global Volunteer.

Review from Guidestar

Maria55

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I became a Team Leader for Global volunteers in 1998, and lead many groups while living in China. I think An Wei and Bud Philbrook and Michell Gran should get the Nobel Peace Prize for their relationship by building the first NGO school in An Shung village. This was dedicated to An Wei's daughter, An Lin, who lost her life in America while studying English to take over the China Program. She was my translator. I thought of her as my daugher. This time in my life was the most significant experience in peace-making. I cannot express my feelings more that saying it was friendship and love. My experiences also led me to Hawaii and the project in Kauai which was helping eradicate invasive species in the tropical jungles. I have been to Mexico. The experience of Global Volunteers is awesome. It is an adventure. It takes a flexible person ready to drop their expectations of how things should be done, and following the direction of the local people. It is all around a first class operation of change. Maria Maki, Minnesota

Lorene3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have completed 20 service programs with Global Volunteers, volunteering primarily in Poland. The programs are well coordinated on both ends of the volunteer experience -- before leaving and when on site. The reason these programs work is that Global Volunteers helps other accomplish their own goals. Volunteers don't come in and tell others what they need. Volunteers also work hand in hand with people in the host site. It's a great program.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My wife and I traveled with Global Volunteers to Pommern, Tanzania three times over the past four years. We were impressed with their Philosophy of Service and how it is implemented every day during the service program. Global Volunteers took care of all our basic needed throughout each service trip. We had meaningful work in the community every day. We helped teach English and other subjects in the Secondary School, we worked on various work and minor construction projects side by side with community members, we helped weigh babies during a monthly well baby clinic, and we learned a considerable amount about local and national Tanzanian culture and society. Global Volunteers' in-country staff are very well trained. They work with volunteers to fit volunteers' skills and interests with those of the community to maximize their benefits. They seek opportunities for volunteers to interact with the community to promote inter-cultural awareness. We had a wonderful experience each time we traveled with Global Volunteers and plan to do so again many times in the future.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have gone on trips with Global Volunteers in China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Guatemala and Jamaica, as well as in the U.S.. They have always been well organized and extremely cost-effective for what I received. I am impressed with their professionalisma nd oganization. I would happily go on another experience when time the opportunity arises.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I loved my Global Volunteers service opportunity. I chose Global Volunteers because I wanted to maximize my chances of a interacting with the people in the community I would be visiting. My Global Volunteers adventure did not disappoint in any way. The trip was well-organized, well-managed and well-received by both volunteers and host community. I enjoyed my fellow volunteers, our project and the time available to pursue personal interests. What I enjoyed most, however, was being in that small Costa Rican community -- the people, the food, the chance to both glimpse and be a part of a different way of living.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My wife, Marilyn, and myselof have been on Global Volunteers teams in the United States, Ecuador,Portugal, and most recently St.Lucia. We have taught English, painted,built, helped children with disabilities, and done whatever the local community wanted us to do. It has been a wonderful experience in every place we have served. Also, the bonding with other volunteers has been in itself so worthwhile. We are looking foward to again going with Global Volunteers to leave our mark on the world.--Roger Yockey, Lynnwood, Washington

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was impressed by my experience with Global Volunteers. The team leader in Xi'an was fantastic: upbeat, personable, incredibly helpful and supportive. I worked for two weeks at La La Shou, a special needs school, and it was a terrific experience. The language barrier was difficult, but I felt that our presence at the school (I volunteered there with a friend) gave a lift to the teachers. We were a novelty in their busy weeks. I'd recommend Global Volunteers to others: from our lodging to the work site, we were well supported and cared for.

Review from Guidestar

Teri Calvin

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Global Volunteers gave me an opportunity to "Leave My Mark" on the world in Xi'an, China. For two weeks, Monday through Friday, I taught conversational English, pronunciation and comprehension to students with various levels of English understanding at Xi'an Biomedical Technical School. Most of the students, who ranged in age from 15 to 22, were Han Chinese from various provinces. However, one group, were Uyghurs from Xinjiang province. These Muslim students had their own language and customs, including dietary requirements. The Uyghr students are learning Mandarin, The Chinese national language, as well as English. The stundents eagerly shared their culture and were enthusiastic in learning about the United States. My volunteer experience put me face-to-face daily with typical Chinese locals in daily situations. It was a living experience of a cultural exchange. The Global Volunteer Country Manager, shared with us the language, customs, history and the daily opportunity to taste the delicious foods. I do believe that World Peace does begin through mutual international understanding, which is one of the philosophies of service with Global Volunteers. I felt that I made a "difference" and was gifted with a rewarding experience. I look forward to another opportunity in the future to "Leave My Mark" with Global Volunteers.

2 gpotvin

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My wife and I have done five volunteer trips with Global Volunteers - Ecuador (June, 2007), Romania (October, 2008), Tanzania (January, 2010), Peru (January, 2011) and India (January, 2012). GV is extremely organized and makes every effort to assure that volunteers are well prepared for each service project. GV provides a wealth of written materials, responds promptly to inquiries and questions and has a comprehensive web-site. Programs are sponsored by local entities which provides positive interaction with the community we serve. The country managers are well versed about their countries and assist each volunteer in having a meaningful cultural experience. We have great respect for GV and believe they are one of the best NGOs, if not the best around. We recommend the program highly and would be glad to answer individual questions.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My husband and I have four sons, Matt, Jack, Dan, and Ryan. In 2007 Matt was invited to participate in an educational travel program designed for high school students. Having remembered seeing a piece on The Today Show a number of years previously on short-term volunteering abroad, Matt and I began to investigate Global Volunteers. Based in St. Paul, MN, since 1987 Global Volunteers has worked in partnership with local leaders in over 15 countries around the world to bring human and economic resources to children and families in remote areas such as the small village of Pommern, in the southern highlands of Tanzania. Although Tanzania is an emerging and very safe country, it continues to be one of the most disadvantaged countries in the world. While drawn by the opportunity to meet new people and experience a new culture, what quickly convinced us to go was Global Volunteers itself. Global Volunteers is guided by a unique philosophy of service, stating simply, “that to be truly successful in sustainable development assistance, volunteers must work at the invitation, and under the direction, of those they are attempting to assist. Local people are always in charge.” Global Volunteers believes that true development mobilizes empowered people: both those seeking assistance, and those who seek to serve them. Matt and I had the privilege to serve with GV in 2008. I then returned with my son Jack in 2008, and will return in July 2012 with Dan and Ryan.
In the Iringa district where the village of Pommern is located, the needs are immense and resources are few. Although Pommern is high on a mountain, there are many smaller villages further up, forcing villagers to walk 25km to come to the clinic, school, or to catch the daily bus to Iringa. Homes are made of sun-baked mud bricks, and must be re-bricked each year before the rainy season begins in December. Most roofs are thatched, but a few have corrugated metal roofs. A few of the buildings in the village receive electricity from a generator from 7-10PM each night. On each of our trips, all the members of our GV service teams took turns rotating jobs throughout the village, working on labor projects, teaching at one of the local schools, or assisting in the local clinic or remote clinic.
If one of the volunteers had a particular interest or talent to share they were always graciously received and encouraged. For example, when at the vaccination clinic we spent a morning weighing babies, recording the vaccination schedule, and administering the necessary immunizations. Working to assist the doctors and nurses, a bed functioned as our examining table and work surface, while the mothers and children waited patiently for hours on end until we could help each of them. Nervous about teaching, Matt found his niche teaching computer skills at the secondary school, while Jack had a blast teaching conversational English at the primary school. After a successful lesson in the use of with, but, and then, I’ll never forget him trying to teach a group of 40 kids how to play “Heads Up, 7-Up”! Each afternoon after our teaching assignments were done, we worked on labor projects such as painting dorms, or resurfacing the floor of the mess hall. In the past teams built the school library, and put a new roof on the school kitchen that allowed for better ventilation. Until then, kitchen workers had routinely died from prolonged exposure to smoke.
My sons loved refining their masonry skills on the labor projects, learning to take vital signs and the procedures of meat inspection with the village doctor, and most especially, laughing and playing with the children each afternoon. “Priceless” is inadequate to describe the value of these moments in the lives of my children, but I think Jack summed it up beautifully for our team journal:
“When my mother and brother came to Pommern two years ago I couldn’t relate to them about what they experienced while they were here, but now that I have been here I can look back and see the change in them. It is very hard to explain and that is what I am worried about when I am back trying to explain my trip to my friends in America, but it is there.
I didn’t have a dramatic moment when I felt this new perspective become part of my outlook but now I know it is there. It comes from seeing the kids wearing the same clothes day in and day out, from watching the patients at the clinic fight their diseases and injuries with such courage, from watching how the students work hard all day long, and from seeing how Moses sleeps on a bed he made himself with an old torn-up blanket.
I feel like a different person now, and though I miss my friends and family, I never want to leave. I have become attached to the people here and my fellow team members. From the calls of “Jackie Jackie” as I walk through the village, or the warm mandazi while sitting on a bench packed with people watching the World Cup, Pommern has given me much more than I could ever repay, and I am grateful for this. I hope to take what I have learned here back to my day-to-day life in America. I will miss all of you and I hope to see you again.”

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My family of five went on the trip to Calderon, Ecuador and it remains one of the best experiences we have ever shared. Global Volunteers was organized and thoughtful throughout the entire process. By the time we left we felt that we'd gained a family among the other volunteers, and the memories we have of the amazing children we worked with are with us every day. My kids, who were ages 8, 10 and 13 at the time of the trip, worked harder than I had ever seen, and enjoyed themselves every step of the way. They still keep photographs of the children they worked with at the center and we plan on doing another trip with Global Volunteers again soon.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had three wonderful weeks in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. The setting was ideal and out Program Manegers were wonderful. I thought it was very well organized. I felt that we had a meaningful mission. I loved working with the 5 year olds in their school. The people were so friendly and appreciative of anything we could offer. Yes, the price is high, but it is a tax right-off. I'm headed to Ghana with GV in February. katherine