Category Archives: Volunteer ethics

Volunteer for Hope for the Future Hiv Clinic in Ghana

Basecamp International Centers asked:

Yingor Development Foundation is a non-profit organizaton that strives to help with community development, HIV education and civic education projects. Through a series of programs in which they visit different communities, they work hard to educate as many people as possible in these areas. Once the clinic is built, it will be available to the citizens of the Keta Peninsula. Looking into the future, our goal is to acquire the clinic with equipment to perform rapid HIV/AIDS tests, condoms, information pamphlets and to make periodic trips to the surrounding isolated communities. We believe this clinic will have a very large impact on the Volta Region, and consequently the whole country. Many people do not learn health education in schools, or if they do it is not until they are much older. Our targeting age is youth (13-20) because we believe that giving them sex education and disease prevention information before they start having sex is critical if HIV/AIDS will be prevented. Hope For The Future is designed to be a clinic for HIV/AIDS testing and counseling. Our aim is to not only provide free testing services, but hold educational classes as well. It is our belief at Yingor that the younger generation of Ghanaians need to be better equipped to fight this awful disease, and we plan to help them by educating the youth and encouraging them to get tested. The help we will require from volunteers initially, is to build the clinic itself. Once the clinic is built, we will rely upon continuing volunteers, both Ghanaian and foreign, and the members of Yingor Development to help keep the clinic running. 

 Your main job as a volunteer will be to build part of the Hope 4 Future clinic. Tasks may include: assisting with the clearing of the land, pouring the foundation, producing bricks (It really depends at what point the project is at). You may also have an opportunity to do small health promotion projects on the side. We will have knowledgeable individuals supervising and directing the building. All that is required of you is you willingness to work, positive attitude, patience and a reliable work ethic. Please note that although this placement is a Health and Medical Placement, volunteers will be taking part mostly in the actual building of the clinic.   All that is required of the participants is their willingness to work, patience and a reliable work ethic. What specific skills are they looking for at this placement? Health & Hygiene Training HIV/AIDS Awareness Training Public Health General Labour Sexual & Reproductive Health Training 

 Basecamp International Centers welcomes all the interested volunteers from around the world to volunteer and make a difference. If you are interested in this placement then please contact us for the details: Email: Website: Mailing Address 298 Bagot Street, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, K7K 3B4 Phone: 613.541.7862 Toll Free : 866.646.4693 Fax: 613.541.1604

Volunteer at Mecd Organisation in Nicaragua

Basecamp International Centers asked:

The MECD organization is the National board of directors in charge of the entire country education system, they work toward a free education in urbans semi-urbans and rural zones as well, throughout the whole country. In the rural areas they only can afford to have elementary schools, but in larger communities or towns they have at least one high school. Their objective is to form productive, ethic and competitive citizens stressing the importance of hard work, integrity, personal responsability, creating a democratic education system that can reach all children and youth in the Nation. They work along with the Sports board of directors to drive young people toward sport, creating new courts and public amenity. Volunteers must be of age 18 or above with minimum education of high school. This placement doesnot need any volunteer in the month of Jan,Jul and Dec.

Volunteers can assist by doing following tasks:-

They will work directly with the schools, and the staff, this depending on what the volunteer choice. 1- English teachers 2- Math teachers 3- geography teachers 4- socials cience teachers 5- Profecional english teachers- this is very important for the Nicaraguan teachers. 6- web design teacher 7- handycraft teachers

Volunteers with the following special skills are preferred for the placement:-

Teacher – English Teacher – Math Teacher – Science Teacher – Geography Teacher – Environmental Science Teacher – Physical Education TEFL Certificaiton / Training Handicraft Design Business Management Computers – Web Design Computers – General Programming Teacher – Social Science Teacher – Commerce, Finance, Business

Yes, Basecamp International welcomes all the interested non local participants to volunteer and make a difference. If you are interested in this placement then for the details youcan

 Email: Website: Mailing Address 298 Bagot Street, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, K7K 3B4 Phone: 613.541.7862 Toll Free : 866.646.4693 Fax: 613.541.1604

Why Volunteer During Your Holiday?

Groshan Fabiola asked:

ing while vacationing can be an unforgettable and amazing experience. For the people who love traveling, it is the best opportunity to enhance or preserve the places they are visiting, while helping local communities. For those who like offering their services, it is the best opportunity to put all their ideas and skills into practice, while visiting exotic and amazing locations all over the world. Such an ethical holiday is hard to forget and may be the most rewarding holiday you have been on.

Making a difference and trying to change the world for the better (even in a small way) is the first reason why you should choose a volunteering holiday. The projects you can volunteer for while traveling are very diverse and address all types of people. Depending on your skills and fitness, you can choose the type of project you wish to volunteer for and thus help people in need without having to make any special efforts. The rewards you will receive are priceless and the great time you will be spending makes your ethical holiday worthwhile.

Preserving or enhancing some of your favorite places is another reason why you should choose an ethical holiday. Planting trees, harvesting crops or gardening are just a few of the activities you can volunteer for on your vacation. The amount of time you spend volunteering is entirely up you. Building homes, teaching children to read and write in English or saving endangered species are other types of projects you can volunteer for while vacationing in some of the most wonderful and exotic places in the world.

An ethical holiday can still be comfortable . You can help people and put your skills to good use while having a luxury volunteer holiday. If you are not used to basic accommodation, you can still have an ethical holiday and experience the wonders of volunteering. A luxury volunteer holiday can offer the same rewarding experiences without having to lower the standards of accommodations and facilities.

Volunteer based vacations can be tailor-made to suit your requirements. You can have an ethical holiday where you choose the type of volunteer work, in the type of accommodation you want, and you can also choose the length of the holiday. A luxury holiday can become an ethical holiday, an unforgettable time and a unique experience. Luxury volunteer holiday is the perfect alternative to having a luxury cruise. Superior quality accommodation and services, exotic locations, great activities and the opportunity to help those less fortunate than you are ingredients of a luxury volunteer holiday.

A holiday is about taking time off from your busy life, about relaxing and having fun, about experiencing new things and seeing new cultures. Being able to give something back to the community that welcomes you as a guest and being able to immerse yourself in their culture, without any special effort on your part is the missing ingredient from your holiday. Luxury volunteer holidays allow people have life- changing experiences while vacationing.

I Am a Millionaire Now – it is Different Than I Thought it Would be

Greg Cox asked:

I am a millionaire, but I don’t feel like one. Perhaps the better way of saying it is it does not feel like I thought it would. Let’s get back to that a little later.

First a bit about me and the family. I am a forty-one year old white male. Married for 12 years with two kids- a nine year old girl and a seven year old boy. I have an undergraduate degree in finance and went to night school to get an MBA. I have spent my entire career working in information technology (IT). Most of that time has been programming. I have a few stints in management, but it didn’t take.

My wife works at home and has done so since our daughter was born. She volunteers at the kid’s school quite a bit. I also keep her busy with a lot of the business activity. Our kids attend public school. We were going the private school route for a few years. When both were going to be all-day students, the bill was $18,500 for the year. By the time they are be in 2nd and 4th grade, the bill will be $21,000 and that was if tuition stayed the same. Fat chance on that.

I have started my own company. The dream was to have a big operation where I would have 50+ people working for me and spend my time running the business and helping bring in new clients. Four years into it, we are considered successful, but the big dreams have turned out to be little dreams. I have a few people working for me but the majority of revenue is still billing my own hours.

I come from a middle class home. My father worked for the federal government and never made more than $25,000 a year. I went to public schools. I am smart and my grades always reflected that. I graduated high school in the top 10% (barely). My father passed away when I was in high school. While there was life insurance, it was not much. My mom had to go back to work after staying home to raise the kids for 20 years

My career and savings started when I was 22 and graduated from college. 18 years later I can see several things:

I made some great decisions

I made some bad decisions

I made good decisions with bad results

There has been good luck and bad luck, which came whether intended or not Inaction that should have been action.


Some Good Decisions

Student Loans – I never had any. My undergraduate was paid for by scholarships and out of pocket. My employer paid for the MBA. I did not go to a big school, although I could have. The decision to go where I did, McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA, was made out of finances. They offered a scholarship that covered tuition, books and a room. I was on my own for food. A little help from mom and some part time work took care of that.

I noticed that many of my friends upon graduation were paying off student loans. Every month they were paying a couple of hundred dollars. For them this went on for years. I was saving my money instead. This provided a good foundation for later.

Avoiding bad debt – I can remember one day talking to a friend who was about to get married. He had $8,000 in student loans, $10,000 in car debt, $3,000 in credit card debt and was about to get a loan to pay for his portion of his $30,000 wedding. He never told me exactly what he wound up paying for the wedding but I bet his portion was half. Here is a guy who is 25 years old and $36,000 in debt and all he has to show for it is a car and a marriage certificate. He was going to be paying that off until he is in his thirties and then start saving. I had a ten year head start for savings on him.

While I have had car notes, they were never huge and never more than three years. I put as big a down payment as I could. I have bought more used cars than new cars.

I pay off the credit card every month. I do charge everything I can. This maximizes the points. The bill has often been higher than what I want it to be. My wife and I have had more than our share of fights when I opened the credit card statement. In the end I made sure the balance never got up and we never paid interest or fines.

I recently had a conversation with a co-worker who told me she had $75,000 in credit card debt. This fascinated me because we had similar jobs with similar pay and are similar ages. How can I have so much and her so little? Her answer was it started small when she was in her 20’s. She and her husband would carry a balance this month and go on vacation instead of paying for it. That balance never got paid. The next month they had an $800 car repair, adding to the balance. They had a cycle of accumulating bad debt for 15 years that resulted in $75,000 of debt.

Ground rules with the spouse – Before we got engaged, I wanted to go over finances with my then-girlfriend. I discovered she had $2,800 in credit card debt. I let it be known that we were not going to get engaged until she got it off the credit cards. She applied for and received a debt consolidation loan at a much more reasonable rate. This started the groundwork very early for us about what would be good and bad financial decisions.

My wife is not a money person. She is a spender and consumer. She impulse buys regularly while I seldom do. My saving has often been countered by her spending. I could have been a millionaire many years ago if she viewed money like I do. The things we do for love.

While we have fought, and will fight again, over money and spending, there have always been some ground rules. No credit card debt, do not touch the savings unless for another investment, save every month, try to avoid spending on the big things.

We have taken trips, bought clothes, had nice meals and remodeled kitchens. We temper these things. I try to delay these expenses and question if we really need all of it.

One thing that works for us was we created a separate checking account for her. Every month we transferred money into that account. Birthday gifts, baby gifts, wedding showers, clothes and her pocket money all came from there. These were the items that would get out of hand. More than once she was giving a wedding or baby shower with other people. It always seemed that one of the others would go out and spend an outrageous amount. The $400 dollar cake was my favorite. They would through the receipts in a pile, add them up and divide. Three showers in a month totaling $450 can bite you quickly. When these types of expense would come from our savings, she treated it like there was a bottomless well. When she had to pay from her own account, she started budgeting. The account literally saved our marriage.

Buy a house early – I bought my first house when I was 25. I paid $52,000 for it. It is a 2 bedroom /1 bath with 1100 square feet. I lived in it for 5 years. Four years being single and one after we got married. I still own that house today. It has been a rental property the rest of the time. By the time we moved out, I could rent it to cover the note and then some. As time went by and property values rose so did rents. This house is now paid off and is valued at $210,000. I collect $850 a month in rent. I could get a little more but we have a good tenant who pays on time and doesn’t call much.

That single decision is now responsible for nearly 15% of my net worth and provides around $6000 a year positive cash flow (minus taxes and insurance).

Maximize 401K – We have put as much in to our 401Ks as we can. These accounts are now worth over $200,000 and the returns have just been average. I have changed jobs several times. Several of these 401Ks are now in IRAs. This money is taxed-deferred, encourages savings and adds up over time.

ve every month
– Shortly after college I opened a mutual fund account. I started putting $100 a month into it. After a while I upped it to $110. I got another fund and started adding $50 a month into it. Over the course of time, those monthly investments became $800 a month. But over the course of time, these mutual funds are now worth $180,000.

Look into making money outside of your job – There are lots of ways to make money on the side. We have gotten in and out of direct-marketing companies. We have bought and sold on Ebay. I have been to dozens of foreclosure auctions. These are only a few of the items I have looked into. I have invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars over the course of time. Multiple times I had to make the decision that this was not worth my time or any more of my money and had to cut my losses.

In the end I have found side incomes that bring in an extra $30-$40K a year. There are a ton of get-rich-quick ideas out there. Many of the things you will come across are scams. Some only work for certain types of people, usually not the type of person I am. What I currently do, I stumbled into. I stumbled into it because I was looking into something else that did not work. Every opportunity you see, book you read, seminar you attend will spurn some other thought and idea. The challenge often becomes evaluating what is the best match for your skill, capital and time.

Hobbies – I know guys who play golf every weekend. Others go hunting or fishing. While we all need our hobbies, often these hobbies dominate our lives and finances. Golf is not cheap. Even the cheapest green fees can run up the hundreds of dollars a month for the avid player. Add in balls and clubs and it can really get up there. If you are making $70K a year and have two kids and spending $300 a month on golf, it is time for a financial re-evaluation. If golf is more important than wealth keep it up, but you are not going to make it to the millionaire club that way.

Let’s not just pick on the golfers. Hunters, boaters and shoppers have equal if not more outflow. I see hunting leases for $2000 a year. $500 pair of shoes. $17000 boats. If you want to save, you eventually need to decide – hobbies or wealth?

I started my own business – I could have easily just worked for someone else or gotten a job in a big IT shop somewhere. Instead I put myself out there to accept contract gigs. There were times where it was just me. Luck plagues the diligent. I sought out opportunities where I could bring in other people. Since I was incorporated, I could do that. I knew a bunch of programmers and could get them better rates that anywhere else. I kept thin margins, but making $4K a year off of someone is better than making nothing.

Starting your own business enables multiple opportunities outside of the obvious profit centers. There are so many expenses that I used to absorb that I could now deduct from my taxes. Office supplies, mileage driving to client, etc.

Work Hard – whether I was working for myself or someone else, I was always a hard worker. I came in a little earlier and stayed a little later. I did not whine if I had to come in on the weekend. I accepted responsibility and sought allies. I took the blame and shared the credit. I became valuable wherever I was. This set me up for higher pay when I worked for someone. When I went out on my own guess who the first clients were – people who used to work with me. They knew they would get a certain level of productivity out of me.

Things I wish I did

Increase the monthly investment – There were long periods of time (5-6 years) where I left the monthly investment in the mutual funds alone when my income went up. I should have increased the monthly payment into them each time my pay went up.

Buy and move into more houses – I look at the house I bought when I was 25 that is now worth $210K and regret not repeating the process. My wife and I could have moved 2 – 3 times more and bought a house each time. This would have left us with a bigger trail of rental properties all well on their way to being paid off.

The single best beginners way to build a real estate empire is to buy a house, live in it, buy another, move into that and rent out the former. Fixed rate loans for the owner of the house is still the cheapest way to get a loan. It also avoids the extra loan costs of buying investment property.

Things I cannot control

Luck – This goes both ways. The house I bought when I was 25 was in an area that has not suffered from urban decay. I cannot predict how a neighborhood will get that disease. It could have just as easily turned out to be a bad neighborhood. Fortune smiled there.

Just like that was good, I can account for $250,000 I have invested back into my business that I have not received a return on. I have hired several sales people who did not work out. Each one of them drew a salary, submitted expenses, hired outside support and took people away from billable efforts all to help close a sale. While these are things you do to grow a business, you want to them to actually grow the business.

My business has grown more from my efforts than anyone I paid to do it. Was it my bad judgment in evaluating their sales talents or I did not give them the support they needed? I cannot rule it out. Were they not putting their all into it? I cannot rule that out either. When they were hired, everyone thought it was a good idea, the approach was sound and we communicated regularly. I just never got the result I wanted. It was a good decision that had a bad result.

The Dot Bomb era – I had a lot of technology stocks. There was a point in time where my and my wife’s IRA was worth $160K. This was in early 1998. A year later they were worth $60K. There is a reason I primarily invest in S&P 500 index funds today.

I used to consider myself a “very aggressive” investor. Not any more. Losing $100K in the market will do that to you.

What it is like to be a millionaire

Having over a million dollars in net worth is a good place to be. It sounds oversimplified but being a millionaire is better than not being one. It is not the penultimate financial goal that I once thought it was. I am not retiring and picking up golf any time soon.

I still worry about cash flow. So much is tied up in real estate, mutual funds and the business that I cannot get to a lot it without tax consequences. I still drive an eleven year old car. We eat at the same places. We still argue about the credit card statement. I still buy the generic pasta at the grocery store because it is 15 cents cheaper. I am not going to “summer” in Europe or buy a Mercedes. That is not how I got here. If I make those types of lifestyle changes, I might not stay here. I have splurged on a few things. I have “invested” in my baseball memorabilia collection and we took a nice vacation.

I do sleep better knowing I have some flexibility and assets working for me. There are people I work with that have a couple of thousand in the bank, even more in credit card debt and live from check to check.

I have over $1.4 million in assets. This includes everything. If I get 5% return on them, that is another $70K added onto the amount in the next year. The same people I just references are years away from saving $70K much less $70K in a single year. That is what a lot of people make in a year. That is my return when I do nothing.

It was not positive linear growth every month. Many months went backwards or stagnant. Remember, I saw my market values drop $100K. There was over $250K invested back into the business. To save a million dollars you to need to be out there and take a chance. Not all of them are going to work. Hopefully a lesson learned pays dividends down the road.

Having the mone
y allows me to look at different investments. Doors that were shut are now open. I just have to be smart. I can consider different options. In the end that is what I am really after – the options to control what I want to do and on my terms.


In the Passing of a Brick: the Gvn Story

Megan Taddy asked:

The first image in the photograph to emerge was the ghost of figures, pale outlines on glossy paper, developed in a dark lab among hundreds of other snapshots of birthdays and couples beaming in front of scenic landmarks and babies taking first steps. Plunged into its chemical bath and then saved from drowning, the photograph was pulled out dripping, like a wet laundered sock, and hung to dry.

And in its chromatic, magic way, the ghosts became alive: eyes to peer in to, lips that curl a hungry happiness, hands that are almost, but not quite, moving. A photograph to prove an existence.

Perhaps it was the gingered hair of the young boys that made the photograph unforgettable. Or the rounded stomachs that belied nourished bodies. Or the clothes, worn day after day, that stretched ripped across torsos and framed startlingly snap-thin legs.

Whatever it was, Colin Salisbury, pictured then as the blond-haired 18-year-old in flip flops surrounded by five Papua New Guinean youth, was never able to shake the way his thumbs-up to the camera promised a future where everything was going to be okay.

Fifteen years later, the photograph is hanging in Colin’s office, and when he’s asked how he got into the business of people helping people, he points to it. Like the photograph with its quiet and sustained birth, so, too, was Colin’s idea for the Global Volunteer Network (GVN).

Of the six weeks he spent in Papua New Guinea, Colin says, “For a young guy from New Zealand, it had quite an impact.”

Such an impact, in fact, that GVN, a non-governmental organization born out of a compassion for people that gripped Colin like an island vine, is connecting volunteers with communities in need all around the globe to deliver on his wordless promise all those years ago.

Although Colin had been fascinated with finding a solution for the poverty he had witnessed during his travels the next decade after his first overseas experience, it wasn’t until he took a trip to Ghana in 1998 that he had his epiphany.

Colin, who has a Master’s degree in International Development, was working for WorldVision doing a literacy study in Ghana when he made an alarming discovery. Schools, lacking books and teaching materials, were also lacking the most precious resource: teachers. In a majority of classes, teachers, underpaid and overburdened, were outnumbered by a ratio of 150 to 200 students to two teachers. Colin was compelled to leave the trip with more than just empty promises.

“Long term, it’s obvious we need to train more teachers,” Colin said. “But in the short term, these kids would really benefit from an education now. International people coming in to help fill those teaching gaps seemed like the next step. So that’s when I went, ‘Wow, there’s actually a real need for volunteers.'”

Upon returning home, Colin continued working his full-time job while, with the help of his wife, Jo Salisbury, began laying the foundations for GVN during everyone else’s happy hour.

“It took me a year working nights to figure out how I could make this idea work,” Colin said. “I didn’t share it with anyone until I got it going.”

In his research, Colin found that other organizations charged high fees to volunteer, and vowed to make his organization as accessible as possible.

“I got frustrated with the fact that a lot of organizations just wanted people’s money and nothing else,” he said. “I wanted to give people the opportunity to get their body there, as opposed to just paying their dollar a day.”

Colin was also adamant that his organization would align with the idea of “local solutions to local problems,” working at the grassroots level to achieve their goals.

“Local people are the ones who live in those communities, so they know their needs and how best to address them,” Colin said. “What they need is support in doing that, not someone else coming in and setting up an infrastructure when a lot of those infrastructures already exist.”

Colin and Jo officially launched GVN in 2002 with a web site that now brings snickers in the increasingly computer-savvy office. And with help from the first hired staffers who worked out of Colin’s spare bedroom, GVN began sending volunteers to programs in Ghana, Nepal and Ecuador. With growth that would surprise even the staunchest GVN supporter, the organization leaped from sending just 240 volunteers its first year to 1,520 volunteers two years later.

“I had no idea how well it would go,” Colin said. “It was kind of like, let’s set it up and put our marketing in place and hope it will take off. And it really did. As demand grew, we added more programs, and we’ve basically been doing that ever since. It was good timing with the Internet becoming available; it meant that we could provide lower cost volunteer opportunities than other organizations that were around before the Internet that have different cost structures.”

And with the growth of GVN came a proper office and an expanded staff team of 20 people to help administer volunteer applications and coordinate country programs. The map on the wall of the meeting room now has 19 pushpins denoting GVN’s programs in Alaska, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Honduras, India, Kenya, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam. Volunteers, who work anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months, are involved in programs at orphanages, schools, wildlife sanctuaries, nature reserves and refugee camps.

And the GVN network continues to expand. The GVN Community Fund was established in 2004 to support the work of GVN’s partners with resources so they are able to continue and enhance their work in their local communities. The Community Fund plans the fundraising treks to Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Everest base camp, Machu Picchu and New Zealand’s South Island. The treks, a mix of adventure sport and humanitarian aid, add a new twist to the “sponsor my walk” fund-raiser, with every dollar earned going to support a project in the foothills of the peaks, such as a new school in Uganda.

The Office

It’s an odd day if Colin’s four-year-old daughter isn’t riding her tricycle around the office, weaving in and out of desks as if they were traffic cones. Staff members enjoy Ping-Pong breathers, take hot drink orders and get infuriated during Sudoku competitions.

“Our partner in Vietnam just sent us pictures of his baby,” Program Coordinator Graham Fyfe announces to the office, who crowd around his desk and croon. Out the window, only a few feet away, young guys work lackadaisically on a line of cars waiting to be washed and waxed. The office, like a best-kept-secret noodle shop, is tucked among several non-descript warehouses and a car wash.

“People often think we’re a big American conglomerate and that we have offices in every corner of the world,” said Anna Wells, the program coordinator for Nepal, China and Romania. “I think if people realized that we were in the back blocks of Lower Hutt, they’d be quite surprised.”

It isn’t all sack races and bean bag throws in the office; GVN gets over 400 e-mails a day and program coordinators are busy sifting through travel questions-Should I take Malaria pills?-to taking phone calls from worried moms.

Most of the program coordinators have been volunteers themselves at one time, so their exclamations of volunteerism are genuine.

“Volunteering really shows you what a huge difference one person can make in a relatively short period of time,” Anna said. “You can learn so much about a culture by working alongside a community. It’s something you can’t experience any other way.”

Erin Cassidy, GVN’s office manager, volu
nteered in Uganda for three weeks last year with her five-year-old son.

“I saw firsthand what volunteering does and how it helps communities,” Erin said. “It really opens your eyes to how much you have and how much you don’t need. It’s impacted even the way we operate at home. I don’t run the water when I clean my teeth at home. I know that’s just a small thing, but I’m now aware of just how precious that resource is.”

For Charisse Gebhart, the program coordinator for Ghana, South Africa and Uganda, the six months she spent volunteering with GVN in Nepal changed her worldview.

“I was barely aware of the poverty and suffering that was out there,” Charisse said. “I’d see the commercials by Sally Struthers, but that was about the extent of it. Witnessing it for yourself is very different from just knowing it’s out there.”

And GVN offers a variety of ways to witness it for oneself, from standing up for the first time in front of a classroom filled with giggling Ghanaian students, to giving dinner to a rescued gibbon at a wildlife sanctuary in Thailand, to baking a cake with an orphan in Romania.

“No matter what your skill sets are, there are places where you’re needed and you can contribute,” Graham said. “Volunteering is not a one-way thing. It’s not just going to change the people you’re working with. It’s also going to change you. You’re going to gain more awareness of yourself, of what you’re capable of and what you’re passionate about. It’s worthwhile to put yourself in that position.”

A Catalyst for Change

Volunteerism isn’t all journal writing and introspection. The communities where volunteers work are often deeply affected by their presence. After all, it isn’t everyday that someone gives up the comforts of their daily life to pay to work long hours in a new and often demanding environment.

“One of the main factors of development is self-esteem and national pride,” said Hanna Butler, an administration staff member and fundraising trek organizer. “When I volunteered in India, sometimes it felt like I really wasn’t doing that much. But in some places, where we were the first foreigners to come there, people realized that they weren’t forgotten. They thought, ‘We’re worth being helped.'”

It’s often this feeling of self-worth, of recognition during a time of hopelessness, that can jump-start a community into action. When volunteers arrived in India to work in a community gutted by a swift reach of a wave-children separated from parents and homes exploded by a salt-water bullet in the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee-they found many people still stunned and unresponsive.

“A lot of people were still in shock,” Colin said. “There wasn’t a lot of action happening. But [the volunteers] just got in and started rebuilding the wells and ensuring that there was good water and everything. And as soon as they started, the locals just came and joined in, and in some places, took over because they were better at it than the volunteers. The point being is that volunteers often act as a catalyst. Local people often think, ‘If these people are going to fly half way around the world and pay all the money just to help us, than I think we can help too.'”

If GVN considers the organization a success, it’s only because of the difference they’ve been able to make in other communities.

“In Nepal, we’ve been able to take them from basically zero in terms of volunteers for their projects to 20 or 30 a month,” Colin said. “What that’s meant for them is they’ve been able to have a fantastic impact in providing teachers for the schools and the orphanages. So part of our success is the success that’s meant for others.”

Colin continued, “In Ecuador, GVN supplies half the number of volunteers that the organization has. Since they’ve started working with the volunteers-it’s not always all better instantly-it has had an impact on the environmental policy on the country and the local attitude toward conservation.”

And while volunteerism creates many tangible changes for communities, from new school buildings to cleaner streams, it also helps to bridge a divide left behind by decades of Western imperialism, colonization and exploitation.

“Quite often you hear about developed countries taking advantage of developing countries,” Michelle said. “But volunteerism allows developing countries to see that there’s another side to people, and how people want to be in the world.”

The GVN Difference

Asking a GVN staffer to tell you the difference between GVN and another organization doing similar work is like asking a child what they want for Christmas; they just can’t stop listing things.

“I think that one of the best things about GVN’s programs is that volunteers have a lot of space to use their own initiative,” said Michelle, the program coordinator for Kenya and Tanzania and the administrator for GVN’s travel insurance option. “I think our programs work for someone who has a lot of enthusiasm, energy and wants to see things get done.”

While GVN doesn’t just send volunteers out with a map and a compass, they do allow volunteers to make many of the decisions about how they want to spend their time volunteering.

“Other organizations send a guide out with their volunteers and it’s all very set and concrete,” Graham said. “And while that ensures a certain consistency in the program, it’s also really limiting in terms of what you can get done. With GVN, you’re given support but there are no prescribed guidelines.”

Although GVN is a relatively small organization, Graham believes its tight-knit office is actually one of its strengths.

“We’re quite responsive and can turn around and gets things done if changes need to be made,” he said. “We don’t have ten layers of administration that you need to go through to get things done.”

And unlike other organizations, GVN’s programs don’t require a second mortgage to take part. Volunteering in Thailand for four weeks costs only $650.

“Volunteering is expensive,” Michelle said. “You’ve got to take time off of your own life, but still keep it going. Things just don’t stop when you go overseas. So you want the best value for your time and money.”

Choosing a Partner

Being popular isn’t always easy. GVN gets at least two queries a day from organizations that want to partner with them. The task of deciding which partners to invest in is a long one.

“We look at the impact that those projects are making,” Michelle said. “We make sure that they’re worthwhile projects, that they’re up to GVN standards and that they make a good impact on the local community.”

Understanding that business practices, cultures and even ethics run the gamut when working with international partners, GVN instituted The Ten Steps of Quality to ensure consistency. The steps, actually a checklist, help GVN set standards as they work toward excellence in all of their programs.

“Sometimes partners we work with are really eager to help but they’re not used to running a business the same way we are,” Graham said. “So the Ten Steps of Quality just gives them the tools to be able to do it effectively.”

There are times, however, when opinions differ and partnerships become more exacting rather than symbiotic. GVN, always careful about whom they’re working with, sometimes has to make the tough decision to cancel a partnership.

“We had a previous partner in Nepal in the beginning,” Colin said. “Things changed in regards to the way they were working and there was some question as to the use of finances. We had to decide that we couldn’t be involved if that sort of thing was going on. We had to pull the plug.”

Volunteer Expectations: Where’s the Air Conditioning?

“I need to change the Info Pack for the Philippines,” said Annika Lindorsson, the program coordinator for India, Philippines and Vietnam. “I think it’s confusing for people to find the taxi from the airport using it.”

Annika had
just returned from a five-day trip to the Philippines to meet with one of GVN’s newest partner organization and assess the program. Following the path that a volunteer would take, she discovered a glitch in the directions.

“Going to the Philippines has made all the difference in my ability to do my job,” she said.

GVN isn’t shy about sending its employees to investigate their programs. For Annika, she brought back more than just a suntan: first-hand knowledge of how her program runs, what accommodation looks like, what volunteers are fed and the general logistics of getting around a country most volunteers have never been to before.

“It’s really helpful to see the logistical things, like the airports where the volunteers arrive,” said Graham, who traveled to Vietnam, Ecuador and El Salvador last year to check on his programs. “It’s a lot easier to give advice when you know where they’re going.”

Sharing a meal with a GVN partner also helps to build a relationship that had been solely Internet and phone based.

“It really makes it a lot more personal,” Anna said. “You have quite a close relationship with the people you’re working with over there. So to actually meet them makes it a lot more real.”

By seeing the country the way a volunteer would, program coordinators are able to ensure volunteers’ expectations are realistic; there really is no air conditioning in Uganda. Program coordinators also try to relay to volunteers that their trips will be nothing like a backpacker’s excursion to a dude ranch.

“Some of the volunteers will think the trip will be a real adventure,” Colin said. “Others think that in the month that they go, they’re going to dramatically change the place. Some views are naïve, some are more realistic and some view it as a holiday. So we try to get people’s expectations in line with reality without deflating them too much.”

Unlike some travel holidays where tourists can view poverty like a circus tent-circling around, pointing, but never joining in-volunteering with GVN makes acclimatizing to the environment a necessity.

“For the India program, for instance, accommodation has been selected that is not luxury accommodation,” Michelle said. “You’re actually learning to live another way without the comforts that you’re used to. At the end of the day, we want volunteers to gain a true experience of the country, rather than a tourist view.”

And while volunteers will have the opportunity to explore the country, there’s no mistaking that they work hard.

“I think a lot of people think it’s going to be really nice, like wiping sweat off people’s brows,” Hanna said. “But its long, hard work. Sometimes you feel like you’re not getting much done. And some days you think, ‘And I’m doing this for free? What am I doing?'”

Would she do it again?

“Yes,” she said.

Making the Big Leap: Just Go For It

“I was terrified,” said Charisse, of her first days volunteer teaching in Nepal. “I had no teaching experience. I was scared about having a classroom full of kids to myself. I didn’t know if I would be able to fill up all the class time and if I would be able to keep them under control.”

And how did it go?

“The way you’d expect it to,” she said. “There were some rough days, but it was great.”

The fear that gripped Charisse-How do you command a class full of children who don’t speak the same language?-is universal among volunteers stepping into situations that would make even the most experienced travelers blanch.

“Other volunteers have gone feeling the same way,” Charisse said. “In fact, every volunteer will have felt the same way. And you probably don’t always get that from the journals on the web site. But that shouldn’t be a reason to stop you.”

It’s this fearlessness, this nerve and heart and patience that a volunteer embodies that helps to push against a global current of hopelessness, despair, inequality, greed, racism and xenophobia.

“There have always been people in need, and unfortunately, I think there always will be,” Anna said. “You just have to help people one person at a time. I’d like to say that the end result is that GVN helps so much that they make themselves obsolete. But all throughout the history of the world, there has always been people who have nothing and people who have something to give.”

The act of giving, of taking on a responsibility for humankind, of declaring that a person whom you have never met has the basic and fundamental right to a life free of suffering, is incomparable to any other gesture.

“Yes, it’s tough,” Erin said. “And often there is culture shock. No one can ever prepare you for that. I don’t think you can be totally prepared for it. I’d seen pictures, watched videos, but in the end, the reality was different. But after the first few days, when you get over the jetlag and the change, I can’t see how you would ever regret it. I just can’t.”

And in the passing of a brick, in the chalk-dusted writing of a word, in the gentle rocking of a lonely child, a new world is forged where the universal truths are love, compassion and generosity; a world where photographs-a glimpse, an eye blink-become inspirations become ideas become endeavors become legacies.

Business is not a Social Giveaway

Donald Yates asked:


Make a profit and leave social programs to the Government.


Being in businesses serves one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to turn a profit for its owners or stake holders. People who begrudge businesses for making a profit don’t fully understand their purpose. In a capitalistic system such as that found in the United States, profit is the soul purpose of any business endeavor. Small businesses are no different, people who go into business for themselves, usually do so for the income. When all is said and done, income is after all, the root of the businesses importance.


Social endeavors on the other hand are driven by the need to provide a service. Some social businesses are for profit and some are not. Many times the proprietors take a salary while the business itself is self sustaining but does not occur a profit. Even though an enterprise may be a social directed business, it still operates under the same financial pressures as a profit driven business. Its aim may be to provide a clear social benefit but it must adhere to more strict rules and regulations than other businesses. The internal structuring may include volunteers and solicited donations. Accounting is strict and reporting to government agencies may be more scrutinized. Any profits occurred are mostly reinvested, or used to support its societal direction, rather than being paid to the owners of the business.


If you are community minded, you may want to start a business that isn’t just for profit but also has a social function. For example, you might want to provide a service for injured war veterans , or help improve conditions for disadvantaged children.


Here are some Advantages of starting a social directed business.

You get a feeling of self-worth while earning a living.

The community and your beneficiaries benefit as your business grows and matures.

Customers may be willing to become involved in the business because it supports a good cause.

It could be easier to attract and motivate employees and volunteers to share in your social aims.

You could possibly qualify for a government or church based grant and raise funds from people or organizations who share your social aspirations.


Here are some Disadvantages of starting a social directed business.

Sometimes your social aims may get in the way of making progressive decisions.

You may have to make difficult choices as to how much income to make.

If there is any surplus, profits it is expected to be put back into the business or go toward supporting the cause.



Why people change careers or start their own business

A change in conditions like loss of job or sudden need for more money.

A major life event can prompt or even enable you to start your business.

An inheritance or other dramatic personal event may provide the funding to kick-start you into action.

Loss of job or job stagnation could mean that now it is time to take the big step.



What are the Advantages of going into business?

It just might be an opportunity to start over or do something you’ve always wanted to do.

You have a chance to prove yourself.

You get to choose your future

You can make as much as you are determined to make. .

Even though you’re never your own boss you can have the flexibility of working around family commitments.



What are the Disadvantages of going into business?

You will have to ware many hats, meaning its up to you to take care of all business matters.

Going into business is a life-changing event and it can be very stressful.

Don’t make decisions that would effect others when you are personally disturbed.

It usually takes about three years to start showing a profit from a new business.

It is most unlikely that you will see any speedy returns on your investment and you must prepare for a long, and sometimes difficult challenge.

In the beginning stages especially, it could mean working long hours for little pay and making sacrifices in your personal life. Make sure those around you are prepared for the challenges ahead.


Should you start a business when you’re unemployed?

If you’re drawing unemployment your composition wages might not be enough to carry you through while starting a business. It may be better to find a job and slowly work into a business on the side. If you already have the tools, like a lawn mower (lawn service), a buffer and vacuum (carpet cleaning) or car (delivery service) then you might solicit people you know for business or references.


Starting your own business is not easy. It takes unusual fortitude to make the transition from wage earner to self reliance. Don’t attempt it unless you have the confidence and determination to succeed.


Happy Trails






The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

Cornelius Fichtner asked:

Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie. This short sentence pretty much sums up the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. It describes the expectations that we have of ourselves and our fellow practitioners in the global project management community. It articulates the ideals to which we aspire as well as the behaviors that are mandatory in our professional and volunteer roles.

The purpose of the Code is to instill confidence in the project management profession and to help an individual become a better practitioner.

You cannot find the Code in the PMBOK Guide. It is a separate document that you have to download for free from the PMI Website. But as so often on the PMI Website it is somewhat difficult to find. Here is the direct link to it: Just like the PMBOK Guide, this is a “must read” for anyone studying to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exam.

Unlike the PMBOK Guide, where memorization is necessary to pass the exam you will not be asked to recite from the Code during the exam. Instead, expect several scenario-based questions where you have to show that you can apply the Code. For instance: “You have just arrived in London where you will spend 3 days with a vendor reviewing a proposal. The vendor calls you in your hotel room and invites you to dinner. What do you do?”

Let’s take a look into this document. Upon creating the code, the PMI found that there are 4 values which project managers around the globe identified as being important: responsibility, respect, fairness and honesty. These values have become the foundation of the code and each of them is discussed at length in a separate section. For each of these values the Code lists aspirational and mandatory standards.

The aspirational standards describe the conduct that we strive to uphold as practitioners. Although adherence to the aspirational standards is not easily measured, conducting ourselves in accordance with these is an expectation that we have of ourselves.

The mandatory standards establish firm requirements, and in some cases, limit or prohibit practitioner behavior. Practitioners who do not conduct themselves in accordance with these standards will be subject to disciplinary procedures before PMI’s Ethics Review Committee. However, even though we have this distinction of aspirational and mandatory standards, for the PMP exam consider everything in the Code as mandatory.

The code applies to you both as a PMP Aspirant and later on also as a PMP. First, as a PMP Aspirant: When you apply for the PMP Exam you will be asked to sign the PMP Candidate Agreement and Release form. In it you state that as a PMP Aspirant you will comply with the Code. This means, for instance, that you don’t cheat on the PMP exam. And once you pass the exam the code also applies to you as a PMP.

Now you should exercise Responsibility and take ownership of the decisions you make or fail to make, show Respect to yourself, others and the resources entrusted to you, apply Fairness when making decisions and act impartially and objectively, and finally, employ Honesty in both your communication and conduct. If we all manage to live up to these high standard from the code, we will improve the respect towards our profession as well as enrich today’s business world.

Here are two more examples of applying the value of “Honesty” to your work: First, as a project manager you may be working on-site for your client and you may have access to proprietary and copyrighted material or information. The confidentiality of such intellectual property that you have access to, must be maintained. And second, let’s look at status reports or press releases that you provide. The information that you as a PMP provide in these documents must be accurate and truthful… however difficult it may be to define the word “truth”.

Applying the code in your daily dealings with work colleagues and your colleagues in the professional organizations will also set you apart. The code can assist you in making wise decisions especially, when you are faced with difficult situations when you might be asked to compromise your integrity and values. Sticking to the code will show others that you are an upstanding, ethical project manager.

Take this a step further. If your colleagues know about you in this way, this will be part of your reputation. And being honest and ethical makes finding a new job much easier, than if you had the reputation of stealing, backstabbing and lying.

Let’s come back to that dinner invitation from earlier. Would you accept or would you decline? I would accept because going out to dinner with a vendor or partner is normal social behavior and will not jeopardize your objectivity on the project. However, if the vendor offers a free Caribbean cruise to you then you should decline and notify your superiors.

Next to the PMBOK Guide the code of ethics is one of the more important documents on the exam. Study it and try to see it not just as a theoretical document but apply it to real life examples of how it applies to your work on a project and what you should do in a given situation.