Snapshot of the Month: Samaritan’s Feet International

This month’s organization snapshot features one of our long-time partners, Samaritan’s Feet International.

 

Photo: Samaritan's Feet International

Photo: Samaritan’s Feet International

 

Why Samaritan’s Feet International?

There are an estimated 1.2 billion children who go without shoes every day and more than one million that are infected with foot borne diseases. The goal of Samaritan’s Feet is to give away 10 million pairs of shoes in 10 years. This organization believes that shoes are much more than status symbols and fashion accessories. Their shoe distributions are designed to meet physical needs and inspire young people to believe in the value of life and service.

What makes Samaritan’s Feet International different?

What makes this organization unique is how they serve the children. Samaritan’s Feet shares the message of hope and love by distributing new shoes and washing the feet of under-served individuals around the world. At first, it may seem uncomfortable to wash a stranger’s feet, but it is an opportunity to humbly serve someone and leave a lasting impression on both the child receiving the shoes, and the volunteer. Those 5-7 minutes are spent getting to know the child and encouraging them to work hard so that they can achieve their goals.

What are some of the most popular destinations for Samaritan’s Feet volunteers?

Some of the most popular destinations participants travel to include the countries of Burundi, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua, South Africa, and Uganda.

How can you get involved?

There are many different ways to get involved with Samaritan’s Feet and there really is something for everyone. You can volunteer at a domestic shoe distribution in the US and impact kids domestically or you could travel with a team to Africa, Central America, and beyond to impact children in need around the world.

Other opportunities include hosting a shoe drive and collecting new shoes that will be distributed worldwide, volunteering at the organization’s warehouse in Charlotte, NC to process and prepare shoes for distribution, or setting up your own personal fundraising page.

 

Keep up with all that is happening through Samaritan’s Feet International by following them Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Snapshot of the Month: WAVES for Development

This month’s organization snapshot is WAVES for Development, a volunteer organization that believes surf travel should benefit the people and the communities where it happens. This guest blog post was written by WAVES volunteer Nicholas Sands.

Beyond the Picture

We have all seen that photo of a lucky person sifting their feet through the soft-white sand on a paradise island. We imagine them swimming in the warm azure water and being greeted with chilled beverages. In fact, we have probably all seen such a picture multiple times. It tempts us to drop our busy 9-5 work week and escape to be that lucky person. In Peru, there is a town that makes for a better experience. It isn’t your typical paradise though. Oil rigs, the desert, family-owned restaurants, and world class waves all combine to make Lobitos a place for an uncommon volunteer experience. You’ll leave with more than just a temporary tan, though. On your flight back you will remember the days you jumped from the pier. You will remember the kids you taught how to surf. But most importantly, you will remember ‘Lobitos’, a paradise beyond the picture.

Photo: WAVES, Gary Parker

Photo: WAVES, Gary Parker

WAVES for Development is the organization you want to work with to create these lasting memories. Located in Lobitos, Peru, WAVES provides volunteers the opportunity to surf, have fun and make a difference at the same time. A typical day for a volunteer begins with a ‘dawn patrol’ morning surf at one of the many world class breaks Lobitos has to offer. After having one of the best sessions of your life, you might find yourself creating a community garden, teaching English at a local school, or working with local entrepreneurs to create a bullet-proof business plan. Afterwards, you may choose to go for another surf, or continue your work, or maybe just take a siesta in the heat of the day. Just don’t forget to eat at one of the many family-owned cevicherias for lunch. Wherever your interests lie, WAVES can fulfill while ensuring community needs are met. This is what sets WAVES for Development apart. It provides opportunities for the community to capitalize on the influx of surf-tourism. In addition to providing life-
enriching experiences to volunteers, WAVES strives to make sure that volunteer impact is lasting. Who knows? Maybe your return trip will find you eating at a restaurant that you helped start! Or you might even find yourself speaking to a soon to be sponsored surfer who you taught the importance of determination and dreaming.

Photo: WAVES, Gary Parker

Photo: WAVES, Gary Parker

Before searching for the next paradise island, give yourself a chance to create experiences in a place you’ll least expect with an organization that will do just that, guaranteed.

Learn more about WAVES for Development and how you can get involved by visiting their website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Snapshot of the Month: One Child Matters

Today we are shining the spotlight on one of our great partners and a fantastic organization, One Child Matters.

 

Crossing Into Haiti from One Child Matters on Vimeo

 

Why One Child Matters?

One Child Matters is not your average child sponsorship organization. The work they do equips children in developing nations to reach their highest potential through many different developmental aspects. This organization serves over 40,000 children in 16 countries throughout the world. We especially love the way this organization partners with independent, non-governmental organizations in some locations to provide partner-based education and child development centers. This provides OCM the opportunity to expand their reach.

What makes One Child Matters different?

The core values of this organization are inspiring. The OCM team places high priority on collaboration with local, national, and international partnerships so that they can do the most good possible. Excellence, generosity, truth, integrity and servanthood are also part of their core value system. Their child-centered approach guides the decision making process of the organization and ensures that their actions are governed by the best interest of the child.

How can you get involved?

One Child Matters has many ways for individuals or groups to get involved with their world changing work. With a Volunteer Network, Mission Trips, child sponsorships and many local initiatives, there are options for all levels of participation. Check out the Get Involved section of their website for more information on contributing your time and talents.

Stay up to date on One Child Matters and all they are doing by following them on Twitter, Facebook, and Vimeo.

 

Snapshot of the Month: Compassion International

This month we’d like to feature one of our great partners, an organization that is doing much for children all over the world, Compassion International.

Compassion

Compassion began providing for orphans that were left homeless, without food, education, and health care after the Korean War in 1952. Today they exist as a child advocacy organization that is committed to individual children and their development.

Why Compassion International?

We really admire this organization because of their unwavering integrity. According to Forbes magazine, Compassion has been listed among the largest U.S. charities, number 16 to be exact. Although their outreach is likely to affect entire communities, their goal is to release children one-by-one from poverty. The organization works with 1.4 million babies, children, and university students in 26 countries throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

What makes Compassion International different?

Compassion operates with a Holistic Child Development Model that has three parts: child survival, child sponsorship, and leadership development. Their model begins in the earliest stages of a child’s development and continues through young adulthood.

How can you get involved?

You can become a Compassion Volunteer through their Advocate Network which begins with first sponsoring a child. Being an advocate means being one who defends and pleads another’s case. Compassion has various different ways for you to commit your time, talents, and influence to help children in need. Click here to learn more.

 

Stay up to date on what Compassion International is doing by following them Twitter or liking them on Facebook.

Volunteer Snapshot: Chris Szabo

There are few greater joys than hearing updates from our members. We met cardholder, Chris, just before he embarked on his volunteer journey which took him all over the US.

 

We had a Q&A session with Chris where we learned all about his passion for volunteer work, how he got involved with volunteerism, and some of his best volunteer travel moments. Read on to hear about his incredible journey.

IVC: Chris, tell us a bit about the organization that you volunteer with and why you are so passionate about them.

Chris: I am a volunteer with Invisible Children. IC is a global movement and community of people bent on creating a better and just world and actively engaging in it. The people in this organization, whether in the IC Offices or across the country have such amazing big hearts, and I’m grateful to be a part of this community and movement. They have a set value for every single human, and they treat everyone with respect and honor. Not one person is unapproachable or better than everyone else. The values they hold and the mission they pursue is so filling.

IVC: Your volunteer position is a bit different than what someone may normally associate with ‘volunteer work’. Can you tell us more about what you do for Invisible Children?

Chris: My position with Invisible Children was a Roadie. A roadie is someone who travels to schools, universities, community centers, and places of worship all across the US to tell about the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict and inform people of how they can help end it. Our tour had five different teams in five different regions with 3-4 people per team. Each team has one Ugandan Roadie who has been directly affected by the LRA conflict, and they share their experience at each presentation we do.

IVC: Wow! That’s a very committed position. How did you get involved with volunteerism?

Chris: In college, I took a course in Sociology that transformed my views on the world and opened my eyes to injustices around me. I knew I not only had to do something, but that I could do something. So I began to meet people who lived on the streets downtown, I started petitions to stop budget cuts to my school, I held fundraisers for the Japan Earthquake & TOMS shoes, and I visited Haiti twice to help teach & build mosquito nets for an orphanage we work with.

IVC: It sounds like you’ve adopted a ‘volunteerism lifestyle’ which has probably offered you many unique experiences. What are some of the most unforgettable moments you’ve had as a volunteer?

Chris: Some of the most unforgettable ones would definitely be during my time with Invisible Children. I got to travel across half of the country and speak to over 10,000 students about changing the world and stopping a conflict in Africa. I got to meet principals and teachers who instill such a spirit of betterment in their students that it makes me want to be able to do that in my daily work. I’ve met girls and boys with cancer that’d give their last penny and breath to help stop this conflict. Being a volunteer has been a truly humbling experience. To give of one’s self is to redeem the world.

IVC: That’s a great statement. And of course, as you experience these things you learn life lessons. Can you tell us about one major lesson you’ve learned as a volunteer?

Chris: [I've learned] that we can make a difference, in our own lives and in the lives of others. We have the capability to make the world a better place or a worse place, and we are always given the choices to do such.

IVC: That’s a life lesson that won’t fade soon, but it could be a hard one to learn. What would you say to someone who is just starting out on their volunteer travel journey?

Chris: Have a great attitude. A great attitude will make unpleasant situations that much easier. And love what you’re doing. Enjoy the moments as often as you can.

IVC: I’d say that’s a key to life, wouldn’t you? Now, of course we have to ask; What are some volunteer travel essentials that always make it into your bag?

Chris: Journal, thermos, pens, paper, wallet, sleeping bag, clothes, phone & charger, camera & charger, laptop & charger, and toiletries! Easy!

IVC: Thanks for talking with us, Chris! We look forward to hearing many more stories from your volunteer journey!

Snapshot of the Month: Cheeky Chicas and Chicos

We met Judy early in 2013 when she came to us for her travel insurance. Her travels were beginning in the spring of 2013 and taking her to various countries, states, and cities over the course of a year. We asked her if she would update us on her travels and share some of her volunteer stories. She gladly obliged…

 

Cheeky Chicas and Chicos

Niños, I teach a few, nine classes a week and 30 students per class. If they all show up that averages 270 kids a week! Add another 270 as I assist the co-teacher’s nine classes.

dsc05127

Imagine never teaching before and then facing 540 expectant faces week after week.

As a volunteer for a great organization in San Jose, English Volunteers for Change [EVOLC], I     front years 10-12 in grades 4 to 6. Some are interested in learning English as a second language, which is mandatory at Escuela Nueva Laboratorio, most are not!

To find out why we’ve challenged Grade 6 students to debate whether English should be taught in Costa Rican schools. The whole class virtually shouted “No!”, so you can see what we’re up against. It will indeed be interesting to hear what they deliver for the affirmative, and the negative for that matter.

dsc05135

Grades 4 and 5 are just as challenging. They love to colour in and listen to music so any audio or visual aid is going to get their attention and hopefully keep them interested for more than five minutes.

In San Jose, the capital, kids here rule the roost. They pay little attention to their profé [teacher] and think nothing of playing inside the classroom as if they were still outside enjoying recess.

The daily mantra is 1, 2, 3, silence please!

And it works, but you have to say it a lot. Never turn your back on these kids as it is a signal they can get out of their seats and dong their nearest classmate on the head. Then all hell breaks loose. You spend the next 10 minutes calming them down.

So best that both teachers maintain eye contact all times with these little cheeky chicos and chicas, which is difficult: two against 30!

That said, if you want to take some time out to help schools in need and do something rewarding, teaching is a great way to give back.

I have to follow the school curriculum, so coursebooks are provided. It helps if you have more than just a little Spanish, in my case, under your belt, but brush up on words such as sit down [sientese], be quiet [callarse], listen [escuchar], listen and read [exuchar y leer], write [escribir], draw [dibujar] and to be polite, always say please [por favor] following the request.

The best part of the day is going home, not because you’ve had enough, but simply knowing you may have imparted one word of wisdom,  in English of course!

This blog was written and photographs taken by Volunteer Card holder, Judy. She is a freelance writer and communications specialist from Australia. Judy is currently traveling through the US and Central and South America as a volunteer.

Organization Snapshot: Blood:Water Mission

logo

 

Blood:Water Mission’s identity is that of an organization committed to partnering with Africa to end the HIV/Aids and water crisis. This fall as many volunteers are heading back to school or starting a new educational journey Blood:Water starts their Back To School campaign which aims to get 3,000 African students back in the classroom. We are excited to feature this organization our Snapshot Blog!

Why Blood:Water Mission?

Blood:Water is committed to making change in the world. Their organization acts as an equipping agency by partnering with other African grassroots organization to end the HIV/AIDS and water crisis. Their team was founded by Jena Nardella when she was a college student alongside the band Jars of Clay.

What makes Blood:Water Mission different?

Blood:Water Mission  has a defined DNA. They are committed and passionate about community, responsibility for the way they live, integrity, dignity, and teachability. Recognizing these qualities allows them to act as a grassroots organization, engaging with communities and local change-agents around the world. One of the reasons that we love Blood:Water is because of their creativity. From their website, “We are made of lemonade stands, high school benefit concerts, families who give up Christmas presents, mustache growing contests and 5k races. We are made of village communities, tippy taps, hygiene soccer tournaments, university concerts, and woven basket sales. This is the heart of who we are.”

Tell me more about the Back To School campaign!

Blood:Water is working in three main regions of Africa: Kenya, Zambia, and Uganda. One thing that these countries have in common is the lack of clean water. Because of this children just don’t have the time or ability to attend school because they are responsible for fetching water for their families, often trekking 1-2 miles. By providing clean water for a community children can spend more time in school and less time trekking for water. $25.oo will provide water for one child and allows them to stay in school and build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

 

How can you get involved with Blood:Water Mission?

KNOW LOVE ACT from Blood:Water Mission on Vimeo.

 

Get to know the organization better by visiting their website, liking them on Facebook or following them on Twitter.

Snapshot of the Month: An Inspiring Volunteer Story

Meet Volunteer Card holder, Christen. We connected with her during National Volunteer Week 2013 and after hearing some of her volunteer story we were completely inspired and knew right away that we wanted to share it with all of you.

Christen and her husband along with their nieces.

Christen and her husband, Christian, along with their nieces.

 

Read on for an account of our Q&A with Christen. We hope that you will be just as inspired by her as we are!

IVC: Christen, tell us about the organization that you’re so passionate about.

Christen: Young Life Capernaum is a ministry to kids with disabilities in Lima, Peru. The purpose is to give young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the chance to experience fun and adventure, to develop fulfilling friendships and to challenge their limits while building self-esteem through club, camp and other exciting activities.  We also have a shanty town ministry called House of Mercy as well as a ministry within a government run orphanage. The shanty towns are a model of community based on rehabilitation working with parents who are often illiterate and in extreme poverty to teach therapy techniques, model and teach inclusion and effect change in the entire community using what they have.

IVC: The programs sound really comprehensive. How did you get involved with Young Life Capernaum?

Christen: My first trip to Peru was in 1998 with my church to volunteer with an organization called Joni and Friends. We would bring wheelchairs to those in great need. In 2008 I moved to Peru to work with Young Life and develop our Capernaum ministry to teenagers with disabilities. I lived there for an incredible 5 years in which all kinds of new ministries were begun, all lead and now run by nationals who we trained. The icing on the cake for me was meeting my husband, Christian, a Peruvian national who served as a volunteer with us. We just moved back to California and hope to make it back to Peru at least twice a year to work with our Capernaum ministry. We think we will move back there someday.

IVC: Wow! So volunteering abroad has had many, many rewards for you personally :) The work that Young Life does sounds very rewarding but also challenging. Do you have a history of volunteering with kids with disabilities?

Christen: I began working with kids with disabilities when I was 7 when my elementary school held a special disability awareness week. Throughout high school I volunteered with Special Olympics and in my high school youth group involving my friends with disabilities. Then I went to Peru and that led to my 5 year role in Young Life Capernaum building relationships with the administration, training volunteers, and modeling how to work with the kids (my favorite part!) I have handed off my responsibility and now when I visit Young Life I will simply come as a volunteer who deeply loves the kids and the staff.

IVC: So obviously this is something you are very passionate about. I can imagine that you’ve had a ton of unforgettable moments. Tell us about some of the best.

Christen: Some of my best moments…taking a child out of her wheelchair and into the ocean or the swimming pool for the first time in her life, holding a little one who has never known hands of tender care the same day she arrived to the orphanage from a home where extreme abuse happened, and introducing my Peruvian friends who’ve always feared disability to the precious kids and watching them fall in love and find their own calling and passion in life…

IVC: It’s events like those that shape a persons life and we hope that every single person volunteering has life changing experiences. What is some advice or travel tips that you would give to new volunteers who are going abroad?

Christen: Drink lots of water. Bring a prescription of antibiotics with you and then try it all…food, culture, live as they live. Determine that ‘our way’ is not the best way, it’s just our way and when we travel we need to value ‘their way’. I HIGHLY suggest staying with host families rather than in touristy parts of town whenever you can. My role with Capernaum has brought me through many countries in Latin America and the richest experiences have been the relationships built with those whom I have stayed with and shared life with.

IVC: Excellent advice, Christen! I guess it’s true what they say, “When in Rome…” or in your case, “When in Peru…”! However, we all like to remember the comforts of home. What are some things that you always pack when traveling to Peru?

Christen: Peanut butter, hand sanitizer, a camera, and now my iPad mini thanks to Volunteer Card :)

IVC: Thanks for sharing your story with us, Christen! We look forward to hearing updates about your future trips to Young Life. Best of luck to you and your husband back in California!

picstitch

Some of the kids and sights from Christen’s time at Young Life Capernaum in Lima, Peru.

To learn more about Young Life and to find a way to be involved visit their website.

Organization Snapshot – Palmetto Medical Initiative

Photo Credit: Palmetto Medical Initiative

Photo Credit: Palmetto Medical Initiative

One awesome part about working in the humanitarian travel insurance industry is getting to know some truly amazing organizations that are sending teams of people around the world to do great things.  We are excited to feature our new friends, Palmetto Medical Initiative, this month on our Snapshot Blog.

Why Palmetto Medical Initiative?

Palmetto is a non-profit whose vision is to see impoverished communities take ownership in a sustainable healthcare model.  The goal is that communities of people will become empowered and begin to see long-term change and improvements in the quality of life. Palmetto also gives healthcare professionals and students the chance to work in clinics around the world.

How did it start?

Matt Alexander, a non-profit leader, and Dr. Ed O’Bryan, a physician and medical missions director, came together to develop PMI in 2008. They both believed that treating undeserved populations was possible and so they put together a team of collaborators and supports and set out to work. The first PMI team traveled to Uganda in 2009 for a site visit and immediately recognized the healthcare needs in the communities they visited. PMI began mobilizing resources from globally-minded groups and individuals to create a sustainable medical clinic on the ground in Uganda and in various other communities across the world. Because PMI’s healthcare facilities charge for services they have been able to create a self-sustaining loop of ‘prevention, patronage and health’ by not only offering quality care at a reasonable price but also by employing individuals from the populations in which they serve. PMI is dedicated to cultural, economic and healthcare transformations around the world.

How can you get involved?

Palmetto Medical Initiative sends teams of 30-60 volunteers on quarterly short-term trips to work on projects in Masindi, Uganda and Viego, Nicaragua. People that are interested in participating in a trip can find more information here. If you’re not quit ready to visit a site you can support Palmetto’s initiative by purchasing one of their awesome t-shirts!

Get to know them better by visiting their website, liking them of Facebook or following them on Twitter.

 

 

January Snapshot: Frontier

jan snapshot

For the month of January, we are excited to feature an organization that centers its focus on protecting ecosystems and the environment while simultaneously developing communities in some of the world’s poorest places.

Why Frontier?

Frontier is an non-profit organization committed to conserving the world’s most endangered wildlife and habitats while also developing sustainable improvements for some of the poorest communities in the world. While many volunteer abroad organizations are criticized for doing more harm than good, Frontier focuses on developing long-term relationships with the communities it serves in order to maximize the assistance they provide to the neediest of people and places. Frontier is professional, ethical, reputable, and values its skilled volunteers.

How it Started

Frontier is a non-profit conservation and development NGO that started its journey by administering groundbreaking environmental surveys in Tanzania. Since it was founded in 1989, Frontier has produced a large amount of reliable, comprehensive environmental data and has evolved its mission to include community, economic and societal development and growth to its cause. Frontier now offers over 300 volunteer programs on 5 continents and recently celebrated its 20th anniversary of “delivering safe, relevant and successful projects.”

How to Get Involved

From the Frontier website, it is simple to run a quick search for your ideal program by selecting your desired location, trip duration and trip type (they offer more than just volunteer trips!!). The results will show you the program that most closely matches your ideal trip. You may look at the details of each program including requirements, highlights, activities, expectations, and more.
Interested in checking out Frontier?


Get to know them better by visiting their
website, liking them on Facebook or following them on Twitter.