#33 Volunteering in Greece

Be The Change – Episode #33

This episode is a glimpse into a “day in the life” of a Global Volunteer in Crete – from the perspective of a volunteer teacher and the Greek team leader who guides her team.

Greece Country Manager Sam Pinakoulaki first describes the team’s daily schedule at a typical Greek English language “camp.”  After a hearty breakfast together, we have a short team meeting and we walk through the vineyard to school, says Sam.  After three hours of teaching conversational English, the volunteers join an hour of independent sports together with the students. The team returns to the hotel for an afternoon lunch, and to prepare for the next day’s classes (and to keep the lessons fresh for challenging young students).

The volunteers are integrated into every part of daily life, says Peggy. That means sharing meals and conversation with their students day and night.  “Family and food, and sitting down and breaking bread is a really important part of their life.”  For the two weeks of camp, she says, the students and volunteers are a special family.

The relationships cultivated over two intense weeks keeps volunteers returning year after year.  Julia points to another volunteer who’s served seven consecutive years.  The care and precision in preparing her lessons illuminates the love and kindness she feels toward the students she’s come to know.  “It was incredible.  She took a taxi, came back with bags and bags of supplies to make bird feeders with her students.  I was amazed at her level of commitment.”


Episode storytellers: Samantha, Peggy & Julia


#32 Hope = Action

Hope = Action – Episode #32

This week’s episode takes us into the new year filled with thoughts of hope. Each of our four featured storytellers looks at cultivating hope through action, from a slightly different angle.

Peggy and her family had a year loaded with personal challenges so large that she felt as though the fabric of her family was ripping away. Peggy, her husband, and their children found hope while working together, teaching conversational English in Greece. Peggy believes that serving as a family facilitated healing and restored a balance in a unique and lasting way.

Abby, a photographer took her camera to Tanzania this past fall and found hope in the eyes, heart, and spirit of a community.

The desire to pass her love for travel and service on to her children is so strong for Julia that her 13th birthday present to each of them was a trip that centered on service. Julia sees hope for the future through what she shares with her children.

Mary has been on service programs to China multiple times. With changes in the political climate in the US, Mary worried about how she, as an American, would be viewed. She found hope for the future in her positive interactions with teachers in China.


Episode storytellers: Peggy, Abby, Julia & Mary

#31 Why Give?

#31 – Why Give?

What are the advantages of donating to organizations doing work outside the United States? How important are financial contributions in the long-run? Some people may question if and how their own donations ultimately have an impact. Global Volunteers co-founders Michele Gran and Bud Philbrook, who married in 1979 and conceived the idea for Global Volunteers on their honeymoon in Guatemala, share facts and opinions about how contributions to their organization advances projects for at-risk children and families worldwide.


Episode storytellers: Bud and Michele

#30 Unexpected Transformations

Unexpected Transformations – Episode #30

This week’s podcast is highly personal and reflective – as our storytellers share how they’ve been changed since re-entering their daily lives after their volunteering experience.

Julia says she was transformed on the Blackfeet Reservation at a Sweat Lodge ceremony. “I almost see myself as who I was before the Sweat and who I am after.  I felt such a profound sense of connection to not only the locals, but to all of humanity.  It was powerful, really powerful.”

Kate was “ready to pack up and join the Peace Corps,”after serving in Mexico and Ecuador, saying she struggled with how to employ her insights from volunteering. “How was I going to continue this shift in my life, knowing that leaving for two-and-a-half years wasn’t an option?” So, she made a shift in her career to satisfy her craving for more meaning.

Volunteering with his sons in Tanzania was transformational, Tom said, because “seeing (them) grow and display their values, working in the orphanage in a philanthropic way” was one of his singular, proudest moments outside of daily life.

Gabe said months later now after his program, he has a profound sense of “needing to make the world better.” In his busy life, he misses opportunities to help people.  “I think, holy smokes, I’m so lucky. Through volunteering, you kinda get disrupted (in a good way).”

Marek offers a very long view – that of a host for volunteers who sees their impact on Polish students over more than 20 years. “These young people are the leaders; the future of our country.  They are the second or third generation of people who learned English from Global Volunteers.” Year after year, he says, volunteers transform his community in unmeasurable ways.

Everyone has a moment of transformation when serving others whole-heartedly.  It takes risk, and it might not be evident immediately, but this shift is surely to catch up with you during moments of deep reflection.  It’s healing, and it’s lasting.

Episode storytellers: Julia, Kate, Tom, Gabe, and Marek

#29 Life-Saving Action

Life-Saving Action – Episode #29

In many developing communities worldwide, even the barest resources to protect health and welfare may be outside a family’s budget.  But, we know that a commodity as common as soap can and does prevent up to 80 percent of infectious diseases.  The practice of washing with soap and water is more than 300 times as effective as any single immunization!

Emily, today’s storyteller, explains the urgent, critical need for immediate action – to save children’s lives in our partner communities and worldwide.  In Tanzania, we’re demonstrating how volunteers are helping to change a simple habit, and change lives – forever.


Episode storyteller: Emily

#28 Students’ Passion for Service

Students’ Passion for Service – Episode #28

Tristen’s service-learning experience in the Cook Islands gave him a new understanding about how service catalyzes understanding.  “Every kid I worked with really touched my heart in a different way,” he reflected. His story about a pick-up game of basketball underscores his point.

Hadley’s service program was her first international trip. She said she was immersed in the Ecuadorian culture deeper than she had expected.  She can’t imagine a better way for students to get to know a country.  “You get to see so much…I like that alot!”

Micah lists a number of lessons – about the local culture as well as service on a volunteer team.  His enthusiasm will encourage you!

Mindy speaks from a professor’s perspective: The reciprocity of a well-managed volunteer service program ensures that students receive as much as they give. It gives them a “taste” for the impact they can have throughout their adult lives.


Episode storytellers: Tristen, Hadley, Micah, and Mindy

#27 Leave Your Mark on the World

Leave Your Mark on the World – Episode #27

One person’s volunteer service has the potential for touching hundreds of lives. Every day, we impact others in ways we may not even be aware of.  The storytellers in this episode describe the joy of expanding their reach into new dimensions of service. Each of these unique experiences are also shared experiences that reveal how humanity is connected through acts of care and respect.

As a college instructor, Mindy takes seriously the expansive perspective that shapes her students’ career and life choices.  For them, traveling outside of their region of the country – let alone internationally – is a completely new experience.  In refining their global concept, Mindy says, they learn that “the world isn’t just us and them.”

Joan says: “I’ve done volunteer work before, but this was special in…getting to know people’s lives, because it was much more focused on projects.”

Chemida, Global Volunteers Country Manager in St. Lucia, describes local people’s lives are enriched through meaningful contact with volunteers from other countries and different cultures. She believes the “human connection” is the most long-lasting mark that volunteers can leave on the world.

Lynn talks about how serving with Global Volunteers has led her to additional service opportunities in her hometown…and how that has enabled her to influence her own community.

Winnie is one of four Reaching Children’s Potential Program caregivers in Tanzania.  She offers the perspective of villagers in rural Africa whom she meets in her outreach work to mothers and children.  Transformation occurs, she says, through one-to-one contact, and by offering assistance in practical, respectful ways.

Episode storytellers: Mindy, Joan, Chemida, Lynn, and Winnie

#26 Philosophy of Peace Waging

Philosophy of Peace Waging – Episode #26

This episode is a retrospective by our host, Ruth, and four storytellers on how Global Volunteers’ Philosophy of Service is a philosophy of waging peace, promoting justice and working hand-in-hand with local people.

Carol lends an academic perspective by reminding us that colonialism was the historical mindset by dominant cultures, and helping others in useful ways is a very recent orientation to the world. The roots of childhood stunting, which Global Volunteers addresses in Tanzania, can be traced to generations of failed government policies. We can “right the wrongs” she says, by applying ourselves to the real needs of the community.

Cynthia was struck by the realization that the value of relationships on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation transcends other measurable outcomes, and is at the center of Global Volunteers’ Philosophy of Service.

Maggie speaks to how cultural sharing is foundational to every volunteer’s successful contribution at the volunteer work site.

Emily’s assignment in Tanzania was building and demonstrating effective hand-washing stations.  In-country partnerships, she says, works only when sincere relationships are built first.  After that, true long-lasting service can be rendered to the community.

Episode storytellers: Carol, Cynthia, Maggie, and Emily

#25 “Thoughts of Peace”

Be The Change – Episode #25

In honor of International Day of Peace, designated by the United Nations annually on September 21, this episode features peace wagers we’ve heard from in earlier episodes, and new ones from around the world. Global Volunteers’ volunteers and staff reflect on what true world peace means to them, and how they’ve experienced peace waging by working together with others.  What does peace mean to you?


Episode Storytellers: Gila, Mindy, Jeff, Chemida, Carol, Samantha, Dan, Robi, and Michele

#24 “Reaching Children’s Potential”

Be The Change – Episode #24

This episode is dedicated to the stories of volunteers and staff who have contributed to Global Volunteers’ Reaching Children’s Potential program (RCP) in Tanzania.  It’s a demonstration program to address childhood stunting – and the effectiveness of short-term volunteers in helping halt this disastrous affliction.

What does it take, to take on such an expansive goal? Carol explains, from the informed perspective of a professor of anthropology, that a careful, respectful, and deliberate approach ensures a true partnership at every level. Hers is an important introduction to the personal reflections on service that follow.

Lisa, another college professor, says her experience is that RCP is effective because of its focus on a very specific outcome through very specific interventions.  Families’ lives are forever improved, she says, because volunteers are able to contribute to projects addressing “every aspect of the first few years of a child’s life.”

Tim says the opportunity to be part of a program on the ground level to actually challenge the conditions causing childhood stunting “is fascinating.”  He was empowered to make a real difference working with preschool children who still have their futures to learn and grow.

Finally, Anna, Global Volunteers’ Tanzanian team leader, expresses her hope for the program – the families and volunteers together – is to see children grow and thrive to become “great people.”  She says she expects that as the program expands, some of these children, whom she’s working with today, will become presidents, teachers, and others who have lasting impact on her country.

Episode Storytellers: Carol, Lisa, Tim, and Anna 

#23 “Dream to Reality”

Be The Change – Episode #23

Where there’s a dreamer, there’s a way! These storytellers from all walks of life benefited from unique ways to help fund their service programs – and found that the challenge of earning the privilege to serve made the experience that much sweeter!

Tristen, a high-school senior, received a service-learning scholarship from a generous couple who enabled him to live his commitment – to travel to help others. His motivation will surely inspire you!

Gabe’s employer encouraged him to take a journey of service and discovery on the Blackfeet Reservation. And although he volunteered without this financial support, knowing his contribution was recognized and appreciated further increased his respect for his company.

Sarah represents a company that believes whole-heartedly in enabling their employees to give back to others around the world. Nine employee teams over five years have served with Global volunteers this way.  Sarah says their staff volunteers call the experience “life changing.”

Amy enlisted her daughter to help her set up a social media strategy to crowd-fund her service program. She found a generosity and support among her friends and colleagues she couldn’t have expected!

Episode Storytellers: Tristen, Gabe, Sarah, and Amy


#22 “All About Spirit”

Be The Change – Episode #22

This episode takes us to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Northwest Montana – in the shadow of the great Rocky Mountains.  Once part of the land that now cradles Glacier National Park, to most visitors, this sovereign nation is but a “pass through” on the road.  But, a closer look reveals a spirit that’s as majestic as the mountains themselves.  Reservation volunteers take the time to learn about the traditions, history and heart of the reservation – directly from those who live, work and struggle there. Our storytellers define the line between what we think we know, and what we are privileged to learn, about Native Americans.

Global Volunteers Co-founder Michele Gran provides a context – and sense of place – for this episode’s storytellers.  “I’m always energized when I go to the reservation,” she says.  “We work with the leaders, and the seekers, and the visionaries, and the doers in the community.  And it’s nothing short of inspirational.”

“Everytime I’m there, I wonder what the United States would look like if we had adopted their ways instead of washing them,” says Cindy Murray, a team leader.  They have a grace and elegance, as well as a history and culture, Cindy explains, that we all can learn from.

International Operations Director Peter Kelly defines two of the service projects – supporting elders – that put volunteers in the midst of the day-to-day life on the reservation.

You can expect cultural insights each day, at the work site or on the way to assignments.  Gabe, a volunteer, describes encountering a bald eagle – and the tradition of honoring this symbolic animal in the Blackfeet culture.


Episode storytellers: Peter, Gabe, Michele, and Cindy

#21 “Beautiful Welcome”

Be The Change – Episode #21

We continue with our report from Ipalamwa, Tanzania.  Our host Ruth Curran brings us four unique interviews with team members who’re experiencing rural African life for the first time.  We get to listen in while they explain what – and who – most impressed them about the character and magnetism of the community.  Please note – the ambient sounds and rough audio is due to the field recording – and brings you into the scene!

Amy affirms the beauty of the children’s voice in song outside the village church upon the team’s arrival; it’s incomparable to children’s choirs in her hometown, she says.  The soulful music, emanating from deep within their hearts, anchored her fully within the spirit of the village. She knew immediately she was in a special place.

Robi says a “series of small moments are huge” in grasping Ipalamwa residents’ reality.  Visiting homes opened her eyes to the children’s struggle with so few resources. Volunteers may indeed feel despair amidst hope when confronting these conditions: “You see the pride, you see the poverty, you see the hunger, you see the resourcefulness, you see the shy smiles… you really kind of see it all .”

The expansiveness of the surroundings, the wildlife, and the village’s natural beauty in contrast with families’ lack of material assets was immediately striking for Kelly – emphasizing that wealth can be recognized within a community’s people and culture, most of all.

Captivated by the exquisite landscape and the vast and decorated sky, Dan declares:  “I sit here in awe of the natural beauty of the area, and the natural welcoming of the people.   It’s hard not to fall in love with a place when it’s beautiful and you’re welcomed.”

Episode storytellers: Kelly, Amy, Robi, and Dan

#20 “A Day in the Life”

Be The Change – Episode #20

It’s a rare opportunity to get a glimpse into a day of on-site volunteers – while they serve on the other side of the world. It’s even more special to hear their stories in the very moment the sights, sounds, and emotions swirl around them.

This week, our host records our storytellers in the moment. We hear that fresh, pure perspective of their personal journey to Ipalamwa, a small village in the Iringa District of Tanzania. Each of them was a part of the first team introducing the Reaching Children’s Potential program, an integrated effort to eliminate stunting and increase the quality of life for families in this corner of the world.

First, Stephanie, a high school English teacher, paints the picture of what it felt like to not just teach at the Secondary School but to also be accepted and welcomed by her students in a way that is both unfamiliar and gratifying.

Grace helps us understand that often there is more to a story than meets the eye, and that by listening closely, the whole scene – and your perception of it – can change dramatically.

Next, Amy describes the joy of holding a book for almost 100 kindergarteners – possibly giving them a first-time experience.

Finally, we get a rare look back as Sarah reflects, a week after returning home, on a portion she wrote for the team journal while in Ipalamwa.  Her wistful tone and thoughtful words tell the whole story.


Episode storytellers: Sarah, Grace, Stephanie, and Amy

 #19 “A Closer Look”

Be The Change – Episode #19

We know that things are rarely as they first seem.  It’s natural to approach new experiences with expectations of how they might unfold.  But, if we’re truly open-minded, our discoveries can be much greater than we first imagined.

Our storytellers share how this dynamic works on volunteer programs, each with a personal view on taking a closer look.

First, Cindy eloquently relates how volunteers who suspend their assumptions can enrich their volunteer experience. “Those are the people, when at the end of the week, have been moved – have been touched the most.”

Lisa says you might understand a need from your own limited experience, but a closer look often reveals another side. Her hard-hitting example may sound familiar to you.

Being part of a volunteer team is how Julie and her daughters gained valuable perspective. Fast forward – they’re still learning!

Summing up, our Ecuador Country Manager, Maggie, recalls how a high-achieving team member was forced to consider how a simpler solution might be the best course.  This is a lesson for all of us!

Episode storytellers: Cindy, Lisa, Julie, and Maggie