Tag Archives: Global Volunteerism

You Are Strong! What Your Hands, Head and Heart Already Know

soy fuerte workshop-1 How do you help someone else recognize their own strengths? Their own potential? To believe in themselves and their future when the odds are against them?

This was the challenge when our team of Global Volunteers was asked to design and deliver a motivational workshop for the teenage boys aging out of their orphanage in Lima, Peru. They had lived there for years and now they would be on their own in just a few short months.

Would they recognize their unique strengths and be able to use those assets to achieve the future they wanted for themselves? How could we help set them up for success, and do it in a second language, with limited training supplies and in just 45 minutes?

It was actually the boys talking about their passion for soccer that sparked the idea of using a simple picture of a hand, a head and a heart to capture their individual strengths. Our goal was to have each young man recognize and appreciate his own foundation of unique strength.

soy fuerte workshop-2Here’s how we did it in five simple steps – so simple but so powerful – and you can do the same with any young person in any life circumstance.

  1. Start with a large piece of white paper for each teen and several colored pencils. In the left bottom corner, ask them to outline their hand with outstretched fingers. On each finger, ask them to write a skill or strength that they have with their hands. (For example: soccer, art/drawing, cooking, electrical repair, wood working, etc.)
  2. Next, ask them to draw a picture of their face or head in the upper middle page. Ask them to write down their “head” strengths, usually from their schooling (math, writing, music, etc.)
  3. Finally, ask them to draw a picture of their heart in the lower right corner of the page. Here they write their “heart” strengths like courage, persistence, faith, etc.
  4. Connect the three pictures (hand, head & heart) with a triangle and ask them to write “Soy Fuerte” or “I Am Strong” in the center.
  5. From here, you can flip the paper over and help them identify their future or dream jobs and finally, what resources they will need to use to achieve those goals.

Did it work? Yes! Very Well.

It was amazing to see how quickly the teenage boys grasped these concepts of interpersonal strengths and were able to apply them directly to their future. We were amazed and so inspired by their courage and spirit. Thank you boys for allowing us to be part of your journey!

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Stepping Up to Be a Global Volunteer: Why & Who?

Volunteer work, Peru

Painting the schoolyard wall with the children and staff, as part of Global Volunteers, 2015.

It’s a good question . . . Why volunteer time, energy and money to work in a totally different country with all its risks and unknown challenges? And who would even want to do that anyway?First, the question of “why” . . . although the answer is different for everyone, it almost always gets back to a strong sense of wanting to be part of something bigger than just ourselves – to find meaning and purpose in our own individual efforts. It’s that spark – that hope that each of us in some small way can contribute to making the world just a little better for others.

Second, is the “who” . . . who takes on these kinds of challenges? Our work in Peru was intense but relatively easy compared to the tough Peace Corp assignments, Doctors Without Borders or other similar humanitarian efforts around the world today.

In Peru, making schoolyard wall handprints.

Making handprints for the schoolyard wall, with Global Volunteers, 2015

Now what about you? At this time in your life, are you thinking (and maybe even excited) about stepping up to this kind of experience? It takes a lot of planning, preparation and can cost significant money as well as time away from work and family commitments. Are you ready for that kind of adventure and challenge?

If so, here are five excellent more personal questions to honestly ask yourself before raising your hand and submitting your application.

  1. What are my expectations of this experience and are they realistic?
  2. Am I physically and emotionally healthy enough for this experience and possible risks?
  3. Am I truly open and receptive to learning and appreciating a new culture/way of life?
  4. Am I really flexible regarding time schedules, new foods, different personalities (on the team), work responsibilities etc?
  5. Do I have a love of people and a sense of humor!

There are many other criteria to honestly see if global volunteerism is for you at this time in your life. Be honest with yourself – this may be a great time or perhaps not “yet”. Either way, it’s a delicious option!

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Global Volunteers – Just One of Many Volunteer Opportunities!

Kit and Peru team

Kit and other Global Volunteers, Peru, 2015.

There are many great international humanitarian organizations. My favorite has been the Global Volunteers organization – www.GlobalVolunteers.org– which has been serving underdeveloped communities around the world since 1984. They are now serving in 19 countries with varied projects including teaching English and doing light construction. More than 30 thousand volunteers have participated in one-, two- or three-week assignments, working in rotating teams under the guidance of experienced country hosts.

What makes this organization different is their professionalism and organization, which makes the volunteer experience as smooth as possible. But more importantly is their ongoing commitment to providing sustainable services (through rotating teams) that are specifically requested by the community. In addition, community representatives are always working alongside the volunteers, making these desired changes their own.

Global Volunteers is a long-standing NGO leader in special consultative status with the United Nation and in partnership with UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

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Push That “Yes” Button!

It was a small boat in a small town on the eastern shore of Crete. The winds were up and the water was rough. The regular tourist boats were closed due to the May 1st holiday but our taxi cab driver (in a pink tie & driving a Mercedes) had a “friend” who had a boat to ferry people out to the famous island of Spinalogue, an old leper colony and one time prison.

Did we want to go?  My adventurous twin sister, Diane, said “of course” as I was still contemplating a cappuccino in a cozy tavern on the shore.  But that’s Diane . . . she has always been the one to push the “Yes” button before me.  And I’m so glad she does! We’ve had the best experiences over the years including on this special holiday seeing this piece of history from the sparkling blue waters off Crete.

One of our wonderful Canadian team members, Sheila Davis, embraced this idea and became our inspiration.  She is more fun, full of life and certainly is willing to say “yes” to anything anywhere.  I’ll travel with her anytime!

Saying “No” Becomes a Boring Habit

It’s interesting how easy it is to get in the habit of just saying “No” to new things especially when they change up our normal daily routines or stretch our cozy comfort zones.  We are quick to think of why it’s not a good idea . . . and much slower to think why it may be a good (even great) idea.  It actually becomes a habit – saying no before we even really think about it.

But what does that kind of automatic response do for us?  Not much.  Sure, life rolls on very safe, comfortable and (dare I say) a tad bit boring.  And we can find ourselves saying afterwards “Gee, I wish I had done that”.  But we can if we get out of our own way and let those adventures in.

Building Your Resiliency Skills & Your Career

Challenging yourself to stretch, grow and learn benefits not only you personally (you’re much more interesting) but also your career.  By using those adaptive, change muscles regularly you will be pleasantly surprised how much more resilient you are during times of significant change.  You have that inner confidence and knowledge that you can be flexible, creative and adaptable.  It actually very empowering – a real boost.

Make “Yes” Your Default Button 

So my challenge to you is to make “Yes” your default button.  Yes, default to yes as often as you can.  It will take some practice to say “yes” first to new opportunities unless you can think of some really good reasons to say “no”.  Now I’m not saying to do anything so wild and crazy that it’s foolish or unsafe.  I’m talking about just adding a bit of spice and adventure to your life.  Let me know how you do and then we can plan our next great adventure!

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Supporting Families & Businesses in Greece

It was interesting to see that the majority of businesses in Crete, both in the main city of Heraklion and the outlaying communities, are all being operated by families. Aside for the occasional super market, the stores,restaurants and hotels appeared to be owned by individuals with their extended family members providing the extra hands to keep the doors open.  Other people may also be working there but often there was a “family friend” connection. And if you asked, you learned about the wonderful Greek family culture.

Compared to the USA Business Model

That’s a real difference from how business is done here in the USA.  The small business owner just can’t compete on any significant scale with the box stores and the chain restaurants here in the United States.  Just look around you.  Every mall in every community seems to have basically the same stores often built right next door to each other.  A Best Buy is next door to PetCo which is next door to Barnes & Noble.  It doesn’t change much whether you are traveling in Seattle, passing through Phoenix or stopping in Washington D.C.

And restaurant chains are the same way . . . you can find an Olive Garden, Claim Jumper, TGIF anywhere.  Starbucks and McDonald’s have become incredibility successful offering the same products with the same brand of service anyplace you go.  Same with hotels who offer creative rewards programs to encourage you to stay in their same hotels (even the floor plan is the same) no matter which city you are traveling too.

Customer Loyalty – It’s Different in Greece

But do we really feel loyal to those big box stores, restaurants and hotel chains?  Only to the extent that we always know what to expect – what we’re buying – no surprises.  It’s a given.  That’s very different in Greece. When a business is owned by an individual there is a very different feel as soon as you, as the customer, walk in the door.  It looks different, it’s unique and the people helping you seem to be more interested.

What makes the difference?  When we as customers get the chance to meet the business owner and chat to them a bit about their business there is real observable shift in energy.  Now you’re helping an individual, a family, a business stay afloat by doing business with them.  You know where your money is going – not just off to corporate headquarters.

The result?  People do business with people they know and like.  The Greeks patronize their favorite cafe houses, taverna and shopping spots stores because they know who owns them and they want to support those businesses.  And if you are invited for a coffee and conversation in the back of the store that’s even better.  That’s where I’ll spend my money each and every time.


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