In the Passing of a Brick – The GVN Story

The first photograph in the picture to emerge was once the ghost of figures, pale outlines on sleek paper, developed in a darkish lab among lots of different snapshots of birthdays and couples beaming in the front of scenic landmarks and kiddies taking first steps. Plunged into its chemical bath and then saved from drowning, the photograph used to be pulled out dripping, like a moist laundered sock, and hung to dry.

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

Perhaps it used to be the gingered hair of the younger boys that made the image 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 means of five Papua New Guinean youth, used to be never in a position to shake the way his thumbs-up to the digital camera promised a future the place the entirety used to be going to be okay.

Fifteen years later, the photograph is placing in Colin’s office, and when he’s asked how he acquired into the commercial enterprise of people assisting people, he factors to it. Like the image with its quiet and sustained birth, so, too, used to be Colin’s thinking 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 pretty an impact.”

Such an impact, in fact, that GVN, a non-governmental enterprise born out of a compassion for human beings that gripped Colin like an island vine, is connecting volunteers with communities in need all round the globe to supply on his wordless promise all these years ago.

Although Colin had been involved with discovering a answer for the poverty he had witnessed at some stage in his travels the subsequent decade after his first distant places experience, it wasn’t until he took a outing to Ghana in 1998 that he had his epiphany.

Colin, who has a Master’s diploma in International Development, was working for WorldVision doing a literacy find out about in Ghana when he made an alarming discovery. Schools, lacking books and educating materials, were additionally missing the most valuable resource: teachers. In a majority of classes, teachers, underpaid and overburdened, were outnumbered by means of a ratio of a hundred and fifty to 200 students to two teachers. Colin used to be compelled to go away the outing with more than simply empty promises.

“Long term, it’s obvious we want to educate greater teachers,” Colin said. “But in the short term, these children would truely advantage from an education now. International human beings coming in to help fill these educating gaps regarded like the subsequent step. So this is when I went, ‘Wow, there’s certainly 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 all through everyone else’s glad hour.

“It took me a 12 months working nights to determine out how I may want to make this concept work,” Colin said. “I did not share it with all of us until I acquired it going.”

In his research, Colin discovered that different corporations charged excessive charges to volunteer, and vowed to make his agency as on hand as possible.

“I obtained frustrated with the fact that a lot of groups simply wanted people’s money and nothing else,” he said. “I desired to provide human beings the probability to get their body there, as opposed to simply paying their dollar a day.”

Colin was once additionally adamant that his agency would align with the thought of “local options to nearby problems,” working at the grassroots degree to gain their goals.

“Local human beings are the ones who live in these communities, so they comprehend their desires and how excellent to address them,” Colin said. “What they want is aid in doing that, no longer someone else coming in and placing up an infrastructure when a lot of these infrastructures already exist.”

Colin and Jo officially launched GVN in 2002 with a net web page that now brings snickers in the increasingly more computer-savvy office. And with help from the first hired staffers who worked out of Colin’s spare bedroom, GVN commenced sending volunteers to applications in Ghana, Nepal and Ecuador. With boom that would surprise even the staunchest GVN supporter, the employer leaped from sending just 240 volunteers its first 12 months to 1,520 volunteers two years later.

“I had no notion how properly it would go,” Colin said. “It used to be type of like, let’s set it up and put our advertising and marketing in region and hope it will take off. And it truly did. As demand grew, we delivered greater programs, and we’ve got essentially been doing that ever since. It was once appropriate timing with the Internet becoming available; it meant that we could supply lower price volunteer possibilities than different corporations that have been around earlier than the Internet that have exceptional value structures.”

And with the increase of GVN got here a suited workplace and an increased team of workers crew of 20 humans to help administer volunteer functions and coordinate united states of america programs. The map on the wall of the meeting room now has 19 pushpins denoting GVN’s applications 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 somewhere from 2 weeks to 6 months, are concerned in packages at orphanages, schools, flora and fauna sanctuaries, nature reserves and refugee camps.

And the GVN network continues to expand. The GVN Community Fund was hooked up in 2004 to assist the work of GVN’s companions with resources so they are in a position to proceed and enhance their work in their neighborhood 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 journey activity and humanitarian aid, add a new twist to the “sponsor my walk” fund-raiser, with every dollar earned going to support a task in the foothills of the peaks, such as a new school in Uganda.

The Office

It’s an peculiar day if Colin’s four-year-old daughter isn’t always riding her tricycle round the office, weaving in and out of desks as if they were traffic cones. Staff contributors experience Ping-Pong breathers, take hot drink orders and get infuriated for the duration of Sudoku competitions.

“Our companion in Vietnam just sent us photos of his baby,” Program Coordinator Graham Fyfe proclaims to the office, who crowd round his desk and croon. Out the window, only a few feet away, younger guys work lackadaisically on a line of automobiles waiting to be washed and waxed. The office, like a best-kept-secret noodle shop, is tucked amongst several non-descript warehouses and a automobile wash.

“People regularly think we’re a large American conglomerate and that we have offices in each and every corner of the world,” said Anna Wells, the software coordinator for Nepal, China and Romania. “I think if people realized that we had been in the returned blocks of Lower Hutt, they’d be pretty surprised.”

It is not all sack races and bean bag throws in the office; GVN receives over four hundred e-mails a day and software coordinators are busy sifting thru tour questions-Should I take Malaria pills?-to taking smartphone calls from concerned moms.

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

“Volunteering certainly shows you what a large difference one man or woman can make in a exceptionally brief duration of time,” Anna said. “You can research so a lot about a way of life by working alongside a community. It’s something you can not experience any different way.”

Erin Cassidy, GVN’s office manager, volunteered in Uganda for three weeks final yr with her five-year-old son.

“I saw firsthand what volunteering does and how it helps communities,” Erin said. “It absolutely opens your eyes to how tons you have and how tons you don’t need. It’s impacted even the way we function at home. I do not run the water when I smooth my teeth at home. I comprehend it is just a small thing, however I’m now conscious of just how treasured 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 once barely conscious of the poverty and struggling that was once out there,” Charisse said. “I’d see the classified ads via Sally Struthers, but that was once about the extent of it. Witnessing it for yourself is very extraordinary from simply understanding it is out there.”

And GVN presents a range of methods to witness it for oneself, from standing up for the first time in front of a lecture room stuffed with giggling Ghanaian students, to giving dinner to a rescued gibbon at a flora and fauna sanctuary in Thailand, to baking a cake with an orphan in Romania.

“No count number what your ability units are, there are locations where you’re needed and you can contribute,” Graham said. “Volunteering is not a one-way thing. It’s no longer simply going to exchange the people you’re working with. It’s additionally going to trade you. You’re going to achieve more focus of yourself, of what you are capable of and what you’re passionate about. It’s rewarding to put yourself in that position.”

A Catalyst for Change

Volunteerism is not all journal writing and introspection. The communities the place volunteers work are frequently deeply affected through their presence. After all, it isn’t always everyday that any person gives up the comforts of their daily life to pay to work long hours in a new and frequently disturbing environment.

“One of the principal elements of improvement is vanity and national pride,” said Hanna Butler, an administration personnel member and fundraising trek organizer. “When I volunteered in India, from time to time it felt like I truely wasn’t doing that much. But in some places, the place we had been the first foreigners to come there, humans realized that they weren’t forgotten. They thought, ‘We’re well worth being helped.'”

It’s frequently this feeling of self-worth, of attention for the duration of a time of hopelessness, that can jump-start a neighborhood into action. When volunteers arrived in India to work in a neighborhood gutted through a swift reach of a wave-children separated from mother and father and properties exploded through a salt-water bullet in the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee-they discovered many humans still greatly surprised and unresponsive.

“A lot of people had been nonetheless in shock,” Colin said. “There wasn’t a lot of action happening. But [the volunteers] just obtained in and started rebuilding the wells and making sure that there was once appropriate water and everything. And as quickly as they started, the locals simply got here and joined in, and in some places, took over due to the fact they were higher at it than the volunteers. The point being is that volunteers regularly act as a catalyst. Local people often think, ‘If these humans are going to fly 1/2 way around the world and pay all the money simply to assist us, than I suppose we can help too.'”

If GVN considers the organization a success, it’s solely due to the fact of the distinction they’ve been able to make in different communities.

“In Nepal, we have been capable to take them from basically zero in terms of volunteers for their initiatives to 20 or 30 a month,” Colin said. “What it truly is supposed for them is they’ve been capable to have a splendid have an effect on in offering instructors for the faculties and the orphanages. So section of our success is the success it’s supposed for others.”

Colin continued, “In Ecuador, GVN supplies half of the number of volunteers that the corporation has. Since they’ve started working with the volunteers-it’s not usually all higher instantly-it has had an have an impact on on the environmental policy on the united states of america and the nearby mindset towards conservation.”

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

“Quite regularly you hear about developed international locations taking advantage of developing countries,” Michelle said. “But volunteerism approves creating countries to see that there is every other facet to people, and how human beings prefer to be in the world.”

The GVN Difference

Asking a GVN staffer to tell you the distinction between GVN and every other employer doing similar work is like asking a infant what they prefer for Christmas; they simply cannot quit list things.

“I think that one of the exceptional things about GVN’s applications is that volunteers have a lot of area to use their personal initiative,” stated Michelle, the program coordinator for Kenya and Tanzania and the administrator for GVN’s journey insurance plan option. “I suppose our packages work for someone who has a lot of enthusiasm, energy and desires to see things get done.”

While GVN does not just ship volunteers out with a map and a compass, they do allow volunteers to make many of the choices about how they want to spend their time volunteering.

“Other agencies send a information 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 is additionally clearly limiting in terms of what you can get done. With GVN, you’re given help however there are no prescribed guidelines.”

Although GVN is a quite small organization, Graham believes its tight-knit workplace is sincerely one of its strengths.

“We’re quite responsive and can turn around and gets things done if modifications need to be made,” he said. “We do not have ten layers of administration that you want to go thru to get things done.”

And not like different organizations, GVN’s packages do not require a second personal loan to take part. Volunteering in Thailand for four weeks prices solely $650.

“Volunteering is expensive,” Michelle said. “You’ve bought to take time off of your personal life, however still hold it going. Things simply do not quit when you go overseas. So you prefer the satisfactory fee for your time and money.”

Choosing a Partner

Being popular isn’t always constantly easy. GVN receives at least two queries a day from groups that prefer to associate with them. The challenge of finding out which partners to make investments in is a long one.

“We look at the influence that these initiatives are making,” Michelle said. “We make sure that they’re profitable projects, that they’re up to GVN requirements and that they make a top have an effect on on the neighborhood 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 make certain consistency. The steps, definitely a checklist, assist GVN set standards as they work toward excellence in all of their programs.

“Sometimes companions we work with are honestly keen to assist however they’re not used to strolling a enterprise the same way we are,” Graham said. “So the Ten Steps of Quality just gives them the equipment to be in a position to do it effectively.”

There are times, however, when opinions differ and partnerships end up extra exacting alternatively than symbiotic. GVN, continually careful about whom they’re working with, occasionally has to make the tough choice to cancel a partnership.

“We had a previous partner in Nepal in the beginning,” Colin said. “Things modified in regards to the way they were working and there was some query as to the use of finances. We had to decide that we could not be involved if that type of thing was going on. We had to pull the plug.”

Volunteer Expectations: Where’s the Air Conditioning?

“I want to trade the Info Pack for the Philippines,” stated Annika Lindorsson, the program coordinator for India, Philippines and Vietnam. “I assume it is complicated for people to find the taxi from the airport the use of it.”

Annika had simply lower back from a five-day outing to the Philippines to meet with one of GVN’s most modern companion employer and investigate the program. Following the course that a volunteer would take, she determined a glitch in the directions.

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

GVN is not shy about sending its personnel to look into their programs. For Annika, she delivered again greater than just a suntan: first-hand know-how of how her software runs, what lodging appears like, what volunteers are fed and the standard logistics of getting around a us of a most volunteers have in no way been to before.

“It’s genuinely helpful to see the logistical things, like the airports the place the volunteers arrive,” said Graham, who traveled to Vietnam, Ecuador and El Salvador closing year to check on his programs. “It’s a lot easier to supply recommendation when you comprehend where they’re going.”

Sharing a meal with a GVN companion also helps to construct a relationship that had been completely Internet and phone based.

“It sincerely makes it a lot greater personal,” Anna said. “You have pretty a shut relationship with the people you’re working with over there. So to truely meet them makes it a lot greater real.”

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

“Some of the volunteers will assume the time out will be a actual adventure,” Colin said. “Others suppose that in the month that they go, they’re going to dramatically exchange the place. Some views are na‹ve, some are greater practical and some view it as a holiday. So we try to get people’s expectations in line with truth barring deflating them too much.”

Unlike some tour vacations the place vacationers can view poverty like a circus tent-circling around, pointing, however by no means joining in-volunteering with GVN makes acclimatizing to the environment a necessity.

“For the India program, for instance, accommodation has been chosen that is not luxurious accommodation,” Michelle said. “You’re simply mastering to live every other way without the comforts that you’re used to. At the give up of the day, we prefer volunteers to achieve a true trip of the country, as an alternative than a visitor view.”

And whilst volunteers will have the probability to explore the country, there is no mistaking that they work hard.

“I suppose a lot of human beings think it’s going to be virtually 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 instructing in Nepal. “I had no educating experience. I was once scared about having a school room full of children to myself. I did not understand if I would be capable to fill up all the classification time and if I would be in a position to preserve them beneath control.”

And how did it go?

“The way you’ll assume it to,” she said. “There have been some hard days, however it was once great.”

The fear that gripped Charisse-How do you command a category full of adolescents who don’t speak the identical language?-is common amongst volunteers stepping into situations that would make even the most skilled vacationers blanch.

“Other volunteers have gone feeling the identical way,” Charisse said. “In fact, each volunteer will have felt the same way. And you probably don’t continually get that from the journals on the web site. But that should not be a reason to cease you.”

It’s this fearlessness, this nerve and coronary heart and patience that a volunteer embodies that helps to push towards a global modern-day of hopelessness, despair, inequality, greed, racism and xenophobia.

“There have always been humans in need, and unfortunately, I assume there continually will be,” Anna said. “You simply have to help human beings one person at a time. I’d like to say that the stop end result is that GVN helps so tons that they make themselves obsolete. But all during the records of the world, there has continually been people who have nothing and people who have some thing to give.”

The act of giving, of taking on a responsibility for humankind, of declaring that a man or woman whom you have by no means met has the basic and indispensable proper to a existence free of suffering, is incomparable to any other gesture.

“Yes, it is tough,” Erin said. “And often there is way of life shock. No one can ever prepare you for that. I don’t assume you can be definitely prepared for it. I’d seen pictures, watched videos, however in the end, the fact was different. But after the first few days, when you get over the jetlag and the change, I cannot see how you would ever regret it. I simply can’t.”

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