Posts Tagged ‘Changers Profile’

Changers Profile: Scott Fifer, GO Campaign

Scott Fifer GO CampaignI was recently e-introduced to Scott Fifer by a dear friend with whom I have traveled to Haiti, because she said her friend Scott was headed to Haiti again soon, setting up some grassroots volunteer programs generated from within the community, and we both shared a fascination with Haitian voodoo (vodoun) art, including the sometimes disturbing genre that includes plastic babydoll heads. Quirky and committed to service are a couple of high benchmarks in my estimation of folks, so I was looking forward to the conversation.

I, like so many of us would, figured I had to do an internet search ahead of time so I’d know more about who I was going to meet, and quickly became smitten with Scott’s huge undertaking, GO Campaign. Fifer is the founder and executive director of the organization whose mission he sums up: “We partner with grassroots Local Heroes to give opportunity to orphans and vulnerable children around the world.”

Now, tourism and orphanages uttered in the same breath become dangerous territory these days as it has become somehow cynically cool on the web to bash volunteer travel, especially in relation to kids. That’s an argument for which I have little patience, though it is true that there are some nefarious folks out there trying to capitalize on best intentions of travelers and who are creating a nasty “orphanage tourism” scam business model. While I don’t let that dampen my commitment to serving young people around the world, due diligence should be done before any of us lend our dollars or hours to any organization.

GO Campaign, established in 2006, is the real deal. The key is Scott and company’s commitment to work only with vetted “local heroes” who are already fighting the good fight in the communities where they live. This assures there is no foreign “savior” coming in and imposing outsider will on a local problem or issue. This is EXACTLY the sort of project initiative you should look for when volunteering anywhere—locally-generated solutions. The fact that this ethos is built into GO Campaign is a great sign. With GO Campaign, you can fund high impact projects from home, or you can go and volunteer with the hero projects in some amazing locations. The volunteer opportunities pages of the website share links to projects, and define the need for volunteers who might visit.

After the jump, find Scott’s answers to a bunch of Changers Profile questions: Continue reading

Changers Profile: TORY SONSTROEM, Volunteers for Peace

logoTory Sonstroem has this whole volunteer thing figured out—Ireland, Wales, Iceland, Alaska, Italy, Turkey, and more. She and her husband and daughter have been project participants as well as project hosts for other visiting service workers for Volunteers for Peace over the past many years. To give of your hard-earned vacation time to make a difference in the lives of others is one thing. To open your doors and arms to other weary and wary travelers doing the same is giving on a whole new level.

The VFP mission: “Volunteers For PeaceIMG_2725 promotes International Voluntary Service as an effective means of intercultural education, service learning, and community development. We provide projects where people from diverse backgrounds can work together to help overcome the need, violence, and environmental challenges facing our planet. We organize and promote projects where nations join together to improve life on our planet and volunteers experience a microcosm of our world. Through the exchange of ideas and international understanding, our projects are practical ways to both prevent and resolve conflict while meeting local needs. By encouraging and providing opportunities for voluntary service we are sowing the seeds of a better future for all.”

 Tory tells me that the typical format of a VFP experience is a 2-3 week residential project with up to a dozen volunteers from different nations. The group usually lives together in simple accommodations while accomplishing a given work assignment. VFP’s fee per project is quite low (currently about $500 per person), although volunteers are responsible for their own transportation. VFP sometimes refers to itself as a “short-term Peace Corps.”

 After the jump you’ll find the questions I wanted to know of such a dedicated, repeat (you might even say habitual) volunteer. Continue reading

CHANGERS PROFILE: Lindsay Southgate, GLOBAL BRIGADES

Lindsay at clinic with four girls on the way to their father's funeral.

Lindsay at clinic with four girls on the way to their father’s funeral.

This is World Health Workers Week (April 8-12), so it seems a perfect time to run this profile of Lindsay Southgate, who went as a volunteer with Global Brigades to Panama, and found it to be such a powerful experience, she then went on another service trip with the organization, this time as a Co-President/group leader, to Ghana.

Global Brigades works internationally to resolve global health and economic disparities by empowering student volunteers, local professionals, and community members in a collaborative holistic approach to sustainable development. Their vision is “To improve equality of life by igniting the largest student-led social responsibility movement on the planet.”

Lindsay explains so thoroughly what the experience was like for her–I hope it inspires you as much as it does me…I lover her attitude of basically saying: This was pretty daunting, but that’s what it took, so that’s what I did. What choice did I have, there was no alternative to changing people’s lives, so I did whatever it took (my interpretation/words, not Lindsay’s)

Tell me a little bit about what you did on your two trips with Global Brigades. What possessed you? There must have been easier vacations to take—why this?

A friend in Ghana

A friend in Ghana

On my two trips with Global Brigades, I traveled to Ghana and Panama. I got involved with GB through a roommate. She is a nursing major and the nursing program initiated the GB San Diego State University branch. After learning about the Panama trip I applied and got in. It was unfortunate because my roommate who informed me about the trip did not get chosen in the raffle for Panama, but fortunately she did come to Ghana. My interest was sparked because I had recently been to a pre-medical conference that suggested students get international experience. Of course, as a premed, we do everything we think we need in order to get into medical school. Prior to learning about the Panama trip I decided that I would not go abroad because it was too expensive, and not realistic for me at that time. Once I decided to get involved with the Panama trip it became more than just another check mark on the list. It became a passion to raise enough money to get the opportunity to travel far and help such deserving people. (more after the jump) Continue reading

CHANGERS PROFILE: Erin Guttenplan—Edge of Seven

I got some great international response to the blog recently, including a lovely and heartfelt comment yesterday from a reader in Kathmandu, Nepal. How perfect that today I am running this interview with the amazing Erin Guttenplan who created the service tour/volunteer travel company, Edge of Seven (with a great program—that I am desperate to do—that creates more education opportunities for girls in Nepal). Erin is one of those folks I find so fascinating, who saw the world a particular way, and it demanded that she step up and create something new. I love what she’s up to, and how the world reaps the benefits of her work, and her astute perceptions of how some charitable organizations/NGOs are not doing what they say they are was sadly but vividly played out similarly in my recent experiences in Haiti…

Erin Guttenplan

ERIN GUTTENPLAN (Founder/Executive Director), EDGE OF SEVEN

Erin believes in the potential of international service to foster global understanding between people and nations. She created Edge of Seven because she has worked with communities in need in the developing world. She has also met volunteers who want to serve in any capacity, big or small. Erin believes that Edge of Seven is an affordable vehicle to harness the potential in connecting the two.

The mission of Edge of Seven is to create awareness and volunteer support for service projects in developing countries that are sustainable, community driven, and responsive to local needs. We at Edge of Seven believe that change is possible with collective action over time.

Tell me a little bit about the genesis of EDGE OF SEVEN—why this? And what’s the scoop on that name?
It really began years ago when I attended an info session about the Peace Corps. After learning that it was a 2 ½ year time commitment, I decided not to apply. I felt that I couldn’t go that far away, for that long, at that time in my life. I searched for a short-term alternative but they were too expensive. I noticed a need.

As for easier things to start, I’m a firm believer that we learn the most from our greatest challenges. I have been incredibly lucky to have the unwavering support of my family and friends every step of the way. Everything is easier with people behind you. (I also love wine. That certainly helps.)

Our name! I love telling the story of our name. Edge is our heart. When I was thinking about names for a volunteering-abroad-in-developing-countries-around-the-world nonprofit, I was looking for a word that signified adventure. Enter “edge”. We strive to create a bold experience that pushes volunteers since real discovery happens outside of our comfort zone. Further, we think that intercultural cooperation happens when you feel how people live halfway across the world. Seven is our vision. We’d like to support projects on all seven continents in the future. We’ll grow slowly because the most important piece of the puzzle is that we find the RIGHT projects. We’re on the hunt for projects that are community driven, sustainable, and responsive to local needs. Those projects exist all over the world and we’re excited to find them. (More after the jump)

Continue reading