Volunteer Vacation Testimonials
I was lucky enough to participate with two friends - a professor and special ed teacher. Their insight into why social interactions, singing, etc was so meaningful was educational for me. Plus I enjoyed learning more about the center and how those with special needs in Romania are supported. Appreciated the personal service. Nicoletta, Mihai and Bogdan were excellent hosts and the camaraderie was fun and meaningful. [The Globe Aware program] is a very well rounded and thought through program. The hotel was great - service was top-notch and absolutely everyone was very fluent and so passionate about their roles. You can tell they are passionate about what they are doing. - Monica Brown June 2019
I could definitely feel the heartfelt gratitude toward us from those we were serving. I think the things we constructed will last for years to come and make a big difference in their lives.
We had plenty of free time. We had such a big group that it was hard to keep us all busy but Bella did an amazing job adjusting to our needs and keeping us busy. I think there was about a perfect balance.
There was plenty of food. We never ran out of food at our meals. In fact, I felt bad that we couldn't eat everything they put on the table but there was just so much. I really enjoyed the food it was so delicious.
Being able to get to know and serve people is the best way to travel. I love your [Globe Aware] motto: “help people, have fun”.
The accommodations were really nice, much better than I expected. Very minor problems with water and electricity but they were fixed right away and were only minor hiccups. Rosi, from the hotel was amazing!!! I really love her; she took such good care of us! She really did a great job handing so many picky Americans and her English is good. She listened and communicated very well. She is a joy to work with and an invaluable asset.
The work project was meaningful because we were helping give a family their life back. I thought the balance between work and leisure to be well balanced, the food was amazing and very plentiful - I liked everything about the program.
Puerto Rico, 2019
The work project was meaningful, the young family that we installed the cement floor for were very grateful and needed the new floor, especially with a very young child in the house. It was also great to make the playground a safe place for the kids to play in. The repairs we did to the obstacle course apparatus will help the kids for a long time.
What I liked best was the diversity of activities for us to be involved in. We did cement floors, helped at the youth development centre and at the woman center. The cultural activities were well also wel planned.
The accomodations were excellent. Beautiful setting on the lake. Great food, service and friendly staff.
This was my third Globe Aware trip. They have all been very enjoyable and I look forward to doing another one!
Everything went really well! Federico and I had no issues meeting up at the airport, and from there everything was great. He was a blast to spend time with, and helped provide a lot of perspective on the local culture, not to mention the wildlife and vegetation. He's practically a walking encyclopedia. He also set up transportation for me to visit the LaPaz waterfall park on the morning of my departure, which turned out to be really cool and something I'm very glad I did. I wasn't aware of it until the night before I left when Federico suggested it. But getting to see toucans so close up was cool, and the area where they let you hold test tubes of nectar while hummingbirds whiz around you was probably a once in a lifetime experience. The waterfalls were really dramatic too. And I got to really experience the true meaning of cloud forest after getting rained on while there.
“We had a wonderful experience and are so grateful that we were able to go on this trip as a family and with our friends. Many companies discouraged us from bringing young children along on a volunteer trip, but Globe Aware has encouraged us to bring our children and made it possible for us to do so. Thank you so much! I have already recommended Globe Aware to several of my friends.”- Amy
I am SO sorry that it’s taken us so long to give you our feedback on the trip. We had the most amazing time - and it felt like Anne was very intentional and thoughtful about ensuring that the experience was both meaningful, interesting and fun. Riding in her pick-up truck was definitely a highlight.
We received an email from Joe Siple inquiring about the trip, and Sai and I took a bunch of time formulating our response because I wanted it to serve as feedback for you as well. They sound excited about the trip. We are jealous! This is what we wrote to them:
I have to say that our Guatemala trip exceeded my expectations which were, admittedly, rather low in that my sole intention was for us to do volunteer work while experiencing another culture. However, instead of feeling like we were “giving back,” we actually felt very taken care of - not just by Ann, our coordinator, but by everyone that we came in contact with. Ann was amazing from beginning to end - and bent over backwards to meet our needs.
I felt the work project was meaningful. Just to spend time with the abuelas was what the director indicated was needed. I also learned to play Cuban dominoes and was a teammate to the house champion. It was a rewarding experience and I felt we interacted well. I especially felt my work at Projecto Cristo was meaningful. I work as a garden designer and gardener for people here in the US and have an extensive garden of my own. To be able to plant in Cuba and to plant for Cubans was particularly joyful for me and I hope of help to Sr. Ross and to the garden there. I'd like to return someday to see how those plants have grown.
Cuban food is fresh and wonderful! I experienced many different dishes and was especially fond of the fresh fruits and vegetables I was able to eat. My casa particular host, Victor, offered me organically grown fruit every morning and smoothies, juices and wonderful omelettes. I found some wonderful cafes for lunch or dinner and Andres suggested a good choice for me whenever I had free time for lunch or dinner. He also took me to some excellent restaurants. The free time worked well for me. I love the music in Cuba and spent much of my evening free time strolling the streets and listening to various musicians. I had plenty of time for shopping and my own sightseeing.
The program exceeded my expectations in every way.
The cement work was exhausting but gratifying and teaching English at the library was a pleasure (I am a retired teacher). Working on the reforestation project was also especially gratifying as I am a biologist/environmentalist.
There was always coffee on the wood stove and plenty of potable water in the filter cooler. Oh, and a good bit of cervaza in the refrigerator after a long day. The family we shared time with were wonderful and fit beautifully with our lifestyle.
Anne took care of our every need. The staff and the food at the hotel were exceptional. The refreshing lake swim after 100 degree F days was a treat. I would highly recommend this program to anyone.
Roy King - March 2016
Dear Staff at Globe Aware,
I wrote a long thank you to Frederico for our wonderful trip to the Orosi Valley last Dec., '15 when we painted their church for Christmas, but I don't think he received the email. I has been awhile but this trip is a forever memory experience. It was the most amazing time, and we (with family) enjoyed both work and play on this trip.
The wonderful other families (both on the trip and our hosts), food and futbol, card games after working a full day made the event more like "camp" since we made new friends while helping and having fun. Please send this Thanks to Frederico who may not even remember me (Sue, Scott and Mark) by this point with all his visitors, but possibly and I hope so. When I say "amazing" trip, I truly mean it and know Frederico was working hard behind the scenes every day to make this happen while appearing relaxed and easy going when he was with us, but always helping us keep on schedule.
New testimonial: Having just returned from our service trip to Orosi Valley I wanted to reach out and thank your organization for putting on a first class trip. It was truly an enlightening experience for my son and me. The accommodations were perfect, Federico did an amazing job in coordinating everything for our week’s stay, and the local work projects which we assigned were were both educational and fulfilling. My son is still talking about all that he saw and learned while in Costa Rica. - Alexander Allen, March 2015
So the main reason we are here is to learn about and immerse ourselves in the community and culture of the people of El Remate, Guatemala, about 25 miles SW of the ancient ruins of Tikal. The needs of this community are great and much progress is being made, but it is still very much a 3rd world culture. It was not until 2000 that this part of the country had running water and was connected to the electrical grid. Until then, women were going to the river to bring water to their homes. There is only one paved road in the entire town which was funded by the last democratic government after many years of civil war and political unrest. Many buildings look abandoned and are in fact "in progress" and are completed in stages over multiple seasons, and sometimes years when enough money has been saved up by the owner of the land in this " hand to mouth" society. Most inhabitants of this region are transplants from other parts of Guatemala because so many indigenous people had been killed. The area is being repopulated and a new culture is forming and blending many traditions together from its people.
A good mix of work and free time. You can stay busy pretty much all day with the optional free time activities. I have spent quite a bit of time in places like this before, but it was really great for my wife and kids. They learned so much about the different culture that you don't get when just participating as a tourist. You guys did great and lots of thanks to Ann for having everything so organized and being flexible with everyone's plans, wants and desires. - Dane Ashworth, December 2014
We felt we made an impact on the people there in the right way. We contributed to the local economy and ensured people were working to earn the money from our program fees. I think it's much better than simply giving people money and donations. We also felt that our English lessons will help prepare people for more tourists coming to the area. The Peten region has great sights especially with Tikal so close by. But the previously unstable government has scared many tourist away. The area has a great infrastructure for tourism and the people are amazing. More people coming to the area would definitely do a great deal to improve the lives of everyone there.
This program was a really good mix of volunteer work, cultural excursions, and "downtime". What I particularly liked about this program was the opportunity for meaningul interaction with individuals - we spent a whole day with the family for whom we installed a cement floor (and most of the neighbourhood dropped by to check it out at some point), which provided a unique opportunity for relaxed interaction. Anne's library program is amazing and the volunteers got the sense that we were really needed/appreciated in this role of practicing English with kids and adults. Spending time with local change-makers like Danny at the Harmony Reforestation Project and Dona Maria, the 74 year old midwife/herbalist was an honour and a great learning experience for us.
Globe Aware packed in too many after-hour activities for an older couple like us (59 & 61 years old). No problem. On two of the evenings, we did a little sightseeing on our own and retired early. I suspect most younger people would have the energy to enjoy them all.
Having volunteered twice before, once in Costa Rica and once in Hoi An, Vietnam, we were somewhat familiar with working in less economically advantaged areas. The orientation material provided by Globe Aware was accurate, pertinent, and helpful. The shortage of water and waste disposal facilities in Jaipur and Delhi made us even more keenly aware of the outsized impact American waste has on the global environment.
The whole experience was so meaningful for me, and I will never forget it. The people in the village work so hard to try and create a safe home for the Asian elephants. It is important to educate people from all over the world that elephants are not supposed to be used for entertainment or hard labor. I felt the daily work projects we did were necessary and helpful to the mahouts (elephant owners). The different projects included: cutting sugar cane, making fertilizer, planting bamboo trees, cleaning elephant shelters, taking apart old shelters so the mahouts could build new ones, etc. It was intense physical work at times but totally worth it when you could see that the mahouts appreciated us being there. Of course the best part was taking our daily walks with the elephants and bathing them in the river. It was an intimate experience that a lot of people in the world won't get, and I was fortunate enough to. - Stella McNeilly, September 2013
Do you feel your work project was meaningful?
Yes, Why or why not? For many reasons.. Sustaining the program for the longevity of the Project and elephants involved. Showing the existing mahouts that volunteers are interested in the Project, and allowing other mahouts in the village to see there's an interest outside of circus activity and rides. Keeping elephants as much in their natural habitat as possible (off chains, in the forest, without bull hooks). Supporting local villagers (artists, restaurants, shop owners). Saving the elephants!!
Working with the children in Romania was meaningful, as the kids we worked with were in a small village that had little access to foreigners. It was meaningful to help these kids converse in English; they had so much potential yet few resources to help them succeed. The food was great! I loved the accomodations! - Rebecca Le, August 2012
"Hugely meaningful. Simona is both an exceptional teacher and an inspiration. The project she is working on is inspiring the kids to be interested in school and reach for a bigger and fuller future which will resonate with the rest of their communities and help them build better foundations. We started the week with about 15-20 kinds and had about 45 kids by the end of the week that all wanted to be there and actively participate in learning. It inspired me to take real steps when I returned home to begin pursuing a career in teaching (although this process with take me about three years to make a full transition). It's something I thought about for a while, but this trip gave me a taste of really making it happen.
I had a fine time in Romania, one of my best Globe Aware trips.(...) I want you to know what a wonderful week you provided me in Romania. It was even more special because we were trated more like a part of the family than visitors - staying at their B&B - like one of their family. Food was WONDERFUL! I am glad we were able to further the goals for the community center as it will supply some critical services when it is completed. A busy but satisfying week! - Mark Sanger, November 2012
It is an overused comment that someone has had a life-changing experience; however, it is completely true when I say it in reference to the volunteer trips with Globe Aware and the people I have come to know and love on these expeditions. - Mary Booth, March 2011 (and previously Costa Rica)
Even though we were only there for a week, I feel like we accomplished a lot. All of the aid recipients seemed geniunely grateful for our time and efforts. I felt like we especially connected with the villagers in the countryside. As I look back, I feel like we helped people with some basic necessities of life, whether it was education, food, transportation, or clean water.
I liked having a set schedule and being provided an itinerary upon arrival. It showed me that our time would be put to good use, that there was plenty of work to be done, and provided structure while adjusting to a new country. That being said, I thought we had plenty of time to explore outside of the program. I thought the food was fantastic! Experiencing all of the local Khmer cuisine, even taking a cooking class, were some of the highlights of the trip. The accomodations were great, safe, affordable, great breakfast and outstanding service.
I got more meaning out of that one week than my entire life! Enjoyed it so much! I couldn't have asked for a better schedule and food! This program made me realize how lucky and blessed we all are. I will always carry this experience with me and my outlook on life has changed. I have NOTHING bad to say! Our program coordinator was amazing. He really made the trip what it was and the experience 10x better. He truly cares for his country and it was very inspiring to see. - Emilee Schwarze, March 2012
We were able to interact first hand with all the people that our projects were influencing, so there was no doubt that everything we did was meaningful. Dine (volunteer coordinator) obviously lives for this work and I could not imagine a more wonderful experience, honestly. We had plenty of time to see all the major tourist attractions in and around Siem Reap. We did not have as much down/free time as I expected and that actually made me happy, I was extremely happy to be busy, I felt like I was helping as much as possible. What can I say about the food!? It was AMAZING, we ate so much :) The accomodations were perfect, the location was good, it was clean and comfortbale, and the staff were beyond friendly. I've traveled enough to have changed how I view my own culture, but this definitely gave me even more perspective. It created feelings of appreciation and guilt, appreciation for everything we have here in the States and guilt over how much we wase and how many people do not realize how fortunate we are. I was extremely moved by the people of Cambodia, especially the ones we got to know through volunteering. They are so friendly and happy, even though so many of them have so little. The children we met through the program were smart and gracious, they spoke better English than most of the locals, and that is obviously a direct result of the Globe Aware program.
My volunteer vacation to Cambodia through Globe Aware was everything I hoped it would be and more. At first, I was a little apprehensive. given I was traveling alonge to a foreign country. Those fears were soon gone when I met Dine, our project coordinator, and my 5 team members. All of us felt so fortunate that circumstances brought us together during that week. Teaching in the school, assembling and distributing wheelchairs to amputees, and building a washroom for local villagers, are experiences we share in common that will bind us forever. - Rebecca Radam-Collins, March 2012
This experience has changed how I look at everything. I feel very fortunate for all the blessings I have. I was very surprised to see how happy all of the people were. Often in the US people needing help are angry and often expect handouts. I liked getting to see real life. The children touched my heart. This was an amazing trip.
- Lisa Bond, March 2012
I had been looking to do more volunteer work in my life and felt like this project might help me to jumpstart my plans. It turned out to be so much more than I expected. I felt like our guide, Dine, was truly invested in the community and helped us to feel part of the community. Each one of our projects was a "hands on" experience where we met with the local people. I felt like we were able to give back to the community, even in a small way. I could sense how geniunely thankful the community was to have us there just by their facial expressions. In particular, the wheelchair project and the well projects felt the most meaningful for me.
When I first looked at the itinerary, I was afraid there would be too much free time. However, I do believe this free time was needed to gather thoughts and energy. I was still exhausted (in a good way) by the end of each day. I felt like I had accomplished something each day. The food was good and there was plenty of it. I particularly liked the mango smoothies at the lunch restaurant :-). It was also nice to get to know the restaurant staff a bit.
I have traveled on many humanitarian missions in many countries and this was by far the most meaningful; not only was the project leader truly connected to the people and the community but the projects were ones that provided assistance to people who were genuinely in need and grateful
This experience further demonstrated how happy people can be with nothing, literally without food, clothing, or quality shelter -the necessities of life. It is incredible the excess so many, here in the US, think they need to achieve happiness. Children primarily are the perfect example. Majority of the children I met in Cambodia (and I work directly with children in school here in New York) have drive and are willing to work hard in a country with next to no opportunity whereas here in the US, "the land of opportunity" the children have next to no drive. The children were genuinely excited to practice their language skills and learn about someone new, about me and what my life and experiences have been like. They did not want pitty nor hand-outs, they were simply eager to make a friend. - Brittany Bonesteel, November 2012
I am very, very glad I went to Ghana with Globeaware. I would not trade the experience for anything. However, with a little more preparation and structure I feel like I could have made more of my time there. I am very interested in finding a way to get supplies to the schools in Jasikan as I feel those are tangible things that can be of immediate use. And, lastly I would just like to say how lovely, informative and helpful Bernard was. He is clearly very interested in helping his people and moving them forward. He makes a great "guide" and really made my experience there. - Carrie Tacla,
I consider myself a life-long learner and the world is my teacher as I take a break from the classroom during the summer. Winning the “Travel for Good Grant” through Travelocity this year helped me to get to Ghana to volunteer with Globe Aware. Now I’m in love again. With a whole village. I can’t wait to return to Mafi Tsati, a rural village outside of Ho, Ghana, approximately 4 hours from Accra (Ghana’s capital)—and I hope to return soon. My mission now is to do several things: 1) to raise money for a new school, 2) to raise money to buy Maxwell, the teacher I connected with in Mafi Tsati, a laptop with internet access, and 3) to return to finish a photo project I started, and hopefully publish a book about the women in the village.
It’s been 16 years since I started teaching, and though I grow more passionate about my profession each year, I also want to continue my global connection—merging teaching and learning with travel. Perhaps as I find ways to return to Africa to be involved in improving lives there, I can bring other teachers—and maybe someday students—to improve our lives in return. Africa has changed my life in ways She will never know, and we—in our hectic, often myopic, western culture—have a great deal to learn from the amazing people in Africa. - Margit Boyensen, June 2012,
The project was directly related to the needs of the local community. The project is sustainable and makes ongoing school improvement for village children possible. The children were eager to learn. With simple, direct instruction and lots of visuals, the students understood enough to learn their lessons very well. It offered a good reminder of how eager to learn children in some places are, while children in other places take their education for granted (....) Bright was an excellent cook and kept me well fed throughout the week. He observed carefully and adjusted meals to offer both a taste of local culture and provided meals to my liking. - Thomas Fassler, June 2012
I just wanted to email you and let you know that we had a really good time in Ghana. It was a great experience to work in the village and to work with the Globe Aware personnel. Everything went smooth and it truly was an experience of a lifetime. I plan on returning to Ghana and other parts of Africa because of this experience. Thanks again for all your help and coordination of this trip! - Kymberly Compton, August 2012
Africa was such an amazing experience. The village that we worked at was wonderful. The people were so friendly and welcoming. We got to cook with the villagers, learn about their culture, teach the students and interact with everyone. The work was hard work but worth it. Although it was hot and challenging, it was so exciting seeing how much the villagers appreciated the work that we did in their village.
We worked in the village Monday through Friday and built a washroom for them. We learned how to fetch water on our heads, which was very interesting. It was amazing to see how much women and children could carry on their heads! We taught the children some of the games that we play over in the U.S. and it was fun to watch them try and learn and then play together with them. I loved how happy the kids always are. One day I asked a little boy if he was always happy.. He replied to me, 'Yes we are always happy. There is no reason ever not to be.' That brought tears to my eyes. These adults and kids are just happy with the little that they have. They were also so joyful when the washroom was finished. That, in turn, made us all so happy.
Saturday we got to explore a little. We went to the monkey sanctuary and got to feed the monkeys. Then we went on a 45 minute hike up a to a beautiful waterfall and all got to swim. Sunday we went to the village and said our goodbyes. They all sand and danced for us and prayed for us. It was such an emotional goodbye.
Ghana is a beautiful country. I am so blessed to have been able to experience Africa. It was such an incredible experience to volunteer like we did and made me want to go volunteer wherever possible! I encourage anyone to do this. It's so worth it! Africa taught me so much, especially to be more grateful. I will never forget this experience. Thank you Globe Aware and all the volunteers! - Mandi Evans, November 2012
I taught in the schools and yes, I think the children enjoyed it and learned from it. It was very much a novelty for them though, as an "obroni" (their name for white person) you are somewhat of a mythical creature and they are so curious about you - I hoped that it did not distract from my teaching. Furthermore, I definitely think the more meaningful part of the program was not what I was able to teach, or donate, but rather the time and attention that I gave to each of the local people that I interacted with. From my language teacher, to the local women who taught me how to cook, to the elders who taught me music and dancing, and to each and every person and child that I met - the fact that I was there to learn from them - to learn their culture and language and traditions (rather than coming there as if I was some smarter-than-them American trying to "help" them) was much more meaningful to them and I think it was well received and appreciated by them. - Nicole Vasquez, November 2013
Yes, we felt our work project was very meaningful. Both because we as a family got to help to improve the grounds of the orphanage by cleaning out the gardens and building fences as well as teaching the students English and being able to interact with them.
We liked how the free time/ breaks were spread out throughout the day. After a morning of working, it always felt good to have a break after lunch and then one after dinner. As the week wore on we tended to look forward to the breaks more as we were tired! The only suggestion I would make is to not plan an outing for the first day of arrival. We arrived on a Saturday from Lima and had not adjusted to the altitude. We wound up not being able to go on the walk/ tour through Cusco as we slept for several hours and were too tired!
We learned a lot about the culture of Peru. Especially about the lives of the children and how they needed to travel to Cusco to get higher education. We especially felt enlightened by our trip to one of the students home in the community. It was during this visit when we made a stove and really got to see and absorb how families live off of the land. It definitely put things into perspective for my family of 5 as we have three daughters ages 12, 14 and 17. - Kimberly Snapper, July 2014
It started as an idea, something that popped up in my head one day, while thinking about what to do for vacation. 'International', I thought to myself. I'd never really traveled out of the United States before (full disclosure - a week on a beach in Mexico doesn't really count) and I wanted to finally experience a different part of the world. The spark behind the next thought ignited into something truly special, with the realization that I wanted to not just go 'International', I wanted to help, to spend my vacation making a contribution to a world very different than one I live in on a daily basis, and if I was lucky, authentically connect with the culture and people in the country I would visit.
By the time I found Globe Aware online, I already knew I wanted to volunteer in Cusco, Peru and I was happy to find what seemed like a perfect fit. As Controller for a nonprofit that helps low income students pursue and complete college, I see on a daily basis the tremendous impact passionate people can make when they help others and I was so excited for the adventure that lay ahead of me in a foreign land! The prospect of working with an organization that helped native Peruvian children obtain an education almost 5000 miles away from home spoke to my heart.
Algergue Hatun Socco Wasi, translated from the native Peruvian language of Quechua to English means Big Heart Home. It serves 25 students from remote villages in the Peruvian Andes, allowing them to access education beyond the limited resources of their own communities. The children, aged 10 to 17, travel two to three hours (one way) on a weekly basis to and from home to the albergue, returning with their payment for the privilege to access education... potatoes! Unbelievable. I quickly learned upon my arrival that the Globe Aware volunteer coordinator, Rocio, was not only overseeing our team of volunteers, but the children, the home, three dogs and all else that it entailed, she lived on site and was also enrolled in University, focusing on Environmental Studies! I was continually inspired bu Rocio and the passion and commitment she had for Peru.
It's funny what they say about volunteering, that you always get more than you give. I feel like I contributed in simple ways during my stay at the albergue; helping the children with their English, carrying mortar of mud and grass to the fathers of the children while they stacked mud and grass bricks, one after anorther, to make the walls of what would become two small buildings in the albergue's courtyard and stripping the bark off the logs that would eventually become roof supports for the buildings. Bringing a backpack full of supplies to a beautiful and simple Quechuan home high in the mountains above Cusco and being to tired after the steep hike to complete the original intent of the visit... building an eco stove for the lovely people living there!
As the resident and our driver used a mixture of mud and grass to quickly build a two burner stove, the other volunteers and I panted for breath in the thin Andes air. Overall, I can't help but feel that my efforts were such a small contribution compared to the amazing experiences of the trip - the very connections and exposure to the Peruvian people and culture most tourists would never experience. From the joy of singing along with the children to American songs, to the camaraderie with the other volunters, meeting a hard working woman who not unlike myself (though Rocio is a much harder worker than I ever could be!), countless smiles and laughter, to the party and our final evening with the children, these beautiful memories all became the true treasures of my volunteer vacation in Peru. - Aimee Little, November 2011
It's too cold and too early. On the way here our van became stuck in the mud and we had to push it out. We have taken over a tiny mud brick school room. We are lucky, we have a bare light bulb hanging on a rusty wire, two rickety wooden chairs and my head doesn't quite hit the ceiling beams. My younger daughter Bailey is outside teaching dental hygiene in Spanish to groups of children and adults, many of whom have never owned a toothbrush. My older daughter Zoe is assisting me and translating as my wife Juliet is "sterilizing" dental tools and tending to post-op care. I am extracting painfully abscessed teeth as quickly as I can. I have a long line of patients snaking out the door. A llama wanders by, the sun is breaking through the clouds and the mountains are stunning. We will be at it all day and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
I had a plan. Study hard, graduate from dental school and work hard. I would build a successful dental practice, travel, enjoy life and live for myself.
Life, however, had a different plan. I married Juliet when I was 34 and two daughters soon followed. My old plan of living for myself was laughable when I became a parent.
In order to give our daughters a better understanding of other people and their cultures, we began traveling around the world on school breaks and during the summers. By their teenage years, observing other cultures was not enough, we had to become involved, become part of a community and serve.
We decided that dentristry was how we could give something back.There were countless opportunities for me, as a dentist, to volunteer; but only Globe Aware would allow us to have our kids actually working side by side as a family.
We chose Cusco and have been back every year for 4 years. My entire office gets involved in gathering donated toothpaste, toothbrushes from Colgate and dental supplies. We carry in all our equipment and bring in our own "backpack" dental clinic to tiny, remote villages. Each year our outreach grows touching more communities. Last year we saw nearly 400 patients in 4 clinic days. The people we see receive no dental or medical care. If they have a toothache, they may live with excruciating pain for a lifetime. Most kindergardeners have molars decayed all the way to the gum line. People still die from dental infections in these tiny Quechuan villages. I am humbled by them.
As our project has grown, we are creating and funding a year round dental hygiene program for the villages and will be providing toothpaste and toothbrushes for distribution. We are reaching out to local dentists in Cusco to join us.
What began as a 1 week project has morphed into a year round process of planning and execution. We have had so much support from our adopted Peruvian 'family' in Cusco, and this project could have never gotten off the ground without the tireless effort of our Globe Aware coordinator and dear friend, Rocio Enriquez.
For our family, helping people IS having fun! - Rob Underill, March 2012
My trip to Peru was not my first time out of the United States, but it was my first voluntourism trip. It fulfilled my childhood dreams and changed me forever. I cannot wait to go again, and take my children when they are older. The places we worked in Peru and the work Globe Aware volunteers do there are fantastic. I worked hard, but the work was good. We did some landscaping, continued laying a cement floor, played games with the children, and helped with English homework. The coordinator Rocio is amazing, and I cannot thank her enough.
The country is beautiful. The sites are majestic. This city is historic. Those are all great things, but being involved in this program gave me so much more. This trip gave me a real experience with the culture and the people of Peru. The people I met during my week in Cuzco were genuine, kind, and welcoming. The children are sweet and funny and I am lucky to have spent time with them.
Volunteering, no matter where you do it, makes the world a better place. I am absolutely certain of this. I have been volunteering since I was a child, thanks to my family. And my passion for helping others was really ignited by some fabulous people I was honored to serve with in the military. Volunteering brings you a sense of humility, appreciation, and compassion.
It is difficult to put my experience into words, as I feel words cannot do it justice. Big Heart Home (translated from Quechua), Peru, and the people I met in my travels there hold a special place in my heart. The experience was beyond incredible. If you have an opportunity to go on a voluntourism trip, do it! You will not regret it. Just keep an open mind and an open heart, for that is certainly what you will receive from everyone there. Thank you Globe Aware and all the volunteers for all that you do around the world! - April McCarthy Morgan, April 2012 (as submitted for Volunteer of the Month contest)
Working with the children, working in and around the home, experiencing the rich culture, and making connections were so meaningful to me. Every aspect of my week was rich and meaningful. We cleared a bunch of weeds that were overtaking the soccer field/basketball court. Then during the free time of the day, we played a great game of soccer with some of the kids. That was a great moment - seeing the benefit of the labor. Then we went to work on the cement floor of the future classroom. Helping out with that project, knowing that the children will have a place to study away from distraction was great.
There was plenty of food and it was FANTASTIC. I miss the food! Every meal, I was raving about how fabulous the food was. It was fresh and full of wonderful flavor. There was a good amount of free time. I was able to visit an internet cafe within a minute's walk to check my email. I had time to call home as well.
The room was great! The view was spectacular. The shower had warm water. The beds were cozy. The architecture was great. The stairs are a great reminder of the altitude :)
Everyone is so happy and laid back, but they definitely aren't afraid to work hard, even the kids. Since there was a teacher strike while I was there, the boys were involved in laying the cement floor and separating the rocks. For a major city, it was so peaceful. I loved waking up to the sound of roosters in the morning and hearing the neighbor's radio while working outside during the afternoon. There was no rushing traffic or loud city sounds that I'm accustomed to in the States. The albergue was so restful, even when I was working hard. The history is rich and I was so happy to get to learn some Quechua and see the kids doing many things to keep a hold of their heritage. Seeing the Inca influence throughout the city and daily life was really special. Ruins are scattered everywhere. I was so impressed to see the rural areas on the outskirts of Cusco. It really is a beautiful place with amazing people. The generosity of the people I met throughout my trip was unmatched to anywhere I have been. They share what they have with you and with each other. It makes you feel welcome. You quickly feel a part of the community. Everyone there makes you feel welcomed into their hearts and home. - April McCarthy-Morgan, April 2012
Our mission was to build the foundation of a bathroom for the kids in the Albergue. I've learnt a lot through this process, and was in touch with tools that otherwise would not even touch the rest of my life (i.e. the mixer, pick ax, etc). I felt very accomplished after we poured the cement on the floor, imagining kids running around in the summer, and the bathroom is on their right-hand side. Although the process was hard and demanding, beholding the idea of making their life even a bit easier made all the efforts seemed to be worthy.
We got a whole day to visit Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world. It was truly mind-blowing. The intelligence and precision of the Inca Empire was insane - the accuracy in direction, the efficiency in using the stones, and the forestall in location. I fell in love with local food, too. The passion fruit is so delicious that I would have brought some back to the States with me. Overall, I had a very good time.
Peruvians are a lot simpler and easier to get along with. With the less developed technology, people still do not get on the internet that often, which results in the close and friendly relationship between neighbors. The way they trust each other - even foreigners - struck me the most. Also their hospitality, left me a wonderful impression of Peru.
Globe Aware indeed provided me an opportunity to reach out and help people. Do not hesitate about it, because as it is said on the motto, I had fun while helping people. Thank you Globe Aware, for giving me an unforgettable 2012 Summer. - Angela Wang, June 2012
For me personally it was very enlightening and I had an amazing time. I believe it's a very good way of knowing the culture and the people of a different country. I found amazing people who struggle every day with such different situations and problems from my own, that it helped me face my own reality with a different perspective. And of course, I feel good for having tried to improve others lives even for just a few days, with my presence, work and my monetary contribution.
I had more than enough free time, the food was great (many thanks to señora Alicia!). During my free time I went to beautiful places, all well arranged by the volunteer coordinator (Rocio).
I believe it was an advantage for me to be able to speak spanish. It enabled me to have a closer link to the children and all the people I met. I had a specific task - handwork, where I worked with local people helping build a new study room, but it was also good to help the children with their homework - math and english. It felt more integrated than I was expecting, they treated me as I belonged there, and it felt really good.
I liked the whole experience, being there on their day-to-day situations, receiving their knowledge and sharing mine. I think one week is enough to get involved, but I left feeling and wishing to have done more. - Marta Carvalheiro, September 2012
We tiled the floors in a new building, painted and cleaned up the kids playground area.
The volunteer coordinator did a great job of showing us around, Our time was maximized.
Our experience was outstanding. The albergue is such a warm and loving place where the kids are provided the tools for success and opportunity. The volunteer coordinator does a wonderful job of caring for the kids and ensuring that they learn and gain valuable skills. We were graciously welcomed by all those we encountered. Most of the kids had a good deal of confidence and they all showed tremendous respect. It was eye-opening for my kids to see how much of the world lives and the amount of responsibility some kids have.
What we liked best were the direct person to person experiences - we went to Hugo (student)'s house and to Carlota's sister's home. I really thought everything was great.- Jeff Roberts, March 2013
We tiled a floor, painted and helped clear away grass in the play area. These were all areas that will be used by the children.
It was a good balance of work and free time. We feel we learned a lot about the culture of Peru through our excursions during our free time. The food was incredible, Alicia is a fantastic cook.
The best part was going to the homes of people and seeing how they lived. That gave me the most insight into the culture. We decided to have the kids experience the American tradition for Easter eggs. We had a difficult time answering why there's an Easter bunny and why it hides eggs. They did enjoy the hunt, and the candy. You realize how happy people are with a simple life. They didn't have internet and TV 24 hours a day, but spent their time talking to each other. - Donna Kaylor, March 2013
Our experience there was so wonderful between the work that we did and the various other experiences that we had, that we were thrilled. It was the first trip for our granddaughter out of the country and she loved every moment.
We have been lucky enough to have been in a number of different cultures, so that change in how we view our own culture happened a long time ago. But for our granddaughter, it certainly was an eye opening experience. I think she now has a different view of other cultures and I also think she understands more now about the value of less trappings. But that is just what I observed while with her during our time together.
This was probably one of the best trips we have taken. We have done a number of volunteer trips as well as those with active tour groups. We thoroughly enjoyed being directly involved with the people in the community. They are wonderfully kind and welcoming. Gilda is the most incredible coordinator. She is very well organized, very caring and fun to be with! She thinks of everything. Our time with her couldn't have been better. Mario, too, is wonderful. He is extremely knowledgeable and thorough. Our work was well explained and he worked right along with us. We are very impressed with their commitment to the program and the enthusiasm with which they carried out their responsibilities. - Michelle Maloney, March 2012
One of the, if not the most, best experiences I've ever had. I couldn't be more grateful to have this opportunity. Also Federico (volunteer coordinator) is one of the nicest people I've ever met. He made my experience so much more enjoyable and I thought he handled everything very well. Thank you Globe Aware, Federico, my class that I got to work with, and the people of El Sur. You guys are awesome. - Julia Jones, June 2012
We were working on building a bridge so that the villagers in El Sur could cross the river. It was meaningful because we could see directly how we were building something for the community. We could look at our work and know it would make a difference. There was plenty of free time, and the villagers had activities planned for us in it. We got to do so many different cool things such as horseback riding and the trapiche. It was so amazing to experience the life of a local Costa Rican. They were all so gracious and generous, spending their time with us and showing us around. (What I liked best was) being immersed in the culture. Listening to Ronald play his guitar in his home, singing with his daughters was the highlight of the trip. - Alana Crumley, June 2012
I changed my views on happiness. The people of El Sur were some of the happiest people I've every met, but they weren't always as fortunate as us. I learned in a week, and experienced, a new type of happiness. I hope I can take this happiness into my own culture, now knowing how very loosely connected happiness and fortunes are.
If I were to go on another volunteer vacation work experience, I would love to go with Globe Aware and go back to Costa Rica! My friend asked my how my trip was. Here is my response: It was life-changing. I feel like it could have done nothing (in terms of happiness and realization) had I not tried, but I tried to enjoy everything, so it was amazing! - Natalie Jones, June 2012
It was meaningful because we were able to hep the people of the town build a bridge for the students to get to school and to cross the river.
Everyone was very hospitable and they were easy to understand although they didn't speak much english. They all really tried to make you feel welcomed into their community. - Volunteer, June 2012
I vividly remember how I felt leaving for Costa Rica in April 2011. Nobody in my class could stop talking about how excited they were - excitement to leave the country for the first time, to travel without their parents, to get out of a couple days of school. I didn't have many feelings. I wasn't dreading the trip, but I wasn't particularly looking forward to it. I didn't know what to expect. I definitely didn’t expect my feelings – or lack thereof - to change so quickly. In five days, the village of El Sur, Costa Rica stole my heart. Two weeks after returning home I searched for ways to return, and through fundraising and long hours of work, in July 2011 I went back for two weeks - completely alone, not speaking a word of Spanish. Those two weeks were inspiring, rewarding and a major turning point in my life. Junior year of high school soon took over and didn’t allow a moment to think about anything except schoolwork and SATs, let alone leaving thecountry, but this summer I had the opportunity to return for a week, and January 2013 I’ll be back for two more. - Sophie Marsh, July 2012
I could tell that the work that I put into the project meant a lot to the whole community. Seeing how thankful they are for the bit I was able to help and their happiness with the final product makes me feel that it is indeed meaningful. Normally I would work and/or do activities for most of the morning. Afterwards I would have some down time during the heat of the day after lunch. Then I would work some more, and then by 4 I would have the rest of the evening to play soccer, relax, hang out with locals, etc. I felt that it was the perfect blend of work/play. The food was beyond delicious. Although I eat hardly anything while I'm there (my guess is due to climate), they wanted to feed me all day, every day. The families opened up their homes and made more than enough food for me, delicious food that I've been constantly craving since my return.
I could write for days and days about the effect El Sur and Costa Rica have had on my views towards my culture, their culture and life in general. They live so simply, yet they have the most beautiful culture I've ever witnessed. They are happy and accommodating and loving to no end. It amazes me how Costa Ricans treat everyone like family and really care about their community. Getting to work with the community is really wonderful. Getting away from internet and computers and being surrounded by wonderful, happy people is a novel experience for me. I wish it was more like this in America. I also understand Costa Rican culture a lot more now, as well as the Spanish language. I've really fallen in love with the people of El Sur and their beautiful community. The Globe Aware program is incredible and has really impacted my life. I am already saving up money and planning for the next possible chance to get to Costa Rica. No doubt that I will be returning back there for the rest of my life. - Volunteer, July 2012
"It was absolutely perfect. I was seeking a meaningful, cultural experience for my pre-teen daughter and this was exactly what I wanted. The people in El Sur were incredible, gracious, patient, I cannot say enough. We were welcomed with open arms by all the families. Gilda, Mario, Ronald and their families were particularly amazing." - James Quackenbush, August 2012
The people in the community seem to not have problems like we have back home. Not much stress, they work together and enjoy everyone's company. The hospitality is great. I am amazed most kids undestand and speak some basic English. I enjoyed my volunteer vacation. The coordinator is very nice and friendly. She makes you feel safe and feel like at home. She understands and speaks well in English. All the people involved are vwey nice and happy to spend time with and very proud to show how they make their food and their small creative business. They are hardworking poeple, enjoy and love their small community. - Cathy Toribio, August 2012
I feel so fortunate to have come into contact with Globe Aware and El Sur. I had the most wonderful trip, this was definitely one of the best experiences I've had in El Sur (which is difficult to say because every time is amazing). I'm already itching to go back. I'm sure it will be no time at all before I'm emailing with you again to plan it. I really love everything Globe Aware does and I can't wait to work with you all again. - Sophie Marsh, January 2013 (after her fourth Costa Rica Rainforest program)
I wanted this experience to be a "reset" for my life and personal outlook. That goal was achieved. Since returning home I've made some major decisions that I will implement in the next year (No, I;m not retiring to Costa Rica! But you never know. The pull is strong.). One of the things that interested me about Globe Aware was its stance against volunteering in orphanages. I agree completely with that. (...) My experience with the local family was extremely good. - Mary Lou Bernardo, November 2012
The food was wonderful. It was lovingly prepared and served. We were humbled by the sincere hospitality and welcoming spirit of the persons with whom we dined. Many thanks to each of the families who opened their homes and shared a few hours of their lives with us. We are richer for the experience. (...) Our accomodations were exceptionally good.
The experience turned conventional thinking on its head. I left the country asking, 'which was the rich nation/people and which one was poor?'
Upon learning that I am a beekeper here in the US, our coordinator arranged for me to meet a beekeeper in Orosi. This kind woman and her sister took us into their farm and shared no less than two hours of their time showing us how she kept her bees and how they cultivated their land and prepared their produce for market. They sent us away with bags of produce that would have cost hundreds of dollars had we bought it here in Raleigh at the farmers' market, and the most amazing part was that they had never met or spoken with anyone at Globe Aware prior to the telephone call from our coordinator a few days before our visit. This anecdote was emblematic of the entire visit. Similar experiences occurred daily in the homes and on the farms of the people whom we met. Their sense of welcoming, of community, and family pride was one I have never before experienced. I am overcome with emotion when I speak of this experience sharing it with firends here in the US. They must think me mad because I often have to stop mid sentence to compose myself to finish my story. Bravo Globe Aware!" - Geoff Morrison, March 2013
There are many observations, thoughts and feelings I have on this subject. I'll try to be concise. First, I'm still in awe about the whole experience. About the people and community, I can say I was overwhelmed by how they so warmly welcoming us into their homes and served us a delicious meal made from what they harvested on their own land. Their generosity was inspiring and makes me want to be more like them. As a bit of an introvert, it was outside my comfort zone meeting so many new people. But as a group (and in large part because of Saphire's great skills facilitating the experience) we made something special about of each encounter. While I was afraid of insulting our hosts by having so little Spanish language, and being a shy about stumbling through questions and greetings, they accepted this and treated us to a chance to learn about them and they about us. I am grateful to each of them for this. Something else stuck out to me; they expressed a healthy pride in themselves and their country. I think this is missing in my own country. In the US we are constantly alternating between idealizing our country and whining endlessly about all of it's shortcomings. Maybe it's just me, but it seems there is also less of a call for and participation in direct, collective action by average citizens to address community needs. It leaves me wanting the kind of connection with my own community such as I witnessed in the communities in the Orosi Valley. Also seemingly absent from the culture is the neurotic, self-absorption so common to the status-conscious American citizen, who lives in the shadow of enormous wealth and power and carries with them the promise of the American Dream. Perhaps the people in the community I met are protected from some of our modern social ills through the true social connectedness that they live every day and the way they live to share in their individual prosperity.
Thank you for a great experience! I was skeptical about how tourism and volunteering went together, but it makes perfect sense to me after experiencing it. - Joel Carnazzo, December 2013
Saphire was the perfect person to serve as an ambassador of Globe Aware and a delegate of the communities we were in. She is energetic, humble, and it was clear that the families in the communities viewed her as one of their own. This experience was amazing because of Saphire's facilitation and guidance. I was impressed by her professionalism, her ability to be personal, and the true appreciation and understanding she had of Costa Rican culture.
The food was again, more than I expected. It was plentiful and delicious. I enjoyed every meal because it was made by someone and the food came directly from the farms or nearby sources. One of the lasting effects of doing this trip is the desire to change my eating and cooking so that I can enjoy what I'm eating! The time spent doing activities in the community was also something I wasn't expecting and probably the most perspective changing for me. It was an emotional and mental challenge to feel uncomfortable, out of place, yet desiring to connect with people. Saphire is the perfect person for mediating and guiding. She was non-judging of us, how we all tried to navigate our discomfort, and energetic, always able to find humor and encouragement. I put "no" for the free time question b/c I would've liked more time, perhaps at the end of the day, to reflect on my experiences that day, to talk with our other group members and process our experiences. I appreciated and enjoyed the extra activities that Saphire planned for us, eg. rappelling and horse parade. - Eunice Kim, December 2013
The accommodations were much better than the literature led us to believe. Wonderful time. Federico is the best. Lovely people and community.
Always a gift to step outside our "rat race" and see a group who are verrrrry content with their lives and appreciative. A gem of a country. - Patricia Fitzharris, November 2014
Amazing to see another culture and how they live. My children were amazed at how small houses were but everyone seemed happy. More is not always better. We were able to communicate even though there was a language barrier. It was a wonderful experience.
Our guide, Federico, was amazing. He knows so much about the local culture and community. He was a travel guide, interpreter, chef, driver and friend all wrapped up into one. He is an incredible person. - Jennifer Hilger, July 2014
My volunteer project was to help out at the . And the woman who maintains the center was extremely thankful for our help. The food was delicious. The woman who cooked most of my meals was named "Mama Lu" and she made more then enough and was always trying to give me second helping. Also she was accommodating to another volunteer who was a vegetarian, which I thought was excellent. Most of the meals were cooked with fresh vegetables her family farmed that day. Talk about farm to table cuisine! People were so welcoming. I never felt like a visitor I felt like I knew these people for years it was a surprising experience. Also I'm native New Yorker and it was nice to see how people relax and aren't so fast paced in everyday life. - Stephen Ward April 2014
I felt the work project was meaningful because it meant so much to the people of Orosi Valley. They were so appreciative of the work that we accomplished. Food was over and above what I expected on a volunteer trip! The free time was great I feel like we got to see and learn a lot about Costa Rica. I do feel like it was an eye opener for my 16 year old daughter. For her to observe how little these people have and how happy they are was worth the whole trip! It was really great eating lunch and dinner with the families! Deep down we are all the same:) - Jane Lamon June 2014
This trip once again reinforced how incredibly fortunate we are to have the things we have in the US. Everywhere else people make do and live with so much less. It's humbling. Federico made the program for me. He was gracious, patient and always looking out to provide the best experience for all of us. He went over and above what I expected and was a really wonderful host for my family, my friends and all the people in the group. When we had a health issue with one of the boys he made sure everything was taken care of and Nick got to the clinic. He was always thinking ahead around what he needed to do to help maximize our experience as part of the program and as a guest in Costa Rica. He integrated with the group and became a friend - not just a guide or manager. The combination of his wit, humor, personality and listening skills are wonderful. Katie was only with us a couple of days but all the kids loved her and appreciated how well she connected with them. My 2 daughters (& husband next time) look forward to future vacations with Globe Aware. - Karen Gilboux June 2014
We learned a new skill (stripping paint & sanding). It was a great project. Federico made sure we saw a lot of the countryside & the culture - whether we were touring a coffee farm, local church, town square to watch the end of a World Cup game, zip lining, hot springs. The food was very good and it was nice to eat local food. I call the trip a volunteer vacation & cultural immersion. It was wonderful to spend time with the families and our boys (age 16 & 12) enjoyed playing soccer, games, and eating lunch & dinner with the local children. We all came back understanding the Costa Rican culture a lot more than if we had stayed in a resort for a vacation. We returned home with an appreciation of the Costa Rican culture and the wonderful people we met. It was a real growth experience for all of us. Federico was such a wonderful coordinator and host. He was wonderful to have and interpret for us, share knowledge of the culture, and make sure we were on track for our volunteer and cultural activities. - Jacqueline Carney June 2014
The local people were so appreciative and welcoming. There was plenty of free time to unwind. The food was great and they even made vegetarian meals for my daughter. It was amazing to see another culture and how they live. My children were amazed at how small the houses were but everyone seemed happy. More is not always better. We were able to communicate even though there was a language barrier. It was a wonderful experience. Our guide, Federico, was amazing. He knows so much about the local culture and community. He was a travel guide, interpreter, chef, driver and friend all wrapped up into one. He is an incredible person. - Jennifer Hilger July 2014
Seeing the homeowner so happy with what was being done, and how active and interested the community is in the project really showed us how meaningful our work was. It was good to see how happy and content people are with the basics when they are surrounded by a loving family. Federico was very good at explaining his country and culture and how it is different from the U.S. - Ann Ackerman January 2015
Federico was super accommodating and tried to respond to every request that someone in our group made -- whether it was about food, free time or something else. From my perspective, everything went very smoothly. I thought the food was delicious. I especially liked the lentil patties at Gustavo's house. Going to try and make those at home one day! - Emilia Askari February 2015
The project was something that the community needed to be done and it was fun to do it. We enjoyed the kids in the school who were eager to learn and show us their culture! What we liked best was meeting the people in the community and eating meals with the families. Federico was incredibly helpful and fun! Patricia Oppenheim February 2015