Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas is a time to celebrate: Vietnam volunteers bring parties to orphanages!

Our Vietnam Orphanage volunteers have been planning the Christmas party of the year! Across Da Nang, Tam Ky and Tuy Hoa in central Vietnam, Christmas festivities will bring together volunteers, staff members and children living in orphanages for a day to remember.

Jen Flynn comments on Christmas in Vietnam last year "Although the Vietnamese culture celebrates their 'true' holiday and New Year around the Chinese Lunar calendar, they definitely enjoy decorations, Santa and parties for the Western Christmas holiday. We were all surprised by the number of Santa's on the street, holiday decorations, loud music and festive atmosphere!"

Volunteers in all three cities will plan and participate in festivities at schools and orphanages with special hot nutritious dinners, exchanging presents and treats and lots of well wishes. Jen says "Volunteers are treated like one of the family here in Vietnam - warmly and with kind respect. The Vietnamese people truly appreciate the time volunteers donate to the children, especially over the holidays."
This year there are just as many events planned, although there will only be a couple of volunteers there this year to pitch in. As well as providing healthy feasts and special gifts for the orphans, the volunteers will dress up as Santa's helpers to spread the Christmas cheer. There's bound to be lots of singing, dancing and games - and even Santa himself might make an appreance!

2010 is going to be a big year for GVN-Vietnam, but they need help in the way of volunteers to work at our placements, as well as donations to support important projects.
If you would like to volunteer in Vietnam please visit our website and apply online:

If you would like to contribute to a fundraising project please visit the GVN Foundation website:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Volunteering for Teens: Vietnam Youth Tour

Designed with 15-17 year olds in mind, the Vietnam Youth Tour has been created to allow teens the chance to take part in one of our rewarding volunteer programs. This gives them the opportunity to immerse themselves in a developing country, experience another culture, and foster their personal growth, whilst helping communities in need.

GVN and our partner GVN-Vietnam really want this program to be a great success for both the teen volunteers and the Vietnamese community! Please help by recommending this program to your family and friends.

Do you know any families with teenagers, are you involved in a church or sports group, know any teachers or youth workers? Tell them about this fantastic program!

Essentially the Youth Tour is a shorter more intense version of our standard program with the benefits of additional safety measures such as 24 hour supervision, GVN staff guidance, a local translator, as well as village and cultural tours.

As well as taking part in the volunteer program participants will be involved in a small amount of community fundraising prior to their trip, so that they can contribute to one of the current projects of our partner in Vietnam.

The aim of this program is to give our youth volunteers a taste for volunteering and fundraising so that they can continue to take part in these types of programs in the future.

For a program description and application form please visit our website:

Thanks everyone for your help and support!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ripples of Difference - GVN's first book!

In recognition of International Volunteer Day, December 5th 2009, Global Volunteer Network has launched the Ripples of Difference e-book to celebrate the thousands of volunteers who have given their love, energy, and time to help communities in need around the world.

The Ripples of Difference book is a collection of unique and powerful stories written by volunteers from around the world. From refugee camps in Africa to orphanages in Asia, you can read about how volunteers are touching the lives of others and making a difference - a ripple of difference.

Please take the time to visit the website and download your free copy of the e-book:

We know you’re going to really enjoy reading this collection of inspiring and heart-warming stories!

The book is not just a collection of stories; it is a call to action. Mahatma Gandhi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. So we challenge all of you to stand up and create your own ripple and join the sea of change that brings hope to those in need around the world.

Stay tuned for details of how to get your hard copy of the book in early 2010. Here are a few teasers from the book! Enjoy!

Rocky Turner - Undies for Africa

Rocky Turner never imagined she would board a plane armed with over 1,300 pairs of underwear. But she always knew her heart would one day lead her to Africa.

Maggie McCombs – Las Madres (The Mothers)

Maggie McCombs is the first person to admit her intentions were not saintly when she sought out the GVN orphanage program. In fact she didn’t really even want to go to El Salvador, her first choice was Kenya. But at the time it was the furthest that her money would take her from a crumbling life in the United States. This twist of fate changed Maggie’s life forever.

Michelle Gourley - Pocket Money and Pens

She blinks. Humidity surrounds her, seeping into her pores, causing her clothes to stick to her damp skin. The smells and sounds of Africa heighten her senses, alerting her to the unfamiliar that is everywhere. There’s a lot to take in. She takes a deep breath of hot air and steps into the orange dust that coats everyone and everything. Bebu is a tiny village in Ghana and it is where Michelle Gourley is posted for the next two months.

David Heinz – Namaste

It was Christmas day, 2003 when David Heinz boarded a plane at New York’s JFK airport. Little did he know that the trip he was about to make would dramatically change his life. David was on his way to volunteer his services to a small village school in need of repair somewhere in the mountainous hills of Nepal.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Building the Shining Stars Children's Home in Nepal

We'd love to share with you the following update from our partner in Nepal. In 2007 they purchased the land, and began fundraising to build a new home for 30 beautiful shining stars. Currently housed in rented accommodation it is their wish to provide a home for the children where they can take refuge from the world, feel safe, feel loved, be happy and grow healthily in order that they may become successful, compassionate adults and contribute positively to their community and country.

"Now that the festival season is well and truly over, the build has taken on a new lease of life and is coming along in leaps and bounds, with the site now beginning to look like the rendering images created by our architect at the outset of the project.

The second floor of the hostel block is all but built, with the workmen now preparing for the roof. The first floor is currently being plastered and made ready for windows etc. The office/kitchen/dining block is being finished off, windows fitted, plumbing and electrics installed and internal fixtures and fittings planned for.

Externally, landscaping elements are being started with the clearing and levelling of ground, boundaries marked out and walls built.
We have a strong crew of volunteers on site, helping daily with non skilled jobs, such as clearing areas of debris to give the workmen better access, levelling ground ready for landscaping, laying bricks prior to concreting and generally digging, humping and dumping where required.

Upon talking to Biren, our architect and project manager he is threatening to have the project all but finished by the end of January, subject to power and water supplies remaining sufficient.

Given this, we need all the help we can get to raise the final amount required not only to meet our bills upon completion of the project, but also to raise sufficient funds to set-up the home prior to the children moving in. All in all we are currently short of about US$55,000.00, a large but not insurmountable amount. Please help us in any way you can to realise our dream of giving our Shining Stars children a home of their own. Please don’t let us fall at this final hurdle."

If you can help by making a donation and 'buying a brick' please visit the GVN Foundation website:

Or if you would like to contribute to a brighter future for these children through volunteering please visit our website:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dreadlock Shearin!

Here's a hoot of a fundraiser to get behind! Steve Mckay completed GVN's most recent fundraising trek - Machu Picchu.

After climbing Machu Picchu to raise money for the Peruvian Children's Fund and spending time at a local community center and orphanage, Steve has decided to take things one step further...

He will be sacrificing his amazing dreadlocks (which after 15 years he's become quite attached to!) with just one goal in mind - to raise money to support Peruvian children.

"I guess how this came about is from a cafe conversation with two work colleagues. I was doing my usual rant of being deplored by western excesses and feeling I wasn't doing enough to correct the imbalances etc etc, when I hit upon the notion of sacrificing something. With Peru becoming a memory and Nepal months away I needed to do something else. One of the girls offered to donate cash if I lopped off the dreads. At first it seemed like a big sacrifice for a few bucks but as the idea festered the notion grew and while the donations are yet to commence, many have pledged support. I guess it comes down to doing what you can and if lopping off some filthy dreads will get the kiddies cash, then hey why not." says Steve.

Steve has even accepted suggestions for his new hairstyle, he has tentatively agreed to a pink mohawk. Sounds perfect!

Now we're not asking you to shave your heads here - but we are asking that you support Peruvian children through Steve's brilliant act of kindness:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Settling in: a Ghana volunteer placement

In today's blog post we'll be hearing from Nathan Bowles and Sophie Chambers, one adventurous couple who volunteered together during July 2009 in our Ghana Community program. Nathan and Sophie worked in a sheltered housing scheme, which houses mainly elderly and a few younger disabled residents.

Nathan comments that "the most important thing for me is that the whole trip has been life changing. To see how another culture lives, and one that hasn’t got the money that we have is what I set out to do - and definitely did! The overall experience has been amazing and one that is going to be very difficult to beat."

When we asked Nathan to tell us about his arrival experience in Ghana this is what he had to say.

"It’s hard to know where to start! The month I’ve had in Ghana has been the best experience of my life. Nothing could have prepared me for this trip and it is safe to say that I was not expecting what happened over the following four weeks. Here is a brief outline of some of the events that happened and my new surroundings:

We arrived safely in Accra on July 1st, although our flight was delayed. We spent the first night in a Guest House there as the journey would be too long to our village near Ho. People gathered round us as we came out from the airport - the air smelt different - hundreds of people everywhere - us, the only whites!! It was a huge culture shock. And we were exhausted.

We spent a long day travelling to meet our “host”, Bismark...Travelling through Ghana on this day was a huge “eye-opener” as we saw many of the local villages. Literally like something you would see on TV - mud huts, open fires, dusty roads etc.
We had to travel to Ho (large-ish town) to get to our village which is located on the side of Adaklu Mountain. To get to the mountain, you first have to drive across 7 miles of mud and then walk up the mountain for 20 mins to reach our village.

Our village is lovely - everyone is so welcoming. The kids wave and shout “YEVOO” (white person) - they are so excited to see us. However, we have made a baby cry - he had never seen a yevoo before, and was afraid! He is still not used to us! We gave a few kids bouncy balls and within about 10 minutes we had all the village kids round us wanting to play (probably about 30-40 kids!) They are also very keen on pens and paper.

Our room is lovely - sealed so no bugs can get in (although Sophie thought there was a lizard in there the other night)! However, there is no electricity in the village at all and as it gets dark by 6pm, we are in bed asleep by 7pm latest!!

Our shower is a bucket, which is actually really amazing at 5:30am after a night of sweating (no electricity = no fan!) Some men in the village made a toilet for us - this is literally a hut with a hole. However, when we woke up the other day, they had made a proper seat for us!! This is a big thing seeing as the rest of the village (of about 400 people) share 3 toilets. We are treated so well here. Florence (Bismark’s wife) is our caretaker - she makes all our food and does our washing. The food has been really good so far - lots of rice, pasta, plantains, yams, popcorn and eggs. We have not been ill…yet!"

Nathan and Sophie, thanks for sharing with us your initial impressions of a volunteer's arrival in Ghana.

For anyone interested in finding out more about this program please visit our website:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ripples of Difference

International Volunteer Day on December 5th is the United Nations official day on which volunteers around the world are recognized and celebrated for their contributions and dedication.

On 4 December 2009, the Ripples of Difference e-book is my gift to you to celebrate the thousands of volunteers who have given their love, energy, and time to help communities in need around the world.

The Ripples of Difference book is a collection of unique and powerful stories written by volunteers from around the world. From refugee camps in Africa to orphanages in Asia, read about how volunteers are touching the lives of others and making a difference – a ripple of difference.

The Ripples of Difference theme dates back to when I visited a small village in Papua New Guinea. I tossed a stone into a lake and watched the ripples of water get wider and wider and larger and larger. I realised that by myself I could do very little to bring about long term change, but that a multitude of like minded individuals could literally create enough momentum to significantly change the world in which we live.

The book is not just a collection of stories; it is a call to action.
Mahatma Gandhi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. So I challenge all of you to stand up and create your own ripple and join the sea of change that brings hope to those in need around the world.

Please sign up now to receive your free copy on December 4:

Colin Salisbury

GVN Founder and President

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kenya ‘Mail Sale’ - To Pay for the Postage

At GVN we encourage our volunteers to get involved in fundraising amongst their family, friends and local communities. Whether for covering their program fees, their travel expenses or for donations to support our in country projects - fundraising is a great way to gain support for a cause.

Jamie Mullins will be volunteering in the Kenya Children’s Program in December 2009, and she came up with an extremely creative and highly successful fundraising gimmick to enable her to take over much needed supplies for the children.

“The idea started for the Kenya ‘Mail Sale’ after I had completed the Fundraising Induction Day. I sent out a flyer asking for any donations of children’s clothing, toys and games...which was a great success, and I soon realised I wouldn’t be fitting it all in my luggage. So the Kenya ‘Mail Sale’ idea was born to ensure that all the donated gifts got to Kenya.”

Jamie hosted a Bachelor and Bachelorette auction, with participants of all ages and professions including Tradies, Engineers, Lawyers and IT specialists. On the night all bachelors and bachelorettes were auctioned off to the highest bidder, and the prize for the winning bidder was to be taken out to dinner by the Bachelor/Bachelorette. What a fantastic idea!

“I roped in my good male friends and even one or two actually volunteered. The night was an absolute success raising just short of $6000.

I can’t say I am sure what I want to achieve in Kenya...but if I can help a few kids smile and enjoy themselves I think that will be a wonderful reward.”

Some of Jamie’s goals for volunteering in Kenya are to offer underprivileged children a brighter future. We hope to provide children with the basic necessities of life - love, food, clothing and shelter - and also provide them with an education, so they can advance towards the same opportunities as their peers around the world.

During her placement, Jamie will be caring for orphans, street children and abused children at an orphanage. She will take on the role of sibling to the children, and when she leaves Australia in December to take part in her placement, she’ll be taking as many children's supplies, school supplies, soccer balls, soccer pumps, cassette players (with batteries), and games as she can.

Well done Jamie, we can’t wait to hear about your experience volunteering in Kenya!

If you’d like more information on our Kenya volunteer programs please visit our website:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kick off 2010 with an Adventure!

I recently launched an emergency appeal to assist communities in need that were devastated by catastrophic typhoons and earthquakes. Thank you so much for answering the call, your response has been overwhelmingly kind.

Today I feel compelled to make another appeal but of a different nature – I wish to appeal to your spirit of courage and adventure.

The 2010 Mt Kilimanjaro Fundraising Trek is just around the corner and aims to raise money for disadvantaged children in schools, IDP camps, and orphanages in Kenya. However, to meet our base fundraising target which provides immediate needs such as food, medical care, and education for the kids, we are seeking three more participants to join the trek.

I am appealing to those of you who have ever dreamt of climbing a mountain for a cause to join our Mt Kilimanjaro Trek. You will not only be making a difference to communities in need, you will be bagging one of the world's seven summits.

I led the first GVN Kilimanjaro Trek in 2005 and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and the bonds I formed on that trip still remain strong today.

Checkout this slideshow which was made by one of the trekkers from the 2008 Fundraising team.

Come on, who is up for the challenge? Help us reach our fundraising target: sign up now!

I can’t think of a better way to start 2010 than being part of this challenging, rewarding, and life changing experience.

Colin Salisbury

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Be The Change – what’s it really all about?

Kristin Scales, our BTC Coordinator fills us in on what this intense and motivating training program is really like, and what you can expect to achieve through it.

I often get a lot of questions from people curious if GVN’s Be The Change Program is right for them. People aren’t always certain if it’s the right fit for them and some think it sounds like fun but really don’t know what the whole thing is about! The program attracts people from all age groups, educational and professional backgrounds.

You may have always had a dream to start a non-profit, a charity, an international movement – you may have recently read an inspiring book – taken an eye opening trip – or simply had an “a-ha” moment.

Sometimes you an get an idea in your head of something you know you would love to accomplish one day but you’re not really certain how to get there – what steps you need to take – or even if you have what it takes to make those necessary steps. Be The Change strips you of those nagging “what ifs” and places you in an environment of like minded people all working toward similar goals and headed by a group of confident, inspiring social entrepreneurs in their own right.

Each Be The Change course has a wide variety of people attending. Many participants are more mature aged than our other volunteer programs. These people often want to learn something new, change a job, or have had an idea in mind for years but never knew how to proceed with it. We also get a fair amount of people in their twenties who are looking to start jobs in international development or with the UN and want to learn more about how to do so.

It is not a requirement of the Be The Change program to have a clear 'cause' in mind- some of our past participants have said that the program has allowed them to narrow down or pinpoint exactly what they are passionate about- using the course to fine-tune what and how they can make a difference in their communities or internationally. On the other hand, some participants do come into the program with a very clear idea of their project or cause and use the course as a time to put their ideas into action.

Each day Colin and Courtney will lead workshops to explain the difference between different types of NGOs, nonprofits and international development organizations. They go over what requirements you may need to start an NGO or Nonprofit and give you knowledge about how to successfully fundraise. During the workshops Colin and Courtney will discuss your goals with you and give you help and advice about the steps you need to take to begin your project.

The schedule for Be the Change usually involves a morning activity, such as a short hike or yoga, followed by breakfast. Then each day Colin and the other facilitators will go through different presentations on various issues surrounding the world of Non-profits/fundraising and the UN. After the presentations/discussions an afternoon activity is offered. These group activities are meant to help bring the group closer together as the Be The Change program really is a learning and growing experience.

Some people come to the program with a really clear idea of a project they want to start, some are looking for a change in career, others just want to learn a bit more about NGOs – but all leave the program inspired and instilled with confidence that they can do something!

Be The Change is currently offered in Jamaica, Italy and New Zealand.

Our next program is offered in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, 14-21 March 2010.

For more information please visit:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Helping our partners recover from Typhoon Ketsana

At GVN we were devastated to hear about the damage Typhoon Ketsana has wrought across South East Asia. Our thoughts are with our partners, friends and their families in Vietnam and the Philippines.

Today we are bringing to you an article written by Shafaq Varghese, one of our current volunteers in the Philippines, describing the heart-breaking aftermath of the typhoon.

“Visiting the areas affected by the flooding was a heart-wrenching experience. The devastation was limitless. In one of the hardest hit areas, numerous houses, which had originally been built alongside a major river, had been flattened and the homeless victims were scattered on the streets living in temporary spaces made up of plastic sheets tied together with thread. Garbage, which was basically household items destroyed by the flooding, was piled up on every street corner and outside every house. It was obvious that anything these residents owned, in an already poverty-stricken area, had been washed away or spoiled by the flood.

In one street corner hundreds of people were standing in the sweltering heat, in lines that stretched around several blocks, to receive aid from their local community leadership. I was skeptical on whether enough aid would be available for the hordes of people waiting.

The family we visited to provide aid to had lost everything they owned in the flood. Their house had been submerged in water and they had survived by taking shelter in their neighbor’s two-story house. Every single piece of clothing and furniture this family owned was covered with thick mud. They had no food, no drinking water or clean clothes. And even though they had started the cleaning process, it was obvious that in the absence of proper nourishment and basic amenities, it would be weeks or even months before they would be able to have a normal life again.

The same story was repeated in the hundreds of other houses that we passed by. From the families scavenging through their destroyed goods for items they could still make use of, to the one living inside a truck because they had lost everything, to the group of people holding a vigil on a bridge for a drowned child, everywhere I looked, the only thing visible was utter destruction and suffering.

In the three and a half hours that we surveyed the area, we saw just two aid operations in progress, one through a UN agency and the other through Red Cross. From the size of the trucks and the number of victims standing in line to receive aid, it was clear that the rations provided by these aid operations would be inadequate. Worst still, there wasn’t a single medical program in progress to provide temporary medical care or check-ups to the victims. With millions of dollars worth of aid coming into the Philippines just for the sole purpose of providing food, water, shelter and medical care to the victims of the flooding, I wondered where the money was being spent if not in the area with the highest number of casualties.

Clearly, the government and other aid agencies need to take additional steps to reduce the suffering of the people affected by the flooding, most of whom are now living on the streets and are highly susceptible to diseases, mal-nutrition and probable death. This includes, first and foremost, providing additional food, clean water and medical help, in order to prevent further fatalities and the spread of diseases. Rebuilding the houses and cleaning the streets of the loads of garbage scattered everywhere would be the next significant step. These must then be followed by providing safer and more stable housing in the areas more prone to rain and flood damage, in order to prevent such widespread disaster and loss of life in the future.”

Hundreds of lives have been lost, many are still missing, and hundreds of thousands of people have been affected. In response, the GVN Team has launched an Asia Pacific Emergency appeal to assist three communities in desperate need who are particularly dear to our hearts - our partner in the Philippines, our partner in Vietnam, and Samoa, the island neighbouring our headquarters here in New Zealand.

I urge you to please consider making a donation to one of our emergency appeals or volunteer and assist on the ground.

Click to donate:
Click to volunteer:;

Please leave us your comments and thoughts about the devastating past few weeks in the Asia-Pacific region below

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Very Important Wall by Libby Gendall

The plight of street children around the world is a desperate one. Street children are widely recognized as those most at risk of violence, neglect and abuse. UNICEF’s annual State of the World’s Children reports have repeatedly called attention to the extremely challenging conditions in which children work and live in the streets. Sadly this is an ongoing problem that shows little sign of being resolved.

Thankfully, there is something that can be done… and our volunteers are helping to do it! Never one to be discouraged, Laura Van Waas, is one such volunteer. She realised that despite overwhelming odds, it is possible to make a difference in the lives of some of society’s most neglected children.

Laura volunteered with GVN at a construction project in the rural village of Oropesa, located just outside of Cusco, Peru. She worked at an orphanage which houses boys ranging in age from 6-18 years old. These boys were street children and this orphanage aims to provide them with a safe home and better quality of life. One of the future goals of this orphanage, known as Azul Wasi, is to develop training workshops to provide the boys with employable skills when they leave the orphanage at the state mandated age of 18.

In a journal entry, Laura writes:

‘On site at Azul Wasi, we have had a good week. We have nearly completed the reinforcing wall all the way along the back of the buildings. There has been more digging in the mud, more shovelling and moving gravel, more mixing and carrying cement and more magical moments sharing a sugary drink or standing back to admire our work with the kids.

Apparently, the police (including the man who founded and heads the orphanage) are often involved in "plain clothes" round-up efforts in the main plaza of Cusco. At around 10pm, after the kids are meant to have gone home, they move through the plaza to see who is still there trying to sell goods or services to tourists. They bundle them all into a bus and take them back to the police station. Then, within half an hour, word has somehow managed to get back to anyone who has parents in Cusco and the mothers come in to collect their children.

Often there are one or two children left, no parents to pick them up. These are street children for whom another solution needs to be sought. They may be brought to one of the several orphanages in Cusco or, if they are lucky it seems, they will be brought out to Azul Wasi.

Not all of the kids are necessarily orphans, per definition. One boy that was staying at Azul Wasi was thrown out by his mother when he was eight, because he was the oldest of many (probably eight or more) children and she could no longer cope with them all. At first he was brought to
an uncle's place where he was forced to do hard labour on a farm and not given any opportunity to go to school - modern slavery in one of its most complicated forms. When he was 12, he ran away and went to live on the streets. Then he was brought to Azul Wasi, where he had the chance to get an education and he has since returned to live with his mother, but with the help of the orphanage he has been set up with the knowledge and equipment needed to have a small guinea-pig "farm", so he is able to make a small living for himself and his family.

How many of the kids stories are like this one and how many of the children no longer have parents is unclear. What is certain is that they come to Cusco from all around the country, drawn to the city by the promise of tourist's money, and they are very, very lucky if they are taken in at Azul Wasi. The conditions there are far better than in the orphanages in the city and many of the children are happy to stay there and cooperate with the attempts to secure an education for them and the chance to behave like brothers. It feels good to be helping the kids, even if it is only for a month and only by building them a not very exciting - but incredibly important - wall.’

There are several factors which contribute to the high numbers of street children in Cusco, as well as the other cities in Peru. Increasing poverty in rural Peru has caused a shift in population, with many families moving into urban areas in the hopes of finding employment and a better life. Without traditional means of income and extended family support, the new pressures of living in the city often become too much for families to cope with and children are drawn to the freedom and potential of the streets. Luckily, volunteers like Laura, are helping to make the lives of such children in Cusco a little better and with one ‘incredibly important’ wall, their future is looking brighter.

If you would like to follow Laura’s adventures in Peru, please check out her blog:

Thanks Laura and all our volunteers for your hard work!

If you would like to find out more about volunteer opportunities in Peru please visit our website:

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Simple Things - Life on an Amazon Reserve

During her time as a volunteer in the remote Ecuadorian Amazon, Kaya Barker worked to develop and maintain the biodiversity that is crucial to this area, and is constantly under threat from habitat destruction and over-exploitation.

The Amazon Biological Station was founded in 1986, creating a conservation, investigation and education centre to host scientists and students interested in preserving tropical rainforest. This band of wet forest is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. As a volunteer Kaya had the opportunity to learn firsthand from a live collection of the most important and endangered plants of the area.

But, according to Kaya, the most important thing she learnt from her volunteer experience is that sometimes it’s the simple things that really matter. Upon reflection, Kaya noted, “time always seems so precious at home as there are so many distractions and things going on, it feels good to get away from it all for a while”.

Of course, when you ‘get away from it all’ in the Amazon jungle, there are a few other lessons it’s worth learning as well! In a journal she kept of her experiences, Kaya wrote

“After spending a couple of weeks in the jungle there are several things that become part of every day life. You get used to the slightly damp odour of your clothes in the morning and waking up with yet another scratch from something that bit you in the night. Checking the toilet for any giant insects or spiders before intrepidly entering becomes second nature before long. Dodging the never ending ant trails crossing every path becomes a skill you can’t live without. You slowly become accustomed to routines of the reserve, early mornings at 6am, lazy afternoon siestas in the hammocks and bracing yourself for freezing cold showers after a hard days work.”

In another entry, she writes

“There are researchers staying [with us] in the rainforest, one guy is obsessed with snakes and goes on jungle walks every night to find and photograph different species. It’s been amazing as we’ve had the opportunity to see some deadly snakes as well as holding and touching the ones that aren’t able to kill you.”

But the life of a volunteer is not all hard work and creepy crawlies:

“Our evenings are spent getting to know everyone at the reserve; we play lots of games and enjoy deep discussion while chilling in the hammocks. We spend hours comparing each other’s cultures and taking the piss out of their idiosyncrasies. There’s also lots of time for reading, reflecting and relaxing!”

Kaya’s time in the Amazon allowed her to venture deep into the jungle, where communities of indigenous peoples continue to live relatively traditional lives amongst the natural beauty of the jungle.

“We spent our days hiking around the small slippery slopes of the jungle, up and down hills, over streams and rocks, from high up on the riverbanks to low down by the waterside. We passed by small communities along the way and watched small children fishing for food in the shallow parts of the river. Following a night of heavy rain the river swelled to a gushing torrent and we were no longer able to bath in the cooling waters as the current would have swept us away. It was a beautiful sight to observe, so powerful and mighty.”

It wasn’t all easy living in the Amazon, to be sure, but Kaya found that the peace and tranquillity of the jungle was hard to resist:

“It is not until you leave that you realise that things were once different in a far away place.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing but in doing” - Greg Anderson.

Just last month a group of GVN trekkers returned from possibly the most spectacular trek in the Americas – Machu Picchu. Together they donated their time, raised over US$27,000 in critical funds, and had the courage and spirit to embark on this adventure. By joining this fundraising trek they aided the refurbishment of a Peruvian orphanage. What an amazing effort! Jessica Jalea was one of our inspirational trekkers and below she shares with you her reflections on the experience.

‘The Machu Picchu trek was the most difficult, and at the same time, most rewarding experience of my young life. Before I even lef

t home for Peru, there was so much anticipation and build up towards the trek because of the amazing support and generous donations from my family, friends and church. There remained with me an overwhelming sense that the trek wasn't just something I wanted to accomplish for myself, but something I HAD to accomplish; for the kids that GVN was going to help through Peruvian Hearts, as a 'thank you' to all those that were encouraging me from home and finally, as a victory that I could lift up in praise.

In Cuzco, the night before we left for the first day of h

iking, our wonderful guide advised us to enjoy the hike, he told us that Machu Picchu would wait for us, so for the first three days 'just enjoy the journey'. On my own journey, I managed to catch a bit of altitude sickness on the first day. I was so exhausted that our guide seriously asked me to consider turning back since the second day required us to climb even higher. I skipped supper that night to cry in my tent and weigh out my options for the next morning. After sincere reflection with my tent-mate and after some of the other participants, who I'd only known for the past two days, encouraged me to go on and told me they'd walk with me, no matter how slow I'd have to go, I felt so empowered that I decided to go on.

The next day, we went up another 1000 meters in altitude and reached the highest point on the trek at 42000 ft. It was the most victorious feeling to stand at the peak of that mountain amongst the clouds. And though, as promised, Machu Picchu awaited us on the fourth day in all it's majesty, I would have to say that the challenge of the trek was the biggest reward, because the more difficult the challenge became, the more rewarding it felt to overcome.

Finally, the cherry on top of the whole trip had to be meeting the children during the project days that followed. It was a deeper kind of reward to see the work first-hand. I believe our group was lucky to see the Pampallacta School at the infancy of it's transformation through GVN/Peruvian Hearts, still rugged and plain, and then experience the almost complete transformation of the Hogar Mercedes de Jesus Molina Orphanage with their new bathrooms, laundry room, kitchen and dining room.

The change was absolutely amazing, and the kids were so unforgettable. The whole trip sparked a sort of passion in me that I hope I can use to promote, propagate and participate in more change. Even on the last day, instead of feeling like it was the end of a trip, it definitely felt more like the beginning of a new journey. Congratulations to all the participants of the Machu Picchu Trek 2009!’

The next GVN Fundraising Trek is in January 2010 and gives participants the opportunity to help provide disadvantaged African kids in schools and orphanages with basic needs such as food, medical care, and education. Plus, trekkers will also have the chance to bag one of the world's seven summits - Mt Kilimanjaro.

The 2008 Mt Kilimanjaro Fundraising Trek raised over US$40 000 for the Africa Children's fund and provided hundreds of orphans in Kenya with shelter, food, clothing, education, and medical care. This year we are hoping to raise $50 000 which will again be used to assist with the basic needs of a number of orphanage projects, and in addition, fund events for local youth and partner organizations. The focus of these events will be to teach leadership skills, instil confidence, and inspire change.

Come on, who is up for the challenge?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Out and About: New Zealand Nature Program

Hey everyone! I’m Ray, the silver haired one in the picture above, and I am one half of the New Zealand Programs Leadership team: the other half is Toby, the scruffy haired one in the picture above.

It’s been an amazing few months on the program and we have been blessed with some really good weather. We only had one bad weather day, and that gave me a chance to take the guys on my patented ‘Ray’s Lord of the Rings Tour’. Fun was had by all. Toby has been away for 2 weeks leading the Machu Picchu fundraising trek, so it’s just been me and the volunteers: planting, removing weeds, surveying streams, counting seals and learning all about Maori myths and legends from one of our ranger friends up north.

Here is a little more about some of our recent program highlights:

Seal Survey at Cape Palliser
Ray and team journeyed 2 hours to this amazing site to identify, monitor and count the seals alongside DOC workers Joe and Jenny. Our final count; a staggering 966 seals and about 10,000 photos of adorable seal pups.

Wellington Zoo
The zoo is always a great day and lots of fun. This time round we made enrichment toys for Sean the sun bear and mulched a large area of the gardens outside the chimp house!

8th July. Nga Manu
This was such a fun day at Nga Manu nature reserve. Between the eel feed and the baby chicks we managed to cut up and re-plant lots of flax. Here we are balancing on the back of a tractor!

As you can see, we’ve been having loads of fun. The volunteers who are here at the moment are very lucky as next week they will be travelling up to the Coromandel Peninsula to take part in some conservation work with the Moehau Environmental Group, a group committed to keeping down pest numbers in order to save the endangered Kiwi Bird, amongst others. The gang will have an amazing trip and get to see some of New Zealand’s most untouched and precious rainforest. We go to Coromandel once very 3 months or so and soon we will also be starting a project at the northern tip of the South Island: very exciting. That means we all get to go on the 3 hour ferry crossing and sail through the Marlborough sounds, which are stunning.


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this website by Heal the Earth volunteer, Ada Spahija

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

United Nations Grants Special Consultative Status to GVN Foundation

GVN and the GVN Foundation are excited to announce that the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has granted special consultative status to Global Volunteer Network (GVN) Foundation.

Consultative status opens the door for GVN Foundation to actively engage with the ESOSC and its subsidiary bodies, as well as with United Nations Secretariat, programmes, funds and agencies.

Colin Salisbury, GVN Foundation Chairman and co-founder says that it is a great honour to be recognised by the United Nations and granted special consultative status.

"Achieving NGO status marks a significant moment for GVN Foundation. We feel privileged to be given an opportunity to lend our expertise and contribute to the United Nations’ target of meeting the millennium development goals and ending extreme poverty by 2015,” Salisbury said.

Special Consultative status is granted to NGOs and non-profits that have a specialty in an activity area covered by the ESOSOC. GVN Foundation’s work to educate the global community about the possibility of ending extreme poverty in our lifetime, ties directly into ECOSOC’s millennium development goal work.

“One of the key focuses of ECOSOC is the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Six of the UN MDG’s are aimed at assisting children. GVN Foundation will address the same six goals through our continued work to assist children around the world,” said Salisbury.

Courtney Montague, Executive Director of the GVN Foundation, hopes to go to the UN in the coming weeks to speak with their NGO Branch about ways GVN Foundation can assist the UN, and vice versa. Meanwhile, we are all celebrating this huge milestone!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What in the world have we been up to?

It has been an eventful few weeks here at GVN and we’re all being kept as busy as bees. We’re very happy to have Libby Gendall back in the office. As the Americas Coordinator Libby receives a bunch of enquiries each day about our programs in the region.

Toby and Erin just returned from the Machu Picchu fundraising trek and by all accounts it was an incredible experience. One of our trek participants has put together a really awesome video showing highlights from the trek and orphanage visits:

The GVN Foundation have now reached 600 hosts for Eat So They Can! We are super excited about this years event and hope to raise over $100,000 to support children in need.

Just in case you have not heard - Eat So They Can is an international fundraiser that invites citizens of the world to participate in what is collectively one huge dinner party on October 17-18; where something as simple as sharing a meal with friends can help stop child poverty.

ESTC Coordinator Eliza has even got her family involved! “My Granny, Rosemary Raymond, is 85 years old and doesn't have a clue how to use a computer but she has still found a way to sign up - my sending me an 'airletter' all the way from her little village in Kent, England. She plans to host a buffet lunch in her little cottage for her "ancient and deaf" friends (her description, not mine!)”

If you haven't signed up yet and you'd like to receive a pack just visit: All our hosts will receive a DVD showing how the funds from last year were spent, a poster, and some very cool ESTC buttons/badges!

Last month GVN Founder and Director Colin Salisbury, and Lauren McMahon our GVN Kenya Representative were interviewed by Givealitte. In this video they talk about how and why GVN first came about, as well as about our projects in Kenya and how we are supporting children in need.

I’ll leave you now with a link to check out the video here: