Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Soulful Medicine

Michelle Tomey volunteered through GVN in April 09 in Vietnam working in orphanages in Tuy Hoa. While in Vietnam Michelle became involved in some inspirational fundraising work to help a young Vietnamese girl with Cleft Lip and Pallet…

“In one of my Little School classes, I met a young girl named Thuong. She is an extremely bright little girl, and has amazing spirit. I noticed a scar above her lip, and soon learned that she was born with Cleft Lip, and Palate. A cleft is an opening or gap. It is the non-fusion of the body's natural structures that form before birth. It is caused by abnormal facial development during gestation.

Thuong's Father, Cu, is 35 years old, and was born in a fishing village not far from where they live now. He has been a fisherman all his life. At 35 years old, Cu is illiterate. He cannot read or write, but is able to provide for his family by working as a fishermen. Thuong's mother, Thuy, is 34 years old, and continues to live in the village she was born in. Thuy can read and write, but only completed school up to grade 6. After this time, she became a fishing net maker, and continues to make and repair nets for Cu.

Most children under go their first surgery between 2 & 3 months old. Thuong under went her first surgery at 18 months. Her family could not afford the surgery, so a fundraiser was held and raised enough money for her first 3 surgeries. Her second surgery was at 30 months old, and her third at 42 months. All three surgeries were a great success. Unfortunately, funding has run out with approximately two surgeries still remaining. I have made it my personal goal to see to it that enough money is raised to help Thuong live as normal a life as possible. Any funds raised that exceed the total cost of the surgeries will be used to help support the family in funding the continuing education of Thuong and her sister. Both parents are very dedicated to seeing their daughter’s complete school, and are making every effort they can.

On Sunday, April 26, I met with Thuong and her family. I went to their home and picked them up to take them out for lunch, and interview them about Thuong's medical history. I was amazed to find out that they had never been out for lunch. They were so excited and grateful; it was an amazing experience for all of us. I needed to discuss with them my thoughts and ideas for a fundraiser, and I wanted to get their permission to fundraise for them, and to post pictures and information about their family. They were more than happy to comply, and offered many thanks to everyone who is willing and able to donate. Currently I received two donations from my mother, and grandmother. With this money, we were able to set up an appointment with a doctor in Ho Chi Minh City. Thuong, her mother, Thuy, and my manager, Nguyen, flew to HCMC on April 27, 2009. This was the first time flying for all three of them. They met with a surgeon, and he agreed to donate Thuong's next surgery. This will involve having bone removed from her shoulder, to repair her jaw. Following this surgery, she will need reconstructive surgery of her nose. We do not know exactly how many surgeries remain. We must first complete the next surgery and see the outcome.”

Michelle’s goal is to fundraise 10,000 so far she has raised 1080. Keep up the great work Michelle!

Volunteers in the Vietnam Orphanage program have the chance to help care for children in orphanages and at day care centres. Volunteers also teach English at language centres and to various community groups. This program gives you a chance to make an important contribution to the people of Vietnam, and to gain an in depth experience of the country and its culture that will stay with you the rest of your life.

If you would like to help support Thuong through her surgery’s and Michelle with her fundraising efforts please visit:

To find out more about Thuong’s story you can visit Michelle’s blog:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Loving these living in Vietnam blogs also beautiful photos here
Excellent Vietnam travel blog/guide great insight into history,culture, language and tips!

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Dose of Blog TLC

It seems our blog has been a little neglected over the past...well....since we created it really. I guess we just get so busy corresponding with our fabulous volunteers and partners in country that we forget to write it all down!

Lately we have been posting some juicy updates and articles and we will continue to post bits here and there about our staff and what we’re up to at GVN. Also, if you want to follow us on Twitter or Facebook we’d love to hear from you!

Colin, GVN Founder and President would like to encourage and inspire you from time to time so you can follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Last week our South America Coordinator Libby had an operation to re-set her ankle after she broke it playing social Netball. Michelle, Kristin and Hannah have been covering for Libby while she is away – and at the same time managing their own work as well. Get well soon Libby!

Our CEO Erin Cassidy will be heading off to Peru in less than 3 weeks for the Machu Picchu Fundraising Trek. Erin and Toby (NZ Nature Team Leader) will be representing GVN on the trek starting August 16th. Erin has prepared for the trek with a mixture of treadmill, cross-trainer, and walking up and down the Normandale hill with her dogs. She’s tried to do something active each day and hopes she’s fit enough for the trek but has no idea how she will be affected by the altitude! We’re sure you’ll do great!

This is an amazing opportunity for Erin as she’ll be celebrating her birthday on the trek. ‘From what I was told I think the hardest day of the trek and birthday are the same day - so that’s a wee treat in store for me.’

Behind the scenes at Global Volunteer Network we have been working with to bring you a whole new level of service for your fundraising. We’re so excited to be able to offer fundraising pages for volunteers to collect their application and program fees as well as the option to fundraise for the entire costs of your travel. We will be releasing this new service soon and will let you know all about it here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Follow Elizabeth in Vietnam

We're loving these journal entries from one of our current volunteers in Vietnam. Keep up the great work Elizabeth!

It is so amazing to me how fast time goes…

I returned from Hoi An on Sunday evening with a few new sundresses and some shorts - I LOVE my clothes (and so cheap!)

Monday morning it was back to work at the Social Support Center (disabled orphans), Agent Orange Victims Baby Orphanage (AOV2), and Malnourished baby orphanage. SO MUCH work to do. I’ve spent much of my evenings re-organizing the toys to be used at specific sites, as to prevent cross-contamination and decrease risk of spreading illness. Bacterial and fungal skin infections can run rampant here without adequate cleaning of supplies/toys. The medicine cabinet is now well-stocked, just needs more organization. There are a few babies at Agent Orange that I am concerned about; I will go see them again this afternoon. Many coughs, runny noses, skin rashes, and one mysterious lump on a baby’s head (from infection).

When working with the disabled children at Social Support I’ve learned that simple touch (backrubs, shoulder rubs, small hugs, hand shakes, etc.) can make a great difference to these children. They live in a community-based environment and have caretakers with them 24/7. But I wonder how much one-on-one attention they receive. We found today that large lego blocks, toys that make noise, and toddler-toys actually work well for many of these kids (some are very debilitated by intellectual handicaps). My hope by the end of the month is to have 10 of the kids routinely brushing their OWN teeth with less prompting from us (it’s a very lofty goal: I hope they can manage it!) Our beloved Tam is doing very well with his reading English - he has his ABC’s and counting; now we are working on “opposite words” and basic phonics (thanks Kate, for the great flash cards).

At Agent Orange orphanage (AOV2) this afternoon it is bath time for the infants. So excited! I’m going to try on the new Onesies (thanks Ellis!) on the little ones. Some of these babies are SO small - only weeks old and weigh 10-12 pounds! There are 18 babies that I routinely see Monday-Thursday. It’s nice to be there so often, as to get to know them all and be able to assess if one’s health is declining or improving. There is always an interpreter present so I can communicate with the house-mothers about the health and general care of each infant. I love going to AOV2 since I can LITERALLY lay down on the floor and have little babies crawling all over me. My own personal heaven :)

I have to remind myself of some advice my mom gave me before I left: I am only ONE person, and I cannot help all of Vietnam! …when there is such great need in these places, I have difficulty accepting that I cannot ”fix” everything. Back home when working in the hospital, I am used to completing the task, getting it done right, and seeing improvements in my patients. Here, changes happen much MUCH slower…there are limited supplies and medication, a lot less money, fewer educated healthcare workers, and less resources for impoverished communities. GVN and Mr. Viet have done an amazing job establishing this program here in Vietnam, and have already made great strides in improving the healthcare, nutrition and education of these children…but there is still SO MUCH to be done. The work is endless. Hundreds more volunteers are needed here in DaNang to continue the work with these children.

So, basically, I’ve had to learn that I am only ONE person. I cannot help an entire country in a month. I can do my best to help a few, and hopefully improve their lives, one minute at a time. I hope that every hour I spend can make a difference in some way.

You can follow Elizabeth's journal entries here:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Meaningful Volunteer Experience for Teens

Today we are seeing greater numbers of youth becoming involved in volunteering in their communities. According to a University of Nevada report by Molly Latham, young people are increasingly seeking out opportunities to improve the world by volunteering their service to projects they deem to be important.

This leads us to ask the question ‘what are the benefits of youth volunteerism?’
Erin Courtenay, GVN Communications Coordinator and Ex Vietnam Volunteer says GVN often receives enquiries from teens wanting to take part in a volunteer placement but up until now they have had to turn them away until they turn 18. With the introduction of the new Youth Tour in Vietnam teens aged 15-17 years old will have the opportunity take part in a rewarding and challenging volunteer program.

“The idea behind the youth tour is to enable teens to experience one of our volunteer projects in a supportive and secure environment. We want to introduce them to and give them a taste for the wonders of volunteering and fundraising at a young age in the hope that this is something they will continue to contribute to as they become adults.”

The University of Nevada report explains that teens say the benefits received from volunteering are: learning to respect others; learning to be helpful and kind; learning to understand people who are different; developing leadership skills, becoming more patient, and better understanding of citizenship. Further, youth who volunteer are more likely to do well in school, graduate and vote.

A further report by Maria R. T. de Guzman at the University of Nebraska suggests that youth volunteerism contributes to identity development, enhancement of skills, increased self-esteem, and the development of empathy for others.

Amanda Corwin, a GVN volunteer, is currently in Peru volunteering with her teenage daughter. “So far, I think the biggest thing that she has learned is that in many parts of the world life is very difficult. We are working in a village where there is no running water or electricity, as well as other problems. [Morgan] loves the kids and has a better understanding of their difficulties. I brought my other daughter to volunteer in Tanzania for a month also through GVN. At the time she was 17. She loved it so much that she deferred her freshman year of college this year and volunteered for 6 months in Uganda and Ethiopia. After Tanzania, she came back a more confident person because she had to teach art and English, as well as giving her the perspective of the world rather than just our home town. She had a very different outlook on life than anyone in her grade could ever imagine. More currently, she was given a $10,000 scholarship to the university that she will be attending this fall because of her volunteering experience.”

The Vietnam Youth Tour provides enormous benefits to both the volunteer and the local community. Participants will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture and location whilst helping a community in need and in return the community benefits from having caring volunteers provide love, affection and education.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about this opportunity please visit our website or contact GVN today:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

'Eat So They Can' and Win a Trip to Kenya!

An expense paid trip to Kenya is up for grabs for one lucky host who takes home the Eat So They Can grand prize! The grand prize winner will have the opportunity to visit Kenya and have a hand in distributing monies raised from the Eat So They Can campaign and meet the children who will be benefiting from the funds - what an experience! Julie and Laura, last year's grand prize winners, had the following to say after their life changing trip to Kenya:

"Our lives will be changed forever. It has been such an eye opening opportunity and invaluable experience to be able to view the world from another perspective. One thing we have learned from this trip above all, is the value of Eat So They Can (ESTC) donations. When we donated to ESTC and held a dinner party for our friends we were unaware of how much the food it was purchasing was needed, or who would be receiving it. We witnessed thousands of children benefiting...

We encourage everyone to continue to donate to ESTC. It is so easy to host a dinner party and even the smallest donation will help. Putting an end to poverty is something we felt passionate about before leaving for Kenya, but now our beliefs have been confirmed. It's very important that we work harder to raise money to lessen the economic equalities in our world. We hope that our words convey the strong meaning we are trying to express.

We are looking forward to becoming more involved with ESTC and truly hope that you will decide to do the same. We have been so lucky to receive this insight. It has been a real gift that we will use to create more awareness back home.

Thank you to the whole ESTC Team for a once in a life time experience!"

Julie and Laura

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.

Visit our website to sign up today:

If you'd like to host an event but you don't know where to start, take our ESTC facebook quiz!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Taking their vision of social change and making it into a reality - By Kristin Scales

Be The Change is a week long course designed to train individuals how to become changemakers in communities around the world. Led by founder of Global Volunteer Network and social entrepreneur Colin Salisbury, Be The Change gives individuals the courage and belief to proceed with their dream of becoming a social entrepreneur and creating social change in their local communities and globally.

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! Jan Reid and Rafe Steinhauer are past participants of Be The Change who have become social entrepreneurs in their own right – taking their vision of social change and making it into a reality.

Rafe Steinhauer joined Be The Change in November of 2007. While on the program Rafe developed an idea for a social enterprise and founded 'Benefeast' Benefeast’s mission is to raise money for non-profit organizations by hosting group dinners. Fifty percent of the profits raised by the dinner are then donated to the charity of the hosts’ choice. Benefeast dinners provide an event for like-minded socially conscious people to meet in a fun and relaxed setting all for a good cause. Rafe says “Throughout University, I looked and hoped for jobs that would satisfy two of the following three criteria: be enjoyable, be profitable, and be ethical. [Be The Change] taught me that I could have all three!"

After participating in Be The Change in July 2008 Jan Reid founded the organization ‘A Helper’s Hope’ which connects childhood professionals (teachers, physical therapists, speech therapists etc.) with children in orphanages in the developing world who could benefit from their skills. A Helper’s Hope makes a positive impact on the lives of those in need while promoting cultural awareness, teamwork and international volunteering. Jan is leading her first expedition of childhood professionals to an orphanage in Peru in July of 2009.

If you, like Rafe and Jan, would like to start or work with a non-profit/charity organization, work with the United Nations or learn more about the field of Social Entrepreneurship and International Development check out Be The Change! at

The Be The Change program is available from:

• November 22-29, 2009 – Taupo, New Zealand (2 spots left)
• March 14-21, 2010 – Runaway Bay, Jamaica
• May 21-28, 2010 – Tuscany, Italy
• November 21-28, 2010 – Taupo, New Zealand

Cheap Flight Alerts

When planning your volunteer trip the cost of your flights can be one of the biggest expenses. We’ll now be keeping an eye out on cheap flights from some of the leading airlines and travel providers and when we see cheap flights we’ll let you know here. Happy Travels!

Take a look at these great specials:

Latin America with Continental Airlines

Atlanta to Costa Rica

South America with Expedia and LAN Airlines

Asia with Expedia and China Airlines

Please note that GVN is not affiliated with the travel provider or airline and cannot guarantee the availability of flights or specials.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

$100 off in July

At GVN, we are passionate about helping communities in need and we're here to tell you that our partners need your help. They need it now.

Given the current state of the global economy, we understand it may be challenging to take part in a volunteer placement, however we want to do what we can to enable you to participate in international volunteering.

We want to make it even easier for you to take part in one of our international volunteer progams, and we're excited to offer a special voucher, giving you US$100 off your program fee if you confirm your placement in July.

Plus: Win your volunteer program for Free!

What's even more exciting is that all volunteers who pay their program fee between 1 July and 6 December will automatically be entered in our Grand Prize draw! The prize winner will have their entire program fee reimbursed by GVN.

To take advantage of this great saving, Apply Now to one of our programs at confirm your place before the end of July!