What is your favorite travel memory?
It was a long day and night of traveling by bus with 15 students from the University of Idaho. Starting early in the morning from Viña del Mar, we had to change buses in Santiago and finally headed for the small coastal town of Cobquecura in the south.
From inside the bus at 2 am, as we were approaching the town in pitch dark, I phoned my contact, Nils, hoping he would pick up. He did, and took our group of volunteers to their lodging at a vacant school.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
Rather than calling it growth, I would instead say that I've come full circle. I'm enjoying doing today what I enjoyed doing in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia 40 years ago. That was a simple life where you learned new things every day. And Ethiopians you didn't know would help you.
Now it's today's volunteers who are in a strange, new environment in Chile, but with supportive homestay, supervisor, and coordinator, who make them happy they decided to leave their comfort zone and leap into the unknown.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
The father of a recent volunteer had immigrated to the USA more than 20 years ago, and since that time he had little contact with family in Chile. When his daughter arrived to Santiago as a volunteer, she slowly began getting in contact with family members, but then it seemed to snowball.
She ended up having meals with cousins and second cousins and taking day trips outside of Santiago to meet other family members.
Her eyes would always light up as she told me about her latest family experience. Like she couldn't believe it was really happening.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
United Planet has shown over and over again that it is committed to its staff and its staff's motivation. Four years ago United Planet organized a regional meeting in Quito for only 4 country coordinators including Chile. Last year they repeated this meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica.
These meetings take a lot of preparation. They take time away from the Boston office. A professional business planner might cross out this budget item as " too expensive." To me, it demonstrates United Planet's strong commitment to its people and to its mission.