Staff Spotlight: Steph Smith

Summer Coordinator - Sri Lanka

What is your favorite travel memory?

Returning back to India for my first coordinator role. I had previously volunteered in India for three months, shadowing on the medical program before I fully involved myself in the orphanage and Women Empowerment (WE) programs.

Although I had made some wonderful connections with both the children and the women, I wasn’t sure that they would remember me. But true friendships had stuck and upon my return, I was overwhelmed with love and happiness. I have many wonderful moments that arose from this.

One of these was within the first few days of my return. I was taken to the home of one of the girls I had taught English to as part of the WE program. She lived in a slum with her mum, sister and brother. They had very little to offer, but they wanted to thank me for the work and support I had shown her when I was last there. I felt honored.

She had kept everything I had ever taught her alongside a picture of us both. I was overwhelmed with their kindness and was so proud of what the girl had since achieved.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I have learned that I am capable of so much more than I ever expected. Volunteering and coordinating can both be extremely demanding.

I have experienced a whole host of personal challenges, but I have overcome every single one. I am proud of everything that I achieved, particularly during my time on the Women Empowerment program.

I had never planned to join the project, so when I was asked if I would be willing to work on it, I questioned, with no previous teaching experience and only a few Hindi words to my name, how I would ever make any progress with the women.

I would be lying if I said it was ever easy, but I would also be lying if I said it wasn’t worth every hiccup or set-back. I enjoyed the experience tremendously and feel honored to have started a journey with the women as they developed their independence.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I believe that every country and every project holds a unique challenge and exciting opportunity, so I would not like to put my finger on any. If I could do them all, I would!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

It was a combination of affordability, positive reviews and the extensive choice of programs that made PMGY really stand out to me back in 2013 when I first started planning my gap year.

I felt very supported by the PMGY UK team from the first ever email I received back from my initial list of queries, and I have ever since then. It really is like one big family and I feel very privileged to now be part of this.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Being able to offer high quality support. Volunteering abroad is very new to a lot of people – it’s difficult to plan for and can be even more difficult to adjust to.

Of course, volunteering requires an individual to be personally motivated, free-thinking and enthusiastic. But knowing that someone is there to support them, even if the going ever gets tough, can make all the difference to their experience – both pre-departure and in-country.

I have experienced this first hand and feel delighted to be able to offer it myself.