Joey is born and raised in California and has worked for GIVE Volunteers for the last 3 years within its Laos program. After completing his degree in environmental science, Joey has spent his time guiding GIVE Volunteers' participants through the jungles and mountains of Northern Laos to learn about development, themselves, and have the adventure of a lifetime.
What is your favorite travel memory?
My favorite travel memory would have to be my second Baci ceremony in the community of Sop Chem, which is where a majority of GIVE's volunteer projects are. At the time I had just began my work with GIVE in Southeast Asia as an intern. When the Baci ceremony began, the entire community came from their homes to pay respect and give thanks to our volunteers.
I felt a feeling of gratitude that I had never felt before. Although I had been having the time of my life over the past weeks while working on our project site, connecting with our awesome volunteers, or forging the beginning of lifelong relationships with the community members, it all hit me as the community came up to me and tied bracelets on the wrists of myself and the rest of our group. Sitting their and watching the smiles of the locals and teary-eyes of our group filled me with emotions that no other trip has ever provided me.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
Although I have grown an immense amount working with GIVE over the past three years, the most drastic change that was inspired within me was after my first volunteer trip with GIVE when I was 18 years old. That trip instilled a fire in me that I still have today to always find ways to better myself and the world around me. That being said, since beginning my work with GIVE three years ago, that fire has only grown.
GIVE has constantly pushed me to be the best version of myself. However, what has inspired the most growth within myself throughout my time working with GIVE has been meeting and connecting with our incredible volunteers. Being able to grow and learn alongside such diverse groups of humans has instilled in me a sense of optimism and hope that drives what I do everyday.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
One of my favorite stories from a returned student would have to be the story a good friend told me about when they were on safari in Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania (as a part of our Tanzania excursion) and she saw a lion for the first time. They had been cracking jokes with their safari driver the entire morning and were having a great time when all of a sudden the driver got dead serious and told everyone to get quiet. They all did and when they looked through the windshield they saw a massive male lion trotting down the road in front of them.
Although they were safe in the car, she said that everyone became extremely nervous and humbled seeing the king of the jungle in front of their eyes. Then, without any queue, the lion stopped, looked around, and proceeded to roll onto its back and start rubbing its back along the grass like a giant house cat for almost two whole minutes. The entire truck burst out in quiet laughter and I couldn't believe her until she showed me the pictures of the lion. Although not everyone gets the chance to see just that in Tanzania, I have heard some amazing stories from those safaris.
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
A very tough question but I would have to say the Tibetan Frontier excursion in Nepal. As an avid hiker/backpacker/climber, no other trips provides so much adventure and stunning nature. The trip begins with a three day trek into the most stunning parts of the himalayas and allows you to connect with the most genuine parts of Nepali/Tibetan culture.
That being said, if I had the chance to do any program, I would most likely still go to Laos because I have fallen in love with this beautiful country and our amazing project site of Ban Sop Chem.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
Our company is unique because it is one of the only companies in the realm of volunteer tourism/responsible travel that challenges our participants to think through the most complex questions of development while having an unforgettable adventure. I believe that adventure is what breaks down the constraints that you set on yourself so that you can grow. By designing programs that infuse raw adventure with properly designed development projects, GIVE is able to provide a one of a kind experience for all of those that participate.
The moment I most clearly remember thinking to myself about how proud I am to be a part of this team was when I was at GIVE's Global Engagement Training in Seattle. I was meeting our entire staff and we were all sharing 'why' we were all there that day. The answers that I heard made me so proud to work alongside some of the most driven, diverse, and passionate agents of change that I have ever met. Each person was there to be able to do their part in making the world a better place and I don't think I know of any other company that can attract such capable and inspired people.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
A simple yet awe-inspiring mission. That is why I love GIVE so much. Our mission has inspired me since I was a volunteer in Tanzania over five years ago. That inspiration is what allows me to wake up each morning with a smile on my face, make sure that everyone has the most impactful travel experience, and empower our participants to go back to their respective homes as global citizens.