Staff Spotlight: Samantha Pinakoulaki

Greece Country Manager


Samantha was born and brought up in the south of England and graduated from a London school of performing arts with honors. She spent ten years traveling the world with various dance groups. Her last group took her to Crete in Greece in 1989, where she met her husband. They now have five children. Samantha volunteers to help children with mental and physical disabilities in her hometown. She has served as Greece Country Manager with Global Volunteers since 2006.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Having travelled the world extensively during my career as a dancer/performer, that’s a really difficult question. But one of my favorite memories has to be a short visit to London this past May. I hadn’t been back to London for over 30 years, since during my college years. This time I went with two of my daughters, Gabriela (22) and Alice (15). Before our visit, people had been telling me how much it had changed and how dirty it was. Well, to my surprise, this wasn’t the case. It was much cleaner and better organized with a lot less traffic than I remembered. I found myself totally excited to share my heritage, “proud to be a Brit,” with my kids. I’m not sure who was more excited, them or me. The time we spent there certainly wasn’t long enough; needless to say, it is high up on our bucket list for the near future.

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

I’ve been working for Global Volunteers for the past 14 years now. I wasn’t looking for work at that time since I was busy raising five children, but when the opportunity presented itself and I was offered the position of Country Manager for Greece, I jumped at the chance. I’d say I’ve grown immensely while working at Global Volunteers. I’ve become more sensitive and aware of what’s going on across the globe, not just living in my little “circle” of family and friends. Just within my own community I suddenly recognized the problems families and children were facing. While we are all aware of the problems millions of people face worldwide, it isn’t until you work for an organization like Global Volunteers and hear the stories and struggles from fellow Country Managers from other countries that you realize things like that really do happen.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Young Hunter was 16 when he first served with his grandfather on the summer school program here in Greece. He became so attached to his first grade class that as soon as he returned home, he put aside money from his part-time job to return the following year, alone. He mentioned that until his first experience volunteering in Greece, he had somewhat lost his way, regarding his studies. Teaching the first graders had given him a sense of worth and a new goal, to work hard, graduate, and be able to return year after year to help the children in Crete.

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

This will probably sound cliché, but I think I’d probably choose our Reaching Children's Potential (RCP) program in Ipalamwa, Tanzania. I have never been to Africa, and the work we are accomplishing there is truly mind-blowing. I would love to be part of this change, to eradicate hunger, and help the babies and toddlers reach their full potential. I think it would also be a reality check for me. Comparing the differences between my Greek community and the community of Ipalamwa, their resources compared to ours. Living and sharing that cross cultural experience, I can only imagine it to be an experience of a lifetime.

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

Its core values, vision, and mission. The fact that safety trumps everything should be a guarantee to anyone who serves with Global Volunteers. From the moment you register for a service program until the time you leave after serving, you are never alone. The in-country orientation and 24/7 access to your team leader gives our volunteers that wonderful feeling of safety and security.

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

We have inspirational leaders, who deeply care about and believe in what we do. And we have employees who are committed and dedicated in helping children reach their full potential around the globe. We are a family, where everybody’s voices are heard. Go, Team Global Volunteers!