What is your role at Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS)?
Molly: I am a Program Site Specialist at CCS and specifically work with volunteers who are enrolled and traveling to Ghana & South Africa. I help to prepare volunteers for their program with regards to logistics, cultural understanding, and even some language prep! The other key part of my job is working with the in-country staff in each location (the heroes of CCS). We work together to make sure the needs of the volunteers, along with the community are being met on a day to day basis.
I love my position because I get to be there for the volunteer as they get excited about their trip, hear from the staff about how everyone is doing on the ground, and I get to speak with volunteers when they return! They come back invigorated and changed, and I like to think I had a very, very small roll in that process.
What inspired you to join CCS?
Molly: After I volunteered with CCS in Tanzania, I came back to finish my last year of undergrad. My trip had made it clear to me that I wanted to get into international development and the non-profit world after I graduated. Just weeks after I had said goodbye to my alma mater, I was exploring the CCS’ website for my next adventure, and saw that there was an available position. It had been a year since my Kilimanjaro experience and I was still in touch with most of my fellow volunteers, many of the in-country staff, and quite a few of the people I had met in Tanzania throughout my trip. I knew that if one program had that big of an impact on my life, I wanted to be a part of the larger organization. I applied and the rest is history…
Where did you most recently volunteer abroad? What was your favorite part of the experience?
Molly: Most recently I traveled on our Ghana program and I had been itching to get back to a rural location. I was not disappointed! The community where we work is breathtaking; green and luscious during rainy season and very mountainous. But of course it was the people of the community that really blew me away. We were welcomed in town with open arms and greeted happily on a daily basis. I was truly blown away by the genuine, kind-hearted, positive attitude that flourished in Hohoe. My favorite part of this particular experience was the group of volunteers that I was with; I felt we were really in together! We bonded through our trip to the witch doctor, completed a 5 hour hike through 6 caves, and swam under the tallest waterfall in West Africa. I couldn’t have imagined my trip without each and every one of them!
As a college student, you successfully raised funds to volunteer with CCS in Tanzania. Can you share a few fundraising tips?
Molly: When I was thinking about volunteering in college, I knew that I couldn’t do it without a little help. I went the old fashion route and did a letter writing campaign. I drafted two types of letters, one for family and friends, and one for businesses. I printed close to 200 letters and sent along a handwritten note with each, to make it personal. I think what really sealed the deal was including a self-addressed, stamped envelope with the letter – I wanted to make it as easy as possible for my sponsors to donate.
I was blown away by the amount of responses I received; anything from $5 to $500! I found that many people are looking for a way to give back, and sponsoring a volunteer was a convenient way to do so. I successfully raised my entire program fee and enough for my flight. When I returned I hand wrote thank you letters to each of my sponsors (just do it) and even held a few presentations about my trip.
Fundraising ended up reconnecting me with some of my distant family members and people in my community still hit me up for volunteer advice!