Staff Member Spotlight: Kelly Holyoake

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What is your role at GVN? What led you to join their team?

I am the Volunteer Specialist at GVN and I do what I can to assist volunteers in preparing themselves for their international volunteer placement in a developing country.

This includes:

  • Managing volunteer expectations.
  • Preparing volunteers for all aspects of life in a developing country.
  • Informing volunteers of all the requirements they will need to meet before they can volunteer.
  • Providing volunteers with the information they need on their specific placement.

I am also the Program Specialist for 2 Programs; the Nepal Young at Heart Program and the Vietnam Youth Volunteer Experience. This role includes setting up, managing and coordinating the program with our in-country partners.

I studied International Relations and have a passion for International Development. The International Development Industry can be hard to get into, requiring people to volunteer to get the experience and skills they need.

I did just this and applied for an unpaid internship with the GVN Foundation, the fundraising branch of the Global Volunteer Network which I did for almost a year. It was an amazing opportunity for me and I grew very committed to GVN and their vision. I was offered a job at the end of my internship which I eagerly accepted.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

The most enjoyable aspect of my role is hearing from both our in-country programs and volunteers alike as to the impact their relationship has had on each other.

Both our programs around the world and our volunteers benefit hugely from their time together, with friendships being formed and lives being transformed through the work of our programs and the volunteers.

You are a program alumnus yourself. What was your favorite moment of the experience?

I have spent time in GVN's Youth Volunteer Experience Program in Vietnam which has hands down been the best experience of my life. My favorite moment would have to have been the interactions I had with the kids in GVN's programs - they just want to learn, have fun and need all the love and care they can get.

Volunteers with this program raise a donation. How is this typically used?

Each year the participants of the Youth Volunteer Experience in Vietnam, are encouraged to raise a minimum of $200 as a donation to the program.

This is a great opportunity for our youth to engage in fundraising and advocacy for the children they are to meet during their volunteer experience.

We take these donations the youth have raise to Vietnam with us where the youth get to assess the needs of the children or the program and decide how their donations can best be used.

Last year we had a participant, Ali Le Carpentier, who went above and beyond with her fundraising. Ali had been to Vietnam with GVN twice before and has a huge love for the children she has worked with in Vietnam.

Using the funds Ali raised along with the donations of the other participants, we were able to purchase a generator for Friendship Village. This was at the request of the dedicated staff members who work at Friendship Village.

There are over 100 children living at Friendship Village and all meals are prepared on site by the staff. In Vietnam each district has scheduled power outages as part of the load shedding system to preserve power, as well as frequent unpredictable power cuts.

For the staff at Friendship this makes cooking and preparing meals for over 100 children really difficult. The generator is used as a back up so when the power goes down, meals can still be prepared resulting in over 100 full tummies and happy faces.

Any tips for a first-time volunteer in Vietnam?

Our volunteers are so well looked after, that the biggest thing any volunteer needs to prepare for is the goodbyes - saying good bye to new family, friends, and a wonderful experience.

More practically speaking however, there will be many difference volunteers will encounter, these include the climate, food, smells, sounds and sights but with an open mind and a good attitude, volunteers will undoubtedly have a fun and meaningful experience.