I'm the Founder/Managing Director. I have an educational background as an industrial designer (BA), then moved over to study interactive media design (MA). Both of these programs were done in London, England where I was born (not raised, I was raised in Ghana). I then entered work as a interactive designer for the BBC in London for 9 years. I resigned from corporate in 2006 to travel to Costa Rica and start uVolunteer.
Did YOU take volunteer abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
To cut a long story short... I volunteered abroad in Thailand. I took an unpaid leave form the corporate job in 2004 to backpack South East Asia. The reason for doing this trip was that I always dreaded Sunday evenings when I had to start preparing mentally for work on Mondays.
I thought this was not a good way to live life so I decided to do something I had always wanted to do as a student but never had the money or time. To travel alone abroad to South East Asia. As a student, I had been fascinated about the secret and not so secret wars in Indochina.
I knew I'd get bored of partying and traveling for 3 months and I was also considering retraining as a technology teacher upon my return to the UK, after the break. So I considered doing some volunteer work as part of my trip. Test out if I could really teach!
The period I spent volunteering in Thailand lead me to return to work in Thailand for my volunteer agency. After that experience, I returned to London, quit the day job and moved to Costa Rica without knowing anyone to start uVolunteer. By then, I had caught the volunteering fever.
What does the future hold for uVolunteer - any exciting new programs to share?
The future of uVolunteer holds many exciting new things. We are growing very different from other organization in our industry. We have capped our yearly recruitment to a 1000 volunteers and want to focus in providing a great program to these 1000 participants.
We are a small company that likes being small but we have big ideas. We are not trying to be Cross-Cultural Solutions or Projects Abroad, we are looking to specialize, further niche , and introduce some really exciting services in the coming year. I can't give details yet.
What about the future of the industry? How do you think volunteer abroad will change over the next 10 years?
Future of the industry? Though one! The sector is growing.... there are more organizations each year. I'd say 1% of the volunteer travelers are prospective volunteer companies. There are many people who come through our program seeking something meaningful to do in life.
Also technology is becoming easier and easier for the masses. It is only a matter of time before the local receiving organization start to really challenge and compete on-line with the global international sending organizations. When this happens the industry will go through a bit of a shift.
Which volunteer abroad destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?
Most underrated volunteer destination is Thailand. Thailand still has a lot to offer. Most overrated????? Ecuador!!!!