The world needs more heroes. Heroes are people who step up, who face challenges selflessly and with resolve. Heroes help others when they don’t have to. There are so many people with privilege in this world—people who have everything they need but don’t look beyond their neatly kept front yards. I don’t blame these people, in fact, often I am one of them. It’s easy to live, to move through each day focused on the little things. We are all concerned with our own well-being: our relationships, jobs, and dreams. Sometimes we need reminding that we live in a global context, that our privilege stands on the shoulders of other people’s need. We don’t all have to be Angelina Jolie, but we do have to do more. Inequality is an innate part of life but that doesn’t mean we should accept it. Fighting inequality is everyone’s responsibility and it starts with a simple choice: deciding to volunteer.
Ecuador is the perfect storm when it comes to biodiversity. The high Andes Mountains, it’s tropical location on the equator, and two major ocean currents along the coast create microclimates for a dazzling array of wildlife. Not only is Ecuador home to 25,000 species of plants, 1,600 species of birds (more than half of the 3,000 species found in all of South America), 369 species of mammals, 350 species of reptiles, and 800 species of fish, it is also home to the legendary Galapagos Islands, the inspiration behind Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Many of these animals are found nowhere else on Earth. They are unique and precious, both ecologically and scientifically. There is so much we can learn from these creatures and they are disappearing before our eyes.
Yesterday Cassandra Tomkin spoke about the beginnings of Cross-Cultural Solutions, developing industry-leading standards for international volunteering, and the unique challenges of managing programs and volunteers around the world. Today she will explore how a volunteer organization develops relationships with programs abroad. She will also discuss emerging trends in the field of volunteer travel and her advice for emerging organizations. I would like to thank Cassandra Tomkin for her great insights. Enjoy!
This week I had the great privilege to interview Cassandra Tomkin, Director of Operations for Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS). CCS is a pioneering leader in international volunteering. They have set the standard in their field and continue to find new, innovative ways to improve their projects and to give their volunteers the best possible experiences overseas. Their mission: “To operate volunteer programs around the world in partnership with sustainable community initiatives, bringing people together to work side-by-side while sharing perspectives and fostering cultural understanding.” CCS is a model organization for emerging and established volunteer projects interested in building an international presence. I learned so much from this interview, I hope you do too! Part two will appear tomorrow.
Harnas Wildlife Foundation started on a cattle farm in the Namibian wilderness. The owners, Nick and Marieta van der Merwe, were farmers, making a living on the land, when a sick vervet monkey inspired them to do more. They began adopting animals, taking in the sick and infirm, even adopting a healthy pride of lions from a defunct zoo. As their love for animals grew, so did the farm. They hired a staff and expanded their facilities, eventually opening the farm to the public in 1993.