Volunteering Vision

Bart SkorupaAfter an epic five-day journey including 4×4, bus, truck, ox cart, wading through rivers, trudging through bogs, and a blissful speedboat, I finally arrived in Andavaodak, Madagascar. I would spend my next three months here, diving, researching, and working in a remote paradise. This was the farthest point on the planet I have ever been, away from civilization and, as I was soon to find out, far away from proper medical care. The trip started out wonderful, diving or boat marshaling in the morning, studying in the early afternoon, capped off by football games on the sandy white beaches.

It was that trip though that changed my life. While I was enjoying that paradise, I was diagnosed with a corneal ulcer, I was to be administered antibiotic eye drops and given Codeine for the pain. However, things got worse, much worse, very quickly. Faced with the very real possibility of going blind, I had to orchestrate an emergency evacuation – in the middle of a hurricane.

Nothing prepares you for watching your own eye be cut open.

Nothing prepares you for an operation in a dinghy room in the third world.

And nothing prepares you for having it done by a doctor partially paralyzed by a stroke.

The only unfortunate thing in all this is that it took the loss of my vision to begin to see this more clearly.

Bart Skorupa recovered from the third world surgery and can now see fine, but that experience changed the trajectory of Bart’s life and career. He had to rely upon locals and missionaries for help. He only had the supplies that the locals had available and from that experience he decided that he wanted to help communities like the one that helped him.

He and Kyle Maclaren Miller founded a 501c3 charity working to create a world beyond poverty by investing in groundbreaking ideas, empowering local leaders, and engaging communities.

Groundwork Opportunities (GO) identifies and partners with local leaders in the developing world who have designed sustainable programs to address community-based issues, such as a lack of clean water, healthcare, or education. Once a partnership is established, GO provides the community with the start-up capital and guidance needed to turn their vision for a better world into a reality that will scale across multiple countries.

We first learned of GO thanks to a friend introducing us to GO’s volunteering opportunities in Africa. Then we found out that not only were Bart and Kyle offering some great opportunities for people to help and get involved, but they were offering volunteering for free. This is rare, and we are very excited to introduce GO to our Meet, Plan, Go! audience.

GO’s No Volunteer Fees

In Rwanda, there is a parable that says “You give what you have”. Our partners on the ground give their time and ideas. You can help them by giving your support as a volunteer. In fact we want to make it so easy for you to give your support that we don’t charge for volunteering. Not even a cent. Our partnerships with grassroots healthcare, education, and environmental projects are open to people of all ages of all backgrounds. All we ask is that you pay your own travel expenses and our partners will welcome you with open arms. Just like mom and dad.

Volunteer Voices

We asked some of GO’s past volunteers to tell us about their experiences, and how it changed their perspective as well as how it made them stand out from a career standpoint.

Heather Grabowski
raised enough money to fund 50 beehives for the Uganda Project. She will be traveling there this summer to see the impact of her project. Read more about how volunteering has been a rewarding experience both socially and professionally for Heather.

Peter Prato, a professional photographer, traveled to Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania during early summer 2011. As a fundraiser for many years, it was the first time he’d be visiting the people whose lives he’s helped change. Read more about his visit here.

Volunteer Meetups

Volunteering is one of the most rewarding and important things you can do as part of your career break travels. It teaches you skills, it gives a trip meaning, it gives you perspective, and it can even help your career. It’s so important that we are focusing on volunteering during our local meetups in February and March. We want people to get access to volunteering resources and meet people who have volunteered as part of their career break travels.

We are kicking off volunteering meet-ups with Bart and the Groundwork Opportunities team, including some of their past volunteers, in San Francisco on Feb. 7th. Spencer Spellman, Kristin Zielbel, and Sherry Ott will be hosting this free event and Sports Basement is once again providing a great, comfortable space, drinks, food, and shopping discounts to prepare for your upcoming travels and volunteering.

Be sure to check in as other cities schedule volunteer-themed meetups. And feel free to share your volunteering experiences and outcomes by submitting your story to us.

Listen to Bart’s complete eye ulcer story in full in this NPR interview – Blood and Faith.

And don’t find yourself in a situation like Bart’s without insurance. See how World Nomads can get you covered.

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