Katia Gomez, Educate2Envision International

Name, Age: Katia Gomez, 24
University, Major: Boston University, Global Health
Region: Central America
Length of stay: N/A
Type of Work: Medical/Public Health, Education, Community Development

Tell us about the nonprofit/social business you work for:
Educate2Envision International in San Leandro, CA. Educate2Envision (E2E) International strives to offer children living in poverty the chance to attain the highest level of education that their individual efforts will allow them.

How did you find your position?
I decided to found a nonprofit!

What’s your typical day like?
It will vary day to day. Often times we are evaluating the quality of our programs and sitting on classes to observe student-teacher interactions, presentations, exams, etc. Then a majority of time is spent visiting households and speaking with parents about their thoughts on how things are unfolding with the programs, any progress they’ve observed, trying to measure our impact with surveys. We also run workshops for students such as girls leadership or first aid, so interaction with the children themselves is very important to get a sense of what the needs are and what still requires improvement from our end.

What kind of people do you work with?
Our volunteers in Honduras are typically in their early 30s, college grads and have worked with NGOs in the past so have a good command of English. Back in the US, our team is composed of recent college grads or current students with backgrounds that usually include International Studies, Spanish, and Political Science.

What are your living accommodations?
This depends, if we are unable to find cheaper accommodations then there is a town about an hour or so away with electricity, internet access, ATMs and all that. There are a few selections of safe hotels. We are a very budget-wise nonprofit considering we’re so small, so if possible the mayor of the closest town to our community will allow us to stay in a vacant house in which we bring sleeping bags and shower only when water is available. There are many outlets but no WiFi in this particular house, but it is free after all.

What do you do in your free time?
My free time is spent usually planning out the next day and evaluating what was accomplished that day, but other than that I wander the town with my Honduran buddies just enjoying each other’s companies, having a bite to eat, a drink, watching movies, playing soccer etc.

Share a favorite memory or story from your experience!
One of my favorite memories is the time I visited Pajarillos after bringing secondary school there for the first time; it was after I sat in on one of the first classes and afterwards each student went up to the front of the classroom to say thank you to me, many of them in tears. They spoke about how they never thought this would be possible in their lifetime and how much hope they now had for their children to follow in these footsteps. This moment made it clear in my mind that I wasn’t wasting my time and that I had the means to really make a generational difference.

What inspired you to do this kind of work? If you are taking a gap year, what motivated you to do that?

How are you financing your time?
The programs I’ve begun in Honduras are based entirely on individual donations and small grants, but this does not include logistic expenses once inside the country such as paying for a driver, renting a car etc. nor does it provide for flight expenses. These are all taken from own personal savings. I have been lucky to create friendships with local Hondurans who practically volunteer their services, transportation, for very low compensation.

What kind of special skills do you need to do your job?
Language, teaching, medical expertise, writing, social media.

How do you see this experience fitting into your long-term goals?
I think E2E has absolutely advanced my long-term plans. I view education as an invaluable piece of the puzzle in eliminating global poverty. I have been fortunate enough to see first hand how empowered a community becomes when education is available to families and their children. This is something that parents struggle immensely with to collect enough money for school fees and often times it’s not enough and more and more kids with huge potential have no choice but to accept their fate. No matter what I end up doing as a full-time career, I will always work to expand opportunities for youth to attend school and to connect them with children in our country, building friendships and understanding as much I can.

What’s next?
I’m currently in grad school for my Master’s in Public Health/Global Health and afterwards will depend on the job market of course! I plan to take on a fellowship or internship abroad working in program design/implementation to further sharpen my skills and formalize what I have learned by running E2E.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you came to your position?
Success can come in short spurts or waves, immediately visible or a blurry vision in the far distance. No matter which level of success you reach you should always have sustainability at the forefront of every decision. When you’re nuts enough to start your own nonprofit, you have extremely high expectations and you go in with the mindset that you will make a difference, there is no other option. It is this kind of passion that will carry the organization but one needs to remember to not let your heart leap to far out in front of your head. In the beginning I wanted to achieve the feat of helping every single child in a community of hundreds to make it through secondary school, not realizing that some children might just not want to go that route or academically they don’t have the drive so instead one must focus on those who DO have the passion. Don’t pay attention so much to numbers, but rather the quality of the impact, not the size.

Do you have any advice for prospective gap-givers?
The main advice I would give is to volunteer abroad for the right reasons. Although it’s a given that it will make your resume shine, remind yourself that you are working with real human beings and not just a week-long project. Be respectful and don’t assume that they are any less intelligent than we are when it comes to knowing what is best for their communities and families. Learn from THEM. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from “the poor” about happiness, love, innovation, and perseverance.

Are you blogging about your work or travel? How can we stay in touch?
Updates can always be found on both our facebook and website : www.facebook.com/educate2envisioninternational and www.educate2envision.org

Would you be willing to take questions from potential Gappers?


Samantha, Americorps Vista

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Name: Samantha
Type of Work: Medical/Public Health, Childcare
Region: North America
Length of stay: 1 Year+




Tell us about the organization you work for and what you do for them.
Last week marked the three-month anniversary of the beginning of my year long commitment to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA. My decision to apply for AmeriCorps was an easy one. I was uninterested in getting a post-grad entry level job, with crappy pay and little opportunities to learn or grow. I wanted to use my year between life as an undergrad and a graduate student as an opportunity to do something meaningful, to continue to evolve and develop my passion for social change and social justice and to make a tangible difference in someone else’s life. Through AmeriCorps, I was placed at The SPARK Center in Boston. The SPARK Center is a model child care program offering therapeutic, medically-specialized programs for children of all ages based on the philosophy that children are resilient and able to take control of their futures. We make long term investments in some of Boston’s most fragile children. Most of our children are growing up in poverty, with parents and caregivers who struggle daily to maintain the integrity of their families.
My primary goal this year is to strengthen, expand and increase the visibility of SPARK by assisting with a variety of organizational activities essential to creating a strong future for the program and for the families we serve. This includes developing and maintaining social media sites, overhauling the existing client utilization database, increasing the number of grant proposals, participating in community meetings and events, and assisting with fundraising initiatives. In addition, I have become an active contributor to the day-to-day goings on at SPARK both with the administrators and the children.

Share a favorite memory.
On of my favorite memories so far during my year of service is the afternoon when the Red Sox mascot Wally and friends from the Boston Red Sox visited SPARK. Our organization was part of their 100 Acts of Kindness, an initiative to give back to 100 area organizations in celebration of their team’s 100th year. They donated a brand new camera and compact printer to SPARK to help with our social media efforts. The best part of the visit, however, was watching Wally interact with the kids. Outside in our Nature Outdoor Classroom, the children were dancing, running, playing and giggling along with Wally. Although I am not from Massachusetts, I have quickly learned how passionate everyone is about sports and how much the Red Sox are an icon for this city. It was exciting to see the kids decked out in their Red Sox gear playing with Wally. It was also excited to develop a relationship with the Red Sox, because powerful community relationships are what help our organization strengthen and grown.

What have you learned from your experience? How has it affected your long-term goals?
I am only a quarter of a way into my year of service, and I have already learned a tremendous amount. I have learned a lot about the inner workings of a non profit organization. I have learned about development, fundraising, grant writing, developing community relationships, billing practices and social networking. Most importantly, I have been given the wonderful and powerful gift of perspective. One of the goals of the VISTA program is to help us to not only see, but to understand how the other half lives. We spend an entire year working full time for an organization that serves people living in poverty, and we are paid at the federal poverty line. The combination of our placement with our payment is designed to create an all encompassing experience. And it works. I don’t think I grew up spoiled, but I definitely grew up having everything I needed and nearly everything I wanted. Now, I work hard all day and make just enough money to pay the bills. And the experience really works. I am getting a glimpse into the struggles that millions of people, including many of the families at SPARK, face every single day. But I don’t have to support a family, deal with physical or emotional abuse, pay outrageous medical bills, use food stamps or grapple with the daunting prospect that my kids may get stuck in this cycle. I’ve got it good.
My experience so far has helped me to realize that I want to apply for a graduate program in Public Health. It has also exposed me to many new organizations and foundations, and helped me to foster relationships with people who will be beneficial to me in my future career.

What was the most challenging part of your job?
One of the biggest challenges of my job is working so much for very little pay. A paycheck is a natural incentive for an individual to work hard, and when that paycheck comes in the form of a very small “living stipend”, it is challenging to stay motivated. However, most people who take gap years aren’t in it for the money. And, if you are serving with AmeriCorps, you definitely are not motivated by money.
I quickly found alternative ways to stay motivated and to reinforce my own work habits. I found that spending a little bit of extra time each week in the classroom with the children was all I needed to keep working hard. Spending extra time with the kids gave me an opportunity to see why my hard work was needed.

Do you have any advice for prospective gappers?
My biggest piece of advice is to TAKE A GAP YEAR. There is no rush to get a full time “real” job. And there is no rush to go straight to graduate school. Take some time to really figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. All you need is that one amazing experience to help you figure it out, and most likely that experience won’t be found sitting in an office or in a classroom. I think it is important to spend your gap year doing something that will not only benefit yourself, but will benefit the greater good. The world is a very damaged place, and there is so much work that a prospective gapper could do it make it better! And in the end, you will better yourself too!

Check out more on Amanda’s blog!

ETA4: Founder Victor Wilson’s Thoughts on Starting an NGO

The following blog article is written by Victor Wilson, a young social entrepreneur who founded his very own non-profit organization dedicated to the development and implementation of innovative English summer camps in Southeast Asia. You can find out more about ETA4 by visiting their website. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

The world has never been closer together than it is today. Humans have the ability to, with a single mouse click, connect with people and places that would have been nearly impossible just 50 years ago. Our interconnectivity, interdependence, and interaction have never been more prevalent.

Because there is such a desire to connect across borders and boundaries, the value of being able to speak the current “global” language has never been higher. Both academically and professionally, being able to speak English has a multitude of advantages, and in some instances is a prerequisite to development of an education or a career. Governments across the world recognize the advantages an English education gives their populace, and so have either made English a compulsory subject in school, or at the very least offered it to students eager to learn.

But there is a problem with this method. If you treat English (or any language) like any other subject, many barriers to learning that language arise. Languages are meant to be used in a way that the traditional classroom environment doesn’t reach. They are meant to be spoken loudly, with conviction, not hidden in a thick coursebook; they are meant to be sung, not only written down on a piece of paper; and they are meant to elicit a response, spark a discussion, and foster greater understanding, and not just be a repetition of words or phrases.

One of the things I am most proud of was that the ETA4 team recognized this right away. The most effective way to teach English, we determined, was to interject it into the daily life of the student – a life that undoubtedly includes songs, movies, sports, games, art, poetry, books, and actions. While our curriculum doesn’t ignore the benefits of a traditional academic approach to teaching and learning, it also cultivates a holistic view of the language – and, as it turns out, makes it a lot more fun for the student.

Since 2009, ETA4 English programs have been held each summer, often in multiple locations. What started as one small program in Hue, Vietnam with only 350 students has blossomed into 8 total programs in 2 different countries (Vietnam and Taiwan) over 3 years, with our last program teaching over 950 students. This past summer, we taught our 4000th student, a milestone of which I am immensely proud!

Although the program is only 5 weeks in length, one of the benefits of the approach that we take is that it inspires students to continue the learning process far after the volunteers have left: by showing them that English can be fun, they take it upon themselves to incorporate it into their daily activities. Our goal is not to teach the entire language from A to Z, but rather to give the student a starting point and an inspiration to continue studying a subject that will be of immense value to him/her in their future.

As great as the impact on our students has been, I believe the summer programs have had as equal an impact on our volunteers. Everything that we do is driven by the desire for “cross-cultural connection”, because being able to understand and learn from each other is truly what will continue to drive the world forward. Some of our volunteers have never been out of the country; some are seasoned travelers looking for their next adventure; and some are returning to their parents homeland for the first, fifth, or tenth time. By the time the program is over, though, they share a common trait: after embedding themselves in the culture and traditions of their students, they leave with an enhanced understanding and connection with hundreds of people they spent their summer interacting with. I won’t speculate why many of the volunteers re-apply for second and third years in the program, but I’m confident this is one of the (many, I’m sure) reasons.

Our goal is pretty straightforward – to provide students with a life-changing ability while giving volunteers a life-changing experience. I believe that so far, we’ve accomplished this, and am looking forward to many more years of growth that even 5 years ago I never could have imagined. The world gets a little bit smaller every single day – our goal is to just bring it a little closer together.gyg-logo-teal-transparent1

Guest Blog: Andres Pena, TeachSummit International

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Andres Pena was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and is currently a senior at Pitzer College, where he is majoring in International Political Economy and pursuing a minor in Italian Studies. He is involved in various community organizations, enjoys advocating for youth participation and leadership across the world, and plans to become an international lawyer one day. He currently serves as the Linguistic and Cultural Advisor for TeachSummit International. He can be reached by email.

Andres at the conference

Youth 21 Conference on Inclusive Governance

Nairobi, Kenya: The Youth 21 Conference that I attended brought together many youth representatives (delegates) from all UN Member-States, where we provided specific recommendations to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on his appointment for a Special Advisor on Youth. I would have never imagined myself being part of an enormous organization that supports the ideas of youth inclusiveness in governance, NGO’s international support, sustainable development, education, poverty eradication, and environmental justice. This event also served as a networking opportunity for me, and thus I got connected with other NGO’s that were represented by wonderful youth who shared similar interests as me.

As an executive member of TeachSummit International, I was able to share our project’s purpose in order to connect ideas and share information on how the project can benefit a wider-range community, the world. I was mostly excited when I joined various committees and parallel sessions during the conference, which were based around the idea of Youth Leadership and Challenges in Entrepreneurship, Employment and Community Development. After sitting-in numerous sessions, I was able to conclude that both governments and societies must increase the level of awareness and knowledge about the situation of marginalized youth and their contributions to society, especially by integrating human rights principles in the process and standards of policy content. TeachSummit’s mission goes hand-in-hand with these factors, as youth will be playing an enormous role in the decision-making process, in the collaboration with other programs, and in the process of creating a curriculum for the schools that we will be working with.

Overall, I came to realize that today’s youth are volunteering their time and skills not only to assist their local communities but also to build social networks, develop confidence and relevant experience which could potentially enhance their career opportunities.

Rebecca’s AmeriCorps VISTA Year of Service [Part 2/2]

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Today’s post is part of a two-part series on AmeriCorps. Rebecca is currently working at the Center for Investigative Reporting as the Business Marketing Coordinator. She found out about GYG through a fellow Model United Nations member, Harrison Gill. You can contact her HERE.

So you’re thinking about AmeriCorps? Let me win you over!

If you’re thinking about doing AmeriCorps, stop thinking and do it.



Transferable skills: Each project will undoubtedly give you different skills and experiences. Depending on what skills you want, you can most likely find a program that will contribute to the strengthening of those. I enhanced my marketing skills, organizational skills, and customer service skills. I also grew more confident in voicing my opinions and sharing ideas, and lastly, learned how to analyze programs, find the inefficiencies, come up with solutions and implement them. A word of advice: talk to your supervisor about your aspirations and goals, they are there to mentor and guide you so you can accomplish them.

New friends & mentors: Since we were a pretty small team I definitely bonded with my co-workers as we all embarked on our own financial planning, while developing a program from ground zero that would benefit the larger public. I also made friends with AmeriCorps people stationed in different organizations around my area. The great thing was, we could all go out and be cheap together, because none of us could afford anything too fancy! They also became a great support system outside of service.


Addressing your concerns:

“I won’t get paid enough to live comfortably.” The people at AmeriCorps are pretty smart people, and they make sure you get paid according to the cost of living of the place you’re stationed. You can make it work, but definitely take a good look at your own situation and see what you’ll need to survive.

“I’m not going to like the job and then will be stuck in it for a year.” Before you apply to a certain position, research the organization and read the description thoroughly. Also, know that you will have an extensive interview process, at which time you’ll learn more about the org and the position and will be able to talk to your future supervisor. Lastly, if you really don’t feel comfortable there after you’ve started, you can talk to the agency and AmeriCorps HR to discuss the possibility of transferring or leaving.

“I’ll be lonely and scared in a brand new place.” Make sure you do your research beforehand. You should get a good feeling about the area from finding it on Google maps. Try to be open-minded; brand new places can make you feel lonely, but they can also fill you with excitement and adventure and give you new opportunities to make friends and learn something new.

In conclusion, the most important step in applying for AmeriCorps is doing the research to find a program(s) that you’re really interested in. As you have seen from my previous blog post, interest can quickly turn into a passion and make your job feel more like a calling! Not only did I learn a lot about personal finance at SparkPoint Marin, but I also made great friends, learned how to live on my own for the first time, and came away equipped with great transferable skills and experience.


Rebecca’s AmeriCorps VISTA Year of Service [Part 1/2]

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Today’s post is part of a two-part series on AmeriCorps. Rebecca is currently working at the Center for Investigative Reporting as the Business Marketing Coordinator. She found out about GYG through a fellow Model United Nations member, Harrison Gill. You can contact her HERE.

After I graduated college and realized getting a permanent job was next to impossible (2010 was not a good year to be searching for a job), I signed up for AmeriCorps VISTA.

The whole team at a Giants game!

When I applied for AmeriCorps I had no idea what to expect. I checked out the project descriptions and the recruiting organizations and chose to apply to projects that both peeked my interest and were outside of my current knowledge base. I also kept location in mind; it can end up being a really important factor in your decision. Anyways, the AmeriCorps VISTA program, unlike other AmeriCorps programs, is designed to help nonprofits get started, to focus on sustainability and program development.

There were quite a few organizations that were looking for someone to help their programs expand their financial services. That sounded interesting, I thought, ‘don’t know too much about financial services!’ I ended up applying to three programs in my state that all were looking into fortifying and growing their VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs and focusing on partnering with fellow nonprofits to help clients get access to many different financial services. These concepts really interested me.

When I first heard about AmeriCorps I thought it was all about mentoring and tutoring children, which is great. But, I was looking for a stepping-stone to a career and I wasn’t looking to become a teacher. Realizing that AmeriCorps offered other projects that I wanted to learn more about and would help expand my knowledge in a specific area such as economic development was great! I knew I had found something I could commit to for the next year.

I accepted a position north of San Francisco 8 hours away from my family in a place I was a stranger to, ready to start something new. SparkPoint Marin’s mission was to help people take control of their own finances. Turns out to help other people, you need to be well versed in these areas yourself. Thus, I was trained in financial coaching and learned how to budget, to save, and to file taxes. Now I volunteer every year during tax season to help people file their taxes and file my own for free as well.

Here are some other resources I learned about that could be useful to you too:

In fact, all this immersion in finance lead me to start my own finance blog.

I finished my year empowered and ready to take on more challenges. I came away with marketing skills, organizational skills, enhanced customer service skills, confidence in voicing my opinions and sharing ideas, and lastly, the ability to analyze programs, find the inefficiencies, come up with solutions and implement them.

I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.

The Adventures of a Public Health Associate for the CDC

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1My name is Alyssa Llamas and I am a Public Health Associate for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I am currently stationed at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW).

The Public Health Associate Program (PHAP) is a training program that provides young, public health professionals the opportunity to work at the frontlines of public health. Associates are stationed at a state, local, tribal, or territorial health department and assigned two focus areas (Chronic Disease, Environmental Health, Public Health Preparedness, Global Migration and Quarantine, Immunization, Injury Prevention, Maternal and Child Health, STD, TB, and/or HIV, Other Communicable Diseases).

Read More

Allie Hughey, Baylor International Pediatric Aids Initiative

Me and an elephant

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Name: Allie H.
University: UCSD
Major: Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Type of Work: Medical/Public Health
Region: Africa
Length of stay: 3-6 months

Tell us about the nonprofit/social business you work for:
I am working in the capital city of Swaziland, a tiny kingdom located inside of South Africa. Primarily, I work with the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) as a research volunteer in the BCM Clinical Centre of Excellence pediatric HIV clinic in Mbabane. At the clinic I am engaged in a variety of small and large scale clinical research projects (mostly retrospective) directed towards supporting policy changes related to HIV care and treatment in Swaziland.

How did you find your position?
One of the Baylor AIDS Corps doctors is a close family friend. I contacted him when I decided to take a year off between undergrad and graduate school and he was more than happy for me to have me travel to Swaziland and help out at the clinic.

What’s your typical day like?
My work schedule varies greatly depending on the day because I am involved in a number of projects. Everyday brings a different set of responsiblities and tasks for me! I love it because my work is unpredictable, challenging and constantly changing. Some projects are long term while others have been short and intensive for a few weeks at a time. I typically work 6-8 hours a day and the three organizations are conveniently located on the same street in Mbabane so it’s easy for me to walk back and forth between them.

What kind of people do you work with?
I work with all kinds of individuals and I love it! At the clinic we have international doctors, local Swazi nurses, pharmacists, social workers etc, as well as volunteers of all ages from all over the world. I am on the younger side of the age spectrum here but the community is perpetually changing so the age make-up changes almost weekly. People from all backgrounds live and work in Mbabane such as health professionals, consultants, businessmen and women, journalists, etc.

Me and my Rwandan Family + Marta (the Spanish girl I live with also)

What are your living accommodations?
When I initially arrived I stayed with my family friends but quickly moved into a one bedroom apartment attached to a house owned by an amazing Rwandan woman. I have definitely become part of the family and eat breakfast and dinner with them each day and spend weekends at BBQs (or braais in SiSwati) with their family friends. My apartment is fully furnished with a full kitchen and bathroom and I have wireless internet access as well. There are very few if any “apartments” in Swaziland like there are in the US; all of my friends here live in houses or rent rooms from families.

What do you do in your free time?
Lots! I’m fairly certain that my social calendar in Africa is twice as busy as it ever was in the States. I am blessed to have a wonderful expatriate community here in Swaziland full of adventurous and brilliant individuals. Each week we play ultimate frisbee with a group of local Swazi teens and have weekly themed dinners (mexican food night is my favorite!). I have been taking portuguese lessons twice a week, running in the local game parks on the weekends and hiking all around Swaziland. We take weekend trips to the beaches in Mozambique and South Africa whenever we get the chance or travel further within southern Africa on long weekends. Swaziland also has ridiculous events such as the annual goat and rat races and Slojo half marathon which I have participated in. Never a dull moment in the Swaz!

Table Mountain, Robben Island

Allie and some of her girlfriends after running the half marathon

Share a favorite memory or story from your experience!
Daily life in Africa is an adventure in itself and its hard to choose just one experience. I’d say one of the most memorable, and quintessentially African, moments is when my friends and I ran into a hippo sleeping on the street corner as we were walking back from dinner!

What inspired you to do this kind of work? If you are taking a gap year, what motivated you to do that?
My gap year was motivated by the pursuit to discover my future career path. I knew I wanted to study public health in graduate school but I wanted to be certain that it was for me before dedicating two years of my life to a program. After my time in Africa I am 100% certain that this line of work is for me and the first-hand experience I have gained from working in a resource-limited setting is irreplaceable.

How are you financing your time?
I am financed by own personal savings and some contributions from my lovely family. I had a difficult time finding a paid internship or volunteer position that was exactly what I wanted. Although its tough to finance it all on my own, the freedom I have to create and shape my own experience abroad is pretty much priceless. I have made my experience into exactly what I wanted it to be.

What kind of special skills do you need to do your job?

Menzie, Mduduzi and I at the top of a mountain in Swaz (Menzie and Mduduzi are two of the Swazi teens I play frisbee with each week and love dearly)

Do you feel like you are making a positive, critical impact on the global community?
On a personal/individual level I am making an impact on the daily lives of the Swazi teens I work and play with. My friends and I provide them with a critical support system they are lacking at home in most cases. The work I am doing at the clinic and other NGOs definitely has the ability to have an impact at the national level by informing organizations and health care providers of better ways to direct care and resources to patients. Most of my projects are still works in progress but the eventual outcomes will be influential to patient care and treatment in Swaziland.

What have you learned about the nonprofit and social business world in your experience?
One of the most important things I have learned is that you must work within the system, whatever that system may be-social, political etc. I spent quite a bit of time going about my work as if I was still in America and found myself frustrated day to day. Eventually I realized that I needed to work within the bureaucratic systems in place, thereby saving myself from a bit of frustration and grief. To the same extent, it is equally important for organizations to work on capacity building within the communities they operate in to establish sustainable programs.Do you think you make a unique contribution to your organization as a young person? Is your perspective or approach different from others?

Do you think you make a unique contribution to your organization as a young person? Is your perspective or approach different from others?
Yes. I have found that many of the employees working with NGOs in Swaziland are quite young and I think the vibrant personalities and fresh ideas provided by our generation contribute positively to the programs that are designed and implemented here. The dynamic between the younger and older employees is very valuable because it combines new ideas with wisdom and experience.

How do you see this experience fitting into your long-term goals?
My time here has solidified my passion for global public health work. I have had opportunities to experience or observe many aspects of the field that I did not know existed previously and I am confident that having that knowledge will benefit my studies in the future. My main goal has not changed but I have a more focused objective for the future.

What’s next?
I will be volunteering in Sao Paulo, Brazil for 6 months beginning in January before starting graduate school next fall to pursue a Master in Public Health degree! After graduate school I plan to continue public health work abroad.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you came to your position?
The amount of communication skills it would require. A lot of my work involves communicating ideas clearly and succintly to other organizations and government programs. I have definitely developed my communication skills greatly over the past few months.

Do you have any advice for prospective gap-givers?
Taking a gap year is a wonderful way to figure out exactly what you want to do and provide you with a more focused perspective for future endeavors. I highly recommend taking some time off to give back to the world and learn; learn about yourself, your ambitions, the world, opportunities, other cultures, everything! All of your experiences will benefit you in the future.

Are you blogging about your work or travel? How can we stay in touch?
Blogging @ alliebhughey.blogspot.com

Would you be willing to take questions from potential Gappers?

Mandy Messer, TUMO

Name: Mandy Messergyg-logo-teal-transparent1
School: Michigan State University
Type of Work: Education, Technology
Region: Middle East, Asia
Length of stay: 6 months – 1 year



Tell us about the organization you work for and what you do for them.
I worked for an amazing educational program in Yerevan, Armenia, called TUMO, www.tumo.org. The mission of the program is to teach animation, web design, video production and video game production to high school students, by way of a game-like environment. I wrote the curriculum and several activities for the web design discipline. Here’s some more information on my experience in the workplace in Armenia in these two blog posts: “Using Your Talents”, “HTTP”.

How can you forget a great smile and wave such as this from your host grandma?!

Share a favorite memory.
Oh gosh, there are so many. I’ll start with my host family: 2 hour long conversations with my host mom every morning, always ending her stories with the same line that I learned so well “Vorovhetev, mer presidente lav e chi!” Meaning: “That’s because our president is no good!”. Late night conversations with my host sister when we went to bed. Hugs, cakes, delicious food, birthday parties, vodka, bonding in the middle of the night when we can’t sleep, celebrations, watching the Genocide commemoration parade on TV with them as the whole country took moments of silence, learning the language, laughing, joking, bonding, everything. I miss them.

What have you learned from your experience? How has it affected your long-term goals?
It gave me tremendous perspective on the work that I do here in the United States and how technology can make an impact. Working at TUMO and living in Armenia inverted my world. Social dynamics that were strong in the US were weak in Armenia and vice versa. The eagerness of a young person there blew my mind. How they wanted to learn everything about the English language, asking so many questions, embracing any exposure to the world and other cultures as possible, while retaining respect and appreciation for staying true to the Armenian culture, their family and their life. Overall, it opened my eyes and expanded my world. Since then, I’ve moved to a city that is more global-travel-friendly and adjusted my career so that I can continue to travel. With the long-term goal of structuring my career so that I can work internationally for months at a time. I was inspired, challenged and rewarded beyond anything I’ve ever done prior to this experience. This is the fabulous program that made my experience happen: Birthright Armenia

Talene Ghazarian: World Vision, WRCA

Visiting a Peace Corps friend in northern Armenia for the weekend and making some good old-fashioned pizza

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Name: Talene Ghazarian
School: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Type of Work: Medical/Public Health
Region: Eastern Europe
Length of stay: 1 Year+

Tell us about the organization you work for and what you do for them.
I worked predominantly for two organizations: World Vision in a more rural setting, and the Women’s Resource Center Armenia (WRCA) in the capital city, Yerevan. While working with World Vision’s area development program in the small town of Talin, I worked mostly with maternal support groups in the surrounding villages doing public health education about various topics (diabetes, nutrition, smoking etc). In addition I planned health education days at various summer camps for children. All my work was done in Armenian. At the Women’s Resource Center I chose to focus on women’s self-defense and sexual education. I taught the staff the basic methods taught in RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) course and left them some teaching material. I also co-taught a comprehensive sexual education class for young women. During my time in Armenia, a women was killed as a result of domestic violence. We became involved on various levels, including; getting legislation changed, organizing a march, helping the family and the orphaned child etc. I also helped do research and basic translations. The Women’s Resource Center was a very warm and welcoming environment to work in. Also many staff and volunteers speak English.

Playing a nutrition education game about food groups with summer camp kids in Talin. The kids loved it!

Share a favorite memory.
Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6th. I was a bit sad to be away from home for the holidays, but the women at the Women’s Resource Center were so thoughtful and inclusive, that my mood quickly changed. The week between New Years and January 6th was spent going from house to house, eating, drinking and being grateful. At that point, I no longer felt like an outsider who had come to volunteer, I had become part of the collective.

What have you learned from your experience? How has it affected your long-term goals?
My work in both placements helped me realize the importance of policy in affecting change in health and women’s rights. This sparked an interest in law and I actually applied to law school, with plans to do a dual masters in public health and law degree. I decided to start with the MPH and am trying to figure what my niche in the health policy world would/could be, and how to best prepare for it.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Most of the world works at a slower pace than we are used to in America. Making that mental adjustment can be very tricky and result in a lot of frustration. This was especially true for me at World Vision. There were also gender inequality issues and issues of people smoking indoors that was very challenging and resulted in many fruitless conversations.

Taking part in a march organized by the Women’s Resource Center Armenia, to increase awareness about domestic violence and the need for more stringent punishments.

Do you have any advice for prospective gappers?
Be a flexible, self-starter. Think hard about things you might want to bring with you that you can’t get there. Resistance bands for exercise, a multi-tool, a head torch etc.

Where is Talene now?

Talene went on to get  her Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hall. Currently she is studying law at Boston University