Travel Tip #1

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On this blog, one of the posts every month will be dedicated to some short tips to always keep in mind when volunteering abroad. After all, traveling to a new place can be pretty exciting, but also very, very scary – especially if you’re not prepared! Today’s tip is…

Buy good shoes!

Wherever you’re traveling, you’re guaranteed to be walking…a lot. Invest in a comfortable, high quality pair of shoes. It doesn’t necessarily have to empty your wallet, but definitely something you can count on for long, taxing hikes throughout the duration of your trip. Make sure they’re closed-toe to prevent bug bites and cuts, weatherproof for when Mother Nature unpredictably strikes, and make sure they aren’t flashy, but they are very, very durable.

Click to enlarge

Salomon Ellipse GTX – women’s (

And definitely don’t forget to break into them before your journey! Your feet will thank you!

Meet Our New Summer Interns!

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Srisivaa Karri – Communications Intern

1398573_739284922751511_272028057_oMy name is Srisivaa Karri, or Sri for short, and I am the new summer Communications Intern for IVPA! I am going to be an incoming sophomore at The Ohio State University as a double-major in Communications & International Studies with a minor in Global Public Health. I love volunteering and have done it for many years, ranging from assisting physical therapists, to tutoring underprivileged kids, to sponsoring 6 orphan children through SOS Children’s Villages International, but I’ve never been able to do anything outside of my hometown in southern Ohio. My dream is to go on a volunteer abroad trip, which I hope to do in the near future. Be sure to check out IVPA and Everyday Ambassador’s blogs for new posts!

Annemarie Morris – Social Media Intern

My name is Annemarie Morris. I was born and raised in South Florida but am Annemariecurrently studying at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. I am going into my senior year majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Social Work. Volunteering has always been an important part of my life as I spent endless hours at my local homeless shelter. Presently, I volunteer at my college local Astor Head Start Preschool. Last summer I volunteered at an orphanage in Rio Dulce, Guatemala which expanded my passion for volunteering internationally. I had the pleasure of spending last fall studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain and traveled around Europe. 

Visiting Amigos de las Américas in Oaxaca

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As part of my job as Executive Director of IVPA, I occasionally get to visit our member programs and see volunteers in action. Visiting with communities and volunteers is one of my favorite things. Last week I was in Oaxaca and was able to spend the day with IVPA member organization, Amigos de las Américas.



AMIGOS is an amazing organization that has a long legacy volunteering. They are celebrating their 50-year anniversary this year! AMIGOS’ mission is to inspire and build young leaders through collaborative community development and immersion in cross-cultural experiences. AMIGOS primarily works with high school and university students on summer projects and recently expanded to have semester and gap year programs.


I first met up with Amigos de las Américas’ Oaxaca Project Director, Emma Smith. We discussed her role and the different programs that she helps manage. Emma brings a lot of experience to her role and was even an AMIGOS volunteer in high school, only to return to work for the organization after receiving her master’s degree. Emma manages 35 volunteers in Oaxaca. Emma’s responsibilities when visiting a community include meeting with local officials, host families, partner organizations, and volunteers to make sure any problems or issues have been properly addressed.

That day we were meeting up with Supervisor, Rani Kumar and together we would take a colectivo taxi to the rural community of Santo Tomas Mazaltepec, about an hour away from Oaxaca. Rani is a university student and returned AMIGOS volunteer who in her role as supervisor visits volunteers weekly in their communities.


In Santo Tomas Mazaltepec there are two teenage AMIGOS volunteers. These volunteers get a full immersive experience, living with a host family and working with community partners and local youth volunteers. I was particularly impressed with their level of maturity, their language skills, and their dedication to the work.


The AMIGOS volunteers have been working with a partner organization, Puente a la Salud Comunitaria. Puente is a nonprofit that trains community promoters who teach healthy cooking and nutrition and also run a summer lunch program for the local children. What I loved about Puente was that they actively work to introduce the native amaranth grain that is full of vitamins and amino acids, teaching families how to cook with it.

In addition to their work with Puente, the AMIGOS volunteers also work along side local youth to brainstorm, plan and execute a “micro project”. In the community of Mazaltepec the youth chose to develop a game night and to stock the library with games, some purchased and some created.



It was so fun to AMIGOS volunteers at work and to see their staff coordinating and working with the community and partner organization leaders.

Thanks AMIGOS for letting me witness the great work you are doing.

Global Citizens Network and Intercultural Student Experiences Announce Launch of Global Learners Grant and 2014 Recipients

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Global Citizens Network and Intercultural Student Experiences Announce Launch of Global Learners Grant and 2014 Recipients


Minneapolis – July 29, 2014 – Global Citizens Network (GCN) and Intercultural Student

Experiences (ISE), a nonprofit alliance dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and cooperation, have named five Minnesota high schools as recipients of Global Learners Grants. The recipients—The FAIR School, Minneapolis; High School for Recording Arts, St. Paul; New Century Academy, Hutchinson; Wadena-Deer Creek High School, Wadena; and Washington Technology Secondary Magnet, St. Paul—were selected from a pool of eligible applicants. In its inaugural year, the GCN-ISE Global Learners Grant program will provide a total of $200,000 that will enable more than 50 students to participate in immersion and cross-cultural education programs in East Africa, Thailand, Costa Rica and China in 2015.

In response to increasing demand for international and cross-cultural student learning experiences, the Global Learners Grant program is designed to expand opportunities for high school students and teachers to participate in short-term cultural and/or language immersion programs abroad. Global Learners Grants are awarded to Minnesota high schools that serve predominantly low-income student populations and currently have limited or no organized opportunities for students to participate in such global experiences.

“We developed the Global Learners Grant program as a way to provide meaningful cross-cultural experiences for students and teachers who might otherwise not have such opportunities. Participating in these cross-cultural experiences at a young age has provento be beneficial in many ways, including improved language, communication, leadership and problem-solving skills, as well as increased employment and earning potential in the future,” said Steve Struthers, executive director for GCN and ISE. “We are very excited to launch and grow this initiative to further expand access to cross-cultural exchange experiences for high schools in the region.”

About Global Citizens Network (GCN) & Intercultural Student Experiences (ISE): GCN and ISE are two strategically aligned, Minneapolis-based nonprofit organizations with more than 60 years of combined experience working to increase cross-cultural understanding and and cooperation.


  • GCN facilitates international and domestic volunteer travel programs for individuals, families and groups, including academic programs for high schools and universities. These programs offer opportunities to live and work with members of indigenous communities who have long-standing relationships with GCN, in a culturally rich and respectful immersion experience.

Complementing the international programs, GCN also offers local programs that provide Twin Cities residents Spanish language training led by native speakers, from beginning to advanced levels, and educational forums for understanding the cultures, histories and issues affecting indigenous and international populations.

  • ISE coordinates international language immersion programs for K-12 students of French, German, Mandarin and Spanish. Through unique travel itineraries and family stay experiences, ISE programs emphasize language practice and acquisition while providing authentic cultural and linguistic immersion.

ISE also facilitates U.S. hosting programs that allow international high school students to experience United States culture and improve their English language skills while living with volunteer U.S. host families.

  • The GCN-ISE alliance also provides training and consulting services to individuals and organizations seeking to enhance their effectiveness in cross-cultural engagement.

To learn more about GCN and ISE, please visit and

Volunteering’s Reciprocity + “Be the Good” Giveaway

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International volunteering is an inherently reciprocal act, yet often it is the volunteer who is most changed by the experience.  Return volunteers describe their experience as life changing. Why is volunteering abroad such a powerful experience? International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) believes that volunteering abroad changes the participant because of the following experiences:

  1. Volunteers are faced with culture shock and complex social problems that force reflection and deeper thinking
  2. Volunteer work with host communities builds relationships.  As communities and volunteers work together they build trust and cross-cultural understanding.
  3. Return volunteers are passionate about making a positive change in the world and have real ties to communities in need. Volunteers are more likely to become future change agents and involved global citizens.

IVPA believes that volunteers have a greater chance of positively impacting the community and having a life-changing experience when they are: open, respectful and informed.



As a reminder that we must first be the good we wish to see in the world IVPA is partnering with Cents of Style to give away one of their “Be The Good” graphic t-shirts. To enter the IVPA “Be the Good” Giveaway, click on the link and make sure you like IVPA’s Facebook page. Additional entries through following IVPA on Twitter and tweeting a message about the giveaway.


Happy Earth Day + Conservation Volunteering

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To celebrate Earth Day we highlighted a few conservation projects offered by IVPA member organizations.

Projects Abroad – Projects Abroad offers a range of conservation projects with a variety of accompanying time commitments.

Project: Veterinary Medicine & Animal Care in China

Location: China: Chengdu, Ya’an


Volunteers on the Veterinary Medicine & Animal Care project are based at the Bifengxia Panda Base, a center primarily for captive breeding. Daily tasks include preparing food for the pandas, cleaning out enclosures, and keeping data on panda behavior. This project is open to anyone interested in animal care and wildlife conservation. No specific work experience with animals is required.

For more information:

Globe Aware 

Project: Sustaining Thailand’s Treasures

Location: Thailand: Ayutthaya, Bangkok

Globe Aware

Take a volunteer vacation and see and participate in how Thais really live and help to preserve Thailand’s native elephant habitat. You will find yourself in one the most unique environments, working to build an ecologically sustainable reforested habitat to give elephants a home. With a volunteer vacation, you can be a part of the solution and help change the fate of elephants in Thailand by creating ways for the people of Surin Province to promote sustainable elephant eco-tourism, preserve their natural habitat and provide an alternative to the current use of elephants as revenue in circuses and street begging operations.

For more information:

Amigos de las Americas

Project: Collaborate for Environmental Sustainability 

Location: Perez Zeledón, Costa Rica

CR 2012, 231

This summer volunteers in Costa Rica will play an integral role in collaborating with local youth to promote environmental awareness and stewardship in local host communities and national parks.  Beyond traditional AMIGOS activities, this unique project also includes two 6-day “campamentos” (camps) in national parks where Tico and AMIGOS volunteers work alongside one another in trail maintenance, cultural exchange, and team-building activities.

More information:


This is just a small insight into ways volunteers can get involved in conservation projects around the world. Volunteering abroad projects often incorporate conservation aspects even if it isn’t the main focus. To take a look at all of IVPA members and their programs, please reference IVPA’s Member List







IVPA Media and Communications Intern Position

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Position Description: IVPA Internship – Media and Communications

Approximate Dates: May 5 – August 22, 2014

Application Deadline: April 26, 2014

Location: This is not a location specific internship.

Wage: Internship is unpaid but a small stipend of $500 or discount on volunteer travel program options are be available.

The International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) is a 501c3 nonprofit association dedicated to promoting awareness and access to quality volunteer aboard programs. IVPA is committed to standards of excellence in the field of international volunteering and IVPA member organizations must uphold the IVPA’s Principles and Practices as guidelines for good programming as well as meet stringent membership criteria. IVPA is an association of volunteer sending organizations but does not organize or run its own volunteer programs.

The Main Duties of this position are to support the online branding and marketing presence of IVPA 

The Responsibilities of this position will vary but may include the following:

  • Take part in the rollout of a new social media campaign
  • Curate content for dissemination on social media platforms
  • Contact and liaison with potential social media partners
  • Author special topic IVPA Blog Posts and Newsletter articles
  • Support administrative projects and other duties as assigned


  • Demonstrated interest in international volunteering, cross-cultural exchange and/or previous international travel or study abroad experience
  • Ability to work independently, remotely and manage multiple tasks and deadlines
  • Understanding and experience with social media platforms
  • Experience with Microsoft Office
  • Strong writing and copy writing skills

Hours and Length of Service:  Intern hours are flexible and will be arranged prior to start date. Intern must be willing to offer a minimum of four months of service or 125 hours. A longer commitment is preferred.

Supervision:  Intern’s responsibilities and work arrangements will be coordinated with and supervised by the IVPA Director.

To Apply:  Interested candidates should submit a cover letter & resume.  Please email your application to

Only applications received electronically will be reviewed.   No calls please.   Deadline:  April 26, 2014

Thank you for your interest.

RFP – IVPA Website Redesign

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International Volunteer Programs Association: Website Redesign

 Request for Proposals


Project Summary

This Request For Proposals (RFP) is for the redesign of International Volunteer Program Association’s (IVPA) current website

The main purpose in a site redesign is to create a more visually appealing and adaptable site to increase visitor traffic. 

Company Information

IVPA is a small 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to promoting awareness and access to quality volunteer aboard programs. IVPA is committed to standards of excellence in the field of international volunteering and IVPA member organizations must uphold the IVPA’s Principles and Practices as guidelines for good programming as well as meet stringent membership criteria. IVPA is an association of volunteer sending organizations but does not organize or run its own volunteer programs.


The main target audience for the IVPA website is US Americans interested in volunteering abroad. Secondary geographic target location would be English speakers and those interested in volunteering from Canada, UK and Australia. The target age ranges from 16 – 65 years old with prime target being 19-24 year olds. 

The majority of the visitors to the site are from the United States followed by Canada, United Kingdom, China and Australia.

Tools and High Level Functionality

The functionality of the IVPA website should include the following features and tools:

  • Content management so that text can be easily added to and updated
  • Integration of IVPA blog (currently hosted on free version of WordPress)
  • Email sign-up for newsletter (currently run by Campaign Monitor). Would like to add a bot prevention
  • Links to social media: Twitter, FB and IG
  • Map or search feature for current countries where IVPA Members have programs.
    • Currently we have a search feature that allows visitors to search by project type and/or location. This is a valuable feature but is problematic for the redesign. The search function is written in Flash which limits our alternative host options

Design Look & Feel

  • Clean lines
  • Nice use of white space
  • Good use of graphics and photography
  • Easy to read and digest information.
  • Trustworthy
  • Promotes international volunteerism


In a search of “volunteer international” IVPA’s website comes up first. Yet with other similar searches like “volunteer abroad” IVPA does not come up on the first page.

In 2013, the IVPA website averaged 13,057 visitors a month with 51% absolute unique visitors.

A large portion, 55%, of traffic came through organic searches and 14% came to the site directly. Key words and phrases used in searches by visitors included variations of the words international, volunteer, programs.

SEO remains a high priority for the IVPA site and there is concern about a website redesign altering our Google ranking. We would like to increase our SEO with the new site.

Traffic Reporting

We currently use Google Analytics and would like to continue to do so for our web trafficking needs.

Budget (including hosting and maintaining)

We do have an alternative hosting options that cost around $60/yr. Current web changes are done pro bono by the previous designer of the IVPA site. With the redesign we would not have a dedicated webmaster and any updates would be done in house.

Our budget allotted for this project is up to $7,000.

Proposal Instructions

All proposals should be received by 8:00pm ET on April 30, 2014. Submit your proposal by e-mail to Genevieve Brown

As part of your proposal, please address the following:

  • Sample Project Plan
  • Project Budget
  • Your approach to web design
  • Details regarding your website project management process
  • A summary of website development experience
  • A list of at least two client references
  • Identify who will be involved on your project team, including their relevant experience and credentials

 Please be sure to include the name and contact details of persons to be approached for clarification of the proposal if needed

 Proposed Timeline

The desired delivery date for the revised website is August 31, 2014.

Contact Info

Genevieve Brown, Executive Director

International Volunteer Programs Association














Service For Peace Hosts University Alternative Spring Breaks

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IVPA member Service For Peace just finished an exciting month of March hosting six alternative spring groups. These six groups of  university students chose to take part in alternative spring breaks, participating in service projects and learning about new cultures in Guatemala and Dominican Republic.

Students and staff members from Alternative Breaks@UCSD joined the Service For Peace Servicio Para la Paz República Dominicana team in La Represa, Dominican Republic to continue construction of two new classrooms, a new computer lab and an administrative office/library, AND learn to make organic chocolate courtesy of the new Empowered Women’s Cooperative. In Guatemala another Alternative Breaks@UCSD group joined Service For Peace to continue building three new classrooms in the Community of Peace of El Quimal.

service for peace service for peace 2

Students from Georgia Tech’s AMSA – American Medical Student Association served in the DR’s largest public children’s hospital, El Angelita. They visited the rural Community of Peace to learn about unique challenges facing the medical community in the Dominican Republic, and experience what’s not so different after all.
Service For Peace involves volunteers in ongoing community development programs around the world. Currently Service For Peace works with communities in Kenya,  Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Programs are designed to further the growth and development of individuals and communities through the shared experience of voluntary service. For more information visit Service For Peace .