Medtronic Clinical Diabetes Manager Leigh Ramsey said she was drawn to the Equator by children’s photos as much as geographic curiosity. But, she was sent as a volunteer, not as a tourist. After a week in an Ecuadorian children’s center, she says the images she most values are those of the broad smiles of the preschoolers who reached out their arms to her each day on her “volunteer vacation.”
With 16 of her co-workers from around the country, she participated in a unique women’s volunteer time off (VTO) opportunity to provide service in Calderón, a lively suburb of Quito known for its architecture, mountain vistas and bread-dough crafts. Ramsey is among a growing number of employees who take advantage of corporate programs to give back to local and global communities.
Ramsey helped teachers care for the 80 children while also assisting the group with painting the exterior of the two-story center, and tiling its dining room. Such corporate volunteering programs help retain high-value staff and develop leadership skills, according to a 2016 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey.
Medtronic’s Aspire women’s group coordinated their program through Global Volunteers, a nonprofit, nonsectarian development assistance organization in special consultative status with the United Nations. A different team of women had similarly served in Peru with Global Volunteers in 2017 to encourage cohesiveness and creativity within disparate work groups by providing community service abroad.
“I had the privilege of meeting and learning about people of Ecuador. This culture is different than others I have experience in Central and South America. The children are cherished by all,” said Ramsey.
Global Volunteers offers up to 10 service programs for people of all backgrounds and ages in Ecuador annually. Volunteer teams are typically formed from individuals and family members serving together. The organization established development partnerships with local non-profits in Quito serving children in 1996 to provide essential services in the areas of housing, health care and education. Volunteers work with caregivers at two pre-schools to guide toddlers ages 1-3; mentoring them in social skills, hygiene and English language competency as well as helping improve playgrounds, classrooms and educational resources.
Global Volunteers works under the direction of non-profit foundation leaders of FUNDAC, which offers educational, medical, psychological and social services to some 100 impoverished children at two daycare center locations. “The economic support and willing hands of volunteers that Global Volunteers brings to us is extremely valuable to FUNDAC,” said Foundation Leader Maria de Lourdes. “The partnership is one of mutual collaboration, working hand-in-hand to help our entire community.”
Sandy Hickey, a Medtronic sales manager who coordinates Aspire, an employee resource group says: “Why wouldn’t any company do this?” She served on Global Volunteers’ Peru program with her company’s Aspire participants in 2017 and subsequently coordinated two more in Peru in 2019. “My company is committed to 40% of women in leadership positions by 2020,” she said. “Volunteering in this way inspires community outreach and motivates employees to strive for something larger than themselves.”
Ramsey said time was available at the end of the work day and on weekends to participate in “the usual tourist things,” such as shopping and a tour to the equator.
Global Volunteers invites people of all ages and backgrounds to serve in this unique way – to give back and make a genuine difference by working with and learning from and about local people in their community. Since 1984, the organization has established more than 100 long-term development partnerships with community organizations on six continents. Volunteers provide labor and financial resources to local projects to help children and women thrive. Short-term volunteers are the “infinitely renewable resource” keeping support and energy flowing into the communities, according to Global Volunteers President and CEO Bud Philbrook.
The fixed tax-deductible service program contribution covers three meals each day, community hotel lodging, local transportation, medical and emergency evacuation insurance, a trained team leader and project materials. Airfare and visas are extra. Global Volunteers: 800-487-1074, [email protected], www.globalvolunteers.org/ecuador