My Volunteer Experience with Embrace Tanzania

By Nicola Da Silva 

The phone buzzed and it was my mom. “Guess what? Nic, Andrew, and Lex booked a trip to Zanzibar and invited me to join. We wish you and Daniel could join to – any chance of that??” Sometimes you get invitations to events and you weakly offer to try your best to make it happen and other times you get an invitation to something and you know that no matter what you will be going! This was one of those. I don’t know why I felt so strongly about going on this trip, but as soon as I knew about it, I couldn’t think about anything else. I started making plans the very next day and everything fell into place perfectly in the 3 weeks I had to pull it off.

I also decided to contact UniversalGiving and see if they could set me up to do some volunteer work while on vacation. Amazingly they helped me find Embrace Tanzania. I emailed them and they got me in touch with Selestin, who is based in Zanzibar and manages the volunteer effort there. 2 days before I left on the trip I emailed Selestin and told him I was coming and would love to have a look at what they  were doing in Zanzibar and see if I could help and also get them connected with Universal Giving. Selestin replied straight away and gave me the address and his telephone number. By the time I checked into the hotel, he had already spoken to them to help organize a day I could come see the different volunteer sites.

On Monday April 28th, my mom and I stepped out of our hotel and into a cab and went to Bububu, Zanzibar. Selestin met us there and showed us around the building where volunteers stay and then Selestin, his colleague Edward, my mom, the cab driver, and I went for lunch. We chatted about the different volunteering options and how my mom and I could get involved. Next stop was the orphanage where Mama Suz looks after about 30 children. The house is a school in the morning; then some of the children go home and others stay at the orphanage. Some children are orphans and others have parents in the sober houses nearby.

I could see that Mama Suz tries her best to look after all these children, but I also noticed that she was conscious about the state of the building and the lack of beds for all the children. We met the kids and then had a “business meeting” in the shade of the tree. I explained what UniversalGiving does and that I would get her connected with them and then asked what her ideas were. Wow – she has such amazing plans and knows what’s important. She said, “these children are orphans and the best thing for them is to have a stable home.” She wants to buy a house so that the children feel secure; buy a bus and have other children in other villages attend her school and pay school fees; and have the school fees as an income so she can afford to look after the children in the orphanage. I loved the idea and we started chatting about what she needed for that to happen. We figured out that the best thing would be for her raise money to buy a piece of land and have a volunteer project set up to build a house for her and the children.

The next step would be to raise money for the bus and get the new children from other villages enrolled in her school. She may need to get more volunteer teachers or hire some more teachers. I offered to do all I could to help her with this dream…and to be honest ever since I got back a month ago, all I can think about is how to help Mama Suz and the children have a home.

Inspired by this amazing story? Volunteer with Embrace Tanzania now!

Take a Volunteer Trip in Thailand

The Little BIG Project_LogoUniversalGiving has recently been working with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), who have launched a contest to promote voluntourism, The Little Big Project.  One winner will receive a two-week volunteer trip to Thailand.  But everyone is invited to volunteer: TAT is partnering with other organizations, including UniversalGiving, to share volunteer opportunities.

Sound appealing?  Looking for adventure?  Here are some top opportunities to volunteer in Thailand with UniversalGiving’s vetted NGO partners:

And if you can’t resist the lure of winning a free volunteer trip from TAT, here’s an excerpt from their recent press release, describing The Little Big Project:

The mission of The Little Big Project is to help others, but it is also a competition: one overseas visitor and one Thai will team up for 2 weeks to work on anything from helping Save the Elephants at a nature park in Chiang Mai, to a community development project for Hill Tribe Children, to Marine Conservation in Koh Talu.

And, they’ll have the chance to share their philanthropy efforts with a world‐wide audience by making blog posts, uploading photos and videos, and telling their story through social media.

Prizes will be awarded, too!

  • The team with the most votes for their blog will win $5,000 USD for donation to their project for continued funding, plus a hotel voucher valued at $500 USD for their personal enjoyment.
  • The visiting competitor whose video receives the most views will win an Apple gift card worth $1,000.

TAT believes The Little Big Project will give people looking to do something different on vacation an opportunity to have a life‐changing adventure, and anyone interested should visit for details on how to enter.

TAT Banner

How to Use Technology to Recruit Volunteers

Today’s guest post is from Clarissa Meyer.            

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of non-profit, charity, or community organizations in the world. And while some have paid positions, most rely heavily on volunteers to keep their operations running. Girl Guides of Canada is nothing without adults running camps and meetings. Habitat for Humanity cannot survive without people willing to lift, tote, and hammer boards. But how do these organizations find and keep volunteers? In the old days it was through bulletin board notices and phone calls. But in our fast-paced, modern world those strategies are not feasible. The volunteer market is competitive and, while people want to give their time, they are not always eager for a phone call, or willing to volunteer in the traditional ways. Using technology can give organizations a leg-up on finding volunteers.

Using a website to advertise an organization and its volunteer positions is an intelligent and efficient way to use technology. Positions can be updated quickly and easily. Profiles of the organization can be included, which people can read at their own leisure. People can follow links to apply for positions on-line, and schedules and events can be posted as well.

Email is a popular method for recruiting and maintaining volunteers. Many people can be contacted at once, and this is a fast and efficient way to update opportunities or send out general inquiries. People that do not cherish face-to-face communication can respond using the written word, and they can reply at their own pace. Email has an advantage over phone conversations as attachments can be sent, with documents, spreadsheets, images, and videos.

Perhaps the best development with volunteering since the advent of the World Wide Web is what is known as Virtual Volunteering (also known as cyber service or on-line volunteering). A virtual volunteer is someone who assists an organization using the Internet or computer technology. They can do tasks such as manage e-mail, design graphics or web pages, organize databases, edit documents, or write proposals. And the appeal of cyber volunteering is plentiful. Many people can help that would not otherwise do so. They may have physical constraints or time issues. People who volunteer through the virtual realm can have flexible schedules and can work from home. They can help an organization halfway around the world! These volunteers might have different skills than other types of volunteers and their talents can be put to good use. Sponsored by the United Nations, is a site dedicated to matching virtual volunteers to opportunities. Those seeking volunteers may want to peruse this site and use it to advertise their positions.

Any organization seeking to recruit volunteers should not forget about the power of social media. Word travels quicker through Twitter and Facebook then through any other means. Non-profits can expect very quick networking and advertising through these sites when they post a profile or an advertisement.

Some people prefer to support organizations financially. A site such as UniversalGiving helps people support top-performing organizations from all over the world. The site is built so that 100% of donations go toward the cause of choice. But this site also serves as a volunteer matching site, helping people find volunteer positions which suit their interests/skills.

Lastly, organizations may want to utilize computer software to organize, find, and maintain volunteers. A program like Volunteer Reporter, which has existed for twenty years, allows organizations to track volunteers through a database, merge email contacts, and store volunteer profiles. This software is free to use for one year, as a trial. It is useful for the organization as well as for the volunteers, as volunteers can use the program to log in from home and record their volunteer hours.

Clarissa Meyer works on a non-profit project that is deemed to help people with writing their resumes and CVs. Core interests: e-learning, self-motivation and career development.

Selfless Venture: 7 Traits a Bona Fide Volunteer Should Possess

Today’s guest post is from Tess Pajaron.

Volunteering, when done for the right reasons, is one of the best ways you could ever spend your time, and Mother Teresa, possibly the greatest volunteer of all time, said it best when she said:

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”

Volunteers are a rare breed, and without them, the world would be a very different place. But what does it take to be a great volunteer?

There is no easy answer to this question, as each organization is different and each venture has its own sets of challenges and requirements.

There are, however, a few qualities that every volunteer should strive to emulate, whether they are volunteering at their local homeless shelter or traveling abroad for an international organization.

A Bona Fide Volunteer… 


Volunteering is not like any other job; you may not have fixed tasks or schedules, and situations can change quickly. If you are stuck on following a particular plan or doing things a certain way, you may not be as much of a help as you’d like to be.


Volunteers must have conviction that they are doing the right thing. If you don’t have any convictions about the cause or organization you are volunteering for, you won’t be very convincing to anyone, least of all yourself.

Good volunteers feel called to do what they do, and it shows in their faith, conviction and strong morals. Having conviction is the only way to inspire others, while morals show that you actually practice what you preach.


A volunteer must be willing to learn and grow. You must be ready to learn from anyone, even If it is someone younger than you or someone you wouldn’t normally expect to learn anything from.

Everyone has something to teach, and if you aren’t open to new opinions and methods, you may miss out on some valuable lessons.


Volunteers must feel compassion and empathy in order to be effective at what they do. If you want to help others, you must be able to put yourself in their shoes and understand their problems as if they were your own.

If you cannot relate to those you are trying to help, you won’t get very far.


Truly great volunteers are humble about what they do. They are aware of their limitations and willing to put aside their pride in order to learn something new.

Throughout your time as a volunteer, you will probably have countless moments when you realize just how little you really know. Pretending you know something when you don’t will rob you of the chance to grow and become a better person.


Good volunteers know that everything takes time, and that good things come to those who wait. Rome wasn’t built in a day and if you want to accomplish anything, you need to be patient.

Progress will often be slow and perhaps not as obvious as you’d like, but if you persevere and wait patiently, you will see your efforts pay off.


Volunteering is often a thankless job, but if you are committed to seeing your venture succeed you will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

If you aren’t committed to the cause, you won’t be reliable or dependable and you’ll probably end up quitting before you have ever really started.

For this reason, it is important that you truly believe in something before you give up your time and money to help out. Commitment is the only thing that will pull you through when things get tough.

Tess Pajaron is part of the team behind OpenColleges. She is a volunteer at her local church and aims to share her learnings through her experiences. On her spare time, she loves to travel and see the world and various cultures.

Start Your Own Volunteer Group

Today’s guest post is from Aniya Wells.

People who are passionate about helping others are unique in that they are able to see solutions to problems. Society, however, sometimes makes it easy to ignore or overlook problems like poverty, homelessness and hunger.

When confronted with these issues, certain special people ask, “What can I do to help?”

Sometimes, there are huge organizations that are already working on solutions.  Other times, we notice things that no one else is talking about. If you see a problem, you can help be the solution. All it takes is a pinch of creativity, a lot of elbow grease and a few friends who are passionate about helping.

When I was in high school, I began a volunteer organization called Getting Involved and Volunteering (GIV). After pitching the idea to my school principal, GIV launched.  Our major fundraiser provided entire Thanksgiving dinners for a dozen disadvantaged families in our county.

During college, there were plenty of options for volunteering; but I was busy with working and studying. I was working with elementary-aged children at a juvenile therapeutic center when I was inspired to start another volunteer group to promote literacy and strengthen reading skills among the youngest kids.

Both of the volunteer groups presented unique challenges and honed my leadership skills. I went into each project completely fueled with passion, with no background in organizing or teaching, so I had a lot of room to grow.

Know the Costs

I started GIV during the fall of my senior year. Luckily, I had an energetic and creative teacher who was able to guide me through the financial aspects of preparing for a fundraiser. We decided that a haunted house would be an excellent fundraiser, but we would need money to cover the costs of creating it. We launched a mini-fundraiser by “selling” dates to the Homecoming dance.

With the money we raised from the Homecoming dance, we bought supplies for the haunted house. It was labor intensive, and it required an entire cast. Once the big night finally arrived, we had a blast! During Halloween, we raised over $1,000 which was a lot for a few high school students.

Unlike GIV, I started the literacy program with no official support. All of the supplies came out of my own pocket; but it was something I could afford to give, especially considering the children had little in the way of possessions or library access.

For formal nonprofit organizations, grants are available. Read more about starting a 501c3.

Consider your Limitations

Even if you want to save the world, you have to accept the fact that you aren’t Superman (or Wonderwoman) and neither are your fellow volunteers.

There are a few things you can do alone. For example, I was able to create summer reading classes for the kids. However, I also needed volunteers to help teach basic skills during the week. I had really high expectations for my volunteers, but sometimes their schedules and other obligations would provide hiccups.

As a leader, especially of volunteers, it’s important to be aware of your expectations and how they contrast with your team’s capabilities. Chances are both of you will have to adjust.

Be Aware of the Risks

During cleanup of our haunted house project, I fell out of a moving vehicle. I received staples in my scalp and had to shave some of my hair. (No lie.) The kids at the therapeutic facility were also socially unpredictable, and sometimes would display aggressive behavior. One of my volunteers was stabbed in the hand with a pencil and subsequently quit.

Also, be aware that your volunteers could be responsible for any damage or injuries they cause. Risk training and other types of education may be needed to ensure volunteers are working safely. Formal organizations may want to purchase insurance to protect against possible damages.

Accidents are uncommon, but they do happen. Being prepared is the best way to handle any setback confidently. Preparing for the unexpected could mean taking a lesson in conflict management (like I did when working with violent kids) or simply wearing a seat belt. If you are in high school, ask your principal about any forms that will renounce liability. Those who are out of high school should operate within the boundaries of other organizing institutions or should apply for nonprofit status.

Aniya Wells is one of the most passionate writers you’ll ever meet. Though her writing interests run the gamut—from personal finance to health to current events and more—her primary interest is modern higher education. She serves as a reliable online degree guide for students considering taking advantage of the conveniences inherent in distance learning. Don’t hesitate to contact Aniya for questions or comments at