Welcome to Outreach International. We are a small social enterprise offering a personal service to volunteers. We match the talent, experience and ambition of individual volunteers, young and old, to ethical, community-led projects we have identified as having a real need.

social_enterprise_uk_member_certified_small_blackWe are featured in The Daily Telegraph’s annual list of Best Gap Year Organisations and we are an original member of The Year Out Group

Our projects benefit from our partnership through the supply of good quality, committed volunteers who really make a difference. Volunteers benefit by going to a project that has been assessed, where they know they will make a difference, with the support of our team throughout.

How We Started

“In the Easter of 1997, I was on holiday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The weather was gorgeous and I had spent a couple of weeks surfing, swimming, camping and exploring the myriad of little villages up and down the coast. The holiday was drawing to an end and as the sun set over the ocean I began to chat with a lively group of local people about the fishing, the tourists, politics and the forthcoming fiesta.

I soon learned that just two or three miles from the delightful restaurants and trendy bars of Puerto Vallarta there was a massive rubbish dump. A community of over 500 families lived around it. They made ends meet by collecting rubbish and selling it the local recycling centre.

Juan Carlos, my new friend from the bar, explained that he was a local businessman and had set up a project to support the community. Every day he would collect fresh food from the local shops and restaurants and deliver it, along with barrels of drinking water to the rubbish dump community. Given the comfort of my immediate surroundings and infectious laughter of my companions it was difficult to imagine that just down the road were people living in such difficult conditions.

Juan Carlos offered to take me to the project the following day. This would be a rather sobering end to the holiday.

Early the following morning we set off in the back of the project pick up. After just ten minutes the road began to deteriorate and soon was more potholes, dust and bumps than anything else.

Houses with freshly whitewashed walls and watered lawns gave way to crumbling concrete and dust, which in turn were replaced by cobbled together terraces made of rusty corrugated metal sheets, cardboard and plastic packaging. We were still less than two miles from the comforts of Puerto Vallarta.

We rounded the corner and there it was. A massive sprawling dump, stretching into the distance.

At first my eyes saw only rubbish moving gently in the warm sunshine. Dull yellows, ochres and reds faded by the ferocious sun. I soon realised that the moving rubbish was hundreds of people. They swarmed over the dump, rummaging through it to find plastic bottles, glass and scrap metal. People of every age walked barefoot over broken glass and rotting food in an attempt to scrape together enough to sell. I was particularly struck by a beautiful girl, aged just seven or eight. Her huge brown eyes stared at me, making an alarming contrast to the filth and rubbish around her.

We asked one woman how much she had to collect to earn enough money to buy a meal. Her and her family would rarely earn more than 50 pence a day. Barely enough to feed one person, let alone a family.

As we were talking, a new four-wheel drive vehicle passed slowly by. Tourists in the back leant out of the darkened windows, took photographs and drove off without stopping.

Juan Carlos explained that he could no longer continue to run the project by himself. He needed volunteers to help him. Enthusiastic people from the UK who could take food and water out to the community every day. They would need to drive the pick up. They would need to distribute the food and potable water. Could I help him? Could I find him volunteers when I returned to England?

This was 1997, before the idea of having a gap year had been established in most people’s minds. It seemed rather unlikely that anyone, out of choice, should wish to spend a period of their life on a Mexican rubbish dump….. and the rest is history of sorts.

We’re still working with the Rubbish Dump community in Puerto Vallarta to improve their lives, now teaching in a school that has been established to support education among the next generation and conditions are slowly improving. We even had one of the children thank Outreach International for the role we have played in her now securing a University place – something we could not have dreamed of back in 1997.

Since then we’ve added numerous projects in eight countries. There really is something for everyone, but whichever Outreach International project you choose, believe me, you will make a difference. To others, and to yourself”.

 

Our social enterprise

As a social enterprise we work hard in pursuit of our social goals. We work to…

  1. enhance the outcomes of those projects we support, through the added capacity and skills of good quality volunteers
  2. offer volunteers an accessible and assured experience, one that builds cultural understanding, vocational knowledge and life skills that together make a difference to many others over time.
  3. provide our staff with a fair and secure wage

circle_seuk_member_badgeEach year we aim to make a small surplus, (as do all good charities and non-profits); we believe this is the most sustainable way of delivering our social goals. Our project partners need us to be here next year; our volunteers expect us to be financially sound and our staff rely on us to give them a long term job. Making a surplus enables us to:

  1. invest thoughtfully back into chosen projects, often with the input of volunteers
  2. offer a bursary to support applications from volunteers from less privileged backgrounds
  3. maintain a contingency fund, to support volunteers in the case of an emergency

We have a small number of UK staff, a modest office and low overheads. Like all charities and non-profits we spend money on marketing (the website, attending events, developing promotional literature etc.) in order to get the word out, otherwise our projects would not benefit from the volunteers they need.

The Blue Tiger Philosophy

As a small organisation we support a big idea – that of ethical, productive and rewarding volunteering – volunteering that works for all the stakeholders. We call this our Blue Tiger philosophy and it serves as an internal framework, guiding everything we do:

Blue Tiger Projects

The family of projects we support. The result of a careful evaluation process, ensuring we only support ethical, sustainable projects, where individual volunteers really make a difference.

Blue Tiger Club

An interest group of past volunteers, whose aim is to promote responsible volunteering, at home and abroad. It is a partnership between Outreach International and volunteers; pooling our resources to promote responsible volunteering as a means of contributing to the community.

Blue Tiger Award

Our projects have benefited from excellent volunteers over the years and the Blue Tiger Award is designed to recognise those that are truly exceptional.

In promoting this volunteer Award we raise awareness of what ‘great’ looks like, inspire future volunteers and provide well deserved recognition to those who are both nominated for the Award and the eventual winners.

There are a maximum of three Blue Tiger Awards made each year, as we believe a degree of exclusivity underlines the exceptional nature of a volunteer’s contribution.

Nominations are made by our Outreach International country coordinators, who have a close relationship with each of our projects, as well as the volunteers they support in-country. They make nominations based on the feedback they receive from the project, as well as their own observations of the volunteer’s engagement with the community.

Each winner is given an Award with a copy of the Nomination that led to them winning, plus a contribution will be made to the project they volunteered for, or a domestic charity of their choice

UK Team

Steve Summers

I joined Outreach having previously run a travel agency for international charities and NGOs. I have a passion for social enterprise, (running a business for the good of the community), and Outreach is the perfect way to contribute to both our project partners and to offer personal development and life-changing experiences for our volunteers.
I think I have the perfect job - being inspired by both our project leaders, and the ambition of our volunteers to go out there and make a difference.

Favourite country

My favourite country has to be Mongolia. The history, vast landscapes and culture are all simply incredible, especially if you love seeing it all from the back of a horse. I have also fallen in love with Mexico and Galapagos following my recent visits there, and Nepal will always feature in my top 3 destinations, as much for the wonderful people as the culture and natural beauty.

Favourite Outreach project

I have seen so many wonderful, charitable projects and inspiring leaders that this is an impossible choice. Perhaps the project that I recall most is a humble orphanage school in Nairobi that is an example of how the dignity and happiness of individuals can be resolute, despite the lack of resources and comforts. It is also an example of a project that has a simple and clear need for volunteers who are prepared to get amongst it.

Volunteering

I have been coaching girl’s rugby for over three years, both at a club and in schools. It takes up an incredible amount of time but is hugely rewarding, seeing players of all ages growing in confidence and finding a wonderful team spirit through sport.
I also spend time evangelising about volunteering to school groups - not about volunteering overseas necessarily, but about the opportunity and benefit of volunteering in a local community and how to get started!

Liz Grassby

I organise our volunteer placements and prepare volunteers for travel. I came to Outreach in 2010 from a career in managing academic research in areas including education, health and food security. I have helped a number of cultural organisations to improve visitor experience and support volunteers. I enjoy visiting our projects across the world.

Favourite country

My favourite Outreach location is Costa Rica for its wildness, clean air, crystal waters and gentle people. It’s also officially one of the happiest countries on the planet. Casado their traditional dish of black beans, rice, salad and lime juice is simple and super healthy. My highlight was rafting up the Pacuare River, with toucans flying overhead, surrounded by warm waterfalls and the gentle hum of forest life.

Favourite Outreach project

Land Rights Project in Cambodia. A grassroots NGO who are working to ensure development is not at the cost of poor and marginalised people and that international development organisations respect human and legal rights. I admire their passion, focus and actions which are grounded in research.

Volunteering

I enjoy horticulture so I teach gardening for a CIC. I help set up a community garden and recently planted an orchard in our local school. With the UK Gleening network I have helped harvest tonnes of vegetables from farms that would go to waste and distribute them to food banks and community organisations. I’ve always been a volunteer. It’s a fun way to meet others, share skills and help create a kinder world.

Arabella Browne

I qualified as an accountant in 2001 and started working for Outreach International as a part time book keeper in 2006. I help manage volunteer payments, ensure that staff and suppliers get paid in a timely way and ensure our in-country coordinators have all the necessary funds for each placement.

Favourite country

Raising three lively children I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit one of our destination countries, but the country I would most like to visit is Nepal, for the incredible experience of being among the Himalaya, but also to experience the rich Nepali culture and warm hospitality that I hear so much about through our volunteer feedback.

Favourite Outreach project

My ideal project would be one that would take me to the Galapagos Islands, providing an opportunity to see the amazing abundance of wildlife. Teaching in a school or working in a kindergarten would be a wonderful way of getting to know the community behind the tourist façade, and perhaps combining that with some conservation work would be a way of giving something back through my own efforts.

Volunteering

I have been a committee member and volunteer treasurer at my children’s primary school for 7 years and after serving for the maximum time allowed as a trustee, I still enjoy helping out at school fund raising events.



Overseas Team

Greta Ruiz

Mexico Co-ordinator

Greta lives close to our project base in Puerto Vallarta and has been working with us since 2006. She lived in London for three years where she completed her MSc in veterinary science. In addition to supporting our volunteers she now works as a Pilates instructor.
She is brilliantly organised and works relentlessly to improve our programmes and offer support to the Mexico volunteers.

Ung Veasinimol (Nimol)

Cambodia Co-ordinator

Nimol has enjoyed looking after volunteers at one of our orphanage projects in Phnom Penh since 2004. In 2013 we were delighted when she accepted the position of Cambodia coordinator for volunteers on all of our projects.
She is a foster mother to 6 children, retains an administrative position at the orphanage and is also studying a Bachelors Degree in International Relations.

Javier Cano

Costa Rica co-ordinator

Javier has been working as an experiential teacher since 2001 with a focus on the benefits of outdoor education. He joined Outreach International in 2007. He provides an excellent level of support to our volunteers encouraging individuals to grow and develop through their projects.
Javier believes that volunteering can be an excellent opportunity to reinforce positive values that will aid students in the future. Sharing his creative and leadership qualities with students has made his educational career successful.

Monika Montes

Ecuador Co-ordinator

Monika is superbly connected throughout Ecuador and has been working with Outreach International since 2003. She lives with her two teenage children in central Quito and plays host to many of our volunteers who work in the city.
Monika’s passion for volunteering is reflected in her commitment and level of support that she provides. She speaks fluent English and is a qualified Spanish tutor.

Monika Outreach Coordinator in Ecuador
Paulina Ratti

Galapagos Co-ordinator

Paulina qualified as special needs teacher and language therapist from the University of Guayaquil. She has lived in San Cristobal on the Galapagos all her life and has been supporting our volunteers since 2006. She is a well known island character, recognised locally for her brightly painted wall murals. She lives with her husband in Baquerizo, the town on San Cristobal.

Julio

Galapagos Co-ordinator

Julio is a qualified teacher working in one of the schools Outreach International supports and coordinates our volunteer activities on the island. Julio lived and trained in Guayaquil before moving to Galapagos 10 years ago.

Ram Hari

Nepal Co-ordinator

Ram Hari is a successful businessman with years of experience working in the tourist business where he gained a good cultural understanding of foreign travelers.
Now running his own successful business, Ram Hari funds his own charitable school for the disadvantaged children of his home village, while using his connections to support Outreach International.
Ram Hari has two grown children and provides the accommodation for our volunteers in Kathmandu.

Outreach International coordinator
Wanjiru Macharia (Shiru)

Kenya Co-ordinator (Watamu)

Shiru graduated from the University of Amherst, USA with a Major in Marketing and a Minor in Psychology. She joined our team in 2012 and lives with her family near where our projects are based in the coastal town of Watamu.
She knows Kenya intimately and has been involved in a number of conservation initiatives in the national parks. In addition to supporting our volunteers she works as an administrator in a busy office that share the grounds of our volunteer house.

Beatrice Waweru

Kenya Co-ordinator (Nairobi)

Beatrice has a BA in Library and Information Science from Makerere University in Kenya. She has spent much of her career setting up libraries and information centres for various institutes. She is currently studying Counselling and Psychology at Amani University and has been involved in the welfare of children at several orphanages in Nairobi. Beatrice joined our team in 2011.
She lives in Nairobi with her husband and three children and uses her family homes to accommodate volunteers in Nairobi.

Mr Lokuge Priyankara (Mr P)

Sri Lanka Co-ordinator

Mr P has a degree from Colombo University in Tourist Management and is a qualified guide registered with the Sri Lanka Tourist Board. He coordinated a tsunami relief project. He joined us in 2006 once the tsunami problems had dissipated. He lives in Galle with his wife and two children, close to our project base and takes an active role in supporting the Sri Lanka projects. His wife cooks the best curries in Galle!

BenJee Cascio

Tanzania Co-ordinator

Benjee has a first degree in Psychology and a Masters in Economics, Policy, Management and Society, specialising in Sustainable Tourism Development, from the University of Oregon, USA. He has worked on development projects in Spain, Nigeria, Jamaica and Uganda before settling in Tanzania.
He now lives in Moshi, is the managing director of our medical research project and through this has close connections with our other Tanzania initiatives.

Govind Rathore

India Coordinator

Govind is the founder of the Trust that we support in Rajasthan, supporting the women and children of the Dalit community through a range of empowerment centres, door-step schools, outreach and counselling services.
Govind speaks excellent English and runs a professional team of local staff and volunteers based in Jodhpur.

india volunteer coordinator