2012 GoAbroad Innovation Awards Finalists: Innovative New Program – Volunteer

GoAbroad Innovative New Program


The GoAbroad Team is pleased to feature the 2012 GoAbroad Innovation Awards finalists in the category of Innovative New Program – Volunteer. We received many wonderful nominations and the selection committee has chosen five finalists, listed here in alphabetical order. Throughout this week, GoAbroad will highlight the finalists in each of the GoAbroad Innovation Award categories!


CEA Global Education

“International Service Learning – Society, Inequality & Social Exclusion”

When the CEA Global Education Campus in Dublin was developing its courses and programs it did so with its commercial hat firmly in place, but once the centre found its feet and its mainstream courses were well populated, it decided to do something different; develop a course that would make a difference. So, through blood, sweat and volunteers, “International Service Learning – Society, Inequality & Social Exclusion” was born.

Under the direction of Dr. Darren Kelly, one of Ireland’s leading Social Geographers, this course is firmly rooted in current academic best practices. Students not only identify class theories, concepts and models as discussed in a community setting, but they also recognize the valuable contribution that they make to the people with which they work. Service Learning started in Dublin as a small course with a big heart and now, on top of having had such a meaningful impact on its students and to the local community, it has two further accolades. Firstly, it is the model being used to introduce a service learning course at CEA in Barcelona. Secondly, a full service learning program is currently under development in Dublin to enable students to immerse themselves in this exciting, developmental and frequently moving area of study.


Earthwatch Institute

“On The Trail of Giant Pandas”

On the newest Earthwatch Institute expedition, On The Trail of Giant Pandas, volunteers head to in Chengdu, China to work up close with pandas cared for in captivity, and help them adapt to life in the wild, so that they may breed, and live longer and healthier lives.

Volunteers monitor mother pandas and newborn cubs – and even observe the birthing process for cubs, depending on what time of year they join. These volunteers prepare and deliver bamboo to the captive pandas, and help keep their living area clean. Earthwatch team members are granted special access to the breeding area and nursery of the panda base, which remain closed to the general public throughout the year. Collectively, the volunteers contribute toward the long-term goal of reinforcing small and isolated populations of wild panda in the region, through the strategic release of captive pandas. The experience lasts a lifetime, and it could help the giant panda population longer than that.


Give and Surf

“Give and Surf Non-Profit”

As the founder of Give & Surf, Neil Christiansen’s story started almost two years ago when he decided to quit his all too predictable and comfortable life in America and move to Bocas del Toro, Panama to start a 501(c)(3) non-profit built on his passions of volunteering and surfing. He set out on this adventure without much of a plan other than to make a significant impact on a deserving community, where he could surf in his free time. Give & Surf is a homegrown, small non-profit that is dedicated to the indigenous community of Ngobe Indians in Bahia Honda. The organization aims to empower this community through educational and community development.

Volunteers who come and experience the volunteer programs are welcome to come for any length of time. Volunteers are offered the opportunity to surf as it was surfing that first opened Neil’s eyes to the needs of impoverished third world communities. Through efforts of the Give and Surf organization, Neil hopes to bring conscious individuals to Panama with the desire to give back in to a deserving community in a profound way, and enjoy the islands on the side.


Rustic Pathways

“Women Speaking”

Women Speaking is a grassroots initiative from Rustic Pathways that aims to weave together the female narrative. As mothers, daughters, teachers, business-women, and friends, women fulfill many roles in Southeast Asia, and their roles in society will continue to evolve as the region modernizes and changes. This trip pulls back the curtain on the female experience in Thailand, revealing a vital part of society that often remains hidden from view, especially from visitors. Participants experience the sleepy fishing ports in Southern Thailand, the bustling metropolis of Bangkok, and rural rice farms and Hill Tribe villages, discovering a colorful array of female voices throughout the journey.

Throughout the trip, participants move beyond the conversation, and students are encouraged to actively participate in the lives of girls and women from across the spectrum of Thai society. Woven together, the stories heard and the experiences had make up the intricate fabric of the female narrative. The goal is to have the connections made during this trip to empower students to better understand both the women of Southeast Asia, their home country, and around the world.


Service for Peace

“The Global PeaceMakers (GPM) Program”

The Global PeaceMakers (GPM) program of Service For Peace challenges the assumptions that the volunteer needs to be foreign, or that poor people need to be served, or that service-learning magically happens as a result of volunteering.

GPM is about genuine empowerment and inspiring a lifelong commitment to global citizenship and engagement. People from around the world are invited to serve side-by-side with volunteers from their host country, neighboring countries, and the immediate community. The foreign and local volunteers work together every day to affect innovative and realistic solutions to local problems as part of long-term community driven development programs. Since 2005, over 700 volunteers have participated in 60 GPM programs internationally in 16 countries in over 30 communities. These programs have served as catalysts to involve over 3,000 volunteers in over 350 local service projects around the world.

Through the close interaction and involvement of international and local volunteers in community driven development projects, the Global PeaceMakers program transforms people’s attitudes toward themselves, toward their fellow citizens and toward their communities.



Congratulations to the finalists! The winner of this category will be announced at the GoAbroad invitation-only reception during the upcoming NAFSA: Association of International Educators Annual Conference and will be posted to the GoAbroad blog and the GoAbroad Innovation Awards page. Other category finalists are also being announced this week. Stay tuned for more updates!

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