Coffee Shop HR World Cafe III: Meaningful Volunteer

I always find it inspirational to hear about people who carry out their greatest dreams, succeeding beyond their greatest expectations.  When Megin first told me that she was working to register a non-profit organization, I was excited, but skeptical.  How much good could she and Malcolm do in the Philippines from here in Canada?  But as time passed, I witnessed their small organization grow by leaps and bounds, and it’s been lovely to see.

Meaningful Volunteer is a non-profit organization that organizes volunteer opportunities in Nepal, Uganda and the Philippines.  By connecting with an organization such as this one, you can do some good in the world, explore a new space, and really connect with locals as you live and work with them.  Through Meaningful Volunteer, you can help build a solar powered school, teach English and computer literacy, spread awareness about family planning, and take on many other initiatives through the organization.

Megin Alvarez and Malcolm Trevena

Megin and Malcolm were kind enough to answer some questions for me, allowing you to get a better idea of Meaningful Volunteer, and what it means to them:

Interview with Megin Alvarez:

1. Can you tell me what motivated you to create Meaningful Volunteer?

My parents were always involved with project in the Philippines to help family members and as I grew older only then did I realized that their involvement was not far from international development without the language barrier. Salt farm, fish farm, vegetable farming, bakery, tricycle investments, Jeepnee investments, Sari-Sari Store investments (equivalent to our dollar store or 7/11 corner store), sponsorship of relatives continuing with their education and many more other projects.

Meaningful Volunteer just took it on an international level entering Africa and now Nepal. My parents have a favourite saying “teach a man to fish…”

Well to me that’s sustainable living and that not just for my family but I believe that is how international developmental should run and at Meaningful Volunteer that is what we strive for. At Meaningful Volunteer we look for sustainable projects that are worthwhile.

2. What is it about Meaningful Volunteer that brings you joy?

I am really thankful that my parent decided to take me to Canada as a small child to give me a better future. Canada has provided my family and I with just that but I have to tell you, as a teenager and as a young adult I did not always appreciate what I had and became a very rebellious and took a lot of things for granted. My parents continued to instill lessons of kindness and humility through their actions and this brought them joy and happiness. Helping others brought them joy. For me, it’s that simple – helping others brings me joy. Meaningful Volunteer gives me an avenue to bring others joy and happiness by achieving their goals and independence. There are some things that money can’t really buy.

3. How has your experience working with this organization made you happier than working at other places?

Meaningful Volunteer gives me an opportunity to make mistakes. I feel fearless and therefore I take more risks with projects. With that said, the projects have been successful. I couldn’t do that with other organization, I would be too scared to disappointing so many people. I am still accountable but in my mind, I am accountable mostly to myself and my beliefs.

4. What have your greatest successes been?

Same with Malcolm, seeing others (women) come up with an ideas, supporting them and seeing them succeed! Women in Uganda and girls graduating in the Philippines.

5. Looking to the future, what is your long-term outlook for Meaningful Volunteer, and what is your greatest hope for the organization?

Long term goal – continue to inspire people
continue to support change
continue to make meaningful connections.
if that means internationally or locally. I just always want to be involved in something that brings meaning in my life

Interview with Malcolm Trevena:

1. Can you tell me what motivated you to create Meaningful Volunteer?

Here are some my thoughts on why I set up in the first place:
http://www.crazymalc.co.nz/2007/Aug/06Aug/06Aug.htm

It was basically because I saw a lot of things wrong with how volunteering was happening around the world, detailed thoughts of which can be found here:
http://www.crazymalc.co.nz/06Sep/04Sep/04Sep.htm

2. What is it about Meaningful Volunteer that brings you joy?

When we have to do nothing! We are all for the empowerment of women. Our district managers around the world are all female. (http://www.meaningfulvolunteer.org/volunteer/staff/staff_all.aspx)

What brings me the greatest joy is when one of our staff has an idea and runs with it. Female human rights are often abysmal in the countries we work in, so when one of our female staff has the confidence to start a project on our own, it brings me great joy.

Our school in Uganda – for example – has had many additions which we have had very little to do with. Things like a rain-fed water system, a children’s playground, a livestock pen and so on.

Here are some links for the additons:
http://www.meaningfulvolunteer.org/volunteer/newsitem.aspx?ID=241
http://www.meaningfulvolunteer.org/volunteer/newsitem.aspx?ID=235
http://www.meaningfulvolunteer.org/volunteer/newsitem.aspx?ID=252

3. How has your experience working with this organization made you happier than working at other places?

I work for Meaningful Volunteer and take care of foster children at home, so it is hard to think of “working at other places”.
I don’t think working with Meaningful Volunteer has made me happier. Maybe “content” is a better word. It does feel good to complete a big project in another country.

In a weird sort of way it makes me angrier. Angrier at the injustices around the world. Angrier at the greed of people make it worse (Ten fat pigs at a nine pig trough).

4. What have your greatest successes been?

The school in Uganda. Our wonderful staff.

5. Looking to the future, what is your long-term outlook for Meaningful Volunteer, and what is your greatest hope for the organizations?

We have evolved more into a school building organization. We have plans to construct a school in Nepal later this year. Then perhaps onto Ecuador. Exciting times!

Our greatest hope is that the schools become self-sustaining and our wonderful staff run with the projects on their own.

MeaningfulVolunteer.com: Crazymalc’s wild life-changing idea
www.crazymalc.co.nz
Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it. The Secret of Happiness according to Daniel Dennett

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