Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Volunteer in Mexico: give back and discover a new culture!

Volunteer in Mexico: give back and discover a new culture!Name of Social Enterprise and URL?
Voluntrek
www.voluntrek.com.mx

What is your product or service?
Voluntrek offers Volunteer Programs in Mexico. We provide and support our volunteers with everything they need to volunteer in Mexico and have the adventure they are looking for.

Voluntrek allows you to work with underprivileged children, build a house for a family in need or train for disaster relief, at the same time you explore and discover Mexico. You can volunteer abroad from 1 week to 6 months, depending on the kind of program you choose.

It is a great way to give back, experience a new country and its culture, meet new people, develop new abilities and have fun! Besides, volunteers have peace of mind knowing that even though they will be in a foreign country, they will have the support of a local organization to help with everything they might need before and during their stay in Mexico.

Volunteers pay a fee which covers:
• Placement at a reputable non-profit organization
• Accommodation
• Meals
• Airport pick-up
• Tours
• 24/7 support
• Arrival and pre-departure information
• Pre-departure information kit
• Spanish Lessons
• Health and Travel Insurance

You can choose the services you would like to hire with Voluntrek to customize the final fee you would like to pay according to your needs and budget.

Volunteers can make a difference by participating in any of the following Volunteer Programs:

Summer Programs
• Train to Volunteer in Natural Disasters
• Build a Home for a Family in Need
• Teach Plastic Arts, Music or Theatre to Underprivileged Children
• Boy/Girl Scout Patrol Leader for Underprivileged Children

Year Round Programs
• Work with Children Teaching English
• Teach Physical Education to Underprivileged Children
• Teach Workshops to Underprivileged Children: Graphic Design, Chemistry, Marketing, Carpentering, among others.

Voluntrek seeks to provide our partner organizations with volunteers that cover the required profile and that will really be able to help them and make a difference, that is why all of our volunteers should answer two short abilities tests online. There are many organizations around the world placing volunteers without taking into consideration their abilities or character traits, and in the end, the partner organization is not benefited as it should, since the volunteer did not cover the required profile for that kind of work.

Who is the person? What is there background?
My name is Yvonne Nader and I have always been interested in helping others. I worked at different companies in Mexico City such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Canon and Tycoon, learning something new from each of the different areas in which I worked (Marketing, Public Relations and Special Events, Procurement and Latin America Coordination).
I loved each of my jobs, but I was always looking for a way to help others and give back, until one day I realized what I really wanted was to do something in which I could help full time. I volunteered for 6 weeks, but I could not be a full time volunteer forever…and that´s when it all started!

What came about that made them help in social change? Why was this social venture created?
I have always loved to give back and make a difference. In 2006 I decided to volunteer in my own country, but wanted to do so in a different city or town, since I lived in Mexico City and was hoping to volunteer at a smaller and relaxing place.
I searched Volunteer Organizations that could offer a complete Program in Mexico, but was not very successful. Therefore, I decided to look for a volunteer placement and accommodation on my own. Even though I had lived all my life in Mexico and knew where to look and who to contact, it was not such an easy task. In the end I succeeded and volunteered 6 weeks in the Yucatan Peninsula teaching underprivileged children.
It was a life changing experience to work with children from low income families, and I also got to explore another part of Mexico: beautiful beaches, archaeological sites, cavern-cenote diving, Hanal Pixan (Day of the Death Mayan celebration), colonial cities and Magical Towns.
When I went back to Mexico City, I realized it would be an incredible opportunity for people around the world to experience what I had just lived. It had not been so easy for me to organize it on my own, and thought it would be even more difficult for someone from abroad to organize everything without knowing the culture, language and country.
Wanting to share this experience with people from other countries, I decided to start Voluntrek, helping others volunteer in Mexico so they do not have to worry about anything but making a difference!

Could others help you and how?
Yes, you can! We need to spread the word!

We want people from all over the world to give back by participating in our Volunteer Programs at the same time they discover Mexico. The cost of launching a worldwide campaign is very high, and we strive to keep our expenses low in order to be able to offer affordable costs to our volunteers. So, taking advantage of social media, this is what you can do to help:
1. “Like” our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/voluntrek.
2. Share our Facebook page with your contacts.
3. Follow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/voluntrek.
4. Tweet or post our website www.voluntrek.com.mx on your wall.
5. Enter our Facebook page, look for the pictures announcing our New Voluntrek Programs and share it with your contacts.
6. Contact us with your university or employer to discuss ways in which they could offer these volunteer opportunities.
7. Contact us with your local travel agency so they can offer our Volunteer Programs to their clients.
8. We are also open to suggestions on how to spread the word in each country, so if you think you could help in any other ways in your country please let us know at [email protected], we will be happy to speak with you.

Volunteer in Mexico: give back and discover a new culture!What free online or offline tools do you use?
Facebook and Twitter are great to reach people around the world at no cost.
We also use amazing free volunteer sites such as Idealist, Volunteeringinfo, Causas and ONGinfo.

Do you tweet, facebook fan page, myspace friend or use any other social media to get the word out? (Please provide links)
Of course! Especially considering we want to reach people from all over the world and we are based in Mexico. Social media is a great way to get the word out to people from other countries, without spending large amounts of money on an advertising campaign in each country.
We mostly use Facebook and Twitter:
• Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/voluntrek
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/voluntrek

What is the one thing that you did right?
A market survey before launching Voluntrek. It was extremely helpful to know what was in the mind of our potential volunteers when creating our image, logo, website, advertising material, pricing and Volunteer Programs. We were able to create something that would appeal to them, instead of creating something that would appeal to those of us working on the project. We have received great comments regarding our image and website, and we are being contacted by the kind of volunteers we were looking for!

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?
Sell! I had always been terrified to sell. Whenever I went to a job interview and they mentioned the job position required any kind of selling, I would immediately back off. I did not like to sell and I did not like to offer any kind of product or service to others.

But when I was starting Voluntrek, I did not have a sales team that could do it for me, so I had to learn and do it on my own, and I had to offer my service to non-profit organizations, in order to partner with them and put together each Volunteer Program.

I remember being very nervous when I had my first appointment, but when I saw the great response the project had with the first non-profit organization I visited, I started to gain confidence and forgot about my fears. Selling was not as bad as I thought, and now I actually enjoy it!

What can you tell other potential social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?
Go for it! Most jobs require you to work long hours, the difference between a regular job and being a social entrepreneur is the satisfaction of knowing that those long hours of work are actually making someone´s life better, and besides, they are being invested into something that´s actually yours, and that you can pass on to your children eventually.

Volunteer in Mexico: give back and discover a new culture!What book(s) have you read that others should read?
• Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin: it´s an amazing real life story where you can see how Greg Mortenson created a successful non-profit organization to help Central Asia out of his failed attempt to climb K2. It actually motivates you to go on no matter what obstacles you are facing, just as he did. Whenever I am not getting the support or answer I want, I keep going, and I remember he had to send around 50 letters requesting funds to build the school he had promised to the inhabitants of a village in Pakistan and only received one answer; but that one answer changed his life and the lives of thousands of people in Central Asia.
• Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki: if you are having second thoughts about becoming and entrepreneur you should really read this book. It will break your paradigms and give you a totally new business and finance perspective. You will greatly appreciate it!

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