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After this initial volunteer experience, I was hooked. There is no better way to visit a country, meet the locals, and make a positive impact. Fast forward another few years and my girlfriend, Cortney, and I were in South East Asia looking for the same experience. Luckily, we found Trailblazer.
What did you like the most about the experience?
We loved meeting local people and understanding their culture. Getting to know the families, and being a part of their daily lives, really put everything we do into perspective. I know that is cliché, but it truly changes the way you experience your world.
Trailblazer in particular, proved the importance of the interaction between an organization and the people they are serving. The communities were so involved that it made the work that much easier and fulfilling. Seeing the direct impact to each family, in only a few days, was beyond our expectations.
Additionally, we experienced some amazing things that would not be accessible to most casual tourists. Catching fish in a rice canal and eating ant salsa with cucumber chips are not your average happy hour events.
Where do you live?
We’re originally from the Lone Star State (Texas), but we currently live in beautiful San Francisco, California.
Did your volunteer experience impact the work you do now? How?
We both work in advertising and design, which seems worlds away from installing water filters in Cambodia, but there are some very key parallels. Volunteering for organizations like Trailblazer, teaches you how to fully utilize your creativity and ingenuity. Things often don’t go as planned, and improvising on the fly is a valuable skill.
Also, I don’t take modern conveniences for granted; running water, the internet, and of course, delicious burritos.
The support that volunteers like Nick and Cortney provide Trailblazer Foundation is beyond our expectations too. While we count on volunteers, we cannot expect their help – simply because they are just that, volunteers. So, we thank you, Nick and Cortney, for your time and commitment to Trailblazer. It means the world to us.
A Volunteer Spotlight
Recently, Trailblazer’s Executive Director, Chris Coates, talked with Nick Munro, a volunteer who worked with our staff in Cambodia, about his experience. Here is that conversation:
What inspired you to volunteer with Trailblazer?
When I was in my early twenties and working at my first job, I got a bit restless and realized it might be a good time to see the world. Serendipity struck, and a college buddy asked if I would help him raise money to start a non-profit in South America. Three months later I quit my job, and was digging latrines in the remote mountains of Peru.
Something from our present long-term volunteer is coming soon.....
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Trailblazer Foundation is one of those “big bang for the buck” organizations, where we deliberately work to keep our administrative and fundraising costs down. This allows us to put more money into our program work, in the rural communities of Cambodia's Siem Reap province.
We can accomplish all we do with a small paid staff, in part, because of the support we receive from volunteers who offer 2-10 hours a week of work from their home, for an extended period of time (preferably two months or more). Typically, our longer-term volunteers are mid-career, semi retired, or retired professionals who are looking for an avocation to complement their vocation or retirement.
These people help us with some aspect(s) of our operations, administration, fundraising, and/or finances, and typically work with one of our U.S. based staff. Our longer-term volunteers are a great benefit to us, because we can find a way to leverage their professional expertise and skill.
For instance, we presently have a long term volunteer (see side bar to the right) who is a librarian by trade, and a photographer by passion. Given her skills, we have asked her to help us research potential funding sources, edit our various communications documents, and improve our photo library.
If you have time to offer, and might want to support us part time on a longer term basis, please contact our co-founder and executive director, Chris Coats: email@example.com.