This year I spent 3 months living and working in Peru, and loved every minute of it. The country is naturally beautiful, culturally rich, and has one of the best cuisines in the world.
But it is a developing country, with millions still without access to running water and electricity, and they need help from volunteers from around the world to help make this country a great place for all to live and visit.
A close friend of mine, Andreas Vailakis from California, is determined to do something about it. He came to me many times to pick my brain on setting up and marketing a volunteering business, and I am very proud that Andreas has now launched Beyond Volunteering.
So I asked Andreas to tell us all about his great new organisation.
What is Beyond Volunteering all about?
Beyond Volunteering is a service that connects volunteers with organizations in Peru (and vice versa).
Essentially we are trying to become the one-stop-shop for volunteers in Peru, providing a variety of services that accommodate volunteers and visitors of Peru interested in social development and learning more about the country and its culture while supporting leading causes.
We work on two levels, that of the volunteer and of the organizations.
For volunteers (and general public) our goal is to connect them with social innovation and elite organizations in Peru to learn from others, contribute their knowledge and perspectives, and travel by experiencing the country and culture.
We manage the volunteer process to ensure people are well matched according to their skills, strengths, and interests and that it is smoothly run to ensure a successful program.
By providing a wide variety of services to these volunteers – complete orientation packet, preparatory information, contact 24/7 (for emergencies or advice), a temporary Peruvian cell phone, tour and travel services, housing assistance, Spanish courses, social engagement seminars and workshops, social tourism visits to projects, and so on – we strive to make people’s experience in Peru and with organizations the best it can be.
On another level, we work closely with our volunteer organizations – there are over 10 amazing and diverse organizations in 6 distinct regions of Peru that we currently work with.
For them we are providing a service of administration of volunteers by finding, filtering, and preparing them. Also we provide these organizations more exposure to geographical regions and groups of people that they normally haven’t approached, or don’t have the resources to (such universities and high schools, church groups, businesses, the United States, Europe, etc.).
We promote these organizations by publishing diverse articles about them – through our website, online publications, and newsletters, and reaching out to a variety of organizations and groups worldwide.
With our organizations we are also developing other unique opportunities for visitors (volunteers and general public) to become involved, learn, and support these organizations through Social Engagement Seminars and Workshops and Social Tourism Visits to the Projects.
How did Beyond Volunteering get started?
The three of us came together with similar interests to promote Peru among foreigners and support the social organizations and causes in the country.
LivinginPeru.com, an online publication about Peru who has the vast network and outreach in Peru, came together with Ashoka, an international NGO with a network of leading “social entrepreneurs” and an invaluable group of amazing projects in Peru, with a project to get more volunteers to these organizations.
They needed someone to spearhead and run this initiative. With my extensive experience of bringing university groups to South America and first-hand knowledge of these organizations, I was a perfect fit. And thus Beyond Volunteering was born.
Where did the name “Beyond Volunteering” come from?
The name exemplifies exactly what Beyond Volunteering stands for. Our name represents the notion that the experiences volunteers have are more than just the act of volunteering.
Through a well-run volunteer process, significant change and good can occur on social, cultural, personal and global levels through these experiences and matching of volunteers with organizations.
For both the volunteers and the organizations this process can create significant support and life-changing experiences.
It also represents that we are not just volunteer placement, but also a one-stop shop for volunteers in Peru.
Our goal is to be the ultimate resource and support for volunteers in Peru, providing all the necessary support, services, and information for volunteers to make the most of their experience in Peru and with the organizations.
What does the Beyond Volunteering logo represent?
The logo was an evolution of many concepts and has become a fusion of these. The logo is a bird in flight over a horizon. The bird represents the movement and transition to a new culture – the journey that volunteering and travel embody.
The horizon symbolizes crossing a new frontier and bridging cultures. Volunteering is just that: a bridge that unifies different cultures, and different people.
It is a way to bring people of different perspectives together for a unified cause and to learn and share from each other.
Who is your main target market?
Currently our main target market is focused on the academic community of the United States (primarily universities). We also intend on reaching out to those in Europe and Peru.
We want to bring both students (as groups, individuals studying abroad, or those on ‘gap year’ or looking for something else after finishing studies) and professors (on sabbatical, during summer, on grants, or interested in professional exchanges).
The academic community is a great way to bring people of a specific background, interest, and experience towards a topic that can support an organization’s needs.
We also want to reach out to professionals (those retired or in between jobs) who are interested in using their invaluable skills and experience to help these organizations where this skill-set would be a tremendous amount of support.
Our services and organizations can accommodate those of all ages and backgrounds, including accommodations for family members.
For those residing in Peru looking to volunteer on a part-time basis, we also offer plenty of opportunities for them for projects that are based in Lima (or other areas).
Many times a lot of these organizations need support on a part-time (as little as once a week) from specialized and professionals.
I get asked this question a lot these days. I’m originally from California and my mother is from Ecuador and my father from Greece – indeed, it’s a valid question.
Peru is the place to be right now, as corny as that sounds. In terms of the social and development world there is a wealth of amazing and innovative projects throughout Peru.
Tourism is booming here and the economy is on the rise. During my collective year here in Peru I have witnessed mainly positive changes in economic growth, tourism, and cultural strength.
Peru is quickly becoming more noticed in the world (in a positive way) and a lot of foreign investors are turning to Peru.
Culturally, Peru is also a spectacular place. The people and culture here is extremely open and welcoming and the locals are tremendously nice. There are tons of amazing things to see, places to visit, dishes to taste, and events to experience.
There is so much here, that I always find myself finding completely new places to visit and such unique events around every corner.
Race along the Amazon on a homemade balsa raft, rock climb world class mountains, stroll the beaches where Hemmingway drank Pisco sours and fished Marlin daily…there is just so much!
In terms of Beyond Volunteering, we all came together with the right blend of resources and passion for Peru.
Personally for me, Peru is a great spot for travelers with the right mix of comforts and South American adventure. I think it’s the perfect spot to open people’s minds culturally while making a difference.
Not to mention the food in Peru is out of this world!
How is Beyond Volunteering different from other volunteer organisations?
We are certainly not the only ones out there. If you search ‘volunteer abroad’ you’ll get a lot of results, perhaps too many.
There are several things that set us apart from the rest, but mainly we do Peru, and we do it right.
Where many only have a couple projects in Peru, we have over 10 in 6 distinct regions of the country. Our projects basically have something for everyone and offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities, prices, and types of locations where they are located.
We have projects along the coast, in the highlands, in rural communities, in large cities, in the Sacred Valley and much more.
And this is just the beginning, as Peru has so many unique and incredible projects and organizations throughout the country.
Being based in Peru and a passion for sharing the country allows us to give visitors the complete package to suit their individual, or group’s, needs.
Visitors with us leave with the complete Peru experience with a safe and reliable service.
This reliability, versatility, and ability to offer what Peru has to offer – along with our organizations that are doing such tremendous things – really makes us special.
How will you be marketing Beyond Volunteering?
Our marketing is mainly focused on people in the United States, Peru, and Europe.
We’re mainly targeting universities, primarily in the United States, to start. I’m getting our name out to academic communities and associations throughout the States.
We will also reach out to LivinginPeru.com’s large readership that is mainly based in Peru and the U.S.
Our name is starting to appear on several volunteer databases online. We will also focus on online publications and magazines, getting our name out through unique articles and promoting the amazing work our organizations are doing on a regular basis.
How will Beyond Volunteering be using social media?
These days, social media is such a powerful tool that cannot be ignored.
For Beyond Volunteering, social media is great to keep people up-to-date on all the volunteer opportunities, events that are going on with the organizations (whether it be fundraising, volunteer campaigns, etc.), and to follow current volunteers.
There is so much going on and so much to tell people about Peru and our organizations that just doesn’t fit on one website, social media is a great outlet to reach out to people and keep them informed.