Community Partner since 1995.

volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff started volunteering abroad after a personal loss. His journey of healing lead him to a new journey – as a Team Leader for Global Volunteers. This is Jeff’s story – about how volunteering abroad comforts the soul. 

Jeff admits his story is deeply personal. When he lost his wife to breast cancer, he also lost his sense of direction. Depression filled the void and he knew he had to regain his life’s purpose.  But how?  His compassionate employer recommended a sabbatical. But, Jeff knew that sitting around a pool wouldn’t give him the centering focus he needed.  He sought something more meaningful. So he started looking for an organization that would give him the opportunity to volunteer and work oversees.  He quickly found Global Volunteers online and selected a program teaching conversational English in Italy.  He surrendered himself to the experience, to the challenge, the culture and the gratitude of his students.  In this small southern Italian town, he felt the comfort his soul longed for.

“The experience was everything I had hoped for: rewarding, fulfilling…”

Fifteen years later Jeff yearned to recapture this feeling of optimism and possibility as a volunteer. Knowing Global Volunteers would enable him to keep doing this fulfilling and rewarding work, stay active and travel, he made a call to the organization immediately after he retired.  He was fully committed to throw himself into service programs worldwide. Becoming a volunteer team leader and helping other volunteers to experience the life-transforming experience he had was a strong motivation.  Jeff trained to become a Team Leader and has since led volunteer teams in Italy, Cuba, and Montana, and very soon – Vietnam.  He says he looks forward to every new journey with the same enthusiasm and hope as his first service program.

volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff volunteering with Italian students.

Why Global Volunteers?

Jeff chose Global Volunteers because it allows volunteers to serve abroad for a short period of time (1 to 3 weeks) and not having to commit for many months like other organizations. At the same time, Global Volunteers sends volunteers consistently, so it is not about what one volunteer can accomplish in a couple of weeks, but about the long chain of support volunteer teams provide to the host communities.

What do volunteers gain from a service program abroad?

Volunteers give up a lot, Jeff says: time with their families, time at work, time from regular vacations. But they gain a lot: friendships that they will never loose and the understanding that they have contributed to something of value to struggling communities in developing nations.

volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff with a group of students in Italy.

Imagine all the people

Back in March Jeff was leading a team of 14 women in Cuba. When a local band started playing John Lennon’s Imagine, he realized his team was living just that:

“Living life in peace, sharing all the world, living as one.”

This was what Global Volunteer has been all about: Waging peace and promoting justice in the world.

You are special to me

That same team got to witness something special. On International Women’s day, people in Cuba would go out from their houses and hand flowers to the volunteers as they walked by. When the team arrived at the community garden where they were serving, one of the workers, Adriano, gave roses to the volunteers.

“He spoke a different language, but everyone knew what this meant: “You are special to me, you are important to me.”

Volunteering Abroad Comforts the Soul

A volunteer receives a flower from local Cuban worker.

Do you have what it takes?

Take a look at your skills, at the work you’ve done, and try to match up with the various projects Global Volunteers offers in 17 countries around the world. Your skills might fit a project most appropriately. Take advantage of that.

“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one”

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Each September, a dedicated group of Global Volunteers pack their bags to volunteer in Italy and help engaged students with their conversational English skills. Global Volunteers’ Italy Volunteer Team Leader, Phyllis Thompson, put together a list of things you can expect to experience when volunteering in Italy during fall. Let’s get started!

The students are excited for your arrival…

By September, Italian high school students are back in their desks and excited for volunteers to spend class time conversing in English. They love the time volunteers spend brightening their mornings with creative, engaging and meaningful lesson plans. You might team teach, work one-on-one, or conduct classes on your own – depending on your style and comfort level.

Plan to work around 3 – 5 hours in the morning (after a delicious breakfast at the hotel, of course). We get you to and from your placement each day, so no need to worry about that.

Volunteering in Italy - Teach English

Local community members are also excited!

Local adult community members await in the late afternoon for tutoring and sharing stories and customs. Each afternoon, volunteers spend time in small groups practicing conversational English for business and social occasions.

Something to note: Global Volunteers offers Italian language sessions during orientation and team meetings. These sessions benefit volunteers hoping to make deeper connections with the students and local people.

The charming town of Monopoli is waiting to be explored.

One of the best parts of volunteering in Italy is the abundance of things to see and experience in the charming city of Monopoli. Located on the Adriatic Sea, Monopoli’s views are unbeatable and make for great photo opps. And during the fall months, the city is less crowded… Just waiting to be explored. There are over 30 churches just in the centro storico (old town) – each having its own special beauty. From the smell of the baker’s bread in the morning to the fishermen bringing in their evening catches, the sites and smells truly enchant our Italy volunteers, forever.

Volunteering in Italy - Fishermen Boats

Wineries and fall food festivals are back in full operation.

By the time autumn rolls around, local harvests have come to fruition. Grapes are being picked, and wineries are in full operation. Many volunteers become olive oil connoisseurs, while tasting in local shops. And food favorites – such as zampina salsiccie (a spiral-shaped sausage) – are served at fall food festivals, along with mozzarella, good wine, cheeses, pastries, and homemade pastas and pizzas with french fries. Yum!

Lasting friendships are made.

Couples, retirees, students, working professionals, families, individuals and groups all join Global Volunteers service programs. So even if you travel to Italy solo, you won’t leave the program that way. Between bonding with your volunteer teammates and serving the students and local people, you’ll make lifelong friends on this journey.

Volunteering in Italy - Team Picture

There’s a world of enchanting culture and new perspectives and friends awaiting you in Monopoli. So what are you waiting for? Join the September team to Italy!

Teach English Abroad Summer in Europe

Give purpose to your summer! You can do this… So can your child, siblings, spouse or friends!

“I’m humbled by how well I was received, and how much I learned that I had to give.  It was a true exchange every day in the classroom – between the students and each one of us volunteers. Every day I felt appreciated, safe, and very much at peace.”

-Louise, Poland Global Volunteer

Teach English Abroad: Summer Camp Programs

Volunteers of all ages are warmly invited by our host partners in Greece, Italy, and Poland to help conduct summer conversational English language classes in camp-like settings for local students ages 8 to 18.

Anyone can be effective at teaching. No special licenses or teaching backgrounds are required. In fact, we prepare you every step of the way… just take a peek at our Conversational English Guide for ideas and insights on what the work assignment involves. And, because kids love to learn from others their own ages, these summer camp opportunities are excellent options for family volunteering.

Teach English Abroad Summer in Poland - Family Volunteering

As the international language of commerce, technology and opportunity, English is a passport out of poverty. It provides students a tool to engage with and learn about the world. It offers the chance to go on to higher education, get a more fulfilling and better paying job, and achieve ever greater success.

So, why not jump right in to share what you know with European students. Reserve your spot on a summer program before summer comes and goes!

Greece English Language Summer Camp

Teach English Abroad Summer in Greece

Since 1996, volunteers have worked in partnership with local people in Greece through Global Volunteers to provide opportunities to improve their English and expand educational opportunities for children. Minimum volunteer age for the English Summer Camp is 6.

Learn more about Teach English Abroad Summer

Italy English Language Summer Camp

Teach English Abroad Summer in Italy

Global Volunteers’ partnership in Italy started in 1995. Teach English as a student group, a couple, a family or an individual at English Summer Camps in Monopoli. Work in small groups to share your creativity and enthusiasm for the language. Minimum volunteer age for the English Summer Camp is 12.

Learn more about Teach English Abroad Summer

Poland English Language Summer Camp

Teach English Abroad Summer in Poland

As a volunteer in Poland, you work with the most engaging Polish youth you’ll ever meet! Practice English skills with elementary and middle school students through fun activities – such as skits, games, field trips and the like. Minimum age for the English Summer Camp is 6.

Learn more about Teach English Abroad Summer

Campers are already enrolled. Now, all they need is you! Register today! (Service program fees and all associated travel costs are 100% tax deductible for U.S. taxpayers.)

Volunteer in Italy

It’s understandable that many individuals choose to return to volunteer in Italy two, three, four, sometimes five times. This is the opportunity to teach conversational English to engaged middle school and high school students while enjoying the spell-binding Adriatic Sea coastlines and blue skies in Italy’s Puglia region. It’s magical, meaningful and memorable.

Here are just three of the many reasons why you should volunteer in Italy:

1. Meaningful Service and Connections

When you volunteer in Italy, you gain a perspective of the country that only a “non-tourist” can acquire. Because of the meaningful human connections provided through day-to-day service, you leave Italy with more than just souvenirs and photos. You and your volunteer teammates have the opportunity to experience the genuine acceptance that builds international understanding and mutual respect.

Teach English and volunteer in Italy

Volunteer work project in Italy: Teach conversational English to middle school and high school students through small group activities – games, songs, and other interactive lesson plans. You can team teach, work one-on-one, or lead classes on your own – depending on the request of the local teachers and your comfort level.

One thing is sure, these students are brilliant and truly crave the opportunity to learn American English from native speakers.

2. The Charming Town and Culture of Monopoli

Although the country of Italy is a popular tourist destination, Italy’s Puglia region is seldom visited by American tourists. Monopoli, a town of 50, 000 dating back to 500 BC, is filled with numerous natural, cultural and historic attractions waiting for you to explore. You find outdoor cafes, traditional bakeries, charming shops, and flea markets while making your way through the winding, narrow streets – sometimes running into your students and newly found friends.

It’s easy to see why people fall in love with Monopoli… Just take a look at these photos:

The last photo is of the Adriatic Sea. This view you enjoy daily while volunteering in Monopoli. In addition, you can’t beat the smell of the fresh sea air.

You can see more of Monopoli and volunteer work projects on our Italy Facebook Photo Album.

3. Food, Food, and More Food

Handmade pastries, breads, pizza and pastas. Seafood dishes. Gelato flavors galore! There is no denying that Italy’s distinctive cuisine is simply delicious. You enjoy authentic Southern Italian meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner – either at the hotel where volunteers stay or local restaurants.

Volunteer in Italy - Italian Pastries

Still not convinced?

Over a thousand Global Volunteers have served up to 10 times a year in Ostuni, Monopoli, Cisternino, Carovignio, Ceglie Messapica, Torre Santa Susanna, Martina Franca, Fasano, and Franca Villa Fontana throughout Puglia since 1995. Volunteers consistently report a high satisfaction rate and positive comments, like this one from Italy Global Volunteers Ed and Carolyn:

“It’s difficult to explain the wonderful feeling we have in Italy – making new friends, working as a team, interacting with students and staff, learning about the Italian culture, and enjoying the taste, smell, and sights of southern Italy.”

-Ed and Carolyn, Italy Global Volunteers

Learn more about how to Volunteer in Italy

work with teens and youth

Global Volunteers salutes Ken Dubuque, a Global Volunteer who works with teens and has shared peace and love every year since 2013 in Montana, the Cook Islands, Poland, and Italy. 

work with teen students worldwide

Ken working with some of his teen students in Puglia Italy classrooms.

Ken said he still finds much to talk about, teach and learn from his teen students.  He reflects on his recent experience in working with teens in Italy:

“This was my fourth program with Global Volunteers, and it’s hard to believe but each one has been better than the last. Working with teenagers at the high school summer session, as well as a wider age range of young students at the mission was a delightful two-way learning experience.  I’m always challenged by their creativity, energy and sense of humor.

Our team was led by the extraordinary Phyllis, Global Volunteers community manager. We had an interesting, flexible and fun volunteer group; thanks to all.  I look forward to my next adventure working with teen students next year in Portugal with Global Volunteers.

English is the language of commerce, technology and opportunity for youth – and as a native English speaker, working with teens, your volunteer skills are in demand. Our community partners are eager for teens students to learn American English (the language of the internet). No matter your background or skills, working with teens helps secure the future for eager students in these welcoming communities!

Because of committed volunteers like Ken, our partner communities count on Global Volunteers to work with teens and youth of all ages in classrooms and small groups  The primary projects are teaching conversational English.  To learn more about English teaching in Portugal, read on. 

A couple of weekends ago, there was an extraordinary Global Volunteers get-together in San Francisco – around 25 alumni and guests were in attendance. They gathered to support the magnificent and world renowned classical guitarist, Marco Carnicelli. Marco is one of the Italian adult students at the school Global Volunteers works at in Monopoli. In fact, many Italy volunteer alumni have worked on conversational English skills with him. Marco was in the Bay Area to perform at the BIASINI International Guitar Competition and Festival. And of course, we wanted to support him!

Here is an Instagram post from Elizabeth, one of the attendees, reflecting on the night. Elizabeth (pictured on the left) volunteered with her mother (pictured on the right) in Monopoli this past fall. (Marco is pictured in the center).

2016-01-27 16_37_31-Add New Post ‹ Global Volunteers — WordPress

In addition to Italy Global Volunteers, alumni from our China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Greece, India, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Tanzania, and Vietnam service programs also attended to support Marco. This was a very special evening for everyone! A big thanks to Phyllis Thompson, Global Volunteers’ Italy Volunteer Team Leader, who organized this entire event. You’re a rock-star, Phyllis!

More photos from the get-together (click on each photo to see the full-size version):

Teaching English in three countries

Marilyn has served in three different service programs. Here she speaks about the experience of teaching English in three countries. 

The eyes are equally expectant, although the faces are different. Silent, shy, and incredibly polite college freshman in Xian, China; raucous, rambunctious and never quiet high school seniors in Ostuni, Italy; and respectful, mature adults in a social service center in Siedelce, Poland: all wanting to improve their English language skills, and all looking to me to help. With the assistance of bi-lingual dictionaries, imagination, a sense of humor, black-boards and chalk, support from other team members, and Global Volunteers assurance that “yes, you can do it, ” I actually did it – in all three places. Teaching English in three countries was not easy, but it was a wonderful experience.

Nervousness escalated to anxiety on the day I learned my first teaching experience was to be four classes of Chinese college freshmen, fifty students in each class, and no Chinese teacher in the room with us. A day of orientation had not helped me prepare for the first day of class. I talked to other team members and prowled the resource room. I don’t know if it was intuition or desperation which made me choose Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat” to take to class that first day. I wrote the first paragraph on the board and read it. In unison, the class repeated it. I walked up and down the aisles, reading, showing pictures, correcting pronunciation as I asked hesitant, nervous students to read after me. Dr. Seuss was a hit! Their voices were soft, their demeanor restrained. Accustomed to rote repetition and speaking in unison, the challenge was to get them to speak English individually. I prefer not to call on students, so I had to teach them to volunteer: “Raise your hand; raise it high so I can see it.” Practice in hand raising (“Elbows above the ear!”) and even waving, became a daily exercise.

My China experience didn’t fully prepare me for 17 – 18 year old Italian High School Seniors I met on my next Global Volunteers adventure. They too rarely raised their hands: they just talked without asking! And talked! Sometimes to me, sometimes to their neighbor, sometimes to the student across the room. They reminded me of my own children and their friends. In Italy I learned that the participation by the host teacher as well as the age of the students and their existing English language skills varies between countries as well as within each country. I always asked to work with older students, but in Italy as well as China (and later in Poland) other team members delighted in the warmth and enthusiasm of younger children.

In the Ostuni high school, volunteers were asked to assist the classroom teachers, but not to plan the lessons. On a typical day I would discuss the United Nations, the War in Kosovo or American history with a group of 8 to 12 students. I corrected grammar and pronunciation, suggested idioms and vocabulary and answered their questions about the life of American teenagers.

Unemployed adults were my “audience” in Poland, where I was once again alone in the classroom. Although several of the 11 students in my two classes were in college or had college degrees, their English skills varied. The program in Siedelce is structured and based on many years of Global Volunteers participation in the community. There is a very well stocked library of teaching aids, and textbooks are adopted for each class. But teaching and learning are individual; I search for materials and methods which are effective for the needs of my students, but the methods chosen have to feel congenial to me. I decided the best use of my three weeks in Poland, as it had been in China, was to get the students to talk, talk, talk. Correct pronunciation, build simple sentences, make up conversations. Do it individually, do it in small groups, but do it out loud.

We read “Green Eggs and Ham” and “The Little Red Hen”; acted out shopping trips and employment interviews. I gave them children’s alphabet blocks and boggle cubes to make simple words; index cards with simple words to combine into sentences. I talked about American history and read an essay on peanut butter (try finding that in a small Polish-English dictionary). I rarely used the suggested text which assumed more knowledge of English grammar than I possess. My colleague teaching next door asked: “Why do your students laugh so much?” I have always found studying languages as dull as it is difficult, so I take every opportunity for humor. Whenever things get really dreary, I look up a word in my dictionary and try to pronounce it — always good for a laugh — in Poland as well as China!

Teaching English in three countries

Reymontowka in Poland.

Experiences beyond the classroom add to the richness of each global volunteers assignment. Weekday afternoons in Ostuni we wandered winding cobblestone streets so narrow that pedestrians flatten themselves against the walls so cars can pass. The newer sections of Ostuni are modern; Old Ostuni is the old Italy of picture books. In Poland, relaxing in rattan chairs on the back porch of a 19th century country manor house, we watched woodcarvers making giant statues to be donated to a local orphanage or listened to competition-winning young pianists. Poland’s Reymontowka — the House of Artistic Worth — hosts meetings, conferences, picnics and performances, as well as Global Volunteer teams. We heard the Siedelce City Chorus, and their military band; were enthralled by the Grandmothers and Granddaughters group singing traditional Polish songs, and by the energy, stamina and creativeness of young gymnasts.

But Xian, with its museums, temples, pagodas, lively street life, and modern shopping malls is special. Red and gold paper lanterns lighting streets lined with low tables and small stools where people are eating their evening meals; ponchos in bright red, green, yellow and purple covering hundreds of bicyclists waiting in the rain for a traffic light to change; markets with candy in garish gold and green wrappers, live fish swimming in pails of water, foot-long radishes and hundreds of varieties of greens, beans, seeds and spices; young people stopping me on the street asking to practice their English; a multi-course lunch (featuring a thousand dumplings!) with a student’s family in their home in a modern apartment complex.

Not knowing Chinese is not an obstacle to exploring and enjoying Xian. Global Volunteers provides a fail-safe Chinese-English list of key words and major sites. Body language, pointing, smiling, and the patience and good humor of the Chinese people take care of the rest. Trying to buy a pair of pants in a department store, when “mas grande” didn’t work I pointed to my more-than-ample hips; the clerk laughed and found a larger size. In a noodle shop without an English menu, I pointed to items being eaten by other patrons. Shaking the empty thermos told the hotel staff we needed more hot water; the motion which finally communicated more toilet paper need not be repeated.

Teaching English in three countries brought different experiences. Each was distinct and each was rewarding. But the lessons I learned in one country – about myself, about teaching, about interacting with students, about being part of a team – helped me in the other countries. Similarities outnumber differences. The host teachers – so happy to have you – are appreciative, warm and supportive, team members constantly help and praise each other, and the students love you. Teaching with Global Volunteers is a constant massage to the ego.

“I am a silent boy, ” wrote Kioung Junchoo on the last day of class in Xian. “I don’t answer the questions before, but you asked me. I was very surprised. When I answered you gave me courage, so I was very glad. Since then, I tried my best. I want to say to you ‘Thank you’. I will remember you forever. ”

I will remember him forever.

In Italy A Sunday Family Dinner Can Take All Afternoon


It Rivals Our Traditional Thanksgiving Day

So, yes every Sunday Can Be Thanksgiving Day In Italy!

Yes, every Sunday most Italians enjoy a multitude of courses that rival our traditional Thanksgiving feast. One must take time and savor the delicious food.  It truly is a delightful culinary experience.  Typically all activities cease and attention is given to the family and the meal. There are usually 10 special courses for the meal and time is taken to enjoy each offering – yes, even the coffee.  Let’s begin!

1. Aperitivo – an “apéritif” usually enjoyed as an appetizer before a large meal. It may be Campari, Cinzano, Prosecco, Aperol, Spritz, or Vermouth.

2. Antipasto – literally “before (the) meal”, consists of hot or cold appetizers.

3. Primo – the “first course” consisting of hot dish like pasta, risotto, gnocchi, or soup.

4. Secondo – “second course”, is the main dish, usually fish or meat. Traditionally veal, pork and chicken are most commonly used.

5. Contorno – “side dish”, may be a salad or cooked vegetables, served with the secondo.

6. Insalada – a fresh green salad

7. Formaggio e frutta – “cheese and fruits”, is the first dessert

8. Dolce – “sweet”, such as cakes (like Tiramisu) and cookies.

9. Caffe – strong coffee such as espresso, is often drunk very quickly in small cups at very high temperatures.

10. Digestivo – “digestives”, liquors/liqueurs such as grappa, amaro, limoncello, sambuca, or nocino.

amaro images


Sign Up For A Global Volunteers Italy Service Program For 2016


Enjoy Teaching Conversational English & Experience Italy’s Culinary Customs



Fond Farewells – Final Glimpses of Our Beautiful City of Monopoli.

Everything was happening for the last time – last class, last lunch, last time to shop, but more importantly the last time to feel the soul and spirit of Italy.  But, along with the sadness came the joy of knowing we made a difference. Yes, we touched the lives of the students and the local people and they touched our hearts and left us with unforgettable memories.

Yes, it was a stupendous day for all the volunteers.  Bud Philbrook, co founder & CEO of Global Volunteers was with  us and he also had a stupendous day.  First  came a visit to the Liceo and then on to a visit with the Monopoli mayor, Emilio Romani

Together with students and Liceo presidente, Martino Cazzorla, Mr. Philbrook met with city officials and presented the United States flag.  In turn, Mayor Romani presented Mr. Philbrook with a hand made red and blue boat, which is the symbol of Monopoli.

IMG_2682Following lunch with volunteers at an authentic Puglian restaurant, Osteria Perrucci and a terrific photo op, Mr. Philbrook met with president and founder of Solidarietà Missionaria  at  San Francesco da Paola church, where they discussed common interests of both organizations.

The eventful day culminated with a final celebration recognizing Global Volunteers 20 years of teaching conversational English in Italy.  There were congratulatory comments, good food, and “Dancing by Dan” with his rendition of the pizzica, the local Puglian folk dance.

The crowning glory of the evening was a musical performance by noted classical guitarist, Marco, who we are proud to claim as one of our adult students.IMG_2720


Join Us For Another Service Program In May 2016

IMG_2484Today started the usual way a real yearning to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep. But what would the Galileo Galilei students do without us or, more to the point, how could I think of missing a day and not see all those smiling eager faces? So, off to breakfast, our morning meeting and another day at school.IMGs_2405

The sleepy start morphed into a great day. Today we realized that our presence here was really meaningful to our students. One of our classes honored us by singing the Star Spangled Banner complete with a second verse that we never knew existed. The many student smart phone selfies and the emotional good byes sent a powerful message about our importance to our students.

IMG_2615The entrancing flutist solo given for our benefit by a pretty young student was memorable. Margaret’s wonderful violin accompaniment added another link to the chain that binds Global Volunteers with the students of Galileo Galilei.

Returning to Il Vecchio Mulino for a quick lunch and meeting, it saddened us to know that this was Team 187’s last group meeting. What a great team, what great people and so many new friends!!!

Teaching our final class at San Francesco da Paola was more of the same – student gifts, heartfelt thank yous and good byes resulting in some very moist eyes.

IMG_2648At dinner we were fortunate to dine with Bud Philbrook, the driving force behind Global Volunteers. Bud had our full attention as he described Global Volunteers projects around the world and the real difference its volunteers are making in many countries. Of particular interest was Global Volunteers work in St Lucia in the West Indies where volunteers are striving to overcome a legacy of poor nutrition and infectious diseases.

This great day finally drew to a close with a large slice of irresistibly good tiramisu.IMG_1788

Penned by Roger

Thought of the Day

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.

Shared by Jeanne (Gina)