Alumni Karen Isaac had just retired from 30 years of teaching elementary school when she saw “the most amazing photos” of Global Volunteers in St. Lucia posted on Facebook by her friend Gila Cohen-Shaw. A Global Volunteers alumna, Gila has advised other volunteers to “crowdsource” their service program. What has followed is a heart-centered commitment to return – time and again – with the help of friends and family members, who share Karen’s inspiration.


You’ve raised funds for all of your service programs. How have your donors supported you?

Honestly, I felt unsure about fundraising for my first trip to St. Lucia in 2017. Would it appear cheap? Through the generosity of family and friends, I met my goal to finance the trip. I felt embarrassed about fundraising to go back to serve in St. Lucia in 2018. Would it appear greedy? Through the generosity of family and friends, I met my goal to finance that trip. I felt awkward about fundraising for my third trip in 2019 to St. Lucia. Would it appear cheap and greedy and self-serving? For that reason, I decided to fully fund that program myself. Fast forward to the months leading up to that program. It shocked me that so many family and friends asked about when they could donate to my trip. I’ve decided that for my fourth trip to St. Lucia in February 2020, I’ll once again fundraise. I’ve come to realize that as I am committed to the children and community of Anse LaRaye, so too are my generous donors. Through me, my donors are fulfilling their need to serve a purpose greater than themselves. Here’s to fundraising!

“Through me, my donors are fulfilling their need to serve a purpose greater than themselves. Here’s to fundraising!”

Karen (left front) with her team of Global Volunteers serving in St. Lucia.

What has the experience of providing a needed service meant to you?

My purpose in volunteering is to do the work I’m asked to do. Of course, St. Lucia is a beautiful country and I’ve seen so many beautiful sites, but that’s the bonus, and not my primary motivation. My goals are different from when I travel for pleasure. I immediately fell in love with the children of Anse La Raye, St. Lucia and decided within two days of coming home in 2017 that I would be returning the following year. The children are beautiful, and resilient, and funny and fun. They bring out the brightest and best part of me. So loving this feeling that they elicit, makes volunteering for me a somewhat selfish act. Not surprisingly and because of this, February 2020 will be my fourth year returning to St. Lucia with Global Volunteers.

“My purpose in volunteering is to do the work I’m asked to do. Of course, St. Lucia is a beautiful country and I’ve seen so many beautiful sites, but that’s the bonus, and not my primary motivation.”

Providing extra assistance: Karen, a retired math teacher, said she’s motivated to “go wherever she’s assigned.”

How have you contributed to the community service projects?

My primary service assignments have been at both the primary school grades 3-6 and the Infant School grades K-2, where I help them with reading, math and other subjects. I go where ever I am assigned. This past year, walking through the village on the first day, one of the local children came up to me and said, “Miss, you said you would come back. And you did.” That was it. I just melted. So my commitment is solidified. It is a commitment to that child and all of the children and community members I meet. The message is: “You are important enough to me that I remember you, care about your well-being and I will return to partner with you in service to your community.” For me, volunteering in St. Lucia is an act of service. And in doing acts of life, I live my best life.

“These children are beautiful, and resilient, and funny and fun. They bring out the brightest and best part of me.”

What have you learned by returning to the same community year after year?

This year, I found myself having greater communication with more adults in Anse La Raye and Marigot (where we are lodged) than I had in the past. Working in the community for the past three years enabled me to feel more comfortable pursuing a greater degree of familiarity, conversations and friendships. I can’t wait to return to see all of my friends at JJ’s and in town. 

“Working in the community for the past three years enabled me to feel more comfortable pursuing a greater degree of familiarity, conversations and friendships.”

Karen encourages her littlest students at Kids’ Step Early Learning Center in Anse la Raye.

“For me, volunteering in St. Lucia is an act of service. And in doing these acts, I live my best life.”


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