Volunteer Team Leader Barbara Morris has led 11 Global Volunteers teams since 2015. Her first service program as a volunteer was in 2008 in Ecuador. Since then, she’s served on seven additional service programs as a team member: in Vietnam, West Virginia (twice), Peru, Montana, India, and Tanzania. She’s led in Montana and Cuba three times, South Dakota and Vietnam twice, and Ecuador. Barbara is a geriatrician at a community health center in Golden, Colorado and a member of Global Volunteers’ Board of Directors and RCP Advisory Committee. She shares a bit of her experience with Global Volunteers here.
What motivated you to serve with Global Volunteers and then become a team leader?
My first service program was in Ecuador with my husband, Phil Zeitler, in 2008. At that time, we were a team of two, which was a surprise to us. It was a medical team, and we saw hundreds of kids during that week in Quito. We were hooked on Global Volunteers’ Philosophy of Service, and in 2010, we convinced our friends to join us serving on a Hanoi program. We were lucky enough to serve during the 1,000th year anniversary of the city, and the celebrations were nonstop. During that service program, we were teaching English and not doing any medical work. We had a fantastic team and team leader.
It was on that trip that I met Keith Kresge and Tim Cunniff. We became fast – and now lifelong – friends. During an evening conversation part way through the team, someone said, “Barbara, maybe you should be a team leader!” The team leader said, “Think about it, but read about it first and then let me know what you think.” When I read about the responsibilities of team leading, I admittedly was a bit intimidated!
The trip finished up and was life-changing in more ways than I can catalog. Returning home, I applied to become a volunteer team leader, and soon was scheduled for my first team leader training. I suppose the rest is “history.” My first teams were domestic: West Virginia, Crow Agency, and the Blackfeet Reservation. Then I moved on to Cuba, and Vietnam and Ecuador.
What do you enjoy about leading teams for Global Volunteers?
I love leading teams…and there are many reasons why: primarily, I believe deeply in the philosophy of service and have been able to harness my passion for service to enable volunteers to achieve their individual and group goals. The Global Volunteers’ model of teamwork is a marvel and every time I see a team get together and form an effective, fun, and efficient team, it gives me great joy and gratification. I love having new and veteran volunteers on my teams, and I enjoy helping the team get established and achieve its goals while developing strong and enduring local relationship. And I don’t mind hard work! I have had the best of many worlds: working with our fantastic volunteers as well as developing ongoing relationships with our host organizations and staff. It hasn’t always been easy — there have been both people and logistical challenges, but we have overcome those and all learned a lot in the process.
“I believe deeply in the philosophy of service and have been able to harness my passion for service to enable teams to achieve their individual and group goals. The Global Volunteers’ model of teamwork is a marvel and every time I see a team get together and form an effective, fun, and efficient team, it gives me great joy and gratification.”– Barbara Morris, Team Leader
Why do you recommend a Global Volunteers service program?
It’s the Global Volunteers Philosophy of Service that is at the heart of my recommendations. I have a deep commitment to making sure that local people are leading the way, that we can serve and at the same time learn from them, and make meaningful and long-lasting relationships.
What is your favorite place to serve and lead teams? If you can pick just one, of course.
That’s hard… Right now, I am very committed to Cuba and South Dakota, but would love to return to Ecuador and Vietnam as well.
“I have a deep commitment to making sure that local people are leading the way, that we can serve and at the same time learn from them, and make meaningful and long-lasting relationships.”– Barbara Morris, Team Leader
What is one of your best experiences in service?
What stands out most is that I have served with so many wonderful and devoted volunteers; many of them have joined me on more than one program and that is both comforting and exciting. Seeing veteran volunteers welcome and integrate new volunteers is a wonderful thing.
What can you say to people who are thinking about joining a service program for the first time?
Just do it. You won’t regret it and it will change your life.
Barbara lives with her husband and golden retriever. Her daughter is a preschool teacher in Denver and her son is a kidney doctor in North Carolina. She has three grandsons – twins (age 6) and their younger brother (19 months).
Barbara also volunteers for several local organizations in Denver, providing care at a local shelter for victims of intimate partner violence. In her free time, she says she and her husband love to hike, ski, snowshoe, and explore places near and far.
Check out these stories on other team leaders in Greece, Nepal, and Peru: