Volunteer Team Leader Jeff Rogo has led 14 Global Volunteers teams since 2016. His first service program as a volunteer was in 2003 in Italy, where he served again in 2015. Since becoming a Volunteer Team Leader, Jeff has led in Cuba (four times), Montana (four times), Portugal (once), and Vietnam (five times). Before retirement, Jeff was a radio announcer and a government affairs director in Tampa. Jeff has dedicated time to service through Global Volunteers as a way to provide his retirement career with meaning, significance, and fulfillment. He shares a bit of his experience with Global Volunteers here.
What motivated you to start volunteering with Global Volunteers and then become a Volunteer Team Leader?
I participated in my first Global Volunteers service program in Ostuni, Italy in October, 2003. My wife had passed away of breast cancer the previous September. Karen was too young, only 53. We had been married only seven years. My employer granted me a very beneficial sabbatical. I resolved I was going to do more than just stay home and sit by the pool.
I read a book by Po Bronson entitled What Should I Do with My Life? Bronson’s book was focused on finding the right job and success. But, he also asked, “How can I find something that moves my heart?” He used words like “meaningful, significant, fulfilling”. Those words led me to Global Volunteers’ service programs.
In 2015, I invited my now-fiancé, Cathy Shockley, to join me on my second Global Volunteers service program. We taught English in Monopoli, Italy. Global Volunteers was marking twenty years of service in Italy’s Puglia region. Our organization’s co-founder, Bud Philbrook, came to Monopoli to mark the anniversary. Our Team Leader, Italy’s Volunteer Country Manager Phyllis Thompson, asked me if I would be interested in becoming a Volunteer Team Leader. She was a great model. Bud was on hand to answer my questions. And, I was getting ready to retire in 2016.
In my retirement, I had no intention of staying home or sitting by the pool. My service as a Global Volunteers Volunteer Team Leader has provided my retirement career with meaning, significance, and fulfillment. I try to lead at least three teams each year.
“My service as a Global Volunteers Volunteer Team Leader has provided my retirement career with meaning, significance, and fulfillment.”– Jeff Rogo, Volunteer Team Leader
What compels you to lead teams for Global Volunteers?
I don’t tell people that I work as a Volunteer Team Leader for Global Volunteers. It’s service-learning. Besides, how can it be work when the outcomes are so rewarding? I get to see the world and I come away with new friends from among the other volunteers and in the communities we serve. Indeed, I am most proud of the friends I now have in Hanoi, Viet Nam; Beja, Portugal; and Ciego de Ávila, Cuba.
What is one of your favorite parts of your role as team leader?
At the beginning of every Global Volunteers service program, the Team Leader guides the volunteers through team-building exercises and orientation. I find it very helpful to learn why each volunteer has taken time away from family and/or their job to serve on a Global Volunteers program, and why they’ve decided to serve in this country, in this community, and on this particular program. This discussion transitions into a goal-setting process. I am not surprised when the key over-arching goals display a desire to serve and a desire to learn. My role, as the Volunteer Team Leader, is to do everything possible to help the volunteers achieve their goals.
Our volunteers are “Servant-Learners”. They commit to serving the local community, to working under the direction of our community partners, to doing whatever they are asked to do. Their service is rewarded as they learn about the local community – its culture, history, language, music, food. Their service is rewarded as they work hand-in-hand with local people and make new friends. Following each workday, I hold team meetings. The major purpose for each meeting is to enable the volunteers to appreciate the value of their service and take stock of what they have learned.
What can you say to people who are thinking about joining a service program for the first time? Why do you recommend a Global Volunteers service program?
I tell people considering or participating on their first service program that they will receive more than they give and that they will learn more than they will teach. This is the reward for volunteer service.
I recommend Global Volunteers service to anyone wishing to contribute to the creation of a more just and peaceful world. By the end of a service program, most volunteers will acknowledge their impact on this lofty-sounding goal.
“I tell people considering or participating on their first service program that they will receive more than they give and that they will learn more than they will teach. This is the reward for volunteer service.”– Jeff Rogo, Volunteer Team Leader
What is your favorite place to serve and lead teams? (If you can pick just one.)
Anyone who has served in Cuba knows our community host, Rev. Eduardo González. I have great respect for this man and am proud to help in a small way on the projects he has identified for our volunteers. I really enjoy collaborating with Eduardo’s team – Yadi, Yanel, and his son, Junior. I’m smiling now, just thinking of Yanel greeting me as “El Jefe” (The Boss).
What Volunteers Have Said about Jeff
“Jeff is a natural leader, sensitive, stable, congenial, knowledgeable, inclusive, and fun.” – Maggie Megee, Cuba volunteer
“Jeff is an excellent team leader. He is respectful of the volunteers and most importantly, of the Blackfeet people and culture. He is organized, personable, even-tempered, and conscientious. He wanted to ensure that we met our weekly goals of being a service to the community as well as learning from the community.” – Christine Estrada, Montana volunteer
“Jeff is a leader who demonstrated both personal sensitivity to the challenges of the project and very professional management skills to keep us all focused while knowing he understands and supports our efforts.” – Linda Neal, 3-time Global Volunteer who served in Vietnam with Jeff
“He is a great person to work with. Open, friendly, energetic, and provided a supportive work environment for a wide range of people.” – Peter Dykstra, Cuba volunteer
Jeff was born in Cleveland, Ohio and grew up in the city’s suburbs. He acquired a History degree from John Carroll University, a Jesuit liberal arts institution. After graduation, he moved to Tampa, Florida and started his “dream job” as a disc jockey for WFLA Radio. He was an announcer for several radio stations in the Tampa Bay market for fifteen years, taught Broadcast Announcing as an Adjunct Professor at the University of South Florida, and helped the Roman Catholic Diocese launch its radio station.
In his second “career”, he was a manager and government affairs director for regional trade associations representing general contractors, apartment owners and managers, and commercial real estate developers. He was also the Director of Alumni & Development for Jesuit High School in Tampa. He earned an MBA from the University of Tampa.
Jeff Off the Clock
An important part of Jeff’s life is community service and volunteer activities. He has served on the City of St. Petersburg’s Community Planning & Preservation Commission since 2002 after moving his home across Tampa Bay to St. Pete. He has also served on the boards of the local United Way, theatre companies, the University of Tampa’s Board of Counselors, the Family Service Association, and the Tennis Foundation of St. Petersburg.
“Tennis is my favorite exercise and my main social activity during the pandemic,” he says. “I am fortunate to live in Florida where I can play tennis outdoors, year-round. I try to play three or four times each week.” He and Cathy enjoy traveling the world together. He says proudly, “I have been honored to have her serve on one of my teams in Vietnam, Portugal, and Cuba.”
Having been vaccinated in February 2021, Jeff is eager to get back to service: “I look forward to the resumption of Global Volunteers programs and meaningful service. After receiving my vaccines, I am feeling optimistic and ready to go!”
Jeff will be leading the first service program in 2021 in West Virginia starting on July 24.
Be the Change Podcast Episodes Featuring Jeff:
Stand-Out Moments – Jeff talks about service as a channel for understanding and friendship, and says one seemingly ordinary moment pulled it all together for him in a most extraordinary way.
Cultural Immersion – Jeff tells about how a community reciprocates on International Women’s Day, as local people spontaneously poured out appreciation and fondness for the women volunteers on his team. “Once again, it was a sign that our Global Volunteers are so welcome in their community. They were made to feel so special.”
Personal Connections – Jeff sums up by explaining how making new friends through service was a balm after losing his wife to cancer. In this way, the world became an important part of his extended family, and those communities now feel like “home” to him.
Read more about Jeff’s journey in service: