Volunteer Team Leader LaVerne Lewis first served with Global Volunteers in 2012 in Tanzania and then went on to serve in China and in Greece. She attended Team Leader Training in 2018 and then led her first team to Cuba in 2019. She attended Team Leader Training in April 2022 as well and is leading teams in Texas in June and Cuba in August this year. LaVerne is deeply dedicated to volunteering and being a global citizen, describing herself as a “global idealist with a passion for making a difference as a change agent.” She runs her own business and founded her own non-profit organization. Read on for details on Team Leader LaVerne Lewis and her experiences in service.
How did you come to start volunteering with Global Volunteers and then begin leading teams?
My first volunteer service program with Global Volunteers was August 2012 to Iringa, Tanzania. I had volunteered with other NGOs; however, I closely identified with the mission and vision of Global Volunteers when I, by chance, came across their website and read some of the testimonies and comments of alumni volunteers. From the minute I signed up and paid my deposit, I was guided through the process by staff members, who were passionate about the organization and everything it stood for. The initial engagement with an NGO such as Global Volunteers is vital because it says a lot about the service programming and the volunteer engagement you will experience when in country. My second volunteer service program with Global Volunteers was in October 2014 to Xi’an, China. I recruited five friends to join me. We made new friends there and greatly appreciated the value of service and working alongside the local community. While volunteering in Crete, Greece, Samantha Pinakoulaki, the country manager, asked me to consider becoming a Team Leader with Global Volunteers. She convinced me that with all of my ‘servant-learner’ gifts and volunteer service abroad with Global Volunteers and other NGOs that I would be a natural…so after attending Team Leader Training in 2018, I led my first team to Havana, Cuba.
“I am a global idealist with a passion for making a difference as a change agent.”-LaVerne Lewis, Volunteer Team Leader
What compels you to lead teams for Global Volunteers?
I enjoy leading teams for Global Volunteers because it provides not only the chance for each volunteer on the team to be a global citizen, but to experience the rewards of volunteer service as a team with a trained team leader. As a team leader, I do everything possible to assist each volunteer, in achieving their goals, first defined on the first day of orientation. It is also important to me that each volunteer on the team have an opportunity to work with and learn from and about the local people in the country we are volunteering. This includes culture, history, language, music, and of course, food.
What is one of your favorite parts of your role as team leader?
One of my favorite parts of my role as a team leader is to greet each arriving volunteer at the airport or after their land transportation from the arriving airport. I consider this my favorite part because it is the most important to the arriving volunteer. At that ‘Hi, I am LaVerne, your team leader’ intro, I become the navigator, the ambassador, the counselor, and most important, the team leader. The team leader role can be hard work, but I do not mind because my passion for service learning provides the relational teamwork to make the time together fun and effective in the community in which we serve.
“The team leader role can be hard work, but I do not mind because my passion for service learning provides the relational teamwork to make the time together fun and effective in the community in which we serve.”-LaVerne Lewis, Volunteer Team Leader
Why do you recommend a Global Volunteers service program?
I believe everyone should volunteer abroad with Global Volunteers. I recruit constantly because I believe whole heartily in Global Volunteers’ Philosophy of Service and dedication to building a foundation for world peace through mutual international understanding. In short, wage peace and promote justice through person-to-person programing with local people in global communities beyond our own. My desire is to be the best global citizen, and Global Volunteers provides the opportunity to do just that.
What is your favorite aspect of leading teams in Cuba?
That’s hard to narrow it down to one…so one favorite aspect of leading my first team in Cuba was observing the amazing talents of the team members and how they used their imagination and resourcefulness to teach English to the local people, who invited us to engage in English conversations in the evenings at the local church. The members of my team embraced the challenge without hesitation, even though they had never taught English before. As a team, we do whatever we are asked to do by the local people. And witnessing the team members, at times a bit overwhelmed, but understanding Global Volunteers’ fundamental objective was monumental, go on to not only succeed in the assigned task, but exchange in cultural connection, through laughter, smiles, communication and an opportunity of community service, is very rewarding. I will be leading another team to Cuba in August and a team to the Rio Grande Valley, Texas in June.
What can you say to people who are thinking about joining a service program for the first time?
If you have never joined a volunteer service program, talk to the staff at Global Volunteers or like the Facebook page to get an idea of what people are saying. It is an opportunity that will change your life and provide you with the ability to directly wage peace and promote justice.
LaVerne Off The Clock
I currently live in Gresham, Oregon, and have one son, Kevin, who lives in Colorado. I have a doctorate in education from Northcentral University (Prescott, AZ), a master’s in education and human resources from Colorado State University (Ft. Collins, CO), a bachelor’s in science in Business Administration and Accounting from the State University of New York (SUNY). I have 39+ years as a credentialed tax accountant and own LaVerne Lewis LLC, a full-service accounting-tax-business start-up resource firm including IRS representation.
As a retired public servant, I served as a Deputy with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, and currently, I voluntarily serve on the Board of Directors on TriMet, as an elect-Board Member on the Mt. Hood Community College Board of Education and vice president on the NW Faith (UMC) Foundation Board.
Volunteering locally and globally is in my DNA. It’s my “happy place.” Three years ago, I founded a nonprofit that empowers women and girls in sewing collectives, called Women-Sew Global Foundation. This idea was born after meeting Mama Toni in Tanzania, visiting her sewing collective in Iringa, and investigating the impact of women collectives for immigrant and refugee women resettling in the USA. Currently, we have over nine sewing collectives, consisting of Congolese, Burmese, Rohingya, Nepali, Tibetan, Tongan, Afghan, African-American, and Karen women and girls. The program serves over 90 women.
My servant-learner volunteer service expands across many countries: Tanzania, Morocco, Peru, Costa Rica, Thailand, China, Cuba, Brasil, Greece, and Jordan. I am a global idealist with a passion for making a difference as a change agent.
LaVerne will be leading the June 18th service program to San Juan, Texas and the August 13th service program to Havana, Cuba. To join a team under LaVerne’s leadership, chat with a program expert now: