Global Citizens Network
Organization profile

Global Citizens Network works to promote peace, justice and respect through cross-cultural understanding and global cooperation. The organization is committed to enhancing quality of life around the world while preserving indigenous cultures, traditions and ecologies.

Global Citizens Network
11000 West 78th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55344

952.746.2270
www.globalcitizens.org

 

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Laura Kurland

The thick of a Minnesota winter is an odd time to be shopping for mosquito repellent, but for Laura Kurland, bug spray was just one of many items needed for her first trip to Mexico with Global Citizens Network.

As the newest team member, Laura was traveling with a group of volunteers to the small town of Xiloxochico to help build a casita for a women's art co-ooperative.

But Laura is no stranger to the region. As a Fulbright Scholar in Peru, she spent time volunteering in rural communities where she became interested in the relationship between tourists and indigenous peoples. So great was her interest that after finishing her grant, Laura stayed on for another year to volunteer for several more organizations based in Puno and Lima.

"Being in the coastal capital was a fascinating contrast to life in the highlands," says Laura. "It gave me a great understanding of the difference between urban and rural society in Latin America."

Since 1992, Global Citizens Network has been promoting global peace and understanding by hosting service trips that connect volunteers with indigenous communities throughout the world. During these trips, volunteers stay with a host family while they participate in development projects with local organizations that are active in meeting community needs and addressing global issues.

"Participants have the opportunity to experience life in another culture by living with local people, eating local foods, and experiencing local hardships and triumphs," says Laura.

It's through these extended stays that real connection can happen across cultures -- sometimes, in the least expected ways.

"Often the moments they never anticipated are the ones that make their journey the most rewarding," tells Laura. "A teenager teaching his Mexican peers how to throw an American football, or a businessman being taught by a community mason how to mix cement from scratch... it's thrilling to hear how impactful these small moments are."

GCN believes that it's in these moments that volunteers and community members forge a greater understanding of one another and build the relationship that can become a catalyst for change. It's the bigger hope that this network of change-makers, the Global Community Network, can have a greater impact on the most pressing issues affecting our world.

"Volunteers are our ambassadors to the world," says Laura. "[They] deliver the message of exchange and the benefit of service-learning far beyond their weeks spent at the village or community."

But participating in a GCN service trip is no small feat, and the organization relies on VolunteerMatch to educate potential volunteers about its work. "I believe it's important for people to really consider their options are and what organization is going to give them the best experience," Laura says. "VolunteerMatch provides a service to us by educating and connecting volunteers to the unique experience GCN has to offer."

As the Regional Coordinator for Latin America, Laura feels strongly that the work she's doing is truly worthwhile. "I work here because I believe in the importance of promoting respectful partnerships that provide opportunities for growth," she says.

And though her time spent in Peru gives her a wealth of experience, she admits that she can never stop learning.

"I'm currently studying Portuguese to better serve programs in Brazil and I stay in contact with former colleagues," she says. "There is such a great richness that can be gained when we exchange experiences and face challenges with a spirit of collaboration and openness."

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