Global Vision International (GVI) is a UK-based organization which provides support and services to international charities, non-profits and governmental agencies, through volunteering opportunities, internship programs, training and direct funding.
Through its alliance with over 150 project partners in over 40 countries, GVI provides opportunities for over 2,000 participants each year to fill a critical void in the fields of environmental research, conservation, education, and community development.
Global Vision International,
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For Hartridge, it "kicked in"years ago and hasn't stopped since. A business development manager and a mother of five, Hartridge began volunteering when she realized how much others were in need.
"Somewhere along the line I felt strongly about helping out my community because I saw things that needed to be done," she says.
While searching for a place to hold an event, Hartridge visited several local high schools and realized that their facilities were less then wonderful. With this in mind, she and a colleague created Project School.
"Because I had five children in the school system at the time, their education and the schools were very sharp in my mind," she says. "I wanted to take this on and not complain to the school board or local government."
Through Project School, Hartridge and a group of volunteers raised money to refurbish the schools and saved the district thousands of dollars in costs. But that was just the tip of Hartridge's volunteering iceberg.
"I wanted to expand on all this and do more," she says. "Once you start something like this your eyes open up and you become aware of all the things desperate for someone to notice and help with."
So when she came across the organization Global Vision International, which matches volunteers up with projects around the globe, Hartridge decided to take part. The goal of GVI's projects is to provide support to charities, organizations and governmental groups that are working in communities in need throughout the world.
In 2010, Hartridge joined GVI on a trip to Kedong, Kenya to support a community of ex-poachers who were working to develop new, more sustainable, means of existence.
"We lived alongside villagers who have given up poaching and charcoal burning to conserve their natural heritage and wildlife," she says. But it was no easy task.
"Harsh environmental conditions, unreliable rainfall and limited opportunities create significant challenges," says Hartridge.
Along with five other volunteers, Chris helped out on various projects to establish routes to sustainable livelihoods. One such project was the creation of an irrigation system that would bring water to a community garden during the dry season.
"The garden's produce would then be used for making local dishes to be served to guests from safari groups traveling through Tsavo Park," says Chris. In addition, the volunteers helped the villagers build a thatched roof restaurant to host guests and invite them to share in the rewards of the garden.
And as much as the volunteers gave to the community of Kedong, the community gave them back something very important in return: humility.
"With my mosquito net tucked around me and one small chair, I amazed myself how you set up a little home with next to nothing available," says Hartridge. "You fall into everyday as if you never lived anywhere else and wonder why you needed so much back home."
The experience of volunteering in these varied contexts has made Hartridge a lifelong volunteer advocate.
"I think volunteering doesn't have to come in the form of a long term commitment," she says. "To me volunteering can happen spontaneously in a day when you help someone in a wheelchair cross a busy street or offer a random act of kindness to someone who requires help."
By Alessandra Siraco, 2010