Village Volunteers is a grassroots organization that partners with visionary leaders.

Our Mission

Village Volunteers (VV) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works in partnership with rural village and capacity-building programs to support the development of sustainable solutions to community challenges.

Our Core Philosophy

The Village Volunteers community:

  • Believes in the immense potential of all people;.
  • Has respect for the diverse perspectives, creativity and talents of all individuals;
  • Is committed to the principles of market-based, local economics, and entrepreneurship;
  • Recognizes that women need special consideration for education, maternal health care, and a life free of violence.
  • Believes in the power of partnership and collaboration to work towards social justice and gender equality;
  • Is committed to facilitating educational opportunities to all who reach for their potential, and medical care for all who need help;
  • Is dedicated to environmental conservation and biodiversity.

Our Promise

Village Volunteers will work to leave a legacy that supports self sufficiency and has a profound impact on the health and welfare of the communities we serve.

Founded in the belief that partnership and advocacy is a key factor in the renewal and healing of areas plagued by poverty, hunger and disease, we partner with communities to reach their full potential through collaborative, sustainable, grassroots approaches to agriculture,  education, health care and public health awareness, environmental conservation, access to clean water, sanitation, education, food sovereignty and security, and economic stability.

Culturally Relevant and Sustainable Solutions

Rather than hindering growth by creating a dependency on  outside management, the Village Volunteers’ model is based on empowerment: all village projects are executed and managed by locals. Village Volunteers supports local community efforts by providing grant writing assistance, developing income generating social enterprises and mobilizing the resources of volunteers worldwide.

Empowering Local Leaders Who Strengthen Communities

Committed to honoring community autonomy, Village Volunteers works in collaboration with community based organizations to implement sustainable solutions to community challenges.

Village Volunteers acknowledges that community members know how to solve their communities’ problems, but do not have access to the necessary resources and support. To that end, Village Volunteers brings together worldwide collaboration in support of inspired community leaders in Africa and Asia who empower local people, rely on indigenous resources, and build upon their existing cultural and economic context.

Cross Cultural Exchange

The opportunity for volunteers to live and work side-by-side with people in other parts of the world and to exchange knowledge, information, skills, and stories, gives everyone involved the opportunity to develop a meaningful common bond with our global community. The mandatory hospitality fees from Village Volunteers’ cadre of volunteers is sent ahead of arrival and will directly and indirectly support sustainable development programs in a host village.

Green Policy

We recognize that each and every one of us, individuals as well as organizations and businesses, must make a commitment to preserve and protect our environment.

Dedicated to preserving resources, we are committed to lessening our environmental footprint and strive to be a “carbon neutral” organization. Below are some of our key practices.

  • Village Volunteers and partners promote appropriate technologies, renewable resources, conservation and innovation to enhance economic stability, community and environmental well being.
  • We strive to be paperless in all ways possible, and rely heavily on technology to do so. All volunteer orientation materials are accessed online from our website, and we do not mail brochures or fundraising materials.
  • To offset the carbon produced by the air travel for each volunteer, 10 moringa trees are planted in the tropical regions that we serve.
  • We continuously apply sustainability principles to the way we operate our organization. We are committed to being proactive in our environmental stewardship and continually work on improving our sustainable practices.

From The Founder and Executive Director

Village Volunteers Founder and Executive Director, Shana Greene

Village Volunteers Founder and Executive Director, Shana Greene

In an increasingly interconnected world, what happens around the globe affects us all. The challenge of growing poverty, hunger and disease worldwide can be addressed if we individually recognize our role as a global citizen, become aware of the issues and take steps to create a more just world for all.

Village Volunteers promotes self sufficiency by partnering with programs to enhance economic and educational opportunities, food security, and health conditions, with respect for the environment and culture. Village Volunteers is dedicated to assisting communities in their quest to achieve a healthy, self sustained life.

This vision is possible with the help of people like you.

Shana Greene
Founder & Executive Director

Shana Greene incorporated Village Volunteers on October 17, 2003, the same day the UN declared as the International Day of Eradicating Poverty.

Working first in Kenya, the goal was to address poverty at multiple levels, recognizing the impact that interrelated issues play in its continuation. Kenya, a country particularly vulnerable to poverty due to the high rates of HIV/AIDS infections, has more than one million orphaned children as a result.

Village Volunteers has had to and still relies on the efforts of dedicated volunteers who have provided thousands of hours of expertise and valuable skills in our Seattle office and around the world. Join us!

Today, Village Volunteers’ work impacts the lives of thousands daily, works with partner organizations in Asia and Africa, and continues to grow as a self sustaining organization with a reputation for tangible and meaningful results. JOIN US!

Village Volunteers is an organization that works with only the most effective local leaders who started NGOs and community based organizations. Each has been  able to make important improvements on the health and welfare of their community.  They come from varied backgrounds but all have integrity and are self sacrificing heroes who serve vulnerable populations to create a sustainable future for children.  Meet some of our partners below:

MEET THE DIRECTOR OF COMMON GROUND: JOSHUA MACHINGA

Reflections on Joshua’s childhood and family.

When I was young I watched my dad die of tonsillitis because my family lacked money to buy medicine or take him to the hospital. Life was hard after that. We used to have one meal a day, except harvesting seasons where we had two meals a day. I vowed to become an agronomist to help rural villagers to better their lives instead of seeking financial gains from the profession.

The challenges Joshua faced getting an education.

My desire to provide free education for needy children stems from the fact that my family was too poor to provide an opportunity for education. However, because of my good performance, I was always given the opportunity by my teachers to stay on when my colleagues went home for school fees. I did well in all my exams, scoring “A”s, and I was on top in Trans-Nzoia district twice but again lacked fees to proceed.

Luckily, I got the opportunity to return to school and proceeded to graduate with a certificate in GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming and a diploma in Community Development, Relief and Social Worker. The opportunity to return to school opened doors for me even before graduating. I had the opportunity to receive an award from President Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi of Kenya and Ali Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania.

What inspired Joshua to do the work and how he got started?

My work first arose from my desire to bring change in my family and community- changing from one- two meals a day to three meals a day, and seeing children attain quality education. Talking about it is okay, but it is the doing something that really fuels my aspirations to do more.

Many families were hungry and there was no store within days of walking. They didn’t have money to buy food even if there had been a store. I had to do something. This led to the establishment of Common Ground.

What obstacles did Joshua face?

The project has had several success stories that can be replicated in other communities but we are limited in terms of duplicating these success stories. Demands for our services exceed our financial capacity. We are always struggling with widows, widowers, orphans and street children yearning for our support.

We also lack proper transportation for field workers, and for farmer-to-farmer exchange and adequate funding for training.

What are the hopes for the future of Common Ground’s program?

We are hoping to make the organization self-sustaining by establishing income generation projects and endowment funds.

How has your partnership with Village Volunteers affected Common Ground’s work?

Through our partnership with Village Volunteers, Common Ground has been able to continue its effort. In fact, many of the program activities are going on today because of this partnership. We have seen our school enrollment and performance rise because of volunteers who contribute skills and finances.

Income of most villagers has more than tripled. Some villagers are earning more than what a graduate teacher earns in Kenya. In summary, we are impacting lives of thousands of women, men and children in the region through education, food, health and conservation efforts.

How does your community benefit from having volunteers?

Volunteers serve in many capacities within our organization, by contributing time, energies or talents that help to fulfill the organizations’ mission. Volunteers generate enthusiasm and interest and help to create a positive image of the organization in the community. Volunteers extend and augment the work of paid staff. They focus on individual groups or subject areas and thus bring new insights, energy and time to the work.

Communities benefit from volunteers’ contribution because the services they provide helps individuals, families and the community address local needs and problems. Greater enthusiasm and rapport develops when volunteers share their enthusiasm for the work they are doing and the organization they are affiliated with. They often encourage others to become involved. Recognition of outstanding volunteers contributes to overall community pride.

Volunteers fulfill many roles at Common Ground. Generally, they fall into four categories: direct service, administrative support, fundraising, and leadership. However, individual activities vary greatly. They serve as teachers, tutors, mentors, doctors, chaplains, builders, and coaches. They organize events, participate in fundraisers, develop new resources, provide logistical support, assist with promotional events, and provide leadership and guidance. The roles volunteers fill are not only limited by the vision of the organization.

Additionally, many volunteers through Village Volunteers bring cultural awareness that assists in reaching untapped communities.

We are so grateful to Village Volunteers.

– Joshua Machinga
Common Ground for Africa

MEET THE DIRECTOR OF MAMA NA DADA: JOYCE ONEKO

About Joyce Oneko’s childhood

I was born and grew up in the village, in a large family of thirteen girls and eight boys.  I had a very fulfilling and happy childhood, and remember many fun-filled games, especially during harvest seasons.  I remember us eating freshly harvested maize and beans, as we played together under the bright moonlit sky.  We did not have much materially, but life was good!

Challenges faced by Joyce and getting an education

Because we were so many, and my father did not have a well-paying job, he was not able to send all of us to school.  My mother, however, saw and felt my thirst for education, and used her incredible public relations with her church friends and relatives to make sure that I not only got education, but that I went to the best school possible.  It paid off, and thanks to her encouragement and dedication, I was able to go to high school and on to university.

What inspired Joyce to do the work she is doing

My life as a village girl inspired by current work.  I have always been so intensely aware of how difficult it is for girls in the village to get any education at all.  This was my starting point with Mama na Dada, to find ways of encouraging the community to enroll girls into school, and girls to stay longer in school and complete at least one cycle of education.  This lead to the beginning of our scholarship programs for high school and now for tertiary education.

The  obstacles Joyce faced

Girls have been conditioned and socialized to believe that they are inferior, and this is more pronounced for girls living in villages.  It takes years of “re-programming”, through life skills training and self-esteem building exercises, to make girls realize that they can indeed control the direction they wish their lives to take.  Things like monetary or material scholarships can only succeed if enough girls are trained to know that they have choices and are given the opportunity to see the picture bigger than their villages.

What are her hopes for the future of Mama na Dada

The main aim of Mama na Dada is to help women and girls empower themselves.  When this happens, the communities in which they live are automatically enriched.  Mama na Dada has been carrying out women’s leadership training programs, to encourage women to play more leadership roles in their communities, starting from household to national level.  It is working and women are participating more in community governance issues.  I hope that in the next five years, the women and girls in my community will be so empowered that they can take over most, if not all, the activities run by Mama na Dada and run them on their own.

How has the partnership with Village Volunteers affected her work

Mama na Dada relies solely on volunteers, both national and international, as it is not funded by any corporation or agency.  The monetary contributions from Village Volunteers have been of immense help, especially in the feeding program for our Circle of Hope Day Care children.   The volunteers that have been sent from VV have contributed greatly to our workforce, ranging from teaching, working in the community clinic and working with children.

How the community benefits from having volunteers

We believe that cultural exchange enriches and expands our world view.  Our volunteers work very closely with community members, and this has given, not only the volunteers, but the community members, an opportunity to learn a different culture.  As one of our Community Health Workers said “Since the volunteers started coming to Kunya almost six years ago, I feel as if I went back to school, because I have had such a good opportunity to practice my English, which I have not used since I got married over twenty years ago”.

MEET THE PROGRAM DIRECTOR OF NAMUNYAK: EMMANUEL TASUR

Reflections on Emmanuel’s childhood and family.

I grew up in a polygamous family with many siblings. Our family was also nomadic. We moved from one place to the next, trying to get pasture and water for our animals. My parents received very little education- up to elementary level. For these reasons, they were not able to keep proper records of birth dates for their children and at the time the government did not require that children get birth papers, I usually tell people that I had to guess by date of birth for documentation purposes.

The communal kind of life meant that as much as I was child to my parents, I also belonged to the community. My father would donate me to other homes that didn’t’ have grown children to herd their cattle. There were great challenges though, my mother being beaten by my father every now and then really depressed me- it did mean that we had to cater for ourselves sometimes as she was chased away from the matrimonial home until negotiations were done for her return. We loved herding and grew up chasing wild animalsfor fun – like giraffes, zebras, tons of gazelles and many other friendly herbivores- but not the elephants or buffaloes. If there is anything I treasure in my childhood, it must have been the many times we met as boys and did the chasing around of wild animals- but it was never intended to harm any of them, we just tried to outrun them. Discipline was a requirement for all community children and any adult could mete out the discipline to any child, since all children belonged to the community. Again, I definitely miss those days, unlike these days when a child belongs to an individual and not the community.

The challenges Emmanuel faced pursuing an education.

There were a ton challenges that I faced when I tried to get educated. At a very early age, my mother talked to me and all my siblings about the importance of getting an education. She said an education would enable us to get jobs and improve our quality of life. It was difficult to begin early since the nearest school was 7km away and we had to pass through some forest that had buffaloes. We had to wait until they receded before we could go to school. We played a hide and seek kind of game with them. It was difficult going a whole day with an empty stomach and then come back home to only milk for food. I began first grade at the age of 9, maybe even 10 or 8 since I didn’t know the exact date. Sometimes I would come back home and my parents had had a disagreement, and my mother had gone back to her home. I had to get firewood and take care of my younger siblings. Later on when I joined high school, it was even difficult getting fees for my education as my parents thought that selling cows to educate me was a waste. Getting a college education was even harder since I had to do this while taking care of my family.

What inspired Emmanuel to do the work he does and how he got started.

The desperation in the Maasai community led me to begin what I’m doing right now. There is a lot of pervasive ignorance and the community has been taken advantage of for a very long time. Something needed to be done to change this trend. I never wanted any Maasai child to go through what I went through. Helping children get a better education is the hallmark of what I do now. I began by sponsoring a few children to better schools and when I saw that each child given a chance can be a better human being, I purposed in my heart to begin a school not only for Maasai children but for many disadvantaged groups around our locality. The Sirua Aulo Academy is a testimony that once you get your heart to do something, the whole world kind of conspires to help you achieve it. There are 230 kids at the school right now – that’s phenomenal!!

What obstacles did Emmanuel face?

There were quite a number of obstacles. The school we’re working on now should have been completed 10 years ago but we had a problem of finances. There are just so many people that need help. It is very painful for me to turn an orphan away when their guardians bring them seeking assistance. We also have a terrible road network and generally a poor infrastructure outlay around the community that makes the cost of transporting supplies to the school so expensive.

What are your hopes for the future of Namunyak Maasai Welfare?

The program has a great and brighter future. I believe that in the long run we will be able build three more schools of this kind. There is overflowing enthusiasm that many past volunteers and friends have shown to all that we are doing. I hope that the programs we have lined up come to fruition, like the eco-tourism facility, which could be self-sustaining. We also hope to establish an endowment fund to help as many children as possible get education scholarships.

How has the partnership with Village Volunteers affected Namunyak’s work?

Our partnership with Village Volunteers has been the spark that has ignited a strong fire of support. It is through Village Volunteers that we have been connected with supporters across a number of countries. We have received great support in terms of the safari money that Village Volunteers has continued to send us. This has made it possible for us to pay staff on time and run the school smoothly. We have also received great advice through Village Volunteers on how we had to relate with some donors who wanted to take over the very work we were doing, which helped us avoid pitfalls that could have made our work more difficult. We are very grateful for this partnership.

How does your community benefit from having volunteers?

The Maasai community has received much benefit by being able to be with volunteers who have taken care of orphan children at the school. There have been many social programs targeted at vulnerable groups like widows that have helped them smile again in their lives. Friendships have developed and many people’s hopes have been raised by volunteers from Village Volunteers.

MEET CORD’S PROGRAM DIRECTOR: SHAMMI DAVID

Reflections on Shammi’s childhood and family

My family consisted of a father, mother, grandma, grandpa, 2 sisters, 2 brothers, 2 aunts and their 3 children.  My childhood was good and comfortable when I think of that time. Our wants were limited and we were satisfied with whatever we had. In my childhood days, I was always with my family and relatives. My contact circle was very, very small.

The challenges Shammi faced getting an education

Since ours was a joint family and my father and mothers’ income was limited, with no ancestral property, we had economic limits. We shared common books, uniforms, fees, food, clothing, and shelter. Church activities kept us busy and satisfied. Parents gave good convent education for all five children in our family.  After reaching higher secondary and college education level, I felt we were not able to spend money unnecessarily.

What inspired Shammi to do the work and how she got started?

After my college degree, my first position was in a hospital as a cashier. In that hospital I was able to see the life and sufferings of the people and I felt that life is more important than anything. This thinking made me change and I started helping people who are in need. Later after marriage, my husband Roy started an NGO. I became part of the group and worked with minority communities, poor and underprivileged groups. Later we focused on the socio economic and education issues in tribal populations in CORD.  I believe only education can change the lives of people.

What obstacles did Shammi face?

Many!!  Many times there was no support or solidarity from others.  There was also very little guidance and never enough financial support.

 What are the hopes for the future of CORD?

Surely I hope that I will reach my goals with the help of like-minded people and friends.  It may be slow and steady, but surely I hope for the best.

How has your work with Village Volunteers affected CORD?

Village Volunteers has been very positive and supportive. It has been a helping hand. I was in the dark whether to continue my work in Kushalangar or other places. But my partnership with Village Volunteers made me stronger and able to make decisions to continue my work with the Adivasi/tribal/minority and community children in the Coorg area.

How does your community benefit from having volunteers?

Volunteers are useful, helping in office work, doing field visits, and working with the tribal communities. We also receive gifts and funds for improvements in children’s education systems. Personally, volunteer fees helped CORD to stand on its own and be independent. This gave me a more dignified life.  Thanks to Village Volunteers and Shana, we will continue our friendship with them long into the future.

Thank you Village Volunteers and all the volunteers who visit Coorg, Kushalangar.

MEET NEW LIGHT’S PROGRAM DIRECTOR: URMI BASU

Born and raised in a family of professionals in Kolkata, India, Urmi Basu received her primary and secondary education in the same city. Her father was a doctor and her mother a healthcare administrator. Both her parents were deeply involved in activities of urban and rural development which influenced and prompted Urmi to choose the career of a social worker. On completion of her first degree in Sociology from The University of Kalyani, West Bengal , Urmi moved to take her Masters degree in Social Work at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences , Mumbai. During her training she had the opportunity to work in the first cell set up for women in distress by the Mumbai Police Department. She also worked as a relief worker during the Bhopal gas leak tragedy in December 1984 which left a lasting impression on her mind about the need to be prepared for disasters, both natural and man- made.

In the early part of her professional life Urmi worked with both small and well known organizations involved in the developmental sector. During her career she had the opportunity to work with issues related  with urban and rural economic development, empowerment and protection of vulnerable groups like women engaged in sex work and subjected to extreme violence, street children, trafficked child labourers and young people in exploited situation. She has been a part of targeted intervention programs for victims of HIV / AIDS, transexuals and trans-gender people.

After fifteen years of professional work Urmi set up a small non –profit named New Light in Kolkata in 2000 with a seed money as little as Rs 10,000/- along with two other young people from the Kalighat red light district. The mission of the organization is to promote gender equality and fight violence and abuse of women, girl children and young people. That small initiative today provides care and support to more than a thousand people. The organization also works to fight against child prostitution and trafficking for the purpose of sex- trade.

For the last many years Urmi has been a trainer and resource person for innumerable government and non profit organizations. She regularly presents papers at various national and international seminars and conferences on HIV/ AIDS, trafficking, child rights and social justice.

She was selected as the NGO co-ordinator by the office of the Governor of West Bengal to make a presentation on micro credit, women’s participation in gender sensitivity and health issues during the visit of the former President of the United States Bill Clinton on 7th of April, 2001. More recently she was a part of the core team that met the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her visit to Kolkata and shared the experience of working against trafficking in persons.

In November 2011 Urmi received the Make a change Award from Children`s Hope India, New York.

In October 2012, a documentary named Half The Sky based on the novel by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn was shown on PBS featuring Urmi and her work with the victims of trafficking. Following the documentary Urmi received the Global Citizen Award at the Global Music Festival in Central Park, New York which was organized to mark zero tolerance for hunger, poverty and abuse.

Urmi was chosen as a recipient of a blessing from His Holiness The Dalai Lama under the title Unsung heroes of Compassion 2009 on the 26th of April 2009 in San Francisco for her work that promotes compassion and peace.

Reflections on Urmi’s childhood and family

from ”My Mother” as published at Amistad International

My earliest memory of my mother`s courage floats back to the days of communal violence in the early sixties when she and our father long with some friends risked their lives and possessions to protect and save people whose lives and livelihood were being snatched from them. Those were moments of great turmoil and fear but what I learnt from her was to look at fear in its face. Those years were followed by the dark period of Bengal`s political situation and our family was subjected to untold loss and suffering by unknown assailants. Any other woman in my mother`s place would have left the ground and run for cover. Not our mother. She stood her ground, fought and saw to it that innocent lives were saved. It would take me another lifetime to recount all that happened in a short span of five years that followed.

Life dealt her that hardest blow when our father was diagnosed with cancer in 1973 and his life was abruptly brought to an end in 1976. Overnight her world was altered in ways beyond imagination. She accepted the transition of her role of a home maker to that of a bread earner with the grace befitting a ballet dancer. It was also at this time that she had to accept being separated from her two sons. My elder brother Basab went abroad for his studies and my younger brother Arnab went to live and study at the house of her dear sister Kabita and brother-in-law Sukumar Basu who had promised to take care of little Arnab. Not for a moment was there any remorse or laying the blame on fate. She did not believe in fate but just in her ability to change and control it. I continued to be with her and soon became the focus of her life. In a few years we were no longer parent and child but friends with a deep bonding and unconditional love. Much of my life today was shaped watching my mother go through the motions of everyday living. A life lived with courage and grace. Her love was not contained only for her biological children. She opened her heart to her other sons, Pulaha, my chhorda and Monojda, her foundling son. The influence of her life on them is to be equally remembered and noted.

Of all the gifts that our mother, Sabita has left us the greatest is the gift of courage. We hope we have the courage to look at life squarely at its face and say that we are ready. We hope we are ready to shoulder our responsibility and take it one step further. We hope are ready to carry on in the legacy of justice and compassion.

MEET THE DIRECTOR OF MOUTAIN VIEW ECO FARM, BEDRAJ PAULDEL (GOVINDA) 

My Name is Bedraj Paudel (Govinda), a resident of KalikaVDC – 8, of Bardiya District, Nepal.  I am a farmer, a program manager, and a student of Business Management. I grew up in a family of organic farmers and feel very strongly that it is important to the future of Nepal.

Since 2005 I haD worked at SADP-Nepal (Sustainable Agriculture Development Program Nepal, a non-profit demonstration farm, international volunteer program, and educational program for organic farming in Nepal) in capacities including Program Assistant, Hospitality Supervisor, Tour Guide, Office Manager, Trainer, and Facilitater.  Since 2008, I  served SADP as a member of its Board.

Besides managing the office and demonstration farm for SADP-Nepal, I began a school gardening program in local schools, to teach young people organic farming principles and provide schools with food.

My dream of starting Mountain View Eco Farm came through the support of volunteers.   He has over 7 years of coordinating international volunteers.  He loves this work because he enjoys problem-solving, leadership, and spending time talking with people about ideas, attitudes, and experiences. He’s also very passionate about organic gardening and how crucial it is to Nepal’s future. Govinda loves his country and is proud and excited