UBELONG: International, affordable volunteer opportunities for people of all backgrounds
Traveling to another country and experiencing a new culture while making a real difference in the lives of local people is incredibly rewarding, creating memories that will last a lifetime. But for many people, such experiences can seem out of reach, maybe because they can't afford to travel or because they feel they don't have the right skills. A program called UBELONG makes international volunteering and learning opportunities accessible to all, regardless of background.
In this video, UBELONG co-founders Raul Roman and Cedric Hodgeman talk about how their program can benefit volunteers and the communities where they work by identifying local development challenges around the globe and encouraging people to work together to achieve a common goal.
Founded on the belief that any person can make a difference in international development efforts, UBELONG focuses on a grassroots approach to promote people-to-people cooperation. The programs are flexible and affordable. UBELONG organizes the trip; volunteers are responsible for their plane tickets and health insurance coverage. The program has projects in Asia, Africa and South America.
"UBELONG offers three types of services," says Hodgeman. "First, we offer international volunteering opportunities for ordinary citizens who want to make a difference. The second one is learning tours, 14-day practical learning courses on specific international affairs topics. The third service is for corporations, bringing corporations on learning tours and employees on volunteer assignments that can meet their business goals, but also their social corporate responsibility mandates."
Adds Roman, "We believe that you have something to give, whether you're working as a hairdresser, you're working as a lawyer, or you have a master's in business administration, we have an opportunity for you."
UBELONG is one of 10 finalists in the Points of Light and Village Capital Civic Accelerator program, which provides funding, mentorship, entrepreneurial eduction, peer support and brand awareness to promising civic ventures. Two startups will be selected by their peers to receive an additional $50,000 investment.
Raul: My name is Raul Roman and I am the co-founder of UBELONG, along with Cedric Hodgeman. The mission of UBELONG is to make international volunteering and learning easy. We provide short-term international volunteering and learning opportunities for people of all backgrounds in corporations across the world.
Cedric: We have projects in Africa, in Asia and South America, and those projects are across many different areas. So from the environment, to education, to human rights, to health and so forth, so it's really about engaging as many people as possible.
Raul: We take care of pre-departure preparation, airport pickup, all your meals. Basically, the only thing you have to pay for is your plane ticket and your health insurance. UBELONG offers three types of services. First, we offer international volunteer opportunities for ordinary citizens who want to make a difference. The second one is learning tours, is a 14-day practical learning courses, on specific international affair topics. Third, we have services for corporations. We bring corporations on learning tours, and also employees on volunteer assignments that can meet their business goals, but also their social corporate responsibility mandates.
Cedric: There's one particular story that I think is pretty neat. So there was a team of 20 university students and they were working on an environmental and health project. So their mornings, they're working in these local clinics and they're talking about public health. In the afternoons they're spending their time on the reforestation projects and the impact was enormous. To the point where we actually had the U.S. embassy in Quito reach out to us and say, "Hey, this is incredible. Nobody has ever gone into these communities and been able to effect this much change, so quickly."
Raul: We believe that you have something to give, whether you are working as a hairdresser, whether you are working as a lawyer or you have a master's in business administration, we have an opportunity for you.