uVolunteer
2015/06/15
By : Nathaniel Amponsah
To truly understand our organization and why we've made helping you experience a great volunteer vacation our mission, you need to know my story. My name is Nathaniel Amponsah. I'm a life long volunteer, I continue spending my life helping people, traveling and trying out new foods and drinks. Learning about new places and cultures is my passion. As founder and Managing Director of uVolunteer, I try to impart this passion into our programs and participants.

About me: I was born in London UK, in the summer 1969, to Ghanaian parents. My first experiences of traveling came early in my childhood, as I was shipped off to live in Ghana before my second birthday. Throughout my formative years, I lived with several relatives & family friends all over Ghana until the age of nine. I then returned to England for schooling. After several tough years at school and college, I eventually graduated from the University of Cardiff, Wales with a Degree in Industrial Design. As soon as my studies were complete, I took off to Europe to experience living in Spain as an English language teacher. My time in Spain was so enjoyable that I knew it had to come to an end!

On my return to England, I enrolled and completed a Master's Degree in Interactive Media Design and was soon afterwards recruited by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), where I spent the next nine years in the corporate world.

I enjoyed my time at the BBC and my career was professionally challenging and rewarding, but at a personal level, I still felt something was amiss... I used to get those Sunday evening blue!

Throughout my youth, I had longed to travel the world, and at age 32, I felt that this was the time to live my dreams... So in 2005, I seized the moment and requested time off from the BBC to Backpack Southeast Asia for 3 months.

As I made arrangements for my trip, I remembered my time in Spain and the great experience I had working and teaching abroad. I decided I should do something similar during my new adventure, but instead of teaching English, I thought I would be more useful teaching a subject I loved and was skilled in... graphic & web design. This would give me the opportunity to be immersed in the local culture whilst giving something meaningful back to the community. This idea seemed a perfect balance of travel and service abroad and eventually led me to start researching volunteer work abroad.

Unfortunately, my search for volunteer placements quickly lead to disappointment... I discovered that most volunteer organizations required a fee for volunteering! I was a bit surprised that I had to pay to volunteer and that it was quite expensive! After researching several programs, I realized and understood that there would be some fees involved if I booked though a volunteer agency. I could have set up the program myself for free but I only had 4 weeks for volunteering and wanted to get in and get started with the work right away, and with very little fuss.

I eventually booked my volunteer vacation with a local organization in Thailand called Travel to Teach. I had arranged to volunteer as a Web Design teacher at a rural community college in Nong Khai, Thailand. However, upon arrival, my volunteer project met with some difficulties and after 3 days, it became clear that my volunteer placement had fallen through and was not going to happen...! due to "internal political conflict" at the college.

But I wasn't about to give in.

So, with my powers of persuasion, I convinced Travel to Teach to allow me to redesign their website as my volunteer placement.

That's how my first volunteer placement began and I was happy to have had the opportunity to experience Thai culture firsthand by living and working with the local community, and making myself useful by providing the community with volunteers at the same time.

I came away from this experience having gone through tremendous personal growth, and this energizing change has remained with me ever since.

After my backpacking trip, I returned to work in London and felt the need to continue my volunteering abroad experience. I had kept in contact with Travel to Teach and continued to voluntarily work for them in my spare time back in the UK. Eventually, I ended up taking a sabbatical with the organization in Thailand. My volunteer work experiences in Thailand forever changed my life's direction.

After a year of living in Thailand working in the volunteer abroad industry, I returned to the UK, resigned my position at the BBC, having full faith in the exhilarating path my new passion was leading me on. I was determined to make a difference in the world and in the volunteer travel industry. The new direction in life lead me to embark on a journey to a completely new and undiscovered part of the world for me.... and to start a local volunteer abroad project that would eventually grow into uVolunteer.

uVolunteer began operations in Costa Rica as a one-country program in 2007. By 2010, our program had expanded to as many as 13 countries. While our adventurous nature lead us to enjoy this expansion, in 2012 we decided to change direction strategically and to focus our program as a specialist organization. This ensured we could focus to provide the best volunteer abroad experience to our participants.

Visit uVolunteer, for more information, projects and destinations.
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