- November 4, 2015
- Posted by: Anjana Sreedhar
- Category: Ambassador, Partner, Wednesday Wisdom
How can you combine a love for travel with wanting to assist communities in their path to self-improvement? Kathryn Pisco shows us how, as a social entrepreneur from Chicago with a passion for travel and giving back. After years of working in sales for large corporations, she took a career break with her husband, Mike – and travelled the world doing a mix of personal travel and volunteer work. She returned from the trip inspired her to create her own social venture –Unearth the World– that focuses on global service learning and responsibly pairing volunteers with international nonprofits.
I never thought I would quit my job to travel the world.
And I especially never thought that this life changing decision would lead me to launch my own responsible travel company.
Let me back up a bit and introduce myself. My name is Kathryn Pisco and I am the founder of Unearth the World – a global service-learning organization that pairs travelers with international nonprofits to promote meaningful service and cross-cultural exchange. The story of Unearth the World began when my husband – Mike – and I took a nine-month traveling sabbatical from our corporate sales jobs in 2013. We embarked on a 250-day, 20 country journey believing that it would be an amazing experience that we could tell our kids about one day. We figured that this trip would be a ton of fun but that we would most likely return to “life as usual” after we returned.
Boy, were we wrong…
Along the way, we completed five international volunteer projects because we wanted to travel in a different way and really engage with the communities we visited. We taught English in Nepal and Cambodia, worked with children in Ghana and Thailand, and built homes in Zambia. These volunteer experiences changed our lives. We fell in love with volunteer travel as a way to travel as a local, form lifelong relationships, gain an understanding of different cultures, and give back to the causes we believed in.
But sadly, these experiences also exposed us to some of the problems in the multi-billion dollar volunteer travel industry. We saw that the industry lacked financial transparency and affordability with many projects costing several thousand dollars for just one week. Instead of seeing the implementation of community-driven projects, we saw multiple that were created with the purpose of bringing in tourists. Additionally, we saw that most of the volunteer sending organizations failed to train and educate their travelers before and after their trip, leading to uninformed and unqualified volunteers. These problems in the industry saddened us greatly. So, when we returned home from our journey, we vowed to do something to improve this industry.
Our solution was to start an organization – Unearth the World – that not only allowed others to engage in responsible international volunteering, but also fixed some of the current problems in the volunteer travel space.
At Unearth the World, we believe that the best way to promote the growth and success of international communities (and contribute to positive impact!) is to partner with local, community-driven organizations. We are not the expert on how to improve education in Peru, housing in Zambia or the environment in Nicaragua. BUT, our international nonprofit partners are. So we partner with five amazing grassroots nonprofits through side-by-side collaboration. We gain an in-depth understanding of the needs of these nonprofit partners and send them trained, qualified, and skilled international volunteers that can fill their needs.
Since launching in early 2014, Unearth the World has allowed students, individuals, groups and families to participate in effective international volunteering. We will continue to try to improve volunteer travel and look forward to hearing more stories of how our volunteers have unearthed the world and learned about themselves in the process…
Wednesday Wisdom” is a weekly series curated by Everyday Ambassador Partnerships Manager Anjana Sreedhar. Every Wednesday, we will feature updates from our partners and reflections from the Everyday Ambassador community. To stay current with our latest posts, follow #wednesdaywisdom or #wordstoliveby on our other platforms, and check back regularly for updates.