Global Vision International (GVI): Everything You Need to Know | An In-Depth Review


Global Vision International (GVI) is an award-winning organization that focuses on high-impact and high-quality conservation and community development programs. Its mission drives all that it does, “To build a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.”

Founded in 1998, this family-run social enterprise‘s team members work across the globe, and more than 2,500 people join GVI’s volunteer programs and internships annually. To date more than 28,000 people have participated in 150+ projects, providing service and tackling important global issues.

High-impact projects are key to GVI’s success, with programs that last from one week to six months. Short-term trips are designed for younger volunteers, including high school students, who want to travel, learn, and support good causes. Longer programs are excellent for those looking for career-development opportunities to build on their education and gain professional experience in their field.

Many of GVI staff members have served as volunteers abroad, so they have confidence in their projects, have the first-hand experience as participants, and want to share those same amazing experiences with fellow travelers who want to volunteer overseas. More than 150 staff in the field and office in 30 countries support its programs and the enjoyment and fulfillment of its volunteers.

GVI projects are designed to help address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which build upon the Millennium Development Goals. Programs focus on sustainable development in social, environmental, and economic areas within communities.

GVI is proud of its 95% approval rating from more than 28,000 participants and considers its community development and conservation volunteer programs as the key to its success.

GVI’S Founding Story

Richard Walton is the founder of GVI, having started the organization because he wanted to ensure that the programs run by GVI were making a sustainable difference to their communities.

The idea came about two decades ago when, as a young man with a passion for travel and meeting people, Walton and a friend gathered a group of 20 volunteers for a marine expedition to Roatán, an island in Honduras. The end result of that trip was a contrast to his first volunteer trip abroad, to Patagonia as a teen.

“I volunteered with an organization in Patagonia, for three months, which was, and still is, one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” he recalled. “I had just turned 18 and went with about another 120 young people on a youth development expedition. We split up into small groups and basically explored Patagonia. For an 18-year-old who was passionate about bushcraft and survival, it was heaven,” Walton said.

Walton said he and other members of the travel group were chopping logs and building a bandstand in a remote village when he noticed that no one in the community came out to see what the volunteers were doing, and weren’t involved. They simply weren’t interested, and probably weren’t going to use the structure. He asked himself, “Is this really necessary?”

That’s the kind of question that still drives the staff at GVI, where their ambition is to help provide young people with an amazing experience that helps them grow and build leadership skills, but also to have a positive impact while doing so.

How to Apply and What to Expect

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All solo participants on GVI’s programs abroad must be 18 or older, with the exception of those signing up for the Under 18s projects, which are specifically designed for 15-17-year-olds traveling as a group. Younger volunteers must travel with guardians or families.

Book your trip up to a year in advance, when projects have more availability. Once you complete GVI’s online application, it’s reviewed by staff members, followed by a phone call with a GVI enrollment manager. A deposit is required to confirm acceptance of all applications, and participants can pay the full amount upfront or in installments. Prior to departure, you’ll receive a training manual and a field manual for your chosen program. You also have access to GVI’s community networks, so you can contact other travelers and schedule meetups and more.

The program fee covers:

  1. Support from your own GVI Support Coordinator
  2. GVI’s community networks
  3. Field and Training Manuals
  4. GVI alumni membership
  5. Access to discounted professional insurance services
  6. Access to discounted travel guidebooks
  7. Training opportunities including free online wildlife courses and weekend teaching courses, all exclusively developed for GVI’s programs
  8. Pre-departure support and materials
  9. Most airport pickups
  10. Food
  11. Accommodation
  12. Training and orientation
  13. GVI field staff
  14. 24-hour in-country support
  15. Project equipment and materials

Where Does Your Money Go?

More than 65% percent of the funds received by GVI benefit its projects. The remainder pays for operational costs, including the cost of volunteer recruitment, and support of projects through the GVI Charitable Trust. At a minimum, fees pay for:

  1. More than 100 long-term volunteer projects
  2. More than 200 staff members worldwide
  3. Health and safety procedures including medical kits, fire extinguishers, communication channels, and transportation
  4. Field staff costs, including recruitment, training, development, and accommodation
  5. Food and accommodation for volunteers
  6. Orientation and training for volunteers
  7. Project equipment including vehicles, boats, utensils for schools, building materials, and more
  8. General operating expenses such as gas for vehicles, volunteer transfers, included excursions, and travel
  9. Administration and marketing costs

Stay Connected with GVI Alumni

Participating in a volunteer program abroad can have a significant impact on you personally, and to help you continue to find meaningful relationships, GVI has created its alumni program, helping you shake the blues of being back home. As an alumnus, you can hit the road again and enjoy exclusive discounts on new adventures.

Stay connected with program alumni and be kept updated by the GVI home office. Follow GVI on social media and read blog posts, and connect via the GVI LinkedIn profile. Whatever you do, you’ll continue to raise awareness of global issues as a member of the GVI family, and perhaps even join the company as an unpaid, long-term volunteer or a paid staff member – more than 60% of GVI employees are alumni of the organization. You also may be invited to join Outreach Teams at events and career fairs at schools, colleges, and universities!

Access the Ambassador Program to earn a free GVI trip, and use the fundraising platform if you can’t wait. It’s easy to become an ambassador. Follow these three steps:

  1. Send GVI a testimonial about your trip abroad, share your story and inspire others
  2. Send 10 photos to GVI to be shared on the website
  3. Email to set up a time to chat, and to receive your ambassador manual

Building Community with Global Partners

Travel confidently with GVI, whose volunteer opportunities are showcased in international newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, Geographical magazine, and BBC Wildlife magazine. GVI also has been featured on television programs, such as the Sky Travel Channel and BBC. In 2011, GVI was selected as “Best Volunteering Organisation” at the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards.

Partners include prominent organizations in the field including Coastal Jaguar Conservation, the WWF, and the South African National Parks. Because each partner organization is different, they require varying degrees of support and resources. GVI’s solution is to leverage its fundraising, public relations, and marketing skills and abilities to support its partners’ needs.

Learn more about GVI’s partners – past and present – here.

GVI Travel Options

Choose from more than 150 volunteer projects in 13 countries in the following areas:

  1. Wildlife Conservation
  2. Marine Conservation
  3. Women’s Empowerment
  4. Teaching
  5. Animal Science
  6. Healthcare
  7. Sports
  8. Construction
  9. Volunteer with children

If you’re researching impactful internships, GVI programs that last up to 24 weeks include:

  1. Marine Conservation
  2. Wildlife Conservation
  3. Business & Micro-Enterprise
  4. Education
  5. Community Development
  6. Women’s Empowerment
  7. Animal Science
  8. Construction
  9. Global Health

In addition to volunteer opportunities and internships, GVI offers Study Abroad ProgramsGap Year Volunteering, and Service Learning trips. Group and educational programs also are available for high schoolsuniversities, and companies. GVI provides full support, with Enrollment Managers to answer questions about projects so you can choose the best one for you. Field Staff will work with you to ensure your comfort and safety while in-country. Post-trip, you’ll appreciate the support structures that GVI provides, so your experience doesn’t end when you return home. Take a look at programs in the following destinations:

Volunteer and Intern in Ghana – Cape Coast

Projects: Women’s Empowerment, Volunteer with Children, Teaching, Short-term Community Development Internship

Program Fees: From $1,795 (2 to 12 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in South Africa – Gordon’s Bay, Limpopo

Projects: Wildlife Conservation, Marine Conservation, Childcare, Teaching, Healthcare, Community Development, Business and Micro-Enterprise, Gender Inequity, Women’s Empowerment, Sports and Surfing, Safari Field Guide Course

Program Fees: From $2,195 (2 to 50 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in Seychelles

Projects: Marine Conservation, Island Conservation, Wildlife Conservation, PADI Divemaster Internship, Turtle Research/Conservation

Program Fees: From $2,195 (2 to 24 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in Cambodia – Krong Kampong Cham

Projects: Teaching, Healthcare, Childcare, Women’s Empowerment, Community Development

Program Fees: From $1,795 (2 to 12 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in India – Cochin Kerala

Projects: Women’s Empowerment, Childcare, Construction, Teaching, Sports, Healthcare, Community Development

Program Fees: From $1,795 (2 to 12 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in Laos – Luang Prabang

Projects: Women’s Empowerment, Childcare, Elephant Conservation, Teaching, TEFL

Program Fees: From $1,995 (2 to 24 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in Nepal – Pokhara

Projects: Construction, Childcare, Healthcare, Women’s Empowerment, Community Development, Teaching, Mount Everest Base Camp, Adventure

Program Fees: From $1,695 (2 to 20 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in Thailand – Chiang Mai, Phang Nga

Projects: Elephant Conservation, Coastal Conservation, Coral Reef Research, Turtle Conservation, Marine Conservation, Wildlife Conservation, Adventure, Childcare, Healthcare, Community Development, Teaching, TEFL

Program Fees: From $1,920 (2 to 24 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in Fiji – Caqalai Island, Dawasamu District

Projects: Construction, Childcare, Teaching, Marine Conservation, Community Development, Global Health, Women’s Empowerment

Program Fees: From $2,395 (2 to 24 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in Greece – Giannitsochori

Projects: Turtle Conservation

Program Fees: From $2,095 (2 to 12 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in Costa Rica – Quepos, Jalova

Projects: Wildlife Conservation, Construction, Teaching, Community Development, Childcare, Women’s Empowerment

Program Fees: From $1,895 (2 to 24 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in Mexico – Akumal, Playa del Carmen

Projects: Marine Conservation, Animal Care, Global Health, Childcare, Teaching, Marine Conservation, PADI Divemaster, and Instructor

Program Fees: From $1,795 (2 to 24 weeks)

Volunteer and Intern in Peru – Cusco

Projects: Business & Micro-Enterprise, Teaching, Community Development, Women’s Empowerment

Program Fees: From $1,895 (2 to 12 weeks)

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