Kimberly built the foundation for her successful career and gained international experience as a Director of Business Development at Canadian company Infotriever and as Director of International Business Development at Telescan. In both roles she helped forge transnational relationships and pushed the companies’ globalization strategies forward. Degrees in International Business and Art History helped to not only expand her knowledge of different cultures, but also taught her the mechanics of running a business and gave her a “firm grasp on how to keep [a business] financially solvent and flourishing.”
While working abroad, Kimberly would tack-on volunteer initiatives whenever possible, but found her lack of options frustrating. “Back in 2000, I couldn’t find a single organization willing to let me volunteer for a week,” Kimberly recalled. “Most other organizations were really geared toward college and high school kids using their summer breaks to give back. That wasn’t me! Who can leave their jobs and their mortgages for three months?”
Kimberly realized there were others stuck in the same boat – interested in giving their time effectively to communities overseas but with limited resources or connections available to make it happen. Struck by this market gap, Kimberly began to pull together like-minded, talented individuals with a diverse set of backgrounds in medicine, construction, sustainability and communications to effectuate her vision for what is Globe Aware today.
Founded in 2000, Globe Aware, focuses on immersing people in rewarding international volunteer opportunities on a short-term basis (typically between 5-10 days). The company “works with various grassroot organizations all over the world to figure out what kinds of projects and programs are working” and they partner with local coordinators who “know what projects will be readily received” by the communities.
Since its beginning, Globe Aware has developed programs in over 20 countries and has grown revenues from $35,000 annually to over $3 million in 2019. This growth can largely be attributed to the big impact Globe Aware continues to have across the world and the repeat business they continue to receive from individuals and corporate partners who have witnessed first-hand the incredible difference they can make in a community.
“The fact that so many of our volunteers return from their experiences feeling empowered and impassioned to make a difference – that’s the reason we do it!”
Resiliency in Times of Uncertainty
While it would be easy to focus solely on the incredible achievements Globe Aware has accomplished over the years, the company has not been without its challenges. In 2008, as the world began to buckle under the weight of the global financial crisis, Globe Aware was not immune to the pressures and had to let people go for the first time due to financial cutbacks.
“We learned a lot that is especially relevant today during this pandemic and economic outcome,” Kimberly shared. “Things continue, but they are always changing, always evolving, and it’s been an interesting challenge for us to figure out what we could do in this environment to make sure we’re keeping income streams going to our communities where we have had projects going for several decades.”
As an organization dependent on airline travel, borders being open, and a willingness from volunteers to travel, the pandemic has been a blow to Globe Aware. But having learned from the 2008 financial crisis, Kimberly’s team has built up cash reserves and has learned how to effectively pivot the organization to navigate tough times.
Globe Aware now offers individuals and companies cultural experiences from around the world through a virtual platform called Culture with a Cause. Interested customers can select from a number of interactive cultural experiences ranging from learning how to make traditional Cambodian paper lanterns, cooking delicious Indian chapati bread, or practicing yoga live with an instructor in Vietnam. In fact, one of the most successful virtual options has been their Around-the-World birthday serenades where recipients receive a personalized birthday clip sung in different languages from across the globe.
“We’ve learned through these times about what people are thinking, what they need, what they want, and it’s been really fascinating,” Kimberly explained. “The whole idea is – how do we keep on with our mission?”
As the world awaits the return of open international travel, the Globe Aware team continues to promote cultural awareness by showcasing the beauties and challenges of a community through virtual experiences. Featuring local coordinators and craftspeople, viewers not only have the opportunity to ask questions and interact with their hosts, but they also get a glimpse into the host’s local environment, which may be starkly different from their own.
This cultural immersion has been a key facet of the new platform’s success and has been a remarkable educational experience for participants. The virtual experiences not only help provide cash flows to the people who help operationalize the Globe Aware voluntourism programs abroad, but also gives viewers a chance to experience the joy these activities give the hosts first-hand, Kimberly said.
While the long-term effects of the pandemic are yet to be seen, Kimberly is confident that the proactive steps their teams are taking now to adapt are setting Globe Aware up for success.
“It would be great if everything we did worked out every time. But you can’t just wait for everything to be perfect and feel like you know absolutely every aspect of [a project] before you jump in,” she shared. Mitigating risks where you can is key, but “You cannot let a fear of failure get in the way.”
For those who are interested in learning more about Kimberly, Globe Aware voluntourism and virtual engagements, we encourage you to check out the Globe Aware website here.
Favorite Books: Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Most Fun Place She’s Traveled: “Generally speaking, the more the culture differs from our own, the more my mind feels expanded by the experience.”
Currently Watching: The Last Dance (Michael Jordan Documentary) and the Dr. David Campbell Youtube Channel (Daily COVID-19 Updates from around the world).
First Thing She’s Going to Do After the Pandemic Subsides: Hug friends and have large family gatherings again.
How She Relaxes: Travel, books, movies and yoga.