Mondo Challenge Career Break volunteer experiences changes lives around the world
Mondo Challenge has been working in Nepal and NE India for over 15 years, as a part of the Mondo Challenge Foundation. Their collaboration with volunteers and local partners supports community needs such as educational training, agricultural projects and building infrastructure.
Anthony Lunch, Chief Executive and Founder, gives us his perspective on the organization and the positive impact you can make volunteering with Mondo Challenge. Below are highlights from our conversation.
As a former marketing executive turned philanthropist and entrepreneur, you have such an interesting background. Could you share a bit more about your journey?
When I was 18 years old, I spent a year living in Gambia and teaching. The seeds of philanthropy and travel were sown in those early days in west Africa. After returning from Africa, I transitioned into a corporate career and started a family in back in the UK. I am fortunate to have a strong business background working with multi-national organizations such as Unilever. In my 40s, volunteerism and travel came back into my life – cultivated by a visit to Nepal where my son was teaching in a village there. The visit illuminated a big opportunity to contribute to and support the community. I started helping out, really on an organic basis initially, by sending financial support and some volunteers to support the school. I was able to return to the school ten years later and see the positive impact of our work with the community.
It compelled me to make social impact more central to my work and life. I put together a business plan, landed initial funding – and thus Mondo Challenge was launched in 2001.
What type of people are a fit for Mondo Challenge volunteering experiences? And what should they expect?
Traditionally, our volunteers have been socially-conscious career break and retired people seeking to use their skills and talents to help others while traveling the world. Key attributes include: motivation, positive outlook, adaptability, intelligence and the always useful – sense of humor. For our type of placements, it is recommended that you consider a minimum of 3 weeks volunteering and a couple months, or more, is even better. This allows you time to immerse yourself in the project and connect with the community. Accommodations are homestays, so volunteers will be eating the local diet with their host family. Depending on the length and location of placement, sometimes volunteers choose to stay at hotels on weekends to get a taste of city life and get some ‘creature comforts’ as well (restaurant food, hotel beds, shopping, etc..).
A unique element from many other programs – is that no program fees are charged for volunteers. However, there is an understanding that volunteers will fundraise to support the non-profit or program they will be working with. The Mondo Challenge team is happy provide additional detail and guidance on fundraising and logistics.
Looking back on the 15+years of Mondo Challenge philanthropic impact, is there a particular program or accomplishment that you are proudest of?
While it is difficult to narrow to just one, I’d have to say our work helping women with HIV in Tanzania. These women are often widows, who contracted Aids from their husbands – leaving them to support themselves and their families. These women are commonly the sole breadwinners for their parents and children – typically a total household of five or more. Mondo Challenge provides small grants to these women and provides mentoring support to get small businesses started (i.e. grow / sell vegetables, brick making business). Career break volunteers helped the program get off the ground and help women to start their businesses. Within one year, the program was running very well. I’m pleased to say that now we have 900 women in program.
What would you tell someone who is considering a volunteer trip with Mondo Challenge?
Go in with an open mind, sense of humor and an uncritical attitude. Leave behind preconceptions about the country/people. Expect to learn A LOT from the people on the ground.
And in the classroom, roll up your sleeves up and get in there. It’s just so much fun! Sing, tell stories, read books…of course, all part of planned lessons. Students will embrace you and learning.
And finally, make the trip count. Consider additional time to travel. There is so much to see, do and experience – yoga in India, trekking in Nepal, visiting the Maasai tribe in Tanzania.
And what do your volunteers have to say?
Sam and Celine Gilmore share their perspective below and many other testimonials can be found online.
“We had a wonderful three months with Mondo in Tanzania and will always remember the lovely people we worked with. Being on the coast at Pangani was a great location and we were well looked after by Mr. Iddi and others at our homestay and at the schools. It was interesting to help Mondo CEO, Anthony Lunch, in developing the small business programme in Tanga an well as in Pangani; a superb initiative helping widows with HIV to set up small businesses….
Mondo Challenge seems a rather unique charity. It seeks to help people move out of poverty through improved education and does more than most to help encourage livelihood generation. We enjoyed our time and look forward to staying in touch.” -Sam & Celine Gilmore, Vancouver
– As told to Joy Steinberg, May 2016
For more information:
- Mondo Challenge Foundation Website
- Tanzania: HIV Grants Programme
- Career Break Volunteer Story: Gill – India Volunteer