Celebrating 20 Years!
Where it All Started
In the early 1990s, some students wanted a break from study - a "gap year," although the term wasn't yet in common use. They approached their geography professor about travelling and working in Eastern Europe. The professor, Dr. Peter Slowe, had difficulty finding any opportunities for this kind of travel combined with work experience, so he set about arranging for his students to go and teach English in Romania where he knew some fellow academics. This was how Projects Abroad began in 1992.
Until 1997, Projects Abroad was a small organization with just two part time staff sending university students to teach English in Eastern Europe. But with more and more people taking time out on academic and work-related breaks, and with many developing countries in need of self-funded volunteers, our organized volunteer programs started to mushroom around the world. Our volunteers can still teach English in Eastern Europe, but can also do many other types of work in many other places.
Projects Abroad Today
Now in our 20th year, we have two North American offices located in New York City and Toronto. With more than 600 trained staff in our destinations and hundreds of projects, we are the world's leading international volunteer organization. With the help of nearly 100,000 volunteers to date, we have accomplished a lot in our first 20 years, and plan on accomplishing much more in the next 20.
Projects Abroad volunteers are aged from 16 to 75! University students and recent graduates still make up the majority of our volunteers, but increasing numbers join us for gap years or summer breaks before starting university or while still in high school. Furthermore, our fastest growing demographics are career breakers and retirees choosing to take some time out volunteering on our projects.
Projects Abroad in the Global Economy
We help to create local employment wherever we send volunteers. We employ many people directly and provide plenty of work indirectly through the services we provide for volunteers. We have also devolved various "Head Office" functions, such as management accountancy, which is done in Mongolia and design work in Mexico.
Because we work with local colleagues at all levels, our extensive network of local knowledge enables us to channel the skills of our volunteers to places they are really needed.
Cultural Exchange and Freedom of Choice
Volunteers learn from their chosen projects and the people they meet -- and vice versa. Mutual learning and respect is what cultural exchange is all about.
Now we are taking this theme of "respect" further than ever. We are truly global in our outlook. We welcome approaches from potential partners – schools, orphanages, hospitals and so on – from across the developing world; wherever they are or whatever they do, we will try to meet their needs. And we welcome ideas from potential volunteers too; if a volunteer has an idea for a new program or destination, we will do everything we can to enable them to work in their own way. We will cherish their ideas and meet their requirements. We believe that flexibility on our part is a necessary consequence of our respect for our partners and our respect for volunteers. Read more about our Mission & Values.
"Last year, we channeled into less developed countries the energy, skills and commitment of some 10,000 volunteers, not to mention over $18,000,000. This is a major achievement."
Dr Peter Slowe
Founder and Director of Projects Abroad.