GoAbroad Interview

Sarah Ehlers – Founder

A Broader View has sent more than 6,500 volunteers to 200 programs in 24 countries since 2007, when Sarah and Oliver Ehlers founded the organization with the aim of providing the world, especially developing countries, with significant volunteer programs that help forge lasting bonds between volunteers and the communities they help.

A Broader View is one of the most successful providers of volunteering opportunities abroad despite being less than a decade old. What has contributed to its success?

Oliver and I are very passionate about the work we do at A Broader View. A Broader View’s success has been based on lowest possible costs, intensely researched program locations, committed staff, and our desire that our volunteers have a life changing experience.

What is the main philosophy of A Broader View Volunteers Corp?

Volunteering in foreign countries helps promote communication and trust between nations, and provides everyone involved an opportunity to expand their global horizons. Oliver and I hope to enlighten and educate the minds of those who choose to make this journey with us.

A Broader View was created due to the need to have an affordable, safe, and worthy volunteering program. How do you make sure the organization stays true to this goal?

Constant vigilance of current host families and program sites. To increase and improve on our know-how we focus heavily on our volunteers’ feedback as well as the evaluations of the project work and host families accommodations.

How does A Broader View come up with programs? Why did you select each location?

If we could Oliver and I would try and work with everyone!  However we know this is not possible, or realistic. As a charity, we are contacted almost daily by interested partners worldwide. Quite often a new location selects us. For all new projects we vet them, find suitable host families, and create a program that works for them and us. Oliver and I are in involved from top to bottom when arranging new projects.

What sets A Broader View programs apart from other international volunteering programs?

Cost, commitment, and caring. As a 501 (c)(3) organization our program fees are tax deductible for US taxpayers. Ninety-five percent of our programs include a host family experience which is not only imperative for cultural immersion, it directly financially benefits the communities hosting our volunteers. We genuinely want our volunteers to have a life changing experience. Lastly, we have flexible program with no set dates or time frames.

You and Oliver have traveled extensively across the globe. How did you travel experiences shape your perspective on the world? How did they inspire you to establish A Broader View?

Oliver and I come from very different backgrounds. Oliver was born and raised in Chile, whereas I grew up and went to school in Pennsylvania, USA. However each of us had the opportunity to travel abroad with our parents. These overseas trips, taken as teenagers, started our mutual love affair of traveling and exploring new cultures. As a middle-class American couple, it is not hard for us to see the need in many places in the world. Traveling to places that would so greatly benefit by a helping hand made us see that with some effort on our part, we could make it happen. It just became the right thing to do.

A Broader View has more than a 200 programs in 24 countries. Which program and location are the most popular? What do you think the biggest draw to this locale and program is?

Our most popular projects are those including language immersion classes with volunteer work. We have seen a sharp incline of volunteers taking Spanish immersion classes while volunteering in a health clinic or at a school project. Our Spanish Immersion projects are available in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Colombia.

Most ABV volunteers are first time travelers and want to combine their volunteer experience with time to explore and sightsee. That being said our most requested locations tend to be in or near “tourist hot spots,” such as Belize, Kathmandu, Nepal, or Arusha/Moshi Tanzania.

What is the greatest benefit of participating in A Broader View programs? International programs in general?

It is impossible to travel abroad and not gain a different perspective on life. What we as Americans take for granted — a glass of safe water, a running toilet, a good education — is usually viewed quite differently by returning ABV volunteers. Benefits can be diverse….many volunteers stay in touch with their programs people and continue to have a relationship for years. Some volunteers return again to a project, or come home and raise funds to help the people they met.

Safety is always a concern when traveling. How does A Broader View ensure the safety of participants in programs?

Written Orientation guides are given out to prepare volunteers both mentally and physically.  Onsite staff are present to provide initial support and orientation/training. Our volunteers are placed in trustworthy accommodations and ABV staff continually monitor and evaluate each volunteer placement.

What is the top reason for volunteers to join A Broader View programs?

We are an affordable volunteer program with diverse locations, wonderful overseas projects, and an excellent safety record.

What can we expect from the organization in the next five years?

Continued location growth, perhaps in Haiti, Greece, Brazil. Continued expansion of medical projects in established ABV program locations. Continued recruitment of qualified, committed, culturally sensitive health care students and professionals as volunteers.


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