GoAbroad Interview

Emily Deering - Deputy Director of International Operations

From fundraising to leading volunteers, Jessica has been involved with Pangea Educational Development (PED) for several years. Emily is graduate of Depaul University where she studied International Studies. Originating from Kalamazoo, Michigan she has been planning events in her hometown for years. Emily has now taken her event management experience to PED. She wholeheartedly believes in the sustainable model PED uses to foster development in education, and through her role, Emily ensures that the organization continues to pursue initiatives that reflect that mission and model of development.

Volunteering in Uganda building schools
An action shot of Emily helping out on one of the volunteer projects in Uganda.

Tell us about your role at PED.

My role to date with PED has been Director of the Events committee, which involves a whole lot of coordination and decision making in order to put on fabulous events that raise funds and celebrate our volunteers. I will be starting the next phase in my journey with PED as the Deputy Director of International Operations. I will be living and working in Uganda helping oversee projects, coordinate volunteers, build community relationships, and further PEDs missions and goals. I am excited for this next step!

How did you become connected with PED?

I started out as an intern at PED several years ago. I actually had class in the morning with one of the co-founders and a second class in the afternoon with another co-founder. I heard so much about PED from them each day that I had to check it out for myself. 

What makes the volunteer programs put on by PED different from other volunteer opportunities?

PED's programs are sustainable, responsible, and productive. This is an organization that believes in empowerment and efficiency, even if that means waiting to do a project until we are better at it. The volunteers get an unbelievable experience that is not just about helping schools, but serving the communities that our housing them. PED doesn't create dependency, but offers new avenues for people to strive.

What do you do to ensure PED volunteers are prepared to volunteer in Uganda?

Besides the monthly meetings, handouts, and discussions that we have with our volunteers to prepare them for their travels, we foster the growth of a support system for our volunteers. Our volunteers are welcomed into the PED family where they are given the opportunity to express concerns, voice questions they may have, and share nervous jitters. It is the best solution to the difficulties travelers have, providing a family that volunteers can feel a part of. It's more fun that way too!

In your role specifically, what do you do to help participants get ready for the experience of volunteering abroad?

As I transition to my role on the ground, I will largely be helping volunteers with their experience after they arrive. I have been a trip leader in the past which involved walking a volunteer through the process from start to finish, but my new role will allow me to help guide a volunteer through the actual abroad experience. Overall, this requires an intense amount of attentiveness. Volunteers need to be heard, seen, and cared for. Some days that’s just a high five, and others it’s a several hour conversation. However it goes, being present and in tune with your volunteers is the best way to help them.

What advice do you have for prospective PED volunteers?

DO IT! PED is so much fun. There is no better way to put it. You will have an incredible experience. You will think new thoughts, see new sights and make new friends that will last a lifetime. You will come home with several inside jokes, a new playlist for your iPod, and people to stay in touch with all year round. 

What’s your favorite part of your job with PED?

For me so far, the most fulfilling aspect of my job is the volunteers. I love watching people have an incredible time, whether it is at an event or while plastering a wall in Uganda. I love knowing that PED has served not just the community in Uganda, but a community of volunteers that will then be able to come back with these experiences and continue to give.