GoAbroad Interview

Jade Whyne - Founder & Managing Director

Jade founded V2 Volunteer & Vacation in 2013 after working in international development in the Caribbean, where she headed social projects tackling youth and urban violence. She speaks Spanish, holds a bachelor's in international development and a master’s in Caribbean and Latin American studies. Jade has experience working and volunteering in Spain, Ecuador, Bolivia, Trinidad & Tobago, and Jamaica. She is passionate about conservation, loves animals, and aspires to bring a truly responsible travel model to the Caribbean

One of V2’s fantastic partner organizations works with horses in Tobago

You’re British, but grew up living in Jamaica and Ecuador, what was the impetus for founding V2 Volunteer & Vacation?

I have always been active in volunteering, not only as a way to give back, but also to learn, and network. This definitely helped me figure out my career path.

I completed my BA in international development in the U.K. and relocated to Caribbean where I headed various social projects tackling urban violence among youths. It was during this time I saw just how dependent the Caribbean is on tourism and how much income tourism generates, sadly none of this trickles down to local communities.

In 2013, I launched V2 Volunteer & Vacation a small travel company dedicated to showcasing the side of the Caribbean rarely seen by tourists. By combining a volunteering experience, visitors are able to support local projects and make a positive impact on the local community–host families, local shops, and tourist attractions all benefit directly during volunteer placements.   

What advice would you give to volunteers preparing to head to Jamaica or Tobago for the first time?

Don’t be scared to ask questions! It’s a good idea to find out as much as you can beforehand so that you can get the most out of your experience, and we are always here to help–ask us anything. I would also say relax! Now, I mean this in the Caribbean sense of the word. The Caribbean works on its own time, things will get done, just not at the same pace as you may expect. Being open-minded and adaptable are the biggest assets one can have when traveling abroad. After all, you are learning how things work in other countries.

Jade always makes sure to spend at least two days volunteering at each of V2’s projects

Your academic background is in international development, how are you able to apply those skills and this knowledge to your role as Managing Director for V2?

Having studied international development I am able to identify suitable and sustainable projects for our volunteers. My academic background also enables me to provide input and advise our partner organizations on projects as needed. I am also able to create volunteering roles that truly are career enhancing for our volunteers. Above all, I work to ensure our partner organizations and volunteers are creating, managing, and delivering projects that are meaningful to the communities we work in. 

What are the typical characteristics of a V2 volunteer? Where do most of your participants come from?

Our volunteers typically have a strong interest in the Caribbean, which brings me great joy. I love it when volunteers ask me questions about the culture, music, or history of the region. We have volunteers join us from all over the world, and we love the diversity they bring to our programs. I think the biggest characteristic of a V2 volunteer is their passion and drive to bring positive change. 

A map is always a quintessential for all those who travel! 

What is the biggest highlight of the volunteer program in Jamaica? Tobago?

From a volunteer’s perspective, seeing their hard work come to fruition and the relationships they build with people in the communities they work with is the best thing about the programs. When I am in the communities I am often asked, “how is such and such keeping?” To be remembered for the work the volunteers have done is the biggest highlight for me personally and for V2. And of course the fun and enjoyment volunteers and the team have during our leisure activities.

V2 Volunteer & Vacation specializes in programs to the Caribbean, what makes Jamaica and Tobago such great places for a volunteer abroad experience?

Both are beautiful, charismatic, and vibrant islands. Tobago is one of the best places to go if you want to see pristine beaches and rainforests, so for volunteers interested in eco-tourism it is a must. Jamaica is a lively and exciting island with a cultural diversity that reflects the Caribbean’s rich history. There is so much to do, it’s a perfect place to have a holiday experience. However, in both destinations the focus on mainstream tourism diverts attention from local issues. There is a desperate need for volunteers to help local projects that struggle to help those most in need. V2 aims to provide an experience that balances an adventure in the beautiful Caribbean, with a chance to give back.

What can volunteers expect to take away from their volunteer experience?

An unforgettable experience! Not only do volunteers experience the fun and attractions these islands have to offer, it is an eye opening experience into Caribbean reality. It’s a chance for volunteers to not only improve their resumes, but also bring about positive change to communities that rarely see tourists in their neighborhoods. 

The V2 team visiting one of their partner organizations in Jamaica

Do you have any recommended literature for participants before they travel to Jamaica or Tobago?

We recommend that our volunteers do some research about the islands, and there are many guide books available. For beach reading we recommend looking at novels by authors like Earl Lovelace and Claude McKay. If you are more into history or academia, the islands are represented globally, check out books like Matthew Parker’s “Goldeneye: Where bond was Born, Ian Fleming’s “Jamaica” and Kathleen Monteith’s “Jamaica in Slavery and Freedom: History, Heritage and Culture”. 

What has been your biggest achievement as Managing Director since founding V2? 

As the founder, the biggest achievement has been to see an idea become reality, in developing solid partnerships with organizations on the islands, and pairing volunteers with our partner organizations.  

In 2014, my biggest achievement was rolling out the eight-week internship program geared toward students and graduates. This program offers a career enhancing experience and is a great opportunity to gain practical experience.

What is the most fulfilling part about your work with V2 Volunteer & Vacation?

The feedback we get from our volunteers and partner organizations. It is so fulfilling to hear how much our volunteers enjoyed their trip and how much they learned from it, and I love seeing our partner organizations progress and reach their goals. The communities we operate in take delight in looking out for the volunteers and feel proud that international volunteers choose to spend time in their community.