GoAbroad Interview

Jamie-Lee Reynolds - Global Programs Manager

Jamie-Lee Reynolds - Global Programs Manager

Originally from South Africa, Jamie-Lee began working for International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) in early 2009. She currently oversees day-to-day operations of the IVHQ office, working closely with the IVHQ program managers and local teams to ensure the programs and office continue to run smoothly. Jamie-Lee loves being at the beach, swimming or surfing, spending time with family and friends, and being actively involved in Surf Life Saving. She also loves to travel and experience new cultures.

You’re from South Africa, how did you originally get connected to IVHQ?

I relocated to New Plymouth in December 2008 and at the time IVHQ was hiring for an administration coordinator. I had just completed my university degree and I also had plenty of travel experience in the countries where IVHQ was operating at the time as well as local volunteer experience, so it was a good fit for both parties!

Volunteer with school children in Laos

Visiting the children on the IVHQ teaching project in Laos

What inspired you to join the International Volunteer HQ team?

I joined the team in February 2009, and at the time we were just a small team of four, including Daniel our Executive Director and his mum, Sue. It appealed to me that the company was small, but had an impressive vision for where it wanted to go. I loved the idea that IVHQ was making volunteering abroad accessible to all by offering the lowest fees available. IVHQ also instantly felt like family to me.

You manage all IVHQ continent and country teams. What does your day-to-day look like overseeing operations across the globe?

We have continent managers who oversee each continent team; I assist them and their teams if they need guidance any on certain areas. I oversee the planning of staff trips for each member of our team in the office to travel to our programs and check in on our local teams and volunteers in-country. I work on rolling out the new ideas and upgrades to our website, which we do regularly to make the best possible user experience for our volunteers and also for our team in the office.

Volunteer with children in Uganda

Spending time on the IVHQ childcare program in Uganda

What characteristics does an ideal IVHQ volunteer possess?

My ideal IVHQ volunteer is one who is adaptable and can embrace a new and different culture, which they will experience volunteering abroad.

A volunteer who is able to bring their own initiative and ideas into their work placement is one who can also make a big difference.

What is the most interesting volunteer program International Volunteer HQ offers?

I often get asked this by volunteers who I meet and it’s a question I find difficult to answer. I believe all of our programs offer an interesting experience, and as each volunteer is different, it really depends on what they find interesting and what they most want to gain from their experience abroad. We’ve got so many programs to choose from that we can usually match a program to all volunteer interests.

Hiking in Romania

Spending a weekend hiking in Romania

How do you help participants prepare for and process their time abroad?

I believe arming the volunteers with information is the best way we prepare them. We have an interactive My IVHQ platform for volunteers and after they secure their spot on the program this contains an extensive information booklet specific to the IVHQ program they’ve chosen. It also has three volunteer training modules, which are fun to complete but deliver important messages about best practice while volunteering abroad.

The most valuable resource we have for volunteers is their IVHQ program manager. Our program managers have a wealth of knowledge and love sharing their knowledge with upcoming volunteers who can ask them any question, big or small, to help them prepare.

You’ve traveled to 30 countries, what is the most important thing program participants should know before heading abroad?

Be adaptable! Every country has a different way of doing things and this way might be very different to what the volunteers are used to. If volunteers can embrace the differences in the way of life then this really helps their overall experience.

How does the structure of IVHQ’s programs enable volunteers to fully immerse themselves in the culture of their host country?

We have programs which offer homestay accommodation, and this is a great way to become immersed in the local culture. For those that have volunteer house accommodation, we have accommodation managers who are also locals and can share their way of life with the volunteers.

I was visiting a home stay in Morocco recently and the host mother said to me that her volunteers “Sleep Moroccan, eat Moroccan”. Meaning volunteers in Morocco sleep on a traditional sdader and share local food in the communal family way by using their hands.

Our programs also run for usually three to five hours of work per day, so volunteers have ample free time to explore and discover what each country has to offer!

Sightseeing in Laos

Visiting Laos with IVHQ’s Asia Continent Manager, Margarete Lua

You love to spend time on the beach swimming and surfing. Where is the best place for volunteers to hit the beach and catch a wave in your opinion?

As part of their program, our South Africa Surf Outreach project

In their free time over a weekend trip, the Philippines, Brazil, Guatemala (our local team offers a surf trip to El Salvador), Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, and Bali. These are the ones that first spring to mind.

What has been your biggest achievement since joining the IVHQ team in 2009?

I feel my biggest achievement is being able to say that I’ve been part of the journey with IVHQ, from where we were then in 2009, a team of four with a handful of programs abroad, to a team of now over 20 people, with over 30 destinations plus more to come!

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

I work with an amazing team of passionate people and I love that we make it possible for our volunteers to have an awesome experience abroad, while also giving back to the local communities. We work hard to ensure we offer the best programs possible, but we also have a great time doing it!