GoAbroad Interview

Ellie Petrie - Placement Manager

Ellie Petrie - Placement Manager

Ellie joined the PoD Volunteer team in 2012 and currently works as the placement manager for projects in South Africa, Thailand, and Nepal. She has a passion for travel and volunteering, and has previously volunteered in Sri Lanka, India, and Albania.

How did you originally get connected to PoD Volunteer?

I’m unique in the team in that I hadn't initially volunteered with PoD before I started working here. They had been on my radar for a while as being a great ethical volunteering organisation, but before I had the opportunity to sign up to a trip, I was lucky enough to be able to start working with them.

View of the fjord in Norway

Exploring the fjord in Norway

You have volunteered in Sri Lanka, India, and Albania. How are you able to bring your previous experience as a volunteer into your current role?

Having previous experience in volunteering roles really is invaluable. I joined my trips independently, so I completely appreciate that travelling alone and committing to a project can be daunting. This understanding really helps when preparing volunteers for their time away; I always remind them that the initial challenges they may face will be so worth it in the end!

On a more practical note, my previous volunteer roles have been in childcare and teaching. with this experience I’ve managed to gather plenty of silly and creative ways to engage kids and young adults. Having a bank of ideas behind you when starting a role is really important and its great to be able to share ideas with volunteers before they leave.

What are the typical characteristics of PoD volunteers?

We get all sorts at PoD Volunteer, from families to students at university to those taking a career break in later life. The one thing our volunteers have in common is that they have given up their own time to work for project in need of additional staff!

If you had to hop on a plane tomorrow, which one of PoD’s volunteer sites would you most like to visit and why?

I would love to head to one of our placements in Nepal right now. It’s a beautiful country and Pokhara, where the projects are based, has so much to offer. We work with a number of projects in Pokhara, so volunteers are able to get involved in a variety of things, from childcare in the mornings to sports coaching in the afternoons and helping at a women's refuge at the weekend. Also, our volunteer coordinator, Janice, is lovely.

Volunteer with youth in Thailand

Visiting PoD placements in Thailand

You have an academic background in geography and human development, how do you apply this knowledge and these skills to your work with PoD?

At PoD we’re really engaged with the ethical debates surrounding volunteering. My studies at university really helped me to gain a better understanding of ethical volunteering and the practices that need to be put in place to ensure that international volunteers are really benefiting the local communities they are working in. 

What’s the most important tip you give to prospective PoD volunteers?

Get to know the local people! Volunteering is a fantastic opportunity to work within a community and embrace a new culture. Put your phone, laptop, and camera down and talk to as many people as possible, ask questions, be friendly, and learn as much as possible.

It’s important to embrace the challenges of living in a different culture; it is the small cultural differences that you come across whilst living in a different culture that will make your experience unique and exciting.

What sets PoD apart from other volunteer organizations?

Our main focus is on working with a select group of projects that we know well and have long term relationships with. PoD is driven by and focused on the needs of the projects we support, rather than needs of the volunteer. We also have a very small and committed team, each volunteer has there own placement manager (who has volunteered at the project) to help them organise their trip and answer any questions!

Volunteer at the Childrens Home Patae in Thailand

Helping with homework at the Children’s Home Patae

You’ve been with PoD since 2013, what has been your biggest achievement in the last year and a half? What are your goals for 2015?

Since the earthquake in Nepal, the PoD Charity has raised over $12,000 for the projects we work with in Pokhara and the communities in the surrounding areas. This is a fantastic achievement and has meant that we have been able to provide long term support to schools and children’s homes that have been damaged in the earthquake. In the coming months I would love to be able to send more volunteers to these placements to continue our support.

What is favorite part about working for PoD Volunteer

I help people, and help people travel the world, what's not to love?!