GoAbroad Interview

Jessica Wrobel - Marketing Committee Volunteer

Jessica Wrobel - Marketing Committee Volunteer

Jessica is a Marketing Manager at CareerBuilder in Chicago. She received a Bachelors of Science in Media Studies with an emphasis in psychology and cinema from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. As an avid world traveler and cultural explorer, Jessica feels truly privileged to contribute to Pangea Educational Development. Jessica translates her professional marketing skills to her volunteer work with PED, assisting the organization in building marketing strategies, communicating with external entities, and promoting the PED mission.

Pangea Educational Development Staff Member
Jessica ready to take on another day at the PED office!

How did you become connected with the Pangea?

One of the founders, Andrew Bauer, has been a best friend for over twelve years. I started as a supporter, attending PED events, and giving to various volunteers' trip funds, but knew I wanted to do more. Andy's passion for the work PED is doing and the people in the organization (PED family as we like to say) is simply infectious.

There's a tangible energy felt amongst Pangea volunteers. Being around such an open and passionate group of people, you can't help but want to be a bigger part of their mission.

Finally, I put all excuses aside and signed up for our marketing committee just under a year ago as a first step to getting more involved.

What exactly does your role at Pangea entail?

I assist PED (Pangea Educational Development) in various aspects of our marketing strategy as a volunteer on our marketing committee. I compile various pieces of collateral across multiple channels to communicate to volunteers, supporters, and donors who we are and where we're going.

What makes Pangea’s volunteer programs different?

Pangea's volunteer program is different from those offered by other providers mainly in the purpose which the volunteers are there to support: sustainability. It’s so refreshing to be a part of an organization that doesn't see money as the final solution. We see it as funding for a long-term solution. Many organizations work hard to generate donations or volunteer time, but it becomes a one-time transaction with no end for actual need. It creates a dependency that is not healthy for the future of an organization nor the group(s) they're trying to serve.

PED's sustainability model works with schools, not for them. Unified partnerships create a mutual investment in building projects that empowers them to continue successes long after PED is gone. We love our partnering schools, students, staff, and communities. What better way to express that love than work side-by-side until one day, they have the strength to go it alone? I believe this gives those in the volunteer program a clear picture of their value and impact that may not be as transparent with other providers.

Volunteer abroad experiences often change a participant’s view of the world. How do you make sure students who apply to Pangea are ready for these life-changing experiences?

To make sure volunteers who apply to Pangea are ready, we spend a lot of time getting to know each volunteer and their purpose for going. Because this is very much a life-changing experience, we take time to cover expectations and the reality of a trip with Pangea. We want to make sure it's a good match for both parties.

To make sure these conversations happen, each volunteer is paired with a volunteer leader who has traveled with Pangea before. This way we can make sure that any volunteer is both physically and mentally ready for the experience. The leader is their personal guide for everything from "what should I pack?" to "how did you re-acclimate yourself once you returned home?"

We also hold frequent volunteer meetings and touch base throughout the time between applying and actually departing. It's not only a chance to answer questions and make sure volunteers are on track with fundraising, but to get to know one another. This life changing-experience is something not just felt personally, but collectively. Our relationships with one another are a valuable part of this organization -- there is a reason we call ourselves a PED family.

How do your marketing efforts help participants prepare to volunteer abroad?

In my role, I help spread the word about what the volunteer experience is like. I help create and share blog posts, handouts, fundraising kits, videos, testimonials, and any other asset that can give future volunteers a true taste of the experience. I also assist the team in looking at the larger picture of what the volunteer program achieves collectively.

We take pride not only in creating sustainable school funding, but on being a sustainable and transparent organization ourselves. I help synthesize the individual stories from recent volunteers so that we can share the larger impact they've made with the entire PED family of volunteers and supporters. It is so important for volunteers to know how much we value their service and dedication. They are the lifeline of this organization and core to our mission.

What’s the best advice you can give those who are interested in applying to a Pangea volunteer program?

Talk to us. We understand the common perceived obstacles, such as timing and money, and are here to support you to get around them. If you have even a shred of doubt in applying, a simple, honest conversation will quickly help you determine the possibilities. Let's chat and talk about what volunteering with Pangea is like!

What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job with Pangea?

Hearing stories from volunteers and the community in Uganda is the most fulfilling aspect of my job with Pangea. They have an unspeakably beautiful and inspiring outlook on life and learning. What you learn about yourself, the world, and other people while in the volunteer program, almost makes the final product of a sustainable school system just the cherry on top.

You work hard together. You play hard together. You learn from one another. And at the end of the day, you've made something that will last lifetimes. I feel so honored and fulfilled to share these stories and give them legs to inspire others. If just one more person is moved to volunteer or live their life in service of others because of an experience I shared with the world, my job is done.