GoAbroad Interview

Maddie Craig - U.S. Program Coordinator

Maddie Craig - U.S. Program Coordinator

Maddie graduated from Saint Michael's College with a Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology and a concentration in Spanish. Her study abroad trip to Cusco, Peru got her hooked on travel and motivated her to work for an organization like Volunteers for Peace (VFP). Maddie started working at VFP in 2013 as the U.S. Programs Intern. Since then, she has led a workcamp in Monkton, Vermont and participated in a women's empowerment project in Nepal. Maddie is now the U.S. Programs Coordinator. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, swimming, biking, and most outdoor activities. 

You studied abroad in Peru in 2012, and have also spent time in Nepal, how did your experience overseas impact your path toward your career?

I have always been interested in travel and international voluntary service, so these trips only strengthened this desire. It got me more motivated to be a part of an organization that was connected to an international network, and I see the importance more and more every day of making friends abroad in order to create a more peaceful world. I see this through my work at Volunteers for Peace (VFP) and also my own personal travels and volunteer experience.

International volunteers at Willowell Foundation in Monkton, Vermont.

Maddie with a group of international volunteers at the Willowell Foundation in Monkton, Vermont (Summer 2013).

How did you get connected with Volunteers for Peace in 2013 as an intern?

VFP advertised an internship opportunity through the career development office at my college, and at the time I was seeking opportunities to connect with and do work for a non-profit that aligned with my interests.

You recently completed your degree in Anthropology and Spanish, how are you able to apply this knowledge and skills to your work with Volunteers for Peace? 

Part of my job involves emailing and talking to people from all over the world every day, so an understanding that English is their second language, and also of their cultural differences, is very useful in communicating with them. The largest part of my job is organizing groups of international volunteers coming together to serve in the U.S. My anthropology knowledge has been very useful in facilitating cultural exchanges and also understanding what it is like to experience a different culture and interact with people from different backgrounds.

What do you see as the value knowing a second language holds for working for an international voluntary service organization?

It is always important to be able to communicate effectively and especially with the nature of this job we are always communicating with international partners. Even though they all speak English, it is important to understand their struggles of speaking a second language that is not their native language. In addition, there is always opportunity for growth in an organization. With our close proximity to Central and South America it is important to be able to communicate in another language for project development.

Volunteer with translator in Nepal

Maddie with her local friend and translator in Nepal (2014).

What does an average day look like as the U.S. Programs Coordinator?

During the winter, I spend my time connecting with local hosts to develop projects for the upcoming year and make sure we are providing valuable volunteer opportunities to international volunteers. In the spring, I get many volunteer applications from our international partners and I spend a lot of time placing international volunteers in our projects. Summer is my busiest time as that is when most of our projects take place. I work on facilitating volunteer arrivals to the projects, visiting project sites, and organizing community events and donations to help keep the community involved.

You’ve officially been with Volunteers for Peace as the U.S. Programs Coordinator since early 2013. What has been your biggest accomplishment in the last two years?

My biggest accomplishment is creating strong relationships with local hosts and providing international volunteers with meaningful volunteer projects to broaden their experiences.

What sets Volunteers for Peace’s programs apart from other volunteer organizations?

Besides the affordable cost of the projects, we are very focused on supporting community based, grassroots projects. We get proposals from local hosts who want to achieve something in their community and we provide the volunteers for them to make that project possible.

What is your favorite part about working for Volunteers for Peace?

I love that I am part of an organization working toward a more peaceful world, and I am reminded every day through my contact with international partners that we are a part of a large network of organizations all over the world who are working for the same goal.

Volunteers working at Rock Point School in Burlington, Vermont

Maddie working with a group of Japanese volunteers at Rock Point School in Burlington, Vermont (Summer 2014).

You stay very active, swimming and rock climbing, during your free time in Vermont. How do you incorporate these kinds of activities into Volunteers for Peace’s domestic workcamps in Vermont?

We try to provide time for leisure activities in each camp and there is always a focus of healthy living and sustainability in our workcamps, along with creating friendships. We always try to get the volunteers outdoors for a hike, nature walk, a swim in the lake, or just to try something new. This helps to bring volunteers back to the focus of the camp and also reminds them of the importance of sharing fun times and laughter with each other.

You are interested in development volunteer work, specifically relating to women’s empowerment. If you had to leave the country tomorrow to volunteer abroad on one of the Volunteers for Peace programs that touches on this area, which program would you choose?

I would go on a project to Ecuador or Nicaragua working with a women’s cooperative or providing micro loans and income generation skills to women. Another awesome part about working here is I get to hear about volunteers planning trips abroad and I get a sense of all the possibilities out there.

What is the most fulfilling part about your role as U.S. Programs Coordinator?

I see so many volunteers come through who are having amazing experiences and making so many connections with each other, despite their differences. Talking to volunteers and reading their evaluations reminds me of how meaningful and life changing these experiences are for them. Sometimes there are groups that I get to make a strong connection with and I love making friends from all over the world.