GoAbroad Interview

Martim Agarez - Chief Experience Officer

Martim Agarez

Martim has a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in management. Now working as the CEO for ImacTrip, he has worked in people and partnership management, corporate social responsibility, and social entrepreneurship throughout his career. Martim is passionate about solving social and environmental problems and generally improving the quality of life for today’s societies, in order to guarantee the sustainability of future generations. His work at ImacTrip helps him live out this passion in a big way.

People riding a tuk tuk in Lisbon, Portugal
Eco TukTuk tour in Lisbon

How did you get involved with ImpacTrip?

I first heard about ImpacTrip when a friend of mine told me that Rita was planning to return to Portugal and launch this company; we had all been studying at the same college in Lisboa, NOVA School of Business and Economics. I always had the willingness to perform a role with a positive social and environmental impact, given that I had been a volunteer for many years and that I had focused my master’s in management in social enterprise.

A few years later, while searching for a new job, I reached out to Rita when I understood the project was a reality and she was leading ImpacTrip with Diogo. At the time, they were looking for someone to fill a position that didn’t make sense for me, so I took another job opportunity elsewhere. I still wanted a career change and started focusing my job search on opportunities within the (Portuguese) social sector. When I saw ImpacTrip had a vacancy for Chief Experience Officer, I immediately applied for the position and hoped for the best. I’m glad to say that, this time, we matched!

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

During the summer, my typical work days are very diverse and I usually spend more time outdoors than in the office. Often I’ll take care of issues and cater for volunteers’ needs, accompany them to their projects and, whenever possible, I’ll also join in on some of their activities. My favorite one is the youth support, in which I have the chance of having fun with the group, aiding the volunteers in teaching English to the children, and learning Portuguese with them, for example. Between transfers, supporting volunteers, and managing several other activities, my days are very dynamic and busy.

When you pick volunteers up at the airport, what are some of the first bits of information you try to provide them with?

Usually I tell them details about Lisboa, the accommodation where they’ll be staying, and the surrounding area, that we invite them to explore. Besides these, I also tell them about the different places they can visit, during their placements and free time periods, and show them what the public transports are that they can take to get there.

Groufie on a beach in Portugal
Orientational Day

What are the most frequently asked questions volunteers have upon arrival?

The most frequently asked questions that volunteers ask upon arrival are about general things - like “What do you do?” and “Is the weather usually this great?” - and also program related - for example, “How many other volunteers will be here during my stay?” or “What will I be doing in my placement?”

Can you explain what a typical orientation includes?

The orientation takes place on the first two days of the program. During the first day, we have a welcome session in the morning, when everyone presents themselves. Then we share some details about our company, our country, our culture, and our history, covering practical aspects of living here (accommodation, public transports, “street smarts,” and safety tips, etc.) and of the specific programs (projects’ descriptions, timetables, meals, rules, among others). We conclude with the activity and tourism suggestions.

After the session, we relax and have lunch all together before heading to downtown Lisboa (showing them how they can travel by train). We take them to meet one of our partners - who will give a guided tour to the volunteers - and they have free-time during the rest of their day. 

During the second day, we usually accompany the volunteers to their placements, showing them the best way to get there and answering all their questions regarding the partner organization and what they’ll be doing.

ImacTrip team at the office
At the office with the team

How do you help introduce them to Portuguese culture and begin to help them immerse in the local way of life?

We start their cultural integration process when we pick them up from the airport, handing them a booklet and giving tips that assist them in taking their first steps here. We go into further details during the welcome session - on the first orientation day - where we tell them about the main aspects of our culture and our way of living, mentioning practical examples and reminding them about cultural differences they should take into account while staying and travelling in Portugal.

Why do you think it is essential for volunteers to have 24 hour support throughout their program?

I believe it is essential for volunteers to have 24 hour support because they might have a question that Google can’t answer - only locals - or they may need our assistance in solving even the smallest issue, or even just wanting to reach out to us so we can all get together. As everyone is different, in their own way, we have hosted volunteers who are very autonomous and didn’t contact us more than for the basic things, and others who got in touch with us on a daily basis, asking for help or meal and sightseeing suggestions, and sharing their experiences and thoughts. Others stood in between these two patterns of behaviour.

What sets ImpacTrip apart from other volunteer organizations in your opinion?

ImpacTrip partners with over 200 social and environmental organizations in Portugal, providing opportunities for national and international volunteers to help many of them in achieving their impact goals. Being focused on responsible tourism programs, we propose awesome chances for anyone to have great touristic experiences in Portugal, “travelling like a local.” If you would like to discover Lisboa, for example, you could have fun strolling around in an environmentally-friendly walking tour or on an electric tuk-tuk, and then enjoy working with local volunteers in avoiding food waste. On the other hand, you could also take a certified diving course, while contributing to clean the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in a sustainable way.

Group of volunteers in Portugal
Preparing for some volunteering

What do you enjoy most about your job?

First, I spend some time both at the office - working with our team and partners - and also outdoors - touring or working with our volunteers, team, and partners. Second, I'm having a positive impact on society and the environment by helping others to perform their activities and improving their own impact. Third, I have a great and supportive team, funny and accountable whenever needed.