GeoVisions Blog

The Ripple Effect: Terri Wingham’s Incredible Journey, Part 1

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Aug 27, 2012

Posted by Anni on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at Journeys for Good.  This Blog Post is used with permission.

GeoVisions note:  Terri Wingham started her "incredible journey" with GeoVisions in Vietnam. This post is an interview done by Journeys for Good regarding Terri's "incredible journey."

Terri Wingham with two cancer survivors

Welcome back to our new interview series, The Ripple Effect. The Ripple Effect explores the emotional impact of volunteer travel and its lasting effect on people’s lives. Today we’re speaking with Terri Wingham, a truly inspirational woman. As a cancer survivor, Terri has been through one of life’s greatest challenges and has come out the other side, vibrantly alive and passionate about to helping others. She has found hope through volunteering.

In her words…

In the last year, I have become a cultivator of hope. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Hope doesn’t make the misery go away or instantly transport you into a mythical utopia where unicorns frolic and vibrant rainbows ignite the sky. But, for me, hope is like holding onto a thick rope while walking through a dark cave. You can’t yet see anything, but you know that if you keep walking and keep holding the rope, you will eventually emerge out of the cold dampness of the cave and into the warmth of the afternoon sun.

Terri Wingham with GeoVisions in Vietnam
Your Adventure of Hope is so inspiring! How did it come about?

In October of 2009, a diagnosis of breast cancer changed my life forever. Single and 30, my life had revolved around my career, my workouts, and my friends. The next 18 months of treatment challenged my physical and emotional limits, but I never anticipated the difficulty of emerging out of chemotherapy and surgeries and feeling like cancer had changed me so much that my old life didn’t fit me anymore. Thankfully, an idea to volunteer in Africa with Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) gave me a chance to heal emotionally and sparked an idea for a foundation to help other cancer survivors volunteer internationally. My recent six-month RTW Adventure of Hope gave me a chance to evaluate a variety of countries and volunteer organizations to determine which ones I want to form long term partnerships with. My selection criteria included pre-departure support, in country support, safety records, and ethical volunteer practices.
How did you decide where to go and what organizations to work with?

In selecting my target countries, I knew I wanted to volunteer on almost every continent so I could compare locations. I also selected countries I thought would appeal to other survivors and had relatively established volunteer practices.

After my incredibly positive experience volunteering with CCS in Cape Town, I knew I wanted to involve one of the their other project sites in my trip around the world. At the time, going to India made me the most nervous, so I chose to partner with CCS there because I knew they would take care of every little detail and ensure I felt completely safe.

As I started to actively plan how I could make the Adventure of Hope happen, I saw a Leave-A-Review contest on the GO Overseas website for $2500 subsidy towards a flight around the world. With luck on my side, I won the contest and built a relationship with Mitch Gordon and Tucker Hutchinson of GO Overseas. They have both been phenomenal in supporting me and they facilitated introductions to some of the best organizations in the volunteering industry. I feel very luck that GVN, GVI, IVHQ, ProWorld, and GeoVisions joined CCS in sponsoring my program fees to volunteer in 6 different countries.

Terri Wingham with a cancer survivor

Could you talk a bit about how your struggle with cancer has informed your volunteering work? In other words, do you feel like it has changed the way you relate to other people, specifically people who are suffering?

My experience with cancer changed my perspective on life and struggle. First of all, having experienced cancer, I don’t ever take for granted my health and how lucky I am to be able to travel around the world and do this kind of work. In 2010, I could barely travel from my bed to the couch, so you can only imagine how many pinch-myself moments I had on my Adventure of Hope. Secondly, my experience with cancer has given me more compassion and I feel in a better position to witness people’s suffering without pitying them. Pity creates a wall between the volunteer and the person he or she is helping. Instead, compassion allows me to see people for more than their suffering or their struggles, if that makes sense?
Do you think spending time with underprivileged people has helped you gain perspective on your own pain and fear?

Absolutely. Some of the “underprivileged” people I met actually had so much more love and optimism in their lives than some of the most “privileged” people I know in the more developed world. I met people who would offer me their last cup of chai tea or invite me to eat with them, even if it meant they went hungry. In many countries around the world, people expect life to be a struggle, but it doesn’t stop them from getting up in the morning and doing whatever they have to do to survive. In my moments of fear over the cancer coming back, I remember this resilience and it gives me strength.


You can visit Terri's website to learn more.

Tags: Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Make Something Happen, Volunteering Abroad, Conversation Partner-Vietnam

"My Big Dream"-Volunteering Abroad For Six Months

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Tue, Jan 10, 2012

A Fresh Chapter logoTerri Wingham (A Fresh Chapter) is leaving today for Vietnam with GeoVisions on an incredible 6-month journey to volunteer abroad.  I spoke with Terri a few hours ago going over the details of her program for 29 days in Ha Noi, Da Nang and Ho-Chi-Minh City.

Two years ago, Terri found out she had cancer.  I use the past tense because she is a survivor today.  And what Terri is on her way to do is "volunteer on almost every continent as a way to generate awareness of the challenges of survivorship and build partnerships with the best volunteer organizations in the industry."

We are thrilled that the first month of Terri's journey will be with GeoVisions.  We wish her safe travels today, until she lands in Ha Noi and is met by our staff on the ground there.  We have connected her with hospitals and cancer survivor centers to interact with adults and children who have cancer and to talk to survivors.  We have her taking time with Doctors and nurses in the cancer field in Vietnam.  We have her spending time at the Ho-Chi-Minh City Hospital to participate in play sessions with children there who have cancer and spending a lot of time with cancer survivors.

GeoVisions came to the party late.  We normally take about 60-days to put a program like this together for someone.  We did this one in less than a month.  So...Terri knows there are some loose ends.  Not to forget the fact that she's in Vietnam during the Lunar New Year with schools and organizations shut for over a week.  Ugh.

PLEASE watch Terri's 2 minute video below.  You will instantly see why we jumped on board to put something together at the last minute for Terri, and why we believe so strongly in what she is doing.  You will see why we are humbled to be involved in Terri's Big Dream.

I truly hope you enjoy this short video and please join me in wishing Terri a safe flight and a successful month in Vietnam to launch her six months of volunteering abroad.

Tags: Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Make Something Happen, Working For A Better World, Volunteering Abroad, Conversation Partner-Vietnam

Teach and Volunteer in Vietnam - Enjoy the Traffic

Posted by Kevin Morgan on Thu, Feb 17, 2011

As CEO of GeoVisions (I'm Kevin) I get to travel and visit our volunteer and teach abroad sites, and interview international students for Work/Travel and Internship Programs in the US.  One of my favorite trips every year is to Vietnam.  And one of my favorite tasks every year is taking videos of the traffic!  I call it, "So You Think You Can Drive".  Here is this year's (You might want to turn down your volume!).

One thing I like about GeoVisions is the network we've created, and how we can use our Work and Travel students who come to the US to work in seasonal jobs during their school vacations to help our volunteers and teachers when they go to their own home country.

Phuc and Thao resized 600Here are Phuc and Thao.  They've worked in the US, but back in Vietnam they act as hosts and guides for our Teach in Vietnam volunteers.  Want to find the best coffee shops, go off the tourist trails, experience a homestay, just talk about Vietnam and America ... Phuc and Thao are just two of the people who can make your time in Vietnam unforgettable and invaluable ... priceless as the commercials say.

What makes our Vietnam program unique?  Every experience is personalized based on your own skills and interests.  Our partners in Vietnam may find you a Conversation Partner assignment working with children, or with business owners looking to trade with western countries, or government officials, or college students at a leading hospitality school.  You can do a part of your program in Ho Chi Minh City, then another part in Danang, or Hanoi, or the Mekong Delta.  Vietnam is one of the most exciting of the Asian "Tigers".  I think we help you be a part of the excitement in a way that no one else can.  You'll see why.

Tags: Conversation Partner, Teach Abroad, Volunteering Abroad, Conversation Partner-Vietnam, Work and Travel

GeoVisions Volunteers in Vietnam - new lessons in commuting

Posted by Kevin Morgan on Mon, Mar 15, 2010

Last week I posted a video about our volunteer abroad and teach abroad participants in Thailand - a ride on a motorcycle taxi.  Following the "traffic" theme, I took this video from a taxi.  I was visiting our Conversation Corps and Conversation Partner locations in Ho Chi Minh City.  I am fascinated by how people get around in different parts of the world.  In Vietnam you see cars, busses, but mostly motorcycles.  Sometimes you'll see a family of five riding on the same bike.  The lines painted in the middle of the road seem to be mere "suggestions"!  Driving in Ho Chi Minh City means really being alert, and looking in ALL directions.



 Vietnam is an incredible place to visit ... and even greater to come to for volunteering and teaching.  With GeoVisions, you can help students at leading hospitality colleges improve their conversational English.  You can choose to volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City for a month, then spend another month in the Mekong Delta, at Vietnam's incredible beaches, or in the capital city, Hanoi.

Vietnam has a 90%+ literacy rate.  Young people spend a higher percentage of discretionary income on education than any other Asian country.  Vietnam supplies laborers to countries where they NEED to speak English, or Japanese, or Chinese, or Korean -- and you can help them speak foreign languages better.  Vietnam - 2010 - It's high on my list of places you've got to be!

Tags: Teach Abroad, Volunteering Abroad, Conversation Partner-Vietnam

Become A Conversation Partner in Vietnam

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Sat, Jul 11, 2009

VietnamVolunteer 15 hours each week in Vietnam in exchange for free room and board.

Conversation Partners are placed in either Ho Chi Min City or Hanoi.  Weekends are usually free for Conversation Partners to explore local sites.  You can even choose to spend one month in Ho Chi Minh City and one month in Hanoi.

What is a Conversation Partner?

Volunteer to be a Conversation Partner and you will be speaking conversational English to the local police department, hotel staff, local business professionals, teachers, business importers and exporters, travel guides, students.  You do not need to be a teacher or to have teaching experience to be a Conversation Partner.  You just need to meet with the group each day (up to 15 hours each week) and converse in English with them.  It's fun and rewarding.

You may live with a host family (free private room and 3 healthy home cooked meals each day) or you may live in a dorm in a private room or even a hotel (free private room and free meals each day).

Conversation Partner LogoPut in a couple of hours each day literally talking.  The rest of your time is spent traveling and experiencing the culture of your host country in depth. "Meet" the group you will tutor in advance through email and phone calls.  Each business or organization is interviewed and carefully screened by in-country staff.

Do you want to learn a new language or brush up on your current language skills?  We can easily arrange optional language classes for you.  It's up to you.

Placements in Vietnam as a Conversation Partner:
English class in VietnamYou can choose to be placed in Ho Chi Minh City.  Work with college-age students at the Saigon Tourist Hospitality College.  Live at the school or in a nearby apartment and have meals with the students and teachers at the school.  This is a one-month placement.

Choose Hanoi for placement at a school that prepares students for overseas work in English-speaking countries.  The school is operated by the Labour Overseas Deployment Corporation.  You will work closely with English teachers.  Students will be studying English, but need lots of help with conversation skills.  In Hanoi, you will live in housing right at the school, as there are overseas teaching staff that live on site.  This is a one-month placement.

Choose both placements for a 2-month stay.

Apply now for the opportunity of a liftetime and a very unique way to see Vietnam.

Tags: Conversation Partner-Vietnam