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Founders of new volunteer and travel company say it’s not a voluntourism organization; focus is on sustainable volunteering
01-28-2013  By: Jovana Arnaut
Of GiveGetGo: Michelle Perrow,
Of GiveGetGo: Michelle Perrow, "build boss;" and Laurie Myles, "head honcho"
A new company called GiveGetGo has launched in Canada, giving travellers new options to combine volunteer experiences with travel.

Launched in June 2012, GiveGetGo offers itineraries in Guatemala and Tanzania, with prospects of soon expanding into Belize and India.

To position itself within the market, the company has partnered with Huntington’s MyEscapades.  

During a visit with, two of the three founders - Laurie Myles, “head honcho,” and Michelle Perrow, “builder boss” - said that they want to change the image of voluntourism while offering life-changing experiences. The two also discussed how the partnership with MyEscapades inspired the tour operator to look into launching its own volunteer division.

The story behind the name

Kim Hickman, third founder, GiveGetGo
Myles, Perrow and Kim Hickman, third founder, first met in Borneo, Indonesia during a Habitat for Humanity build (combined, the partners have more than 20 international builds under their belts). Through these experiences, they noticed that many volunteering trips didn’t offer participants the chance to explore and travel throughout a destination after their time volunteering.  

“You’re with people that you’ve bonded with but there’s nothing organized for afterwards that's substantial,” Myles said. “So, we wanted to get people to have a rewarding feeling through volunteering, but we also wanted them to be able to travel after because that’s what we knew was missing.”

Recognizing this gap in the marketplace, the trio decided to start a company, and with that, came the name: GiveGetGo. It’s designed to provide a platform for volunteers to give their efforts; get emotionally rewarded through volunteer work; and then go explore the destination, Myles explained.  

Don’t call it voluntourism

Myles and Perrow insisted that they do not want GiveGetGo to fall under the ‘voluntourism’ category because they treat volunteer work and travel as two separate entities; the first part gives travellers the chance to give back and the second part gives them a chance to reward themselves.

More importantly, the focus is on sustainable volunteering with results that will positively impact communities for years to come.

"When we set this company up we wanted people to come away with an [amazing] feeling," Myles said, adding that many similar initiatives often exploit the locations and don’t provide volunteers with meaningful experiences. “After our first trip, people came back and actually said that it changed their life. That’s the kind of feeling we want them to come away with.”


The two itineraries that the company is currently focusing on are building a school in Guatemala and an orphanage in Tanzania.

The Melody school in Guatemala is a nine-day itinerary that includes six days of building and three exploring the region of Antigua; and the orphanage in Tanzania is a 14-day itinerary that includes a day of travel; seven days of building and six days exploring Manjengo and Zanzibar.

Basking in the high of a recent Tanzania trip – the first departure which returned last week - Perrow said that two of the volunteers, in a group of nine, were so inspired by the build at the orphanage that they decided to sponsor three of the children and cover their schooling costs.

In fact, Perrow said that many people from the Tanzania trip already expressed interest in booking a return trip to be there when the last brick is laid to complete the orphanage.  

“They want to be there for the end process,” she said. “That tells you something. They loved the feeling and they want to see the project completed.”

“In many trips you get more back then you give," Perrow added. "You learn more about yourself as a person.”

Another way that GiveGetGo exhibits sustainable volunteering is by making sure that the group doesn’t take any jobs away from local workers.

“We’re there to assist, give the project a boost and create long term connections,” Myles said. “We really want to make sure that the builds are about making a difference in someone’s life and creating something that’s going to be sustainable.”

“We go in to work for a short period of time but that will benefit the community for decades,” she added.


Leveraging partnership with MyEscapades

When it came to breaking in to the travel industry, GiveGetGo decided to partner with Huntington’s MyEscapades which is TICO monitored and has plans to launch its own volunteer/travel division in September according to Firdosh Bulsara, general manager, MyEscapades/Huntington.

Firdosh Bulsara, general manager, MyEscapades/Huntington
Firdosh Bulsara, general manager, MyEscapades/Huntington
"MyEscapades has been heavily involved with Africa for a long time," Bulsara said, adding that he and his wife personallly volunteer and raise funds for the Lilydale primary school in South Africa.

“When GiveGetGo came to us, we thought that it would be a great idea to open it up to the travel trade."

The way the relationship works is when an agent calls, GiveGetGo takes care of all the booking and itinerary arrangements.  The company then reaches out to MyEscapades to complete the payment process.

Land-only as well as flight packages are available and commissionable.

Future plans

This year, and into 2014, Myles said that the company is going to promote budget savvy travel to Guatemala and expand its roster to include Belize and India; these locations will also focus on school and orphanage building with Canadian charities.

As far as positioning the trips to clients, Myles said that travel agents should stress they’re sustainable, safe and that clients will come back with an inspired feeling.  

“They can go to the same place and keep doing the same [thing] and they’re going to have the same results,” Myles said. “But, this encourages them to do something different. [Clients are] going to come back with a new perspective and a different feeling in knowing that they were a part of something that is going to have an impact for years. They also get to reward themselves afterward.”

“[Clients] can go South and their outside changes because they get a tan,” Perrow added. “But, if they come with GiveGetGo, their inside changes."

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