Volunteer OverseasVolunteer Overseas

25 Years of Global Service

We asked Peter Slowe, the founder of Projects Abroad, to tell us more about his experiences at the company, and how volunteering abroad has grown over the years:

Projects Abroad is the world’s leading international volunteering organization, with headquarters in the UK and offices and projects in over 50 countries around the world. With our global reach, we offer the widest range of volunteer projects and locations, and our own dedicated staff are on hand 24/7 to make sure our volunteers make the most of their experience and leave a lasting, positive impact.

In 2017, Projects Abroad celebrates 25 years of supporting international volunteering. Since 1992, we have sent volunteers to work in 38 countries and helped 115,000 people make a lasting impact across the globe.

In 2016, Projects Abroad embarked on an exciting journey with the appointment of a new CEO, Greg Thomson, who has taken over the day-to-day running of Projects Abroad from our founder, Peter Slowe.

Greg is a supported by a highly experienced core team, many of whom are former volunteers themselves, and by committed and passionate project and recruitment staff in countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, North America, Australasia and the Pacific Islands. We are a multi-national organization that works across language, cultural and geographic lines. Cultural exchange is at the heart of who we are.

We also believe in supporting long-term economic and skills development in the countries where we work, which is why we have established several support offices in developing countries, including an IT office in Romania, a design office in Mexico, a finance office in Mongolia and a volunteer support and recruitment team in South Africa.

Where it all started

In the early 1990s, some students in the UK wanted a break from their studies to do something worthwhile - what today we’d call a “gap year”, although the term wasn’t in common use then.

They approached their geography professor, Dr Peter Slowe, to help them find opportunities to travel and work in Eastern Europe, an area then just beginning the deal with the aftermath of the end of the Cold War. At the time, with Eastern Europe experiencing significant change, it was difficult to find reliable information on opportunities for these students, especially in the days before the internet! Fortunately, Peter was able to help, using contacts among fellow geographers in the region, and he arranged for the students to go and teach English in Moldova.

This is how Projects Abroad was founded in 1992. Until 1997, we were a small, family-run organization with just a few part-time staff working with Peter Slowe to help college students to go and teach English in Eastern Europe. But as more and more people were taking time away from studies and careers to travel and work overseas, and with many developing countries in need of self-funded volunteers, there was increased demand for our organized volunteer travel programs, and we have grown from strength to strength.

25-year timeline since 1992 for Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad Today

Now after more than 25 years, we several offices in Asia, including one in Hong Kong. With more than 600 trained staff in our destinations and hundreds of projects, we are the world's leading international volunteer organization. With the help of 115,000 volunteers to date, we have accomplished a lot since 1992, and plan on accomplishing much more in years to come.

Projects Abroad volunteers are aged from 16 to 75! University students and recent graduates still make up the majority of our volunteers, but increasing numbers join us for gap years or summer breaks before starting university or while still in high school. Furthermore, our fastest growing demographics are career breakers and retirees choosing to take some time out volunteering on our projects.

Looking towards the next 25 years

We’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings in 1992. Our volunteers have helped us achieve an incredible amount in the last 25 years, but there is so much more still to be done.

We’re constantly developing new projects in our existing destinations, and looking at more countries where volunteers can make a difference. And 2017 has already seen the official launch of our Global Impact Database, which we are using to track and show the impact that our volunteers make across the globe.

Volunteers are needed around the world now more than ever. Find out how you can get involved, and be a part of our journey to make a difference across the world.

Projects Abroad in the Global Economy

We help to create local employment wherever we send volunteers. We employ many people directly and provide plenty of work indirectly through the services we provide for volunteers. We have also devolved various "Head Office" functions, such as management accountancy, which is done in Mongolia and design work in Mexico.

Because we work with local colleagues at all levels, our extensive network of local knowledge enables us to channel the skills of our volunteers to places they are really needed.

Cultural Exchange and Freedom of Choice

Volunteers learn from their chosen projects and the people they meet -- and vice versa. Mutual learning and respect is what cultural exchange is all about.

Now we are taking this theme of "respect" further than ever. We are truly global in our outlook. We welcome approaches from potential partners – schools, hospitals and so on – from across the developing world; wherever they are or whatever they do, we will try to meet their needs. And we welcome ideas from potential volunteers too; if a volunteer has an idea for a new program or destination, we will do everything we can to enable them to work in their own way. We will cherish their ideas and meet their requirements. We believe that flexibility on our part is a necessary consequence of our respect for our partners and our respect for volunteers. Read more about our Mission & Values.

Dr Peter Slowe, founder of Projects Abroad at our head office in England"Last year, we channeled into less developed countries the energy, skills and commitment of some 10,000 volunteers, not to mention over $18,000,000. This is a major achievement."

Dr Peter Slowe
Founder and Director of Projects Abroad.

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