JVN Volunteering Profiles – GoEco

Interested in travelling the world, and doing a bunch of good while you’re at it? We have the opportunity for you! Or rather, GoEco does – a thriving charity that has recently joined the JVN network. Israel-based GoEco arranges for hundreds of volunteers each year to participate in ecological and humanitarian programs around the world. Sound good? Well read on – enjoy our exclusive interview with co-founder, Jonathan Gilben!

Tell us about GoEco!

GoEco was founded in 2005 by myself, Jonathan Gilben, and my close friend, Jonathan Tal, to introduce volunteer tourism with an emphasis on the environment to Israelis while creating volunteer projects locally for international volunteers. In the last 6 years we have established over 100 humanitarian and ecological volunteer projects around the world including here in Israel where we are based.

We offer an informed and well-inspected selection of projects to our participants. Hundreds of Israeli and international volunteers each year participate in ecological and humanitarian programs initiated by our partner organizations around the world. Both the potential participants and the managers of our partner organizations are interviewed to make sure that each and every volunteer ends up with a project that is suitable for needs and abilities.

The kind of volunteer we are looking for is the adventurous and ecologically-concerned traveler who wants to be immersed in a local culture to become familiar with the local people, customs, and environment by giving back to the community and to the Earth.

How did you get involved with the organisation? How long have you been working there?

I helped establish GoEco after traveling the world and participating in volunteer projects in Greece and Mexico.  After concluding my own experiences I felt a powerful desire to encourage others to do the same as I know how rewarding involvement in volunteer projects can be.  I have been working here ever since the beginning in 2005, and every year I love my job more and more

How many volunteers are involved with GoEco?

GoEco organized approximately 700 international and Israeli volunteers last year in 2010 and we are growing in numbers every year.

What volunteering opportunities does GoEco offer?

We organize a wide variety of programs to suit our participants.  If you’re an animal lover you can come to Israel and volunteer at a wildlife reserve in the Arava Desert that works everything from gerbils to jaguars.  If you’ve dreamt of diving in the coral reefs you can come to Eilat and help with the conservation effort of these breath-taking underwater gardens of life in the Red Sea. We also offer humanitarian volunteering opportunities, such as placement at the Tel Aviv Women’s Shelter.  Our international programs can place you anywhere from China to Zimbabwe to Costa Rica, from working with pandas or lions or sea turtles to HIV/AIDS awareness or medical outreach or teaching English.  Parents – want to take the kids along? Kids – want to take the parents along? No problem, we can arrange a fun volunteer project for the whole family. Chances are, whatever your desires are for your volunteering experience, we have a program to suit you.

Tell us about the best part of your day!

I couldn’t be happier here doing what I love on a daily basis, talking and meeting with excited participants and helping prepare them for their adventures, but when I receive feedback from volunteers about their life-changing experiences after they get home from their projects – that resonates with me in a particularly special way.

What events have you got planned for the remainder of 2011?

We have a big event happening in November this year called “maysik zaytim” in Hebrew or the Olive Picking in English. This is an annual festival that celebrates the olive harvest that has occurred in the region since ancient times.  Participants will have the option to take part in this important cultural event together with many different cultures and religions. Many GoEco volunteers will be able to get in on the picking, pressing, pickling, preserving, and pigging out of our prized Israeli olives!

We’re thrilled that you’re part of our growing network! How do you hope JVN will help you with connecting to volunteers?

We are excited about our new relationship with the JVN and are sure it will help strengthen our ties to the Jewish Diaspora, particularly in the UK. Our goal is to broaden the spectrum of international Jewish volunteers to include Israel as part of their community and as a part of their family!

Have you volunteered with GoEco before? Tell us about it! Or perhaps you have some questions for Jonathan? Comment below!

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Categories: Volunteering Profiles

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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