The Opportunity of a Lifetime
To truly understand our organization and why we've made helping volunteers our mission, you need to know my story. My name is Nathaniel Amponsah-Manu. I'm a long-time volunteer, helping others, travelling the globe, meeting new friends, and learning about exciting new places and cultures is my passion. As Founder and CEO of uVolunteer, I try to impart this passion to our program and its participants.
I was born in London, in the summer 1969, to Ghanaian parents. My first experiences of travelling came early in my childhood, as I lived with several relatives all over Ghana until the age of nine. After these early years, I returned to England to finish my studies. As soon as I graduated from University with a BA in Industrial Design, I took a year off to experience living in Spain as an English language Teacher.
Once back in England, I completed a Master Degree in Design for Interactive Media and was recruited by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), where I spent the next nine years in the corporate world. I enjoyed my time with the BBC and my career was professionally challenging and rewarding, but at a personal level, I still felt something was amiss. Throughout my youth, I had longed to travel the world, and at age 32, I felt that it was time to live my dreams.
In 2005, I seized the moment and requested time off from the BBC to backpack through Southeast Asia. As I made arrangements, I remembered my time in Spain and the great experience I had working abroad. I decided I should do something similar during my new adventure, but instead of teaching English, I decided I would be more useful teaching a subject I loved and was skilled at: web design. This would give me the chance to be immersed in the local culture whilst giving something meaningful back to the community. This idea seemed a perfect balance of travel and service abroad, eventually leading me to start researching volunteer work placements overseas.
Unfortunately, my search for volunteer positions quickly lead to disappointment. I discovered that almost all volunteer organizations required a fee for volunteering. At that point, the decision rested upon what organization would give me the best experience at an affordable price.
After weeks of research I finally booked my trip with a local organization called Travel to Teach. I arranged to volunteer as a Web Design teacher at a rural community college in Nong Khai, Thailand. However, upon arrival, my volunteer project met some difficulties. After 3 days, it became clear that my volunteer position had fallen through, due to "internal political conflict" at the college. But I wasn't about to give in.
With my powers of persuasion, I convinced Travel to Teach to allow me to redesign their website as my Thai volunteer project.
That's how my first volunteer project began - I was happy to have the opportunity to experience Thai culture firsthand by living and working with the local community, and making myself useful by providing it with volunteers at the same time.
I came away from this experience having gone through tremendous personal growth, and this energizing change has remained with me ever since.
After returning to the United Kingdom, I felt the need to continue my volunteer experience in my own country. I kept in contact with Travel to Teach and continued to voluntarily work for them in my spare time, eventually taking a full sabbatical with the organization in Thailand. In my new posting, I designed and constructed a computer center with a comprehensive curriculum intended for teaching members of the surrounding rural villages to use Windows XP. I was in charge of the whole process, teaching the first classes, and training my attending students to continue teaching the course after my departure.
My long term involvement in such meaningful volunteer work left me deeply inspired, and stirred a strong motivation to bring similar life-changing experiences to others. My volunteer experiences in Thailand forever changed my life's direction.