I first met Terri earlier this year over Skype. She was volunteering in Peru as part of a six-month mission to find the best international volunteer organizations in the world. Terri's new foundation, The Fresh Chapter Alliance Foundation, has the audacious goal of helping cancer survivors regain hope in their lives after their treatments have ended by volunteering overseas. Terri and 12 cancer survivors will embark on the foundation's inaugural trip in February 2013 where they will spend two weeks volunteering in India with Cross Cultural Solutions, an international volunteer placement organization.
As an international volunteer myself, I know all too well the barriers to volunteering abroad and the challenges that lay ahead for Terri to make her dream come true. During my volunteering trip to India in December 2011, I learned firsthand the difficulty in finding a trustworthy international volunteer organization and the high cost of volunteering abroad. Yet, like Terri, I was so moved by the experience of volunteering overseas that I came home eager to make it easier for more people to engage in this form of meaningful travel. In September, my team and I launched Volunteer Forever, a web-based reviews and fundraising platform for volunteering abroad to help volunteers find and fund their trips.
Volunteer Forever is working with The Fresh Chapter Alliance Foundation in both of these capacities. We're waiving our donation fees to help the foundation's first group of cancer survivors to crowdfund for their trip expenses to India. Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way for volunteer abroad participants to collect donations to pay for their airfare, program fees and other expenses. Each of the group's 12 cancer survivors has created their own fundraising page with a personal goal to raise $2400 to cover their in-country costs. By leveraging our one-click social media integration, Fresh Chapter's participants are sharing their fundraising campaigns with all of their friends and family members on Facebook, Twitter and email. Indeed, our integration with Facebook has been critical to our fundraisers' success; the Fresh Chapter Alliance participants have been able to raise $10,000 in less than two weeks (66 percent of our donations had the donor entering the site through Facebook).
On Volunteer Forever, we've integrated blogging with crowdfunding to enable the Fresh Chapter Alliance survivors to use our platform to capture and share their thoughts about cancer survivorship and their journey to India to regain hope in their lives. One survivor's post poignantly captures this sentiment:
I am now part of a tribe of 12 going to Delhi for two weeks on February 16, 2013. Just like that, going about my life then India happens. Same as cancer. The cancer took me away from my known world and dumped me in alien terrain. This trip is part of building a bridge back. Thank you for your support!
Since the blog is so closely integrated with the fundraising campaign, the Fresh Chapter participants can use our fundraising platform to emotionally connect with donors and potential donors before, during, and after their journey to India.
Our platform is supporting the Fresh Chapter Alliance Foundation beyond just enabling them to fundraise for their trip to India. Each fundraiser's campaign page features a link back to the Fresh Chapter Alliance's organization page on Volunteer Forever. This page gives a high level overview of the foundation's mission and features Terri's pictures from when she volunteered in India. Therefore, as each survivor is sharing their fundraising campaign page across their social networks, they are also raising awareness of the Fresh Chapter Alliance Foundation's mission to "help cancer survivors shift their perspectives and find new meaning and purpose in their lives through volunteering internationally." For each survivor who shares their Volunteer Forever fundraising campaign on Facebook, Twitter and email, Terri can potentially inform hundreds of people about her mission.
Lastly, when the 12 survivors return from India, they can share their personal testimonials about the Fresh Chapter Alliance Foundation by leaving a review of their volunteering experience abroad. These reviews will be an important form of social validation for the new foundation and help inform potential participants about what to expect on a Fresh Chapter trip.
I'm especially proud to have Volunteer Forever support Terri's mission to help cancer survivors regain hope by volunteering abroad. In fact, I so strongly believe in Fresh Chapter's cause that I will be joining the survivors for their trip to Delhi. I'm looking forward to meeting each of the 12 survivors and participating in their journey to regain hope after surviving cancer.
Steve Weddle, 28, is the co-founder and CEO of Volunteer Forever, a reviews and crowdfunding site for volunteering abroad. He currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.