Category Archives: Projects


5 STEPS | Becoming a Rockstar Volunteer

If you’ve ever thought about traveling the world for a good cause, but just got a little intimidated by the whole process, this post is for you! Once we show you the easy steps to getting on board with a Good Neighbors volunteer trip, you’ll see how simple it really is and be well on your way to the adventure you only dreamed you could one day be a part of! Check it out>>

June 29, 2013-Ladagada Community, Silgadhi, Doti Province, Nepal: Staff of Good Neighbors International, Photo Credit: Kibae Park/Communication Advisor-CECI

 1- Pick Your Trip

In any given week, we often hear about issues such as the water crisis, human trafficking, or poverty in general, but can feel helpless to do anything about it. These issues loom like a dark cloud that stretches across the sky. How is one person supposed to even poke a hole in that? Well- you’re doing it! No one person is going to chase away that cloud, but a whole lot of people poking holes will let more and more sunlight burst through. A volunteer trip is your way to make some light break through by doing something practical and lasting for people in another country. You’ll get to experience daily life through their eyes, help with urgent needs, and most importantly, empower them with friendship and knowledge. Be warned though, they will most likely steal your heart and become friends and “neighbors” for life. As you’re scanning our info page of volunteer trips, a specific country or project is bound to catch your eye. “Hey, those people look cool” you might think. Or “I could do that!” That’s a good indicator that it might just be the trip for you!

June 30, 2013-Pokhari Community, Silgadhi, Doti Province Nepal: Photo Credit: Kibae Park/Communication Advisor-CECI

2- Ace Your Application

This isn’t an application for a job or a college entrance exam, so just be yourself! Take a few minutes to really think about what it is that impacts you about the work Good Neighbors does, and how it connects to your dreams or heart for people. Maybe even throw in some ways that you first got interested in volunteer trips or making a difference in the world, and future goals and plans you have to do it!


3- Conquer Your Funds

Ok so you’ve decided on the country, and you know what you’ll be working on while your there. Now what? Pillage and plunder! Just kidding. No pirates allowed on our trips. But you are officially an adventurer and activist, which is incredible! Your friends and family will want to get in on that! Not everyone can take a break from their job, family or responsibilities to go on a trip like this, so most likely they will want to support someone who can. So get out a pen and paper and write down every idea that pops into your head for fundraising or reaching out. Write down the silly ones, and even the massive ones! This will help get your creative juices flowing. Now pick a few favorites, and put all your effort into those. The cool thing is, even your friends who don’t have money to give would probably LOVE to help you with a fun fundraising activity! Here are some ideas to spark your brainstorm session:

-A letter. A real letter. People love getting things in the mail that aren’t bills! Haha. Write a heart-felt letter with all the details about the project and your desire to make a difference in the world. Don’t forget to give them a website they can visit to donate, or include a pre-addressed envelope to slip a check in the mail for you.

-Set up an account on Having a link online to share on social media where people can easily click and donate is a great option!

-Make a funny video (something people will want to pass on) about your fundraising. Get your friends in on this!

-Everybody loves merch! BonfireFunds helps you design your own T-Shirt and launch your fundraiser online! 

-Ask a church or sporting event if you can have a BBQ at their location!

-Ask friends and family for unwanted items and hold a garage sale (everyone has stuff they want to get rid of!)

These are just a couple. Pinterest is a great source for more fun ideas!


4- Empower the People

You’ve raised the funds. You’ve made the journey. But how do you really make the most of your trip? Remember that above all, it’s about people. You aren’t there just to do a task and bounce. Even if it’s out of your comfort zone- interact with people. Even if you don’t speak the same language, there are other ways to communicate: through gestures, through smiles, through hugs. Show them you see them and want to know them. People are empowered by being known and being taught. Once they see you care about knowing them, they soak up everything you have to show them. We want to leave every trip with people thinking two things: “They care about me” and “I can take it from here.”

“My experience in Guatemala prompted me to reevaluate my decisions and the values that I deem important in life. I realized the necessity of pushing yourself outside your comfort zone in order for self-growth. There is so much more to explore in the world, and now I can’t sit still knowing there is so much more work to be done. Creating something meaningful is so much more exhilarating than you may expect.” -Amy Chio, GN Volunteer 2015 *Link to her blog



5- Document Your Adventure

When you get back home, toss off your dusty sneakers and fall with a thud on your bed, that’s when all the details will be fresh in your mind. But it won’t stay that way! One week turns into two weeks and slip by fast, and you’re already forgetting that silly thing the kids did to make you laugh, or the way that mother looked at you so gratefully as you put the last layer of paint on her new cookstove. If at all possible, sit down to write about your trip within the first week! If nothing else, write down a list of the highlights that you can expound on later when you have a good chunk of time. And in case you haven’t noticed, we love to feature our volunteers’ stories on our blog, so if you do write it down, let us know!!

Well that’s it! Pretty simple right? You can get more info on 2016 trips or start your application HERE , or shoot us an email at VOLUNTEER@GOODNEIGHBORS.ORG if you have any questions (or if anything still seems vague or daunting.) We can’t wait to voyage with you and see lives changed- lives in the communities we work in, and yours!

  Be the first to like this post

VOLUNTEER JOURNALS | Everything Was Shared


Meet John Seo (pictured above on right.) Avid reader and student of Tustin High School, John was one of several students who journeyed on a Good Neighbors volunteer trip last year. The location: Dominican Republic. Their mission: build new latrines for families affected by poor sanitation. But here’s the story in John’s own words.

In 2014, I went to Guatemala with six other students to build new cookstoves for families who suffered from inhaling toxic smoke while using traditional cookstoves in their homes. This past summer, we wanted to experience something different but also make an impact in people’s lives. So our team of eight volunteers went to help build latrines for homes in Chinguelo, a remote mountainous community and one of the project sites overseen by Good Neighbors Dominican Republic (GNDOM).


John Seo (right) and the volunteers taking a break in the shade to cool off from the sweltering heat

The obstacles began at Las Américas International Airport. Extremely humid air coupled with the scorching heat was almost unbearable compared to the cool and breezy winds of Southern California. Drops of sweat rolled down our faces even before we stepped outside.

Although it wasn’t my first time going to a third-world country in Latin America, my expectations were blown away by the extreme poverty that struck the country. The extreme disparity between the wealthy and the poor was disturbing. It almost didn’t seem fair that, back at home, we lived in houses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in one of the safest cities in the world, yet millions of people lived in poverty.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.4 billion people still lack access to basic sanitation facilities such as toilets and latrines. Poor sanitation is linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera and diarrhea, just to name a few. An estimated 842,000 diarrhea deaths around the world are caused by poor sanitation every year. Although the access to improved sanitation facilities has increased in the country during the past decades, rural areas still lag behind.


A latrine the team was helping to build


Volunteer Sam Yoon (left), helping a community member unload cinder blocks from a horse

We officially began work on the latrines on the second day, but the first day was just as challenging adapting to the new environment. As the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean shores always seemed just a few minutes away, most of us half-expected a small paradise, but the poverty stricken communities we passed by showed us the reality of the situation.


When we first met the families, something was quite different from ours. Families of 5-8 people were living in “houses” the size of our closets, yet not a single face showed discontent. The children were radiating with joy and excitement. It shocked us to see that even without the convenience of modern technology and video games, kids were still able to have so much fun.


Bonding with children: Clarissa, Lina, Eileen and Lina’s little sister (from left to right)


Community members, GN volunteers & staff in front of an almost complete latrine

More importantly, the sense of community the people shared was beyond anything we had seen in America. Every fruit, every soda pop, and every meal- individuals would come together to share the joy. Nothing was kept private and everything was shared. The trust and support for each other was even extended toward us, complete strangers to them. We worked side by side with them and they even invited us into their homes. With unconditional generosity, the families accepted us into their lives.

Geographically, most of the homes were separated over a mountainside, beyond a grassy plain, or across a river, yet the community’s concept of family stretched further than any border. Although the work we did there was more challenging than we experienced in Guatemala, we couldn’t have been more grateful for this unforgettable experience.

Blog_JohnOuthouseBlog_JohnNewOuthouse                         BEFORE                                                         AFTER



John and his fellow volunteers left Chinguelo with one latrine fully completed, and three more built with finishing touches added after their departure.   This directly impacted the daily lives of four families, improving the health for over 30 people. Because of the volunteers’ hard work and determined hearts, these households can now thrive, free from the dangerous diseases that come from lack of adequate sanitation.

If this story has inspired you to step out and make a difference, Good Neighbors has 2016 trips lined up and open for applications! Simply email for more info!

  Be the first to like this post

LA MARATHON | Meet Katrina


A meaningful encounter can happen literally- anywhere. Trader Joes for instance. It may seem like your typical grocery store, where you check off your typical grocery list, and rush past your typical shoppers. But if your name is Katrina Deaton, Trader Joes might just be the place you get recruited by an enthusiastic stranger to join in their next great adventure. But we’ll let her tell the story…

 Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?

To keep this from becoming an ad for a dating site, I’ll skip my height and astrological sign. I’m originally from Philadelphia, PA. I moved to LA almost four years ago to pursue my career in writing. I’m a poet that also writes scripts for television, films, and theater. I’m saving the novel writing for my seventies.

Have you always enjoyed running? What made you start?

My relationship with running is like the average relationship someone has with a parent, I love it, but sometimes I just don’t feel like dealing with. For the most part, once I create a healthy discipline with it, my body craves it. I use it  to get out unwanted energies or to escape my reality for awhile. And of course, we can’t forget the awesome physical conditioning it creates. I currently work at Trader Joe’s and many of my coworkers are health nuts who eat very well and do marathons, iron man’s, and cross training. I wanted to fit in with the cool kids. It was the best form of peer pressure I ever succumbed to.

Have you ever tackled something as big as a marathon before?

KatrinaRunThis is my second marathon. My first marathon was with the Rock and Roll LA Marathon. Before then, tackling life seemed to be a pretty big thing :-)

What inspired you to run the LA Marathon on the Good Neighbors team?

I was ringing up James Kyson and his wife, Jamee [Co-Captains for Team Good Neighbors] at Trader Joe’s. They looked like they had been working out and when asked, they said they had just come from a run. I mentioned to them that I had started training for a marathon a month earlier I could no longer attend. It was in Vegas. They told me all about Good Neighbors and invited me to be apart of the team. I was soooo excited. I didn’t think twice about it.  I always strive to do things with a purpose, a purpose that serves someone other than myself. What better way to do this than to run, which serves me, and raises money for a phenomenal cause.

Do you have a mental strategy to combat thoughts of quitting if the marathon starts to get tough?

I usually talk down to myself or pray or both. It usually sounds something like this, “dear God, please help my lazy, out of shape butt, get up this hill.” If that doesn’t help, the children and elderly people passing me by, usually put some pep in my step.

Have you uncovered any parallels between your training journey and your life journey?

Absolutely. Discipline is the name of a game I don’t like to play. But, it helps me in the long run; No pun intended. Running also allows me to convene with nature, my surroundings, and myself in a way I wouldn’t ordinarily connect.

What’s your favorite pump-up song?

I don’t believe I have one. I have to work on that.

What’s your favorite cheat day snack?

Every day is a cheat day. If I ran, I earned it. I love doughnuts.

What do you want your finish line hashtag to be?


Haha! Roscoe’s anyone?  Thanks Katrina!

If you’d like to fuel Katrina’s feet, she’s running to raise donations for our Zambia water project! The more donations the more inspiration in her tank- just click the grinning link below!

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 12.40.20 PM

  Be the first to like this post


It’s not every day you meet someone who can pronounce Kyrgyzstan, much less who grew up there! Meet Anna (Anya): with a Korean smile, a Russian accent, and a heart to  push past her own limits! We love getting to know more about the people who choose to go the distance; not only on our Good Neighbors USA LA marathon team, but to provide clean water for our friends in Zambia as well! Take a look…


Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?

Originally born in Uzbekistan, I grew up in Kyrgyzstan since I was two. When I was 17, my family moved to Los Angeles and I’ve been living here ever since. Although I am fully Korean, Russian is my first language. Hence, my name in Russian is pronounced Anya. I graduated from Pepperdine (Go Waves!) and currently work as a senior healthcare analyst. My life motto is Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Have you always enjoyed running? What made you start?

I believe I started running in college. Running became a good way for me to release stress and give me some energy boost. I like running outside – it helps me to take my mind off of things.    

What’s your favorite pump-up song?

I don’t think I have a favorite one, I like to mix it up. I listen to anything from R&B to hip hop to reggaeton.

Have you ever tackled something as big as a marathon before?

Running a full marathon has been my goal for many years, but I was always hesitant and worried I wouldn’t be ready. My former coworker Kayley -who ran the LA Marathon last year-  encouraged me and told me I could do it. I don’t think I will ever be fully ready (both mentally and physically) to run 26.2 miles, so I just decided to do it this year. I Anna1learned about Good Neighbors from my friends Esther and Kohyun who work for Good Neighbors, and I also ran a 5k with Good Neighbors last year.

What does a day of training look like for you?

It really depends but I try to mix up my training routine. I go running outside and hit the gym a few times a week.

Have you had any “I hope no one saw that” moments during your training?

One day I went for a run even though I was uber tired- never going to do it again! As I was running, I tripped over something, plummeted on the ground, and pretty much kissed the pavement. That was quite painful aaand embarrassing. Haha!

Do you have a mental strategy to combat thoughts of quitting if the marathon gets tough?

I think the faith that people have in me- including my family, friends and coworkers- will give me strength to finish. I don’t want to let them down. I promised my friend Esther that I will finish the race (she is one of my biggest supporters!). Also, knowing that I am running for a good cause will be my motivation.

Have you uncovered any parallels between your training journey and your life journey?

After I ran a half marathon last August, I realized that I will never Ann2know how far I can go until I give it a try and step out of my comfort zone. The same principle applies in life: we will never achieve our dreams and goals unless we push ourselves and take risk. I had been telling myself I wouldn’t be able to run a half marathon- much less a full marathon- in the near future because it just seemed unattainable. Some people have even tried to talk me out of it. But here I am daring to challenge myself. I know that both a marathon and life journey won’t be easy- there will be roadblocks on the way. But I am willing to take a leap of faith, and dream big!

What’s your favorite cheat day snack?

Donuts of all shapes and kinds.

Most important of all, what do you want your finish line hashtag to be?

I know it sounds very cliche, but I would say… #ididit

Thanks Anna!

If you’d like to donate to Anna’s cause- the Good Neighbors USA water well project in Zambia- click below!!


Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 10.50.27 AM

2 People like this post

LA MARATHON | Meet Manami

Manami has been working with Good Neighbors Japan since 2012, but came out recently to visit our US branch! She’s in a different country and culture, but decided to throw a half-marathon into the mix!  We find that inspiring. Here’s a little introduction to this gem. 


Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?

I’m here in the US from Good Neighbors Japan!!  I’m visiting LA to learn all about fundraising.

Have you always had an active lifestyle? What made you start running?

I love riding my bike on weekends to explore new places! To be honest, I’ve always been more interested in bike riding than running because it’s faster and I enjoy the breeze. But Good Neighbors gave me a reason to start running!

Have you ever tackled something as big as a marathon before?

Never! I’m actually a bit nervous because  this is my first fundraising experience here in the US. Haha.

What inspired you to run the LA Marathon for Good Neighbors?

I’ve been working with Good Neighbors Japan since 2012, and I just love everyone in this organization and what they do for people with real needs. It just made sense to join in with something good our US branch was doing while I was here!

Have you had any “I hope no one saw that” moments while training?

Ha, I think sometimes I have a pretty grim face on while I’m training. I always hope no one sees that, but it’s not likely.

Do you have a mental strategy to combat thoughts of quitting if the marathon starts to get tough?

I’ll definitely remind myself why I’m running the marathon, and think of the people in Zambia who are waiting for our support!

Have you learned anything from running that has shifted your perspective of life?

Yeah, it’s shown me that every single step gets me closer to my goal, even if the process seems slow.

What’s your favorite cheat day snack?

Skittles and Chex Mix! Because we don’t have them in Japan 😉


Manami and the rest of our Good Neighbors marathon team are raising money for our Zambia water well project! Help Manami reach her goal!


  Be the first to like this post