Creating Cultural Ties: Bright Light Volunteers Eyeing Canada, Vietnam for Growth

Since its founding three years ago, the nonprofit has expanded its reach beyond students to encompass on-the-ground service opportunities for teacher, civic, and corporate groups. 

volunteers

Volunteering abroad with her children led Dallas resident Catherine Greenberg rvo her latest venture. 

As she raised her own children to be global citizens and saw the impact volunteering had on their worldview, she felt the need to share cultural experiences with other young people as well. 

volutneers

Bright Light Volunteers Founder and Executive Director Catherine Greenberg

That desire led to Bright Light Volunteers’ founding three years ago. Now, the nonprofit has expanded its reach beyond students to encompass on-the-ground service opportunities for teacher, civic, and corporate groups. 

Its projects span the globe from Albania to Peru. The most popular program in Cuba was named a finalist in the GoAbroad Innovation Awards, which recognizes organizations “going beyond the conventional” in international education. 

Greenberg talked with Dallas Innovates recently about Bright Light Volunteers, its new programs, and what the future holds for the nonprofit.  

What is Bright Light Volunteers? 

BLV is a nonprofit agency that works with students, civic groups, and corporate groups to create meaningful sustainable service projects abroad in needy communities.

During high school you were an exchange student in Russia, how did that trip influence the development of BLV?

It had a major impact of the course study I continued when I went to SMU. It taught me a lot about global perspective, especially in the time that I was there right after the fall of communism.

We build global leaders through culturally-immersive, interactive service projects throughout the world. 

The main thing is, I was a teenage mother and always wanted to provide my children with the best opportunity and I really wanted to give them all the tools they needed to be [the] global citizens that our society needs. 

What is the overall goal of BLV?

We build global leaders through culturally-immersive, interactive service projects throughout the world. 

What do you think students, teachers take away from studying abroad?

I think it changes their mindset. I get exit reviews and it’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my job reading through those and seeing the transformation that people have experienced.

Knowing they’ve continued to make [an] impact and sharing the joy of culture and service and really fostering a sense of global brotherhood. 

volunteers

A Bishop Lynch High School student works in an organic vegetable garden in Viñales, Cuba. [Photo courtesy of Bright Light Volunteers]

Who are some of your partners in DFW? Abroad?

We’ve worked with Bishop Lynch [High School] and Irma Rangel, the all girls magnetic school through [Dallas ISD].

Another unique thing that we do is partner with Bethel University in Tennessee. So now, not only do students get service hours, but it’s a service learning opportunity and high school students can earn dual enrollment college credit as well.

What happens abroad is that there are very great NGOs that have been created in the communities in which we work. 

Tell me about any new BLV initiatives.

We’re doing one in Vietnam. It’s called Building Bridges.

It means not only building bridges culturally, but literally building bridges. There’s a lot of rural schools outside of Vietnam and these children have to cross very unsafe bridges over streams and rivers to get to school.

Many of them have fallen in and drowned. So, we’re working with a variety of partner NGOs to develop a program where we will actually be sending over aid and volunteers.

Tell me about the Cuba program, which was recently named a GoAbroad Innovation Award Finalist.

This is our most popular program. Especially with the new regulations under [President Donald] Trump, we’re glad that we can still offer it there.

It’s really a mission of re-creating the ties between the two cultures.

We work in the cities of Havana, Vinales, and Trinidad. We do a variety of projects with schools and working on organic farms.

It’s really a mission of re-creating the ties between the two cultures. I might add that the Cuban people are some of the most welcoming people that we’ve ever worked with.

It’s a rapidly changing society and its wonderful to be apart of that change.

volunteers

A Marsh Junior High School student puts the first coat of paint on a washroom built by Bright Light Volunteers during a three-week program in Ghana. [Photo courtesy of Bright Light Volunteers]

What do you foresee for BLV this fall and the future?

We want to continue to grow a program, not just for sociology credit at Bethel University, but a global citizenship certificate [as well] that you could earn through our program. 

We’re looking at creating a new program in Vietnam.

We’re applying for our Canadian tax status, so that we can provide these opportunities for Canadian students as well.

We have a scholarship fund that is now collecting money to be able to give needy students financial aid so that they can participate as well.


Dallas Innovates, every day

One quick signup, and you’ll be on the list.   

View previous emails.

Related Posts

Comments are closed.