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GVI is the world’s leading international sustainable travel and internship organization specializing in the global development and conservation sectors. For over two decades, GVI set the standard for impact travel and international experiential education programs. Admired by its contemporaries for its dedication to long-term positive impact and its ability to effectively manage risk in remote locations across the globe, the organization earns official acknowledgement in the form of industry awards every year.


More than 30 000 participants from a wide range of different backgrounds have completed GVI’s sustainable development programs. 

With the support of learning experiences guided by GVI staff, GVI participants have earned certifications from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and have become qualified Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) educators. 

While GVI programs are not automatically accredited, many GVI alumni have requested credits from their educational institution and received credits for successfully accomplishing the tasks required of them on a GVI program. 

They have established roles for themselves in a range of organizations from governmental ministries and intercontinental non-profits to organizations in the private sector. Some have even set up their own non-profits and social enterprises. 

Many reflect on their experience with GVI as a key part of their career development. Read some of their personal reflections on their GVI programs here.  


GVI’s management includes professionals with years of experience in the wide range of fields necessary to effectively run an organization that bridges several sectors. From marine biologists, former United Nations employees, educational administrators and international education advisors to adventure travel managers and those with organizational management experience, it takes a variety of experts dedicated to a single cause to run this impact-driven organization. 

All GVI staff are selected based on the mastery of their specific expertise, their dedication to social impact, and their ability to maintain a collaborative, friendly environment while achieving shared goals in challenging situations.  

Staff stationed at GVI’s locations, who work directly with participants, are required to have all the qualifications required both locally and internationally to guide participant activities. They are also trained in participant management and are certified in a globally recognized emergency first aid program. GVI field staff also complete safety training, learning how to conduct local risk assessments and implement Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) and crisis management plans. 

Every staff member is also required to complete an up-to-date criminal background check in alignment with GVI’s Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy. This policy is designed to protect underage and vulnerable GVI participants as well as local community members from real-world and cyber threats.


Service-learning is a form of experiential education that allows students to fully integrate learning gained from their service experience. The concept acknowledges that to serve others one must learn from their experience, as they are the experts on their challenges. Therefore service-learning places a strong emphasis on learning from local community members and organizations. 

GVI collaborated with Portland State University to develop their own service-learning curriculum. The curriculum combines specific service projects with relevant academic material and critical reflection sessions facilitated by GVI staff. Many, internationally renowned high schools, undergraduate, and graduate schools have completed service-learning projects with GVI using this curriculum as a foundation. 


Consistently an award-winning organization, GVI receives several awards annually from boards of peers in the international student travel and education sector. These include organizations like the World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC), GoAbroad and GoOverseas. 

The winners of some of these awards have been selected based on the feedback delivered by participants who have completed the programs. GVI alumni have awarded GVI top place in categories like safety and support as well as value for money. 


The story of GVI begins with its young founder traveling abroad with an international volunteering organization. He was surprised by the lack of involvement of local people in the project. This made him question the amount of impact the participants could actually be creating. 

In 1998, he set up his own sustainable development project, with the goal of partnering with local organizations, communities, and people, to secure the best chance of resulting in a long-term, positive impact. 

Over 20 years later, this principle still guides all GVI’s work, including marine conservation projects on remote islands in Fiji and Seychelles, and women’s empowerment programs in Ghana, Laos and South Africa.


Other than impact, GVI is known for its comprehensive and dynamic safety guidelines for international adventure travel. 

While their guidelines are compliant with British Standards 8848, a well-established UK system for vetting global adventure travel operators, their operational safety standards actually go far beyond these guidelines. 

In-country risk assessments are conducted by GVI staff for every external service provider the organization uses. This includes accommodation, transportation and adventure travel activities. 

Airport pick-up and drop-off services are also included on GVI programs. Participants are greeted at the airport by a GVI staff member or representative wearing a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI placard. They are also transported back to the airport in time for their flight back home.

Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) and crisis management plans are in place for all conceivable scenarios. These plans are reviewed on a quarterly basis by GVI’s local team and senior members of GVI’s field operations team. Any incidents, or potential incidents, are reviewed and new procedures are put in place. Another emergency protocol GVI has in place is the twenty-four-seven emergency phone line and desk available to all GVI participants and their guardians.  

All GVI programs are run by staff selected, vetted, employed, trained and managed by GVI’s central support office. Depending on the activities conducted, there is always, on average, a minimum of one GVI staff member to every eight participants. 

In addition to GVI’s excellent health and safety standards, the organization also assigns each participant their own personal travel support coordinator. These are international travel professionals who assist the participant with preparations for their trip abroad. It includes support with visas and other documentation as well as recommendations for personal equipment and other resources essential to include in their packing list.


Sustainable positive impact is one of GVI’s main goals and all GVI projects are set up in such a way as to ensure that this goal is met. 

All tasks assigned to GVI participants contribute towards one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including Goals 4, 5, 14 and 15: Quality Education, Gender Equality, Life Below Water and Life on Land. This ensures that all GVI participants, even those on short-term programs, are assisting with achieving long-term global objectives. 

In keeping with international sustainable development standards, the work GVI participants complete are aligned to local partner organization objectives. It is widely accepted in global development circles that in order for any development work to be successful it must be lead by local people and organizations. The goal should also always be to build the capacity of local structures to create the kind of change they have identified as the best way to approach the challenges they have identified in their context. 

All tasks assigned to GVI participants contribute towards the objective of local partner organizations. Many of these partners include environmental and educational ministries of local governments and local branches of international organizations like the Endangered Wildlife Trust, South African National Parks and Save the Children.  

GVI’s robust partnerships with these organizations allow participants on an Impact Academy program to gain an in-depth understanding of how local context affects development and the role that international organizations play.


GVI regularly reviews its operational practices with the assistance of external experts. This helps to make sure operations are always up-to-date with the latest thinking in the international development sector. This commitment to continuous improvement in ethical best practice is represented by GVI’s Badge of Ethics

Over the years, GVI has taken on progressive stances on a range of issues at the core of the sustainable development sector. They have taken stands against medical and veterinary volunteering, arguing that only those who are regarded as highly skilled and experienced in their own countries should be performing these tasks abroad. 

More recently, they have also taken a stance against donations to and volunteering in orphanages. Residential child care facilities like these have been conclusively shown to cause life-long harm. GVI also does not offer or support childcare volunteering programs. Exposing children to short-term international caregivers has been associated with attachment disorders and other long-term negative consequences. 

GVI’s animal conservation programs are also guided by strict policies around animal handling and captivity. Participants, GVI staff, and local staff are only allowed to touch animals or come into close proximity with them if there is a proven, long-term conservation value to this action. The same goes for restricting animal movements in any way. Principles for the humane treatment of animals are also always followed at all times.

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