When I walked into Foundation, The Rolling Stones’ 1971 album “Sticky Fingers” was playing in the background. Peter and Alex Cohen, brothers and owners of the shop, lounged on chairs as they chatted with two customers who were flipping through their newest shipment. “We started to sell records on Instagram to fund the other stuff we […]
Cindy Murray’s curiosity and passion to help others has led her to one of her most rewarding experiences yet — Global Volunteers.
For over three decades, Global Volunteers, a nonprofit organization, has offered people an opportunity to get out of their comfort zones, travel, and make a difference.
“There’s a wonderful dynamic that happens when a group of people get together with a common goal and experience working alongside local people that you may have never met before or you might not even have a common language with,” Murray said. “In our bigger and more complex world, it seems more and more important to just connect. To look into someone’s eyes and smile without concern of their job title, salary, or what their house looks like.”
Murray was raised where connecting and serving with others was a core value next to education and family. Her mother helped the disabled; her father helped the visually impaired. Murray was exposed to some of life’s hardships at a very young age. However, she’s always believed that “differences are to be celebrated and honored.”
Murray has made an impact on many lives during her twenty years with the organization. Some of her projects have included practicing English with locals in Cuba, building a community center in Costa Rica, and rehabilitating miners’ homes in West Virginia. However, Global Volunteer’s biggest focus is around relationships rather than manual labor.
“This isn’t the kind of experience where you’re going to be able to go home and tell your friends and family that you built 17 houses and painted 23 doors,” Murray explained. “It’s not about quantity. It’s really about making friendships and connections with the locals. That’s what promotes peace and justice.”
Becoming a team leader in Global Volunteers has given Murray the opportunity to witness and observe people’s connections within these communities. She said, “It parallels my career in theater and entertainment, creating and delivering experiences for people to have away from daily life, away from whatever challenges they may be going through.”
Murray also works for Walt Disney World’s entertainment operations. In fact, she is one of the masterminds behind Animal Kingdom’s “Festival of the Lion King,” a show slated to run only five years but now on its 20th.
“I’ve been very fortunate to combine curiosity, service, and connecting with other people into both my career and what some other people might call hobbies,” Murray said. “I ventured off into the arts because I believe that culture, theater, and entertainment can also positively impact the world and people.”
Murray feels extremely grateful and humbled by the experiences she’s lived through Global Volunteers. “The giving of who you are to others is so rewarding, and I’m not sure everyone knows that,” she said. “These experiences bring life alive. I love nonfiction. I love reading about other people, and I love documentaries — seeing about other people — but this is real. This is authentic. These kinds of experiences give us a little glimpse of what it’s like to live somewhere else.”
Global Volunteers began as a hobby for Murray; now it’s a part of her. She urges anyone who wants to make a different to start small but to start.
To see how you can help, visit globalvolunteers.org.