Thursday, January 17, 2013

Featured With Love- Greg Buie with Visions (an awesome charityproviding education in poverty and conflict torn areas)

Featured with love is a series that I began to just plain share the love. I am constantly amazed by my friends and family, especially the ones that have started their own companies and charities. I get bogged down with just the idea of doing my own thing let alone where and how to start and then how to be successful at it. I couldn't help but think about how awesome these businesses and charities are and how it would be fun to highlight them here on my blog. Not that I have a ton of readers, but I'm sure that when you run your own gig, you take any and all PR that you can get. No one has paid me to write about these people. I know that I like to buy from or donate to companies and charities that have come recommended by people I know and trust. The people that I highlight here are all loyal, trustworthy, caring, and dedicated individuals. I hope you will join me in reading and learning about what they do. I am not asking you to purchase or donate anything from them. I am simply spreading the word. Please read along and leave an encouraging comment since they are their own bosses and thus don't always get feedback and encouragement. An easy way to spread the love (and if nothing else, it will help out your karma).

Without further ado, Featured With Love- first edition. An interview with my friend Greg Buie regards to his charity, Visions. I met Greg while in college, traveling the world together on Semester at Sea.  Greg and I traveled the streets of Salvador, Brazil and Havana, Cuba together. Greg is one of the most driven people I know. His passion for helping others is obvious in all that he does. He has a knack for making charity fun and meaningful for each and every person involved. His charity, Visions, has expanded so much since the days where Greg had just begun thinking up Art events and fashion show benefits on UCSD's campus. Greg leads a group of volunteers to Sri Lanka and even to Africa each summer and each year I ponder and wish that I could find a way to join them. Seriously, one of these days I will find a way.

Where did you come up with the idea for your business?
Visions was started in 2003 by a community of Sri Lankan Americans, who dreamed of going back to the country they left behind, to work with children and youth who had endured so much on account of a brutal civil war, poverty, and other hardships. In its first year, nine international volunteers spent two weeks conducting an English and Leadership Training program for 50 orphaned youth in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. Since then, trainings have been held every year, directly benefiting over 1,400 youth and involving 180 international and local volunteers. I personally became involved after volunteering in Sri Lanka for one month in the summer of 2004 with war orphans in the North and East, after which I became the Visions Co-Director and never looked back!

What steps did you take to make it a reality?
After years of running volunteer service trips and engaging local partners
and schools in various efforts designed to promote access to quality
education, we finally incorporated Visions in the state of California in
2008 and then on the federal level in 2009 as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3)
nonprofit organization. Over the years, Visions has worked with more than
30 partners and diversified our efforts to meet the immediate needs of
students and their communities.

What does your company/organization do?
Visions' mission is to change patterns of inequality by supporting
educational initiatives for youth affected by poverty and conflict. With
the help of our international network of committed volunteers, Visions
nurtures partnerships with local school and non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) throughout South India and Sri Lanka. Since 2003, Visions has
collaborated with our partners to develop a range of programs that create
educational opportunities and respond to community needs. In particular, we
implement a leadership & life skills training program, run after-school
tuition centers in highly under-served communities, offer scholarships to
students pursuing higher education, conduct trainings and offer support to
help empower teachers, coordinate volunteer service learning trips abroad
(including accredited trips in partnership with various universities), and
support development and capacity-building efforts of our partner NGOs and
various educational institutions/schools. In 2010 we unveiled our Kalagam
Visions Learning Centre in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which is a multi-storied
learning complex designed to provide supplementary education and promote
the develop of non-formal opportunities and skills development for 2,200
girls at the host school, the Hindu Ladies College. You can read more about
our efforts at

What is your dream/vision for the future of your company?
As an organization, Visions is committed to expanding its programs in Sri
Lanka and India. As Sri Lanka enters a new era of post-war reconstruction,
Visions seeks to do its part in contributing towards the educational
recovery and development of war-affected communities. Our intent is to
channel resources, both financial and human, towards offering maximum
leverage for education and empowerment of local communities and
organizations. In India, Visions sees tremendous potential for supporting
and developing innovative programs that will foster leadership and agency
among students and teachers. We envision a world where all youth, teachers
and communities are educated, empowered and uplifted.

What makes you passionate about your job?
Realizing that my skills and experiences enable me to contribute towards
the vital work of those who live and work in these communities is what
drives me. We are not the ones who are there on the ground year-round,
designing and implementing projects that bring educational opportunities
and resources to deserving students and teachers. Our local partners play
that role, and we derive our motivation from them. I also find joy and
inspiration in those we take abroad with us. More than 115 international
volunteers have now gone abroad with us (of all ages and backgrounds!) and
given their time in service of these youth and their communities. They
always bring such passion and energy to our volunteer programs, and it is
great to witness the impact their time abroad with us has on their lives
both while we are there and after they return home.

How can readers get involved or hire you?
Anyone interested in learning more about our organization or our various
opportunities to volunteer domestically or internationally should check out
our website for more info: Alternatively,
you can email us directly at We run volunteer
trips abroad every summer, and are also able to coordinate and/or
facilitate service opportunities throughout the year, depending on your
individual interests, skills, and schedule. We are also grateful to anyone
with ideas, connections, leads, etc. that might wish to share such details
with us to help us grow the organization. Those who are moved by our work
might also want to consider donating online at

If you like __________ then you will like this company/organization:
"engaging with communities abroad for the purposes of learning, service,
and cross-cultural exchange" or "giving meaning to your life by supporting
educational development work that benefits youth in need"

What valuable lessons have you learned since the beginning?
So many! Networking is key to succeeding in pretty much anything. In doing
international development work, you also have to learn to develop a thick
skin and get used to frequent disappointments and frustrations. There are
so many variables at play, you can never predict anything, especially with
working in countries where there is political upheaval, violence, or
rampant corruption. And probably above all else, you have to be
self-motivated and always forward-thinking. We are constantly rethinking
our strategies, trying to diversify our efforts, and pursuing potential
opportunities (most of which never pan out). You have to really love this
work and find value in it on your own. If you're doing it for money or for
glory, you are most definitely not in the right industry!

What do you do for fun/relaxation outside of your job?
I'm big on traveling, so I generally try to take advantage of my time
abroad by tacking on mini-trips at the beginning or end of work trips. I am
also a big fan of cooking, though not as much as I am of eating! LA has so
much to offer in terms of culture, nightlife, events, etc. that I have also
really enjoyed exploring all the quirky neighborhoods and attractions since
moving here a year ago.

Social media is:

What is your favorite thing about GrowingSoundRoots?
Keeping up vicariously with Ali & Phil of course, who I rarely get to see :)

 I told you Greg and Visions were amazing! Please don't forget to leave him with some encouraging comments! Don't forget to check out the website for more info on their trips, fundraising events, and how to donate.

Would you like to be featured on Featured With Love? Do you have a charity or business that you are passionate about? E-mail me or let me know in the comments section below.

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