The birth of UGO Impact: Amazing what a handshake and pint can lead to.
Jill and I started UGO after meeting at an event I was running with a friend. Within minutes of our brief introduction, we learned how we both wanted to combine life coaching with volunteering so that we could really help people find clarity, community and the courage they need to make an impact in the world. So right then and there we all went for a pint and we started working together the very next day.
Jill always knew she wanted to help and serve others and assumed working in the nonprofit world would give her the fulfillment she was looking for. Especially after having done a short stint at a large bank that was way too corporate for her. For several years she moved from charity to charity looking for this elusive “fulfillment” and wanting to have a real impact in the world. She chased job after job but found herself in roles that really didn’t connect back to the cause, or that she was in toxic work environments where many colleagues weren’t all that appreciated.
Then one day, she met the man who would later become her husband, and on a whim and a dare, they decided to live and work in Uganda for a year. It was in that year they got engaged and it also turned out to be one of the best years for Jill professionally too. Working in disability sport serving a community that was often neglected with little to no resources, she had never been more needed and focused on a cause and to this day continues to travel back to Uganda to continue her work.
When the year was up and she returned home to Canada, she naively thought that her happiness would continue to grow. In hindsight, she now knows she was in the throes of reverse culture shock and it was one of the key things causing a mild depression. Through a chance encounter at an event and a leap of faith, something brought her to give life coaching a try.. Through her training, she learned about who she was deep inside based on her values and gained a better perspective on what limiting beliefs were holding her back in life. When asked who she would serve as a life coach, she wanted to help those who served others.
She decided to spend a month volunteering abroad again this time in the Philippines helping with the recovery after Typhoon Yolanda and offered her coaching services to the other volunteers. Through coaching the other volunteers, seeing what a profound impact their volunteering and giving back was having on them, and based on her own experiences, her path became clear. Volunteering abroad and life coaching had been the two most life-changing experiences for her, and marrying them together would be powerful for transforming people’s lives, while truly making a difference at the same time. And so she started leading trips as a Transformative Travel coach, taking groups of women to volunteer abroad and coaching them before, during and after their trips.
I started my career in advertising and I couldn’t have loved it more but as the years started to tick by, something happened. What I loved about the industry was how fast-paced and super interesting people and projects were but over time I really began to struggle with what we were creating or the lack thereof. I mean does anyone really care how many razors are in a razor blade, or how small your pores should be?
When a mentor asked me to support the development of her charity, I jumped at the chance, thinking working for her on a charity for a cause that I was passionate about was the answer. Guess what it wasn’t. Without getting into details the environment ended up being toxic. Working for people is hard! But as luck would have it I was headhunted into a roll at Habitat for Humanity doing corporate partnerships.
I loved working for Habitat for Humanity and it was here that I learned about how you could volunteer to be a Global Village Team leader and jumped at the chance. This one thing changed my life and to do this day, this is what lights me up and why UGO even exists for me. I’d do my corporate job with the organization but I always counted the days until my next trip.
Speaking of the job I did for Habitat – I also loved it until the woman who had hired me was let go. I didn’t realize what a great job she did in shielding me and the entire team for the politics until she was gone. When she left our team struggled under the leadership of several different bosses that didn’t last. I stayed longer than I should and I gave one last boss a chance, turned out we didn’t see eye to eye, and within weeks of her arriving, I was let go. It wasn’t as devastating as I thought it would be, given I wasn’t happy anymore, feeling underappreciated and it gave me a chance to do what I love. On that trip I decided I never wanted to work for someone else again and that I needed to find a way to do what I love, leading teams to volunteer around the world. Helping them find more meaning in their lives.
It was through our own struggles that both Jill and I found our way towards being of volunteering and getting out there and seeing the world. By leading teams on our own, we both found a passion for turning people on to their life’s purpose or helping them find more meaning in their lives. Now together after leading some incredible teams through our pilot program in Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and recently Tanzania (where we all also climbed Kilimanjaro) we are now excited to share our program with the world!
If you could use support around discovering what your next steps are or are feeling like there’s got to be more to this one life you have… UGO is for you. Our 3-month programs all include a volunteer trip abroad because we believe you learn more about yourself when you are of service to others. This inward outward perspective can lead to major breakthroughs and really does accelerate the change in perspective and outcomes you are looking for.
Sound like something you could use right now? PM Jill or I and let us know what you’re grappling with. We can share more about what to expect and together, let’s see if this a good fit. #changeyourself #changeyourcommunity #changeyourworld