Leading World Youth International as General Manager isn’t a job for Terry Hoey; it’s a lifestyle, and it has been for the last 2 decades. It always has its challenges, but navigating it through this latest pandemic has been the toughest.
World Youth International is a registered charity, founded by the Hoey family, which has facilitated international volunteer opportunities for more than 3,800 Australians, and provided access to basic services such as healthcare and education for more than 40,000 people across the globe. At the heart of all their work is a commitment to community-led, sustainable development projects, and a belief in the power of volunteers to create real impact. Terry’s journey with the organisation has allowed him to experience many different countries and cultures, while inspiring positive change across the globe. There are many families that aspire to help change the world but rarer to find those that have the tools, courage and motivation to make it a reality.
Terry first started as Director of World Youth International in 1997 and since then has gone on to manage every aspect of the organisation. However, working in a family business is never easy and there are always challenges to overcome.
“We have managed to successfully run World Youth International for over 32 years and our family relationship has never been stronger. The key is in open communication, and giving each-other, as well as the wider team, the opportunity to be clear on our goals. I always strive to ensure that every team member feels part of the organisation and I encourage them to have a voice and be inspired. It has kept us strong and aligned during more challenging times, especially when navigating through various major global issues that have impacted our organisation over the years including SARS and Ebola and most recently, Covid-19,” shares Terry.
Like many other Australian charities struggling to stay afloat as a result of the pandemic, strategies were urgently implemented over the last few months to ensure World Youth International’s survival.
“I had to significantly reduce our staffing model as they didn’t qualify for Job-Keeper, which was one of the hardest choices I have ever had to make. I temporarily closed our office in Adelaide to keep incidental costs down and worked from home. We have had to reach out to the government to receive assistance through the stimulus packages and focus on keeping our costs to a minimum.”
However, Terry is confident that World Youth International will make it through 2020 and survive the economical blow. Before the pandemic, the charity was building strong momentum, and he is motivated to achieve that again.
“The longer we ground our international volunteer programs, the longer our vulnerable communities go without vital healthcare services and support. It is my commitment to get our programs up and running again as soon as feasibly possible and support these communities in need. At this time, we must all band together and get through the coming months until the travel restrictions ease,” says Terry.
Earlier this year when the impact of the coronavirus was beginning to be felt all over the globe, there were groups of Australian nurses over in Nepal and Kenya on their Nurses In Action program. Terry, along with the World Youth International Board of Directors jumped into immediate action, closely following government advice, ensuring their organisation was doing all it could to help manage the spread and keep their volunteers safe. As countries around the world began closing their borders, Terry knew he had to do everything he could to get the volunteers home safely before there were no flights left. He personally assisted all volunteers to make it home, working around the clock to make it happen.
“World Youth International have an impeccable safety and security record with an extensive range of policies in place to ensure all volunteers have an amazing experience overseas and return home safely. This was no different. Getting our nurses on flights home was my priority. It was a whirlwind 48 hours; dealing with contacts and partners across various time zones. I admit, there were some moments of concern; a few times I had a volunteer booked on a flight, only to find out a few hours later that the flight had been cancelled and we needed to scramble around to find another route home. Miraculously, all the volunteers made it home safely before the countries went into lockdown, and our volunteers were able to safely undergo their 14 days of quarantine. Not one of them tested positive for the coronavirus.”
These types of miraculous situations seem to continuously occur for Terry. When the devastating earthquake shook Nepal in 2015, there was a community within a remote village that took shelter in one of World Youth International’s projects; a 2 storey classroom that was added to an existing school project. Once the tremors were over, the village saw that the building was one of just a few buildings left standing. If they had not taken refuge there, many of them would not have survived.
“I have a true belief that World Youth International was always meant to be, and that is evident in the amazing stories and impact we have had over the years,” reflects Terry.
“Our organisation was founded in 1988 by my brother Robert, who was passionate about helping those less fortunate. Tragically, Robert passed away in 1996 when he was only 28 years old after contracting Cryptococcus Meningitis on a trip abroad. My parents were heartbroken, and it was hard to see light at the end of the tunnel. However, they embraced their pain and decided to take over the organisation that Robert had started, inspiring both my sister and I to join them. I believe it was always my destiny to fulfil Robert’s vision. If not me, then who?”
Terry’s greatest achievement is World Youth International’s first ever major construction project which was their School in Nepal, built in honour of Robert. It was opened in 1999 with just 22 students in attendance. The school today has over 550 students and is recognised as one of the leading schools in Nepal with an average grade pass rate of over 96.5%. It continues to grow from strength to strength.
“We are very fortunate and appreciative to have the support of our major donor Computershare, they have been instrumental in this project’s success and growth. Their funding has extended classes into Year 11 and 12, constructed a Student Boarding Home, as well as supported teacher training to improve educational standards at the school.”
Currently forced to postpone all international volunteer placements, which is the charity’s primary income stream, but not one to give up on his brother’s legacy, Terry has taken advantage of this ‘quiet time’ and launched ‘new-look’ Kenyan Nurses In Action programs.
“Developing countries like Nepal and Kenya are struggling more than ever. There is limited government funding that is being distributed to health centres and communities in these countries creating major barriers for the healthcare sector. Unfortunately, access to the most simplest items like PPE’s is in short demand and their front line workers are forced to treat patients with limited or no protection. Many nurses recognise the extra help these vulnerable communities need and are keen to travel as soon as possible to lend a hand. We have continued to receive new applications for our programs over the last few months and over 85% of existing applications have simply postponed their travel plans rather than cancelling altogether. This is really positive for us, but also highlights the generosity and courage of nurses everywhere.”
Terry has also been exploring strategies to ensure World Youth International can still continue to operate regardless of when the borders are open to travel again.
“I would like to implement new sustainable development projects within Australia and beyond, expanding into countries other than Kenya and Nepal. We are working on some exciting new projects in conjunction with corporate partners who can help us achieve these goals, and we are always open to explore new partnerships,” he highlights.
World Youth International's Partnerships Program offers a variety of ways for organisations to partner with them to develop unique and mutually beneficial campaigns. They pride themselves on working together closely on projects that are tailored specifically to align with the organisation’s objectives and corporate social responsibility values. To explore partnership opportunities further, please contact Terry Hoey, General Manager, on [email protected]