By Conor Robinson
Director, Pathfinders Project

Are you interested in travel, service, Humanist leadership and community-building?

Then consider applying to Pathfinders Project, a yearlong international service trip with clean water, education, sustainability, and advocacy projects in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The trip is sponsored by Foundation Beyond Belief, a non-profit organization created to focus, encourage, and demonstrate the generosity and compassion of secular humanists.

Aims of the Program

Pathfinders Project has three primary aims

  • To provide humanitarian service and address specific regional needs in the respective countries visited,
  • To foster dialogue across religious, cultural, and ethnic boundaries, and
  • To evaluate and compare countries and partner organizations for consideration as the launch site of the Humanist Service Corps as an ongoing program of Foundation Beyond Belief.

First and foremost, Pathfinders Project is a service trip.

In order to make your time in each country sustainable, leaving a real impact, we have carefully selected and established partnerships with organizations that are staffed locally, engage in digital storytelling, and provide immersion in volunteer opportunities. You will work collaboratively with our partner organizations to gain an understanding of each of their community’s needs and to design a project to address those needs.

We believe that when working side by side with locals we will build more than wells and latrines. During your service projects you will build mutual understanding and trust, the foundation for authentic cultural exchange across what might otherwise be considered impassable religious, socioeconomic, or ethnic divides. As you spend time sharing the efforts of our joint labor, you will also be sharing meals, shelters, soccer pitches, aspirations, and beliefs. Our goal is that, while making a meaningful impact in the sites we visit, you will learn as much as possible from the individuals and cultures we encounter, as well as to share with our hosts what Humanism means to us.

Projects and Places

Our inaugural 2013-14 program will work in 10 different countries on 10 different projects.  This years Pathfinders will also pilot assessment and development of the program itself.  Through our work with our partner organizations and their communities, we will build the foundation for the Humanist Service Corps. As we travel we will explore the possibility of continued collaboration with partner organizations, determine the availability of larger-scale development projects, and complete ratings scales to objectively compare partner organizations and countries based on the criteria of sustainability, safety, and the availability of resources.

We will begin our journey in Mongolia, planting trees with The Clean Environment to combat the northward expansion of the Gobi desert, which is spreading toward the fertile grasslands and forests of the north. While we are working with The Clean Environment to stop this from happening, we will stay with nomadic ethnic Mongolian families in their gers, learning about their everyday routines.

From Mongolia, we travel to Cambodia, where we will assist volunteers Making a Difference (vMaD) on two main projects: (1) drilling for and installing UNICEF designed water pumps; providing water filters; and testing water for impurities; and (2) transplanting Moringa and Amaranth (superfoods) to rural villages and working with villagers to make sure the plants prosper. Although we will be housed with other volunteers, the organizers and permanent staff are local residents, and our project will allow us to interact directly with rural villagers.

Our next stop is India, where we will partner with Gram Vikas to monitor water quality in wells, drill new wells, help install purification systems, and teach English in Gram Vikas schools in Orissa. Again, although we will be housed with other volunteers, we will be meeting, working alongside, and helping local residents.

After India, we travel to a village in Burkina Faso, where we will join up with the BARKA Foundation to establish a local, self-determined water and sanitation board, drill a well, fix any existing wells, construct gender-specific composting toilets for village use, and begin a hygiene education program at the local school. The BARKA Foundation is particularly excited about the digital storytelling aspect of Pathfinders Project.

On to Uganda, where we will work with the Kasese Humanist Primary School to expand their facilities and sustain the botanical gardens that support the school. Additionally, we will work with the school administrators to design a series of student-centered lessons and activities that support the existing curricula.

From Uganda we travel to Chile to participate in Conservación Patagonica. We will live and work with Chileans and foreign volunteers to build trails, control exotic plant species, collect native seeds, and restore habitats as part of the effort to preserve land in the Chacabuco Valley that will eventually comprise Patagonia National Park.

In Brazil we join up with Amizade, an organization whose goal of designing challenging and empowering service and learning experiences aligns perfectly with our own. In the coming months, we will coordinate with Amizade to create a program that meets the combined needs and interests of our group and the community we will be visiting.

Then on to Ecuador to collaborate with Agua Muisne. We will build a water treatment system, test water sources for microbial and chemical contaminants, and teach in schools about the importance of safe water and hygiene.

From Ecuador, we then head north to Colombia, where we will join forces with Aguayuda to maintain and install wells and purification systems. Additionally, we will engage in community education about clean water.

Our final project will be in Haiti, with Children of the Border, a Harvard-affiliated humanist organization that designs development projects near the Haiti/Dominican Republic border. We will install latrines in order to keep fecal matter out of the water supply. Additionally, we will support the establishment of a processing plant and supply chain for local guava farmers.

Pathfinders Project partner organizations and project sites may change due to logistical or safety concerns.


Pathfinders Project represents a rare opportunity – not only the chance to develop yourself and contribute to the communities you visit, but also to shape the Humanist movement as a whole. If this unique opportunity interests you, we welcome your application to be one of four Pathfinders.

Ideal Applicants

  • are adults (at least 18 years of age) in good health
  • have extensive service experience
  • speak a foreign language (Spanish and French preferred)

More information and applications please visit

For questions, please contact Conor Robinson at <>.

Deadline for applications is February 1, 2013.

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