Who We Are
Indigo Volunteers was founded in 2012 to challenge the exploitative practices of for-profit volunteering agencies.
These companies, otherwise coined as ‘voluntourism’ agencies, charge extortionate fees and seem primarily concerned with selling exotic experiences, rather than considering their actual impact on those in need.
We want to ensure that volunteering remains true to its core humanitarian purpose: people helping people. That’s why we partner with grassroots, non-profit charities that are positively dedicated to supporting displaced communities.
Read our full story below.
Founded in 2012 by Holly Penalver, Indigo Volunteers came to be in response to the steep fees, dubious marketing practices, and questionable projects she had encountered whilst volunteering abroad. Holly was keen to find a more ethical way to get involved in volunteering since first coming across these malpractices back in 2009. While working as a paediatric nurse, she identified a small health clinic in Malawi and organised a non-profit volunteering placement for her and her colleagues. The trip confirmed two things: 1. Local grassroots projects had great interest in the assistance of independently placed volunteers. 2. Holly’s colleagues and friends were inspired by her experience and wanted to get out on the ground to make an impact for themselves. Back home, she realised that the core way she could influence the volunteer sector was to start a matchmaking organisation for volunteers and organisations built on responsible principles and ethical engagement. Thus, Indigo Volunteers was born. With the support of Holly’s dedicated friends and family, Indigo Volunteers identified several projects across East Africa and started organising placements for a handful of volunteer applicants. Gradually, more projects in more countries were added to the website and more aspiring volunteers signed up. The 2015 refugee crisis caused a sudden growth spurt and change in focus, yielding an unprecedented demand for immediate independent emergency aid on European soil. As a response, our team moved out to Greece in 2016 to provide on-the-ground volunteer coordination and project support at several crisis hotspots in Greece, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Indigo has been present on the ground ever since, placing over 3000 volunteers to well-over 80 partner projects along the refugee route. Today, our team of volunteers and staff continue supporting over 50 grassroots organisations across Greece, France, Serbia, Poland, Moldova, Slovakia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Lebanon and Cyprus.
The world is our office. Our small charity is run by a passionate group of volunteers from several different countries and a handful of full-time staff.
We coordinate our day-to-day operations from behind our laptops, enabling us to work alongside our partners in the field and onboard an ever-growing number of projects and volunteers.
Founder and Advisor
My initial volunteering experiences - after completing my degrees in Psychology and Nursing - showed me the importance of responsible volunteering. I founded Indigo in 2012 to make volunteering abroad more accessible, ensuring that each project we support benefits the people it's intended to help. I'm now attempting the classic juggling of advising a charity whilst being mother to a 1-year old!
After two years of managing and coordinating Indigo’s volunteering, wellbeing and organisational development programmes, I am now leading our incredible team into its next chapter. A priority for me is to make sure that our wonderful team, partners and volunteers are well taken care of. It's been a joy to work in such an impactful organisation and within a committed team. After a long day, a walk in the city or playing the piano will always recharge me.
I manage Indigo's digital workspace, work with our board on compliance questions and generally support our team to make sure we work as effectively as we can. I first stumbled upon Indigo when working as a Volunteer Coordinator in Serbia. Fast forward two years and I decided to join this wonderful bunch of people myself!
I take care of the social media strategy and its implementation. I also participate in the general marketing strategy and try to find synergies between the different channels. One of my great passions is discovery, whether it's new food, interesting cultures or new ideas. I am an enhusiast by nature and am extremely excited to work with this wonderful team.
After experiencing Indigo's excellent work both as a volunteer and a coordinator in Greece, becoming part of this team was an incredible opportunity for me. I feel passionate about volunteering and enabling connections between people willing to donate their time and skills and organisations that work in the humanitarian field. As a volunteer coordinator, I take care of each volunteer journey ensuring that anyone is given the best support and care. I'm also a new mom and a passionate baker!
As someone who has volunteered for charities supporting refugees in Europe as well as at home in the UK, I have been particularly drawn to the work of indigo, an organisation that shares my commitment to responsibly and ethically supporting refugee communities. I am currently finishing my master’s degree in social research, which has only inspired me further to try and make a meaningful difference wherever I can. I am thrilled to be working with the amazing team at Indigo, and I am looking forward to gaining some fantastic knowledge and experience!
Coming from a background in business and recruitment, my aim is to draw upon previous experience to assist Holly and the team with marketing and strategic planning, and act as a general sounding board as / when needed. Indigo’s incredible team, my history volunteering in the refugee sector and an ongoing desire to help improve the situation makes indigo the perfect fit.
With my background in global health, I have an interest in how our social and physical environment plays such a key role in our wellbeing. Being part of Indigo as a research and fundraising volunteer is really exciting as I get to support the organisation development and see the awesome benefits for partners, volunteers and refugees. I am usually full of energy so in my free time you can find me outdoors and I love all adventure activities.
After focusing my university studies on supporting refugees and asylum seekers, followed by volunteering for different charities around the world, I am excited to be working in the Indigo team. Indigo is an organisation I see as making a vital impact across Europe for refugees, and is a community I am honoured to be a part of, as refugee numbers unfortunately continue to rise globally. I love to fuel my mental health with outdoor activities, so am looking forward to taking part in any upcoming fundraising sport events!
At Indigo Volunteers we see our differences as our strength.
We are committed to cultivating an equal and fair working environment free from discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status, race, ethnic origin, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, mental health, religion or age. We are a non-governmental charity organisation and do not align ourselves to any political party or subscribe to any particular religious belief system.