April 19th marks the beginning of the National Volunteer Week. Today, more than ever, we are reminded of the importance of volunteers in our local and global communities. From lending a helping hand to an elderly neighbor here in the United States, to introducing healthy meals to mothers in Tajikistan, to expanding export markets for rice growers in Tanzania, volunteers work tirelessly and selflessly to make this a better world. 

ACDI/VOCA has been a leader in volunteer assistance since 1971, having mobilized over 12,000 professional volunteers to more than 130 countries.  Last year, our 76 volunteers donated almost 4,500 days to programs in the Eastern Caucuses and Central Asia, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Laos, and Honduras, leveraging over $1.6 million in resources.

As one of the first Farmer-to-Farmer implementers, ACDI/VOCA prides itself in sourcing high-quality volunteers who specialize in economic growth, food production and processing, farm management, and community resilience. However, our technical expertise stretches far beyond traditional agribusiness development to include such areas as business planning and marketing, home economics, communications, nutrition, agritourism, and Monitoring & Evaluation.

Volunteer Highlights

Volunteer David Visher conducted a ground-breaking assessment of the emerging agritourism industry in Armenia, helping to achieve a common definition of agritourism for the National Tourism Development Strategy, and mapping out a database of nature tourist‐related resources in the country. In Kyrgyzstan, volunteer Kathryn Penhallegon trained women farmers and entrepreneurs on canning and food preservation, household budgeting, and improving the efficiency of their home-run businesses. Volunteers Elija Pehu, Paul Sommers, Carmen Fernandez-McEwan, and Bradley Perry have worked with private companies in Georgia, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan to revamp their marketing strategies and create business operations roadmaps to increase sales and market reach.

“[My] strong foundation in business planning helped me to secure a student exchange trip to Barcelona which, in turn, led to my job at a commercial bank in Kyrgyzstan. Corine’s workshop was a stepping-stone in my life – I’m so grateful!”

Eliza Alimbaeva, A KYRGYZ WOMAN trained by volunteer Corine Quarterman in innovative business models & financial management

View our Volunteer assignments here.

Olya Catto

Olya Catto manages our project operations and volunteer programs around the world. Prior to joining ACDI/VOCA in 2014, her 20-year career included managing USAID-funded programs in 14 countries for organizations such as Chemonics International, DAI Global, and Tetra Tech. Olya spent eight years implementing programs in the Philippines and Mexico and designing communications campaigns for USAID in Macedonia.

She holds a BA in English and French from the Moscow State Linguistics University (Russia) and completed the Leadership and Management Certificate Program at the University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School, as well as certified courses from Management Concepts. She is fluent in English, Russian, and Spanish. 

Olya received Humentum’s 2019 Operational Excellence Award for designing a project start-up management model as well as USAID’s 2007 Meritorious Award and the U.S. Department of State’s 2007 Meritorious Honor Award for her work in Macedonia.