Five volunteer vacations to take with your family

By Matt Chernov

February 14, 2017

Though some might imagine the typical volunteer as a college student gaining valuable life experiences in a far-off country, the truth is that all types of people generously donate their time and energy every day. More than ever, this includes families volunteering together while on vacation.

Beyond the benefits that volunteering can have on the community, the values it instills in young people are priceless. Children and teens who volunteer learn life skills, develop empathy and gain a feeling of self-respect and confidence that will last well into the future. To help you plan a volunteer vacation, here are five destinations and programs that you can share with your entire family.

Globe Aware – Orosi Valley, Costa Rica

Since 1990, the nonprofit organization Globe Aware has been creating short-term volunteer opportunities around the world for people who want to give back, regardless of their experience levels. Though they regularly assist solo travelers, church groups and corporate clients, family volunteering has become one of their most popular categories. The program they offer in Costa Rica’s stunning Orosi Valley is particularly suited for families with children. All projects are designed for unskilled volunteers and include tasks like teaching English, installing road signs, building recycling stations and constructing chicken coops. Volunteer vacationers in the Orosi Valley can stay in one of several mountaintop houses, complete with electricity and laundry facilities onsite and healthy and delicious Costa Rican meals.

When you’ve decided which volunteer vacation is right for your family, visit united.com to book your trip.

United Airlines Hub

How Should Americans Travel In The Trump Presidency?

From The Huffington Post January 17, 2017 

By Christopher Elliott, Author of How to be the World' s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money and Gassle)

How should Americans travel abroad in the age of Donald Trump? No matter how you voted in the last election, the answer is the same: carefully.

But also, definitely.

As the president-elect prepares to take office Jan. 20, travelers have expressed worries about how they' ll be perceived internationally after a lengthy campaign that tested the limits of civility.

"A potentially controversial president means you have to prepare," says Colby Martin, an intelligence director for Pinkerton. "Americans traveling abroad need to have a comprehensive plan for staying safe."

Reality check: Most international trips abroad will probably ' hopefully ' be uneventful, regardless who' s in the White House. That' s because our most popular destinations are Mexico and Canada, in that order. And they' re used to the ups and downs of our political system and accustomed to American visitors. Roughly the same number of Americans visit Canada as they do all of Europe. But wander outside the well-trodden areas, and things could get interesting, say experts.

"The likelihood of any impact on American travelers abroad" will depend on what policies the new administration enacts, says Scott Hume, the director of security operations for Global Rescue. He says you shouldn' t be surprised by people who ask you direct questions about American foreign policy and politics.

If your goal is to avoid those conversations, "Take care not to stand out as an American," he says.

So how do you do that, exactly?

Taryn White, a writer and frequent traveler based in Washington, tries to maintain a cover. "You have to look the part," she says. "This means no white sneakers, " I ? NY' T-shirts, or sweat pants. It also means being considerate of local customs and dress."

One simple trick: Pack black. Darker colors are versatile and ensure you don' t stand out. Beyond the wardrobe selection, it means downplaying American mannerisms like laughing out loud, smiling a lot or using hand gestures.

But others say now may also be the best time to identify yourself as an American. Kori Crow, a political consultant from Austin, Texas, and a world traveler, says that counterintuitively, the more fractious a country' s politics are, the better your experience could be.

"They' re more forgiving because they don' t usually equate elected leaders as a reflection of its citizens," she says.

Crow says people understand that American visitors are not its ambassadors. "You' d be surprised at how many foreigners will over-compliment you just to try and make you feel more welcome," she adds, mentioning a particularly warm welcome at Vietnam' s American War Crimes Museum.

All of the above is true. There are times when you' ll want to fade into the crowd, but ultimately you have to be true to yourself. And as the experts say, don' t leave anything to chance.

How do I know? Because I grew up in Europe during a time of controversial American leadership. Most people I met were smart enough to know that American citizens do not represent the American government, and they knew from personal experience that democracy is imperfect.

In fact, I think we should all travel more internationally during the next four years. Just to show the world that Americans are a far more varied lot than the politicians they see on TV or read about in the paper.

Three things you should do during the Trump years:

Apply for a passport. Less than half of Americans have a passport. You' ll need one if you want to travel abroad. Go to the State Department site to start the process. Cost: $110 for adults, $80 for kids under 16. Does not include a $25 "execution" fee.

Learn another language. No matter where you go, knowing a few words in the native language will take you far. The next four years are a perfect time to pick up Spanish, French, German or Mandarin. Check out Duolingo for a crash course on your chosen language.

Build a bridge. Whether you strike up a friendship with someone who lives outside the U.S. or take a volunteer vacation outside the country, you can use your travel to show the world what Americans are really like. Check out organizations like GlobeAware or tour operators such as REI, which offer extensive volunteer vacation programs.

The Huffington Post

What do you know about volunteer vacations?

Oct 18, 2016, 04.26 PM

Volunteer vacations or " voluntourism' are exactly what they sound like; individuals spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of months working on social and environmental projects.

Would you rather spend your annual two weeks of vacation sipping sangrias on a tropical beach or building greenhouses in the mountains? Would you opt to spend your time on a luxurious Caribbean cruise or teaching school kids in a remote area? Today more and more people are signing up for the latter options, in line with a rapidly burgeoning tourism trend known as volunteer vacations.

Volunteer vacations or " voluntourism' are exactly what they sound like; individuals spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of months working on social and environmental projects.

These can include building houses, bathrooms, and other amenities, teaching children as well as the underprivileged important skills, studying the environment or animals and even typing up data; an exercise which may seem dangerously close to your regular job.

Why are more and more people choosing to spend their vacations working, rather than indulging in some well-deserved relaxation? Perhaps society is developing a stronger social conscience; in a world where celebrities are quick to pledge themselves to causes, and educational boards demand their students get involved with social work, several individuals prefer spending their free time improving the lives of others to make a difference.

Aside from the feel good factor, volunteer vacations are the perfect way to experience a particular place in an entirely unique way. Travelling in the 21st century is no longer about following a structured itinerary that takes you through all the regular tourist traps in a city. Today, travelling is more about authentic experiences " volunteering vacations allow travelers to interact with locals in an organic way teaching them more about their culture than any regular resort stay would. While travelling is always an opportunity to broaden your horizons, volunteer vacations will introduce you to entirely new approaches to life and ways of living.

When it comes to ways of living, be prepared to rough it out should you decide to take a volunteer vacation. As most organisations which take volunteers for short amounts of times are non-profit groups, they' ll offer humble digs which one may have to share with other volunteers. Food is typically simple, and while most volunteers do get leisure time, the work can be tough and challenging. Additionally, most volunteers are required to pay the organisation for the chance to volunteer; the payments are used for boarding, supplies and sometimes partially as a donation to the cause.

Despite these considerations, people across the world " especially the youth " are getting on board with the concept. There are various organisations to look to if you' d like to explore the idea of volunteer vacations yourself; WWWOOF India, for instance, aims to improve the practice of organic farming in India while Dakshinayan in Jharkhand asks volunteers to teach health education as well as basic Maths and English skills to the local population.

If you’re looking to volunteer overseas, Projects Abroad is a platform for a variety of organizations which require volunteers in countries like Italy, Romania, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya, Morocco and Fiji. Global Aware is another international organization which offers international programs as well information about volunteer vacations.

These organisations are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to commit to their cause; if it seems up your street, there' s no nobler way to spend your days off.
Tags  Caribbean cruise vacation

Moneycontrol.com

Volunteer in Thailand with Globe Aware

Kris Depowski O’Donnell

Kris is an education and communications professional, teaching at the University at Buffalo and working as a field producer providing medical reports to more than 100 television stations around the country. She loves making a difference through international volunteer work.

Why did you choose this program?

Globe Aware offered a program that helps better the lives of captive Asian elephants. With this program, unlike some others in Thailand, the elephants’ welfare is front and center at all times.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Globe Aware provided detailed descriptions of the project and outlined what volunteers should expect and bring with them to Thailand. They suggested hotels for me in Bangkok that were close to the meet up point and assisted with a reservation that I had an issue with. I took care of finding a hotel near the airport (flights from the U.S. almost always land around midnight and depart in the early morning hours).

program interview 177139What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone going on your program?

For this particular program, there wasn’t much I didn’t already know prior to arriving in Thailand because Globe Aware prepared me so well and I did a lot of research on my own as well. For friends who are thinking of going abroad I tell them GO! You will never regret it as long as you have an open mind, a sense of adventure (and humor) and love learning new things.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The days at Surin Project are well-coordinated. Everyone has breakfast together around 7 am. The food is freshly prepared and delicious. I’m vegan and they could easily accommodate my needs. We then have a work project for about an hour or so, which includes cleaning enclosures and chopping sugar cane. Then we walk the elephants in the forest for an hour or so. Then there’s a break for lunch at a local eatery, then an afternoon work project followed by another walk in the forest where the elephants get to hang out with their friends and enjoy being elephants. We end the day by having dinner together. On two of the days, we walk the elephants to the river to bathe them, one of the highlights of the experience.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I have traveled extensively through Europe, mainly on my own, so my fears were relatively limited. I think the biggest reservation I had was that I had never been to Asia (and was traveling on my own). I was also traveling to a very remote part of Thailand to work in a village with no air-conditioning, indoor plumbing, showers or hot water.

The way I overcame the fear is by reading as much information as I could ahead of time about what to expect and making sure I had the proper travel shots, medication, etc. Knowledge is power.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with prospective volunteers?

There is one important thing to know and it’s something I’ve been asked about. Travelers should educate themselves about the plight of captive elephants in Thailand. It is a sobering and complicated issue. Elephants in Surin Project are allowed off chains for at least 5 hours a day and mahouts are not allowed to use the bullhook. But the Project exists alongside elephants who are used for the local circus. These elephants are chained 24 hours a day (when they are not performing), sometimes by all four feet.

It’s difficult emotionally at times to see them in these conditions but I remind myself (and tell prospective volunteers) that it’s critical the Project continue to receive support from volunteers. It shows the local people that tourists want to see elephants treated humanely and interacting with each other in a natural environment. I have taken part in Surin Project every year for the last three years so there isn’t anything I would have done differently.

I can say that on the first day of my first visit (in 2014) I sat on my bed, on the floor, in 100 degree heat, with only a fan and mosquito netting and thought ‘what in the world have I just done!?! I can’t survive this!’ Fortunately, that feeling lasted less than 24 hours. Then I was hooked. But it was briefly terrifying!

Self

Using your vacation to do good

August 23, 2016

Wisconsin State Journal
By LISA M. DIETLIN For Lee Enterprises

Are you always in search of that one-of-a-kind special vacation? Are you constantly trying to find time to do good?

There' s a tremendous opportunity to have a very special vacation, meet amazing people, visit places you' ve never been all while making a difference by taking part in voluntouring or in a do-good vacation.

China Calvin 167Voluntouring is a chance to  participate in programs around the world that make a difference within a short time frame " anywhere from one week to about three months, while vacationing!

Because you’re donating your time and effort to a nonprofit organization, a significant portion of your vacation costs may even be tax deductible.

Here’s how voluntouring works:

You will be working side by side with a community and its residents.

Voluntouring vacations are available around the world in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia.

The projects cover many important areas, such as children, the environment, health care, education, historic restoration, animal conservation, senior care, construction and others.

Voluntour participants often speak about building tremendous new friendships that last for many years.

While some trips are for adults only, there are many that are appropriate for families and young people.

Voluntourism has become both a big and global business primarily supported by the increasing desire of travelers to take worthwhile and meaningful trips while trying to do some good.

Examples of voluntouring vacations

Through Projects Abroad, a two week program offers voluntourists the opportunity to work in archaeological ruins of ancient pre-Inca structures in Peru. Anyone 16 years or older can participate. The work would include preliminary investigations, excavations, analysis and registration of cultural materials, site visits, office registry work, working at museums, archaeology presentations, classification of ceramics and community activities including working at an elementary school. The group also organizes social events for volunteers.

Another example of a trip takes place with Greenforce (www.greenforce.org); for approximately $3,900 you can work to save the endangered orangutans in one of the oldest and most beautiful rain forests in Borneo.

Other types of trips include voluntourists working on restoring temples by spending half the day cleaning paintings or building walls with the monks. The rest of the afternoon they spend their time sightseeing.

Or a penguin rescue and rehabilitation program in South Africa with accommodations and a meal allowance during six weeks of catching, feeding and cleaning up after penguins and other seabirds. But you also have two days off per week to sightsee.

The possibilities and opportunities are truly endless.

Alternatively, you might also want to consider a do-good vacation, which includes travel to more common holiday destinations in places like Ireland, Italy and Spain. These vacations are different from voluntouring in that you will be working with a nonprofit to raise money for a cause and not be working in a local community.

Often travelers create their own trip by raising money or awareness on behalf of a cause or organization that is near and dear to their hearts. Work with your favorite nonprofit organization to create a plan of action that includes doing good on your next vacation.

Tips for voluntouring

  •     Find an organization that matches your passion and has a proven track record.
  •     Select a trip that suits your abilities and interests and be prepared to work!
  •     Speak with people who have been on the excursion before or worked with the company you choose.
  •     Learn about local customs " even a bit of the language " before you go, but be prepared for a trip that may be tremendously different from what you might expect.
  •     Expect none of the comforts of home, in other words, you will be “roughing it.”

Wisconsin State Journal

5 Ways To Give Back When Traveling

Travel Pulse writer Janeen Christoff explores the many forms and partners volunteer vacations are available. 

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship
Carnival' s new social impact cruise line, Fathom, debuted with much fanfare in April ' and has continued to garner accolades from the traveling public throughout its inaugural sailings. One of the keys behind the experience that separates Fathom from other cruise lines is its dedication to voluntourism.

Fathom provides cruisers the chance to immerse themselves in the cultures of Cuba and the Dominican Republic and make a difference by participating in a variety of volunteer projects offered as shore excursions by the cruise line.
Its success speaks to the growing popularity of social impact in the traveling community. Voluntourism is one of the fastest-growing trends in travel at the moment and research from the Family Travel Association suggests that it is a trend that will be on the radar for a long time.

Ten percent of families surveyed in the Family Travel Association' s U.S. Family Travel Survey said that they had taken a volunteer vacation. Maybe more importantly, 29 percent said that they would be interested in this type of travel. Of those who had taken a volunteer vacation, 72 percent said that they would do it again.

If any parent has been searching for schools for their children lately, they will recognize the buzz words "raising global citizens," "citizens of the world," and "fostering a sense of global awareness." There is an increasing focus in education to create meaningful experiences for children that give them a greater worldview.

But Voluntourism goes beyond just multigenerational groups. It' s a growing trend among boomers and millennials as well. According to a recent survey on Huffington Post, Americans age 60-plus were the most likely to have taken a volunteer trip in the last year and retirees were actively seeking out ways to volunteer and give back, especially while traveling.

You don' t have to sail with Fathom to have this type of experience ' although it' s a great way to give back, if you do. There are a surprising number of hotels, tour operators and even other cruise lines that offer these opportunities. There are also entire organizations that are devoted to helping people organize trips that are focused on voluntourism.
Here are some of the many ways that travelers can give back while on vacation ' and even some that you can incorporate into an existing trip.

Globe Aware
Globe Aware is an international organization that offers travelers the opportunity to participate in weeklong projects in a variety of destinations around the world.

Together for Good
Together for Good is a nonprofit organization that serves as a go-to resource for finding voluntourism trips and opportunities for giving. It is run by family travel expert Nancy Schretter and provides a list of opportunities within a variety of destinations, at resorts and on cruises as well as anecdotal experiences and news on the impacts of voluntourism.

Ritz-Carlton Impact Experiences
Ritz-Carlton' s Impact Experiences provides its guests with a memorable and enriching addition to the resort experience by offering opportunities for its guests to contribute to the local community. Impact Experiences are social and environmental impact activities that are unique to the destination in which they are offered and designed to have a lasting and authentic effect within the communities that they serve.

Sandals Foundation
Sandals Resorts' Sandals Foundation provides a number of opportunities for families to give back, including its Reading Road Trip, which enables guests to visit foundation-adopted schools and help kids learn to read.

Pack for a Purpose
If you already have plans for the summer but want to include some form of giving abroad, contact Pack for a Purpose. The organization helps travelers select and deliver items that are needed in the communities that they are visiting abroad.

Travel Pulse

How to Do It All including volunteer vacation

How to Do It All High Resolution 188x300Writer Linda Formichelli’s new book “How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life ' While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie” has a chapter on volunteering and features Globe Aware as one of the resources.

Formichelli considers the fact women want to do, see, and experience everything they can to create a rich, memorable life, including rraveling, volunteer work, athletic events, entertaining, reading, learning, and trying new things but life and responsibilities get in the way.

She offers a plan on how to do it all:

  • Why stress should be welcomed, not avoided.
  • The importance of living a do-it-all life.
  • Why you shouldn' t expect support from your family…and where to get it instead.
  • Why you should shower less, sleep less, talk to yourself, and be inconsistent ' and how this can help you live a more memorable life.
  • How you can get it all done even when right now you have no time, no money, and no motivation.
  • The revolutionary plan to accomplish everything you dream of doing in your life (includes free worksheets!).

Learn more here

Self

5 Latin American Destinations Worth Your Altruistic Visit

Great news article by By Erika Miranda, writing for The Latin Post, on how youth can be inspired to give back to their community through volunteer vacations.


Teach youngsters to be grateful for their blessings and give back to the community while enjoying their Spring break vacation in Latin America.

Nowadays, youngsters look forward to Spring break because it is a chance to get away from all the toils of studying and spend time with family and friends out of town or overseas.

While that sounds like fun, there may be better ways to enjoy the vacation while doing something to better the lives of others.

Globe Aware

Globe Aware can help your teenagers tap their inner altruistic self by going to Costa Rica where they can stay in a village near one of the country’s most diverse biological reserves: the Carara Biological Reserve.

They can also visit the popular “cultural and natural paradise” in Orosi Valley where they can help create sustainable members of small communities in the locality.

Here is a video description of what’s in store for volunteer vacationers from Globe Aware.

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International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

The International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) founded by Dan Radcliffe in 2007 promotes literacy in Guatemala where vacationers can teach residents how to speak English and Spanish as well as proper care for children and the elderly.

The program also includes teaching about Lake Conservation, Animal Care and Animal Rights, Construction and Renovation, Eco-Agriculture Conservation, and Special Needs.

The program period ranges from one to 24 weeks, depending on how long the volunteer wants to stay.

Of course, the organization will provide training for volunteers prior to their departure to ensure “an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program.”
Volunteering Solutions (VolSol)

Founded in 2006, this international volunteer organization opens popular tourist destinations like Peru to volunteers who want to spend their holidays and vacation days helping others.

VolSol’s Peru-Cusco program promises an unforgettable experience with the country’s ancient ruins, history, customs and traditions as well as an awe-inspiring tour of the enigmatic Machu Picchu.

Volunteer work with VolSol in Peru includes dental, medical and teaching programs as well as child care for normal and differently abled children.

Projects Abroad

Already catering to over 10,000 volunteers every year, Projects Abroad presents a chance for tourists to help young children of Argentina earn kindergarten knowledge with their “Care in Argentina Alternative Spring Break Trip.”

Set up in Cordoba, volunteers will be assigned to assist local kindergarten teachers by playing with the children and helping them with homework.

Volunteers would also be assigned tasks to help with general maintenance of the school and the kids’ homes.

American Hiking Society (AHS)

As its name implies, the American Hiking Society is composed of a group that protect and promote foot trails as well as the surrounding natural areas.

While they mostly do hiking and backpacking with adults, AHS also has a special program for youngsters that allows them to do “part volunteer work project, part kick-back outdoor vacation.”

With a group of 8 to 15 students, the AHS combines hiking, exploration, trail work and crew camaraderie into one fun experience and gives them the choice of camping out or staying in lodges, bunkhouses or cabins during the course of their week-long vacation-slash-volunteer stay.

Self

Give Back While You are on Vacation

Emma Sarran Webster writing for Teen Vogue explores how to turn spring break into a truly worthwhile, beneficial vacation through a volunteer vacation with Globe Aware and other working vacation facilitators.


6 Spring Break Ideas That Allow You to Give Back While You Vacation

From a Kindergarten in Argentina to the health campaigns in Ghana.

This Spring Break, take the opportunity to travel and help others, through a volunteer vacation. The combination of volunteering and travel is growing in popularity as an increasing number of companies offer the chance to explore and make a difference. You can take your pick from working at orphanages in Africa, assisting in wildlife conservation efforts in South America, or protecting natural environments right here in the States. "Volunteering overseas is, without a doubt, one of the top experiences anyone could hope to undertake in their lifetime," Dr. Ken Dorman, a board member of service travel organization Globe Aware, wrote on their website. "Even a short-term volunteer adventure can change your life and world perspective. Few things can give you a greater sense of meaning." So as you plan your Spring Break, consider gaining perspective through one of these six companies that offer service trips at home and abroad.

Globe Aware

Globe Aware offers 8-day, Saturday-to-Saturday international volunteer vacations ' perfect for a full and fulfilling Spring Break. The company focuses not on giving charity, but on helping host communities build renewable, sustainable programs. "The goal is not for volunteers to change the host communities, but rather to help them in the needs that the host community has identified as important," the Globe Aware site states.

As a Globe Aware volunteer, you can travel to places like Cambodia to help with reforestation efforts; Brazil to help build a community center; or Romania to help teach English. And fear not: You don' t need any special skills or prior qualifications to join; the volunteer coordinators will help you throughout the process. Book your trip as a solo traveler, with your family, or even a group of girlfriends.

Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad, a company that sends more than 10,000 volunteers overseas every year to work on service projects, offers week-long Alternative Spring Break Trips designed specifically for college students. Sign up to volunteer at a kindergarten in Argentina or Fiji; help with public health campaigns in Ghana; participate in renovation work in Morocco; or help protect sea turtles in Mexico, among other options. Not in college yet? Check out Project Abroad' s High School Special programs.

Fathom

Fathom gives travelers the chance to head out on a cruise ' with a purpose. Depart by sea from Miami to one of two Caribbean destinations: the Dominican Republic or Cuba. While on board the ship, you' ll get to know your fellow travelers, learn about your destination and its customs, and participate in orientation activities and lessons that will prepare you for your on-land experience. Sail to the Dominican Republic to serve the local communities through projects like working with a women’s collective on their successful artisanal chocolate business, or helping locals gain access to clean water. Or immerse yourself in Cuban culture through visits with Cuban professionals, entrepreneurs, and family business owners to learn about education, economics, the role of government, and more in this country that was, until recently, mostly off-limits to American travelers.

Sierra Club Outings

Sierra Club is the country' s largest grassroots environmental organization, on a mission to "explore, enjoy, and protect the planet." As part of that mission, Sierra Club Outings offers environmentally friendly, outdoor excursions throughout the year ' among them, inspiring and adventurous service trips. Head to Big Sur State Park to help with trail improvements; to New York City to assist with maintenance and invasive species removal in the Thain Family Forest; or to Florida to work on restoring the ecosystem on the island of Cayo Costa.

Earthwatch

Earthwatch Institute gives adults and teens alike the chance to work with scientists on various expeditions focused on protecting the planet and its species. As a "citizen scientist" on an Earthwatch Expedition, you can explore the impact of climate change on the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park; research ocean health as it pertains to whales and dolphins in Costa Rica; or learn about wildlife and ecosystems as you help conserve river dolphins and monkeys in Peru' s Amazonian forests.

American Hiking Society

American Hiking Society (AHS), a national organization that promotes and protects foot trails and the surrounding natural areas, offers volunteer vacations focused on building and maintaining trails throughout the country, with a healthy dose of backpacking or day hiking. Explore AHS' s Project Guide to find a trip that' s right for you, whether that' s assisting with boardwalk maintenance at Virginia' s Kiptopeke State Park; protecting the sand dunes at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; or helping construct a new trail at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Tennessee.

AHS also offers Alternative Breaks, open to groups of 8-15 students who sign up together and are touted as "part volunteer work project, part kick-back outdoor vacation" on the website. Though the Spring Break trips are full, summer trips to places like Texas, Florida, and California are open ' perhaps a sign to get a head start on your summer break planning?

Teen Vogue

Global Wings volunteer takes flight

ag2Adan Gonzales was one of Globe Aware’s first recipients of the Global Wings initiative. Gonzalez grew up in Oak Cliff, a predominately Mexican-American community in Dallas that is mostly known for crime and socioeconomic strife. As a child, he sensed a disconnect between his surroundings and the American dream his parents had believed in when they immigrated to the United States in the 1980s.  Street violence was an everyday concern for the family as well as what seemed to be a series of never-ending financial blows. Adan was inspired by his parents’ work ethic and perseverance and at the age of eight, began to sell movies and snacks at the local flee market to help afford school uniforms for him and his brother.

ag4As his parents worked multiple jobs to provide basic needs for the family, traveling was an unattainable luxury. Adan and his parents rarely traveled outside of their city or state, unless it meant the rare trip to Mexico to visit relatives. Even exploring his own city was out of reach for much of his childhood.

In high school, Gonzalez realized that through academic success and community involvement he could make life better for himself and his relatives.

“That’s when I started doing well in school. I saw how proud my dad would be when the teachers told him I was smart or that my grades were really good,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to show my parents that their sacrifice and hard work was worth it.”

Adan also became involved in local community service and began to seek ways in which he was able to give back on a Global scale. Through the Global Wings initiative, individuals such as Adan, who have the desire to serve, but may not have the resources or know how to do so are empowered with the tools, knowledge and means to make it happen. Through events, raffles, and donations, Globe Aware was able to send three graduating seniors to Costa Rica to work on turtle conservation efforts. They also had the opportunity to work with a local school by teaching English and working on projects to improve the infrastructure of the school.

His fellow volunteers were so impressed with Adan’s desire to learn and serve, that they were inspired to fund a second trip for him to volunteer in Cambodia.

The Pulpit RockAdan Gonzales with Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN.

“Cambodia was an experience in my life that I still have a hagard time putting into words. It made me a better person,” Gonzales said. “The things I saw, and people I met helped me understand more the concept of being alive, to understand that as people, even if we do not have wealth, more than anything in this world we can give to someone…is our ‘time’.”

For Adan, his volunteer trips to Costa Rica and Guatemala helped prepare him for new experiences and has further driven his desire to give back.  Adan went on to attend Georgetown University and founded the Si Se Puede Network. The network promotes his simple philosophy for success to ambitious but disadvantaged students: Great students keep up their grades, perform community service, and develop leadership skills.

We are so proud of Adan and look forward to seeing all of the amazing things he has set out to accomplish.

 

Self