Voluntourism: Travel and give back!

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0650060292013Costa Rica Orosi Valley

VOLUNTOURISM A new way to travel and give back! Costa Rica Orosi Valley About an hour from the city of San Jose, in a gorgeous, hidden valley (Orosi) rests the tiny community of El Yaz known for Its clean water, rich soil eternal, spring-like temperatures (about 75 degrees every day) and organic, agricultural way of life. Although the villagers love their natural paradise they have struggled to make ends meet as even low paying jobs are rare. Most Villagers are not in abject poverty, but have no access to hot water, cars, or the quantity or protein sources to which a North American may be accustomed. Volunteer vacationers in this paradise location stay in one of two side by side mountain top houses.

Built In traditional Costa Rican style, furnished with fans and comfortable beds. These include Western-style bathrooms and showers, and hot water. On the nine-acre property are many fruit trees, spectacular views, hiking paths, many tropical birds, a covered gazebo social area, basketball court and hammocks.

Volunteers are fed plenty of fresh, healthy, abundant, Costa Rican dishes, heavy with fresh fruits, vegetables, rice and beans, with some chicken egg and beef dishes. Electricity is available, though on a more limited basis than you may be used to at home.

While traveling for business in the late 1990’s, Kimberly Haley-Coleman often found herself in foreign countries with free time on her hands, and a desire to see beyond the traditional tourist attractions.

On one trip to Brazil she remembers looking for short volunteer opportunities but could only find multi week options.

“I found that so many people wanted the same thing I did, but once you’ve got kids, a mortgage and a busy lifestyle, you can’t go and take three weeks off," says the former global strategist and business development officer whose portfolio Includes CNBC.com. “Everyone dreams of going Into the Peace Corps. but that’s a two-and-a"half year commitment."

In 2000, Haley-Coleman founded Globe Aware, a nonprofit specializing in weeklong service-inspired vacations around the world. Since then, the voluntourism movement has taken hold, and many of the nonprofit and for-profit companies are offering shorter trips catering got busy Westerners with limited vacation days. Most of Globe Aware’s programs are built around a predetermined service project that can be finished In seven days. From installing concrete floors in the homes of Guatemala single mothers to building wheelchairs for Cambodian land mine victims, participants spend 30 to 35 hours working in an immersive environment, with the option of visiting the area’s important attractions in their free time. But even the traditional tourist activities are designed to promote cultural awareness.

"Our volunteers come away with a real understanding of both the beauties and the challenF.es of a culture," says Haley-Coleman. "I would argue that' s more Important than the physical projects we work on-being able to make that human connection and understand each other’s view of the world.”

 

Perreault Magazine

Travel brings father, son closer

Writer George Rush has appeared in Conde NastTraveler, Travel + Leisure, Departures, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire and other magazines. To better connect with his young son, Eamon, George embarked on a number of trips throughout the world, seeking adventure and new experiences:

How Traveling the World with My Son Brought Us Closer

George Rush

June 13, 2014

(All photos courtesy of George Rush)

My dad took our family on typical vacations when I was growing up " Gettysburg, Williamsburg, the Wisconsin Dells. We stopped for clamwiches at Howard Johnson' s. It wasn' t until I was in my 30s that I left the United States.

When I finally procured a passport, I lit out with friends on a three-month trip around the world. We were in Kashmir, riding horses through the Himalayan foothills, when we crossed paths with an American couple and their two children. I found it incredible that these kids were experiencing such an ethereal place. Then and there, I said to myself, "If I ever have a kid, he or she is coming with me!"

My son, Eamon, was 1 year old when he got his passport. He picked up his first few immigration stamps in Europe and the Caribbean. Later, my wife, Joanna, and I, who are both journalists, started taking him farther afield " to Tunisia and Indonesia.

Eamon, 10, in Ghana.

One year, I got an assignment in Ghana. Joanna couldn' t break away from work. I asked Eamon, then 10, if he wanted to go. He said, "Sure," though he later claimed he thought I' d said, "We' re gonna go on a vacation!"

I wanted to push the boundaries this time. So, besides touring the West African nation, we volunteered with Globe Aware, an organization that helps build schools. Eamon had never been a big chore-doer. But, in Ghana, he carried lumber, mixed cement, and sawed iron rods. He played soccer with village kids and showed them American football. He went to a voodoo ceremony, where, he likes to recall, I got a little carried away with the trance drumming and ritual libations. It was his longest time away from his mom. But he came home with some stories " like the day he scared a toddler who' d never seen a white boy.

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Eamon was 13 when he and I went to Madagascar. His cement-mixing skills came in handy on another school construction site, this one run by Azafady, a pioneering NGO. He also helped take a census of frogs on an island crawling with lemurs, chameleons, and other species found nowhere else on earth. His main project was getting me to grow a beard. I didn' t want to grow a beard, but he seemed to think it was something dads did in the wild.  He also insisted on naming my beard "Sebastian." He asked Malagasy strangers if they wanted to touch Sebastian. Thankfully, most declined.

Last summer, we headed to Ecuador. By then, the burbling " tween I' d brought to Ghana had turned into a supremely cool 15-year-old who spoke to us sporadically. But, once we' d left the States, once he couldn' t text his friends and he' d run through all the movies he' d downloaded, he had no one left to talk to but me. We fell into our routines: gags with sleep masks and neck pillows, inside jokes about invasive worms, Eamon goading me to grow another beard.  Again, we volunteered.

The terrific VenaEcuador program arranged for us to live with families while we tutored students in the Galapagos. We met some more astonishing creatures: Darwin' s finches, slag heaps of iguanas, the blue-footed booby. The trip was infused with more adrenalin " rafting, scuba-diving, mountain-biking, volcano-climbing. I tried to keep up.  Fortunately, I now had someone who could help pull into the boat or through the hole in a cave.

It' s funny how you sometimes have to go far away to get closer. Eamon now appreciates more of what he sees around him. But there' s never a bad age for a kid to discover the world' s wonders and sorrows, and feel what it' s like to be an outsider. This summer, we' re due to volunteer in Kenya with the anti-poaching foundation, Big Life. Now Eamon is the one who can grow the beard. My only question: what will I name it?

George Rush has written for the Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Departures, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and Esquire, among other magazines.  His new book is, Scandal: A Manual.

Volunteer Abroad at 40

Yelena Parker, expatriate, executive coach and writer with The Huffington Post recently shared her views on volunteering abroad after reaching 40.

In a nutshell, Yelena says “Dot it!”

Read her insight and averviews for yourself:

4 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer Abroad at 40

Life begins at 40. Forties are the new twenties. We have heard, spoken and overused these sentiments, more so during the year we turned 40. Big dates make us pause, review where our lives have taken us, reevaluate our priorities and set new goals. Some people choose to go through a radical change: have an affair, get a divorce, get married (again or finally), have a child. Many are interested in restyling their careers: it is time for me to do what I really want! Others are happy with a few new toys that their hard-earned money can finally buy: a fancy car, an upgraded house.

For those who do not to have children, a change of scenery to clear their heads and think through what the next 10, 20, 30… years are going to be like, is an easy solution. What is it going to be: an exotic location to relax and spoil yourself, or a destination to make a difference for communities in need? Sign up for a few months and break to:

1. Check back with your ambitions and passions
Do you remember what they were? Yes, I am talking to you, careerists! In the past 20 years you have pushed upwards, onwards, worked crazy hours and told yourself that there was going to be a reward once you were done. What was that reward exactly? What does done mean? We are so overconnected and overplugged in that there is rarely any time left for seriously thinking about who we wanted to be at the start of the career journey. Were you planning to get out of the corporate world to go satisfy your passion for teaching? Have you been telling your friends about this amazing book idea for the past 10 years? Did you want to try something new before you actually commit to a career change? Was your dream to start your own business? Volunteering projects allow you to enjoy new environment, get new ideas and test the old ones while you are actively helping a local community. They also are a fertile ground for discussions about life, universe, priorities as well as comparing experiences.

Volunteer Abroad2. Understand the current gap year generation
You know how people in your office sometimes start their complaints with “These recent graduates, I just don’t get them! They… ” Joining a group of volunteers in any country in Africa gives you instant access to the minds and hearts of the current gap year generation. Their experiences growing up are drastically different from yours. They are idealists and seek meaning from the start of their first jobs. They don’t just want to go to the university, but rather want to know why and how they will apply their education. You will also realize that you are not really that different. It just took you extra 20 years to articulate the same goals and feel safe to pursue them.

3. Create new friendships
Eight-hundred Facebook friends is a fun number, but when was the last time you made a real friend? Chances are if you are in a career race anywhere in the world, you barely manage to keep up with people who you have got close to over the years across many countries. Maybe you meet a few interesting and useful contacts, or get a few new friends in the office.
Shared volunteering experiences create strong new friendships. You bond across a wide range of age groups. You have time for endless debates and discoveries, laughs and silly games besides your hard work. Yes, volunteering is work! Just unpaid. Meet new people, both locals and fellow volunteers and be open to share who you are and why you are on this journey far away from home. Enjoy your new friendships!

4. Learn about new cultures
You have traveled so much for work and on holiday that there isn’t possibly anything new you could learn. Wrong! Volunteering sites provide access to unedited life stories, local reality and needs. You can be in a beautiful hotel in the north of Zanzibar, for example, and never speak to a single person who grew up there. Even if you do speak to them, it’s most likely going to be a set of polite greetings.
When you volunteer, you become part of the community. There is something truly amazing about walking through a village and hear people of all ages call out to you from their homes: “Teacher Nicole! Teacher Pauline! Teacher Toni!” Whether you are 18 or 40, your status is of an educator. You will also meet the locals and understand what their lives are like. You will get extra interpretation of what you have learned from your volunteer coordinators.
 
Turning 40? Never volunteered abroad? If you read the post this far, I hope you sign up for a project close to your heart!

The Huffington Post

Things That Have Made Travel Better

Chis Clayton has compiled an interesting list of 85 Things That Have Made Travel Better. Featured in Delta Sky Magazine‘s June 2014 Innovation Issue, #24 is VOLUNTOURISM:

“Global Travelers are increasingly choosing to mix travel and philanthropy, from building soccer fields to helping orphaned lion cubs. Some well-regarded programs include Roadmonkey, Globe Aware, and Habitat for Humanity …”

Delta_Sky_Magazine

Sky

8 Reasons to Take Your Teens On a Volunteer Vacation

DSCN3001By Sucheta Rawal

Travel Writer

Posted: 06/09/2014 4:27 pm EDT Updated: 06/09/2014 4:59 pm EDT

Huffington Post, Travel Section

Volunteer vacationing, or voluntourism, is a relatively new phenomenon that includes a service component built into a short-term vacation. Don’t confuse it with a mission trip, which is a trip designed specifically to work on a charity project or spread the philosophy of a religious group, or with the Peace Corps, which offers an opportunity to live and volunteer abroad for extended periods of time. The idea behind a volunteer vacation is to give back to the community you are visiting while having fun and learning about the local culture.

This type of a meaningful summer getaway can be especially useful for teenagers. Imagine a real-life lab where teens are learning as well as contributing. Choose any topic of interest to plan your themed trip, including the environment, health, education, micro lending, crafts, firefighting, sports, animals or construction. Most organizations require no prior experience or special skills but may not admit children less than eight years old.

1. Learn the real culture

International travel provides the opportunity for a great learning experience, but if you only take group tours and do solely tourist activities, you never really learn about a place’s true culture. Volunteering makes you get out there and meet the locals, as well as talk to and work alongside them. When you are forced into a situation where you are interacting with the locals everyday, you start to pick up on their cultural nuances and understand their culture on a deeper level. The recipients also feel grateful for your contributions and may invite you to private dinners, family gatherings or festivals that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

2. Strengthen family bonds

Traveling is a family bonding experience, but doing projects while traveling builds a sense of teamwork. Kids of all ages can work together building homes in villages, sowing seeds at community farms, taking care of animals at sanctuaries or engaging street kids in sports. Grandparents, uncles and cousins who don’t get to spend time with each other outside the once-a-year Thanksgiving or Christmas get-together can hang out as well as feel good about making an impact.

3. Be a positive role model

When your kids see you working hard to build toilets for village schools versus sipping margaritas on the beach, they develop a deeper admiration for you. As a parent, you become a positive role model who encourages them to think beyond themselves and to lend a helping hand to the global community. You empower your kids to be responsible, compassionate and good global citizens by leading by example.

4. Prepare the leaders of tomorrow

Working abroad as a volunteer helps teach greater tolerance and understanding towards people from diverse cultural backgrounds, lifestyles, ages and income levels. It helps young people break down stereotypes at a young age and grow into responsible, caring leaders. According to certain studies, adults who volunteered as kids were twice as likely to be involved in community service as adults who did not. If you expose your kids to volunteering at a young age, they are likely to become contributing members of society and future change agents.

5. Get a break on your taxes

Many volunteer vacations are tax deductible. If you are traveling with a registered charitable organization and the main reason for your trip is to do volunteer work, you can deduct all or most of the expenses you incur. For a family taking an international trip, the savings can amount to thousands of dollars.

6. Leave a positive footprint

Going on a volunteer vacation as opposed to a regular one will always leave a positive footprint. When you depart a destination, you bequeath something of value to the locals that will help them in their future. Weather you teach English to women or bring smiles to the faces of little kids, it is certain that the impact of your visit is much more than the dollars you spend at the hotels and restaurants.

7. Build your teen’s resume

Any volunteer work adds value to college applications. Teens can draw references from their experiences of traveling internationally, seeing how people live in different parts of the world, and helping make a positive impact. It provides them with great content that is relevant in class discussions, interviews and term papers. It also boosts their confidence and social skills.

8. Make them appreciate what they have

Perhaps the greatest benefit of a volunteer vacation experience is making your teens appreciate the lives they have and halting the trap of overconsumption. Witnessing how the majority of the world’s population lives without 24-hour running water, electricity, down comforters and overstocked pantries is truly an eye-opening experience for which no textbook or documentary film can substitute. After making friends with others of a similar age who live with very little, they will probably not demand the latest electronic gadgets next Christmas!

Film on Globe Aware up for Three Emmys

Celebrate with us!

We are excited to announce that the PBS documentary on Globe Aware’s Cambodia program has received three Emmy Award nominations.

Produced by the good folks at Journeys for Good, the documentary is nominated for Best Cultural Program, Best Camera and Best Editing.

In December 2012, award-winning  husband and wife production team, Steve and Joanie Wynn, embarked on a volunteer adventure to Cambodia with non-profit Globe Aware.   They documented the experience for their public television series, "Journeys for Good", developed with KQED-TV and their San Francisco Bay Area production company, Bayside Entertainment.

Award winners will be announced June 15 – stay tuned!

 

Journeys for Good

Voluntourism for time-crunched travelers.

Great profile of Globe Aware in the May 2014 edition of ‘Sky’, Delta Air Lines’ onboard magazine:

BREAK AWAY

Globe Aware: A voluntourism outfit for time-crunched travelers

BY LISA ROUNDS

globe awareWhile traveling for business in the late 1990s, Kimberly Haley-Coleman o en found herself in foreign countries with free time on her hands and a desire to see beyond the traditional tourist attractions. On one trip to Brazil, she remembers looking for short volunteer opportunities but could only and multiweek options.
"I found that so many people wanted the same thing I did, but once you' ve got kids, a mortgage and a busy lifestyle, you can' t go and take three weeks off," says the former global strategist and business development officer whose portfolio includes CNBC.com. "Everyone dreams of going into the Peace Corps, but that' s a two-and-a-half-year commitment."
In 2000, Haley-Coleman founded Globe Aware, a nonprofit specializing in weeklong service-inspired vacations around the world. Since then, the voluntourism movement has taken hold, and many other nonprofit and for-profit companies are offering shorter trips catering to busy Westerners with limited vacation days. Most of Globe Aware' s programs, now available in 15 countries, are built around a predetermined service project that can be finished in seven days. From installing concrete floors in the homes of Guatemalan single mothers to building wheelchairs for Cambodian land mine victims, participants spend 30 to 50 hours working in an immersive environment, with the option of visiting the area' s important attractions in their free time. But even the traditional tourist activities are designed to promote cultural awareness. Coffee-tasting in Costa Rica? Globe Aware arranges it with a family in their private home as opposed to in a factory.
"Our volunteers come away with a real under-standing of both the beauties and the challenges of a culture," says Haley-Coleman. "I would argue that' s more important than the physical projects we work on' being able to make that human connection and understand each other' s view of the world."
Globe Aware' s trips start around $1,100; globeaware.org

Self

School Built For Guatemalan Community

ga-logoDallas-based nonprofit gives disadvantaged children opportunity for higher education

Dallas, TX April 23, 2014 –  Globe Aware, an internationally recognized leading international volunteer vacation organization, has built with its volunteers and local community members a school for disadvantaged youths in El Remate, Guatemala, its newest program site to date.

Globe Aware is a Dallas-based nonprofit organization that mobilizes teams of volunteers to carry out international service projects in 17 countries. The organization led over 90 North American volunteers in a week-long effort alongside locals from the community to build a kitchen and lunchroom area, concrete sports field, computer lab, a groundskeeper house, as well as improve bathroom facilities.

Recognizing that many buildings are erected without funds for staff, money was also raised to cover salaries for an initial period of three years. Materials and the building design were sourced locally to promote sustainability. Community involvement was high, ranging from volunteers working side by side with local students, teachers and parents, as well as enthusiastic community residents who gathered to play musical instruments at the work site, or bring meals to the volunteers.

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"We must accept our roles as global citizens and work in union to achieve a brighter tomorrow," said Kimberly Haley-Coleman, Executive Director of Globe Aware. "Through such service, and in this globalized world, we all learn solutions that benefit all involved, not the least of which is learning to create solutions in an environment of different cultural conditions. We look forward to working on many other projects to come as the communities further scope their needs."

The remote community, a half hour from Flores, suffers from poor nutrition, disease and lack of access to education, social services and basic infrastructure. Unlike more tourist-destination countries in Central America, such as Costa Rica, Guatemala has not yet seen significant investment trickle down to many of its communities. The average educational level of residents in El Remate hovers at 6th grade, and the new school will offer curriculums from 7th to 9th grade, increasing the educational level and opportunities offered in the community.

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About Globe Aware (R).

Globe Aware(R) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity that mobilizes short term volunteer programs around the world. These adventures in service focus on promoting cultural awareness and sustainability and are often compared to a mini “Peace Corps” experience. All volunteers are accompanied by a bilingual volunteer coordinator to assist the volunteer throughout their program. The program fee and the airfare to get there are fully tax deductible to the full extent of the law. Globe Aware is a member of International Volunteer Programs Association, Volunteers for Prosperity, the Building Bridges Coalition and administers the President’s Volunteer Service Awards. Globe Aware is also in Consultative Status for United Nations Social and Economic Council.

Additionally, Globe Aware offsets its carbon emissions with Carbonfund.org, the country’s leading carbon offset organization. Its carbon footprint is estimated at less than 70 tons annually, and has chosen to support carbon-reducing projects in renewable energy to offset the CO2 that is produced in running our offices worldwide, from powering our offices to the transportation used to get to and from our work sites. This commitment places Globe Aware as an environmental leader in the volunteer abroad community and demonstrates proactive steps being taken in the fight against global climate change.

If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Globe Aware' s founder and Executive Director, Kimberly Haley-Coleman, please call Shanti Shahani at 214-824-4562 or e-mail Shanti@globeaware.org.

Volunteers share hearts, experience

A former school principal and business executive look abroad for adventure and volunteer opportunities. They find their calling overseas working with communities in Africa and Eastern Europe:

LI volunteers share their hearts, experience abroad

Published: April 4, 2014 8:56 AM
By CARA S. TRAGER  Special to Newsday

For Helen Boxwill, it was as simple as this: Retire? YES. Rest and relax? NO!
So, in 2003, after a 23-year career in education, including three years as principal of Southdown Primary School in Huntington, Boxwill answered an ad for volunteer teachers in Africa. Nine months later, Boxwill landed in a remote Ethiopian village called Hosanna. It has since become her home away from home, she said.
Boxwill, 68, a divorced Huntington Station resident with three grown children, returns at least once a year, staying three weeks to 12 months, while pursuing different projects. During her time there, she said, she has developed a community library in Hosanna; expanded and refurbished a school in Tetema, a community 25 miles from Hosanna; and instructed college faculty on training new teachers. h2Empower, a nonprofit she established in 2006, provides financial contributions for her projects, and Long Islanders, including schoolchildren and her church’s members, have supplied books and other materials.
“I have found my purpose in life,” said Boxwill during a Skype interview from Ethiopia. “Everything I’ve learned or done professionally, I can apply in a place where my experience can make a difference.”
For some Long Islanders, retirement, sabbaticals or vacations are an opportunity to volunteer, pursue an interest or travel to distant lands. Some manage to accomplish all three by volunteering overseas. “It gives you the advantage of seeing a new culture and new ways of living and looking at the world and an appreciation that the grass is not greener on the other side or, if it is, it can give a new sense of purpose,” said Jaye Smith, 59, a Sag Harbor executive coach and author of “Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career & Life by Taking a Break.”

More boomers volunteer

There are no hard statistics on how many boomers volunteer abroad, but the 50-plus crowd has represented a steadily increasing percentage of Peace Corps volunteers since 2006, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Chamberlain. Currently, 8 percent, or 577, of its 7,209 volunteers are 50 or older.
With many retired from teaching or running a business or nonprofit, the corps’ older volunteers know how to work with groups and motivate the local population to ensure a project’s continuity, Chamberlain said. And because the organization typically places volunteers in areas where the culture venerates elders, their age is an asset, too, she said.
But volunteering can be challenging, experts said. In underdeveloped regions and non-Western countries where volunteers often serve, Internet service can be sporadic and local cuisines may not be compatible with the average gastrointestinal system. In addition, certain prescription medications may not be available, and top-notch medical care may be difficult, if not impossible, to find, experts said.
Volunteering overseas also means acclimating to new environments. For instance, in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, where few traffic lights exist, Boxwill said she follows other pedestrians when crossing a street, and during rush hour traffic jams, she forgoes public transportation and walks everywhere.
For the adventuresome and altruistic, though, overseas opportunities abound. A Google search for “overseas volunteering opportunities” will generate a lengthy list of nonprofits with programs abroad. The Peace Corps, which generally requires a 27-month commitment, offers assignments in 40 countries, such as teaching English in China. Globe Aware, a nonprofit that develops short-term, international volunteer programs, has projects in 17 countries, including Cambodia, where volunteers assemble and distribute wheelchairs to land mine victims, an official said. Project HOPE has been sending health care professionals throughout the globe to provide medical assistance since 1958, according to its website.
Agency policies differ regarding program duration and who picks up the tab for transportation overseas, daily lodging and meals. For example, Globe Aware’s tax-deductible program fee, which covers food, accommodations, medical care and a bilingual coordinator, costs each volunteer $1,100 to $1,500, depending on the project, a spokesman said.
Given the commitment that overseas projects often require, Smith suggested that potential volunteers test the waters by participating first in the efforts of a local nonprofit involved with international programs. The local experience can help volunteers become confident and comfortable working with the population the organization serves and determine whether they can add value to its overseas work, she said.

Back to Kenya

Since 2005, Kenyan-born Anne and George Mungai, who live in Baldwin, have volunteered annually for one month in an orphanage and school they founded in Wangige, a suburb about 16 miles from Nairobi. The Caroline Wambui Mungai Children’s Home pays tribute to their daughter, who died nine years ago of lupus. Caroline, then 25, was pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education and had envisioned starting a school for Kenyan children in need.
“We lost our daughter and gained 40 children,” said Anne Mungai, 60. “We are carrying on her dream.” Both parents have doctorates. She is chairwoman of the Curriculum and Instruction Department and director of the Special Education Graduate Program at Adelphi’s Ruth S. Ammon School of Education. George, who is 63, teaches math at a Brooklyn high school.
They started the children’s home by donating a four-bedroom house and 31/2 acres they inherited. The site now encompasses nine buildings, including classrooms, dormitories and a dining hall. George designs the classrooms and supervises the construction, keeping track of their progress through photos that are emailed to him.
“We are rescuing these children from poverty to destiny, which is our motto, and we want them to be independent and stand on their own,” said George. “And that’s what the kids want, too.”
With three daughters, all in their 30s, accompanying them to the orphanage, the Mungais work in the kitchen, read to the children and take them to the doctor, pitching in wherever they are needed.
“If they need a hug, I give them a hug,” Anne said.
“I feel so gratified and so fulfilled that we are living my daughter’s legacy, multiplied many times over,” George said. “It’s not just what we are doing for one generation, but I believe the children will give back.”
Along with organizing fundraisers, receiving financial support from Adelphi students, alumni and her colleagues, many of whom have volunteered at the home, the Mungais contribute part of their salaries to the Caroline Wambui Mungai Foundation, which sustains the facility.
“When I go to the orphanage, I think I am going to help, but the children help balance me to see what’s important in life,” said Anne. “When we see the children in good health and the love they feel, it gives us joy.”

Philanthropy and photography

Volunteering has allowed Hollis Rafkin-Sax, 58, to channel a passion for travel overseas and photography into a philanthropic endeavor.
In 2008, Rafkin-Sax left the global crisis communications company she helped build. After enrolling at the International Center of Photography in New York City, she completed the yearlong general Studies degree program in 2010. Since then, she has participated in humanitarian missions with various organizations. On each trip, she has gone beyond the group’s activities, taking photos and providing them at no charge to the nonprofits to use in printed materials and websites.
“I have always loved photography and wanted to use it in a way I could give back,” said Rafkin-Sax, who is married with two grown sons and has homes in Sag Harbor and Larchmont.
In 2012, she spent two weeks in Bosnia, courtesy of a mission organized by the nonprofit Women’s World Banking. While there, she took photos and shared her marketing experience with young women entrepreneurs.
And as a participant in a one-year fellowship last year under the aegis of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, an international social service agency, Rafkin-Sax delivered food staples and medicines to the homes of impoverished, elderly men and women in the Ukraine and Hungary. The fellowship also involved a mission to Haiti, where she advised student leaders on entrepreneurship.
Wherever she has lent a hand, Rafkin-Sax said, she has not only been moved by the people she helped but also by other volunteers.
The committee “changed my whole way of thinking about the world and who the unsung heroes are,” she said. “You go to disaster places, like Haiti, and you see people who have given up their relatively comfortable lives because they want to help, and that’s hugely impressive.”

GO IN WITH YOUR EYES OPEN

Think you might be interested in volunteering overseas? Here are experts’ tips for a positive experience.

  • Learn about the destination and its year-round climate, which could include drought and rainy seasons, as well as scorching temperatures, by contacting former volunteers and by researching online.
  • Visit a doctor specializing in travel medicine for vaccinations, medications and health-care advice.
  • Review the U.S. State Department’s website for travel alerts and warnings about your destination.
  • Don’t bring expensive or flashy jewelry.
  • Limit how much cash you carry each day.
  • Follow the local dress and etiquette code.
  • Only drink bottled water.
  • Keep travel documents in a safe place.
  • Be open to different people and a different culture.

Long Island Newsday

Holidays That Help

AW Media Inc. of Austin, Texas publishes austinwoman Magazine, Austin Man Magazine, Pink Pages, Guide to Good Health and produces an annual AW Aniversary Event as well as numerous other events throughout the year. In the April 2014 edition of austinwoman Magazine, the focus was on volunteer travel and vacations and on Dallas’ own Globe Aware.

Holidays That Help

Want to take a holiday that benefits the world? Here' s how to do it right.

By Carla Avolio

volunteer-vacations-for-WomenIt was during a trip to Croatia' s gorgeous, glittering coast that Misha Donohoe realized she wasn' t enjoying her holiday.
"I just had this uneasy feeling that I wasn' t contributing," says the science communicator and travel lover. "The culture there is so rich and yet, by doing the typical touristy thing, I was just an outsider. I really wanted a holiday where I could give to a society rather than take away from it." For Donohoe, the solution was to combine travel with volunteering. She signed up with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and went to work on a goat farm in the Yukon, on Canada' s Western frontier.
"I forged deep connections with the land and people, which made my stay so much richer than your average holiday," she says.
Donohoe is one of millions of travelers who are seeking more from their vacations than the usual sightseeing and relaxation. This growing breed of conscious traveler wants to know that spending their tourist dollars somewhere might also mean that wildlife is better protected, more homes are built in disaster-ravaged communities or fewer trees are cut down.
It' s a concept that has been gaining momentum since the early 1980s when the term "eco-tourism" was first coined. Defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people," eco-tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments of the global travel industry, increasing 20 to 30 percent every year, according to TIES.
While eco-tourism generally focuses on natural areas, another increasingly popular form of tourism seeks to help people in need. Volunteer vacations, also known as "voluntourism," see philanthropic travelers combining short-term travel with contributing labor or skills. Unlike simply donating money, volunteering shows you exactly how your efforts are helping to build wheelchairs for landmine victims or more village schools. And it' s no longer just for skilled professionals like doctors and engineers. The volunteering industry now offers a wealth of opportunities for all kinds of passionate and adventurous people. With the huge growth in this sector, there are literally thousands of eco-lodges and charities offering holiday experiences for conscious travelers. So how do you know where to go? To find out, we asked the experts to list their top tips on doing conscious traveling the right way.

ENGINEERING ECO-TRAVEL

volunteer-travel-for-WomenAndy Drumm, a sustainable tourism and eco-tourism expert who has been working with indigenous communities for more than two decades, says while many tour companies offer trips to natural areas, sadly, most are contributing to the pressures rather than helping.
"Surprisingly, it' s usually the cheaper tours that actually pass on benefits to the community and environment, rather than just to the tourists," he says.

  • Drumm suggests asking the following questions to identify responsible operators: R How do they contribute to conservation? For example, do they give money back to conservation projects and national parks in the areas they visit? Legitimate operators should provide clear evidence of this on their websites.
  • Do they engage local communities? Responsible operators will provide social benefits to the indigenous community either by hiring local guides, contributing financially or providing skills training. They also should have safeguards in place to protect the cultural integrity of the community.
  • Where are you staying? Accommodation must have sound waste-management strategies and employ sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind or hydro.

ECO-OPERATORS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

The Cultural Experience: Huaorani Ecolodge, Ecuador

This multi-award-winning operation, conceptualized and developed by Drumm, is the gold standard in eco-tourism. Tucked in to a remote corner of the Amazon jungle, the lodge is owned and operated by the Huaorani, an indigenous tribe that has been in contact with the outside world for less than 60 years. This truly environmentally and socially sustainable operation provides visitors with a rare glimpse in to the culture of one of the most isolated tribes on earth.

  • Do: Huao-guided rainforest hikes, kayaking and experiencing the Huaorani way of life.
  • Sleep: one of five palm-thatched cabins built by the Huaorani from wood handpicked by a forest engineer.
  • Operated by: Tropic Journeys in Nature, an award-winning eco-tourism company specializing in Ecuador. destinationecuador.com

Austin-Woman-2014 Page 4With 10 days of elephant spotting, bush walking and sipping gin and tonics at sunset, this trip has all the trappings of a luxe safari. But don' t be fooled; conservation is the main goal of this eco-tourism experience. Ingwe Leopard Research teamed up with a tour company to create an unbeatable trip that raises awareness and funds for threatened leopards

  • Do: game drives, bush walks, behind-thescenes tour at a wildlife rehabilitation center, setting camera traps to help track leopard movements
  • Sleep: stylish, tented camps with plunge pool overlooking a mountain gorge
  • Operated by: Tribes, a U.K.-based tour operator offering tailor-made eco-holidays. tribes.co.uk

VACATIONS WITH A PURPOSE

Kimberly Haley-Coleman, executive director of volunteering site Globe Aware, says there are countless benefits to voluntourism, from gaining deeper cultural understanding, to increased personal happiness.

"It' s such a unique, fulfilling sense of empowerment that there' s simply nothing else like it!" she says.

To gain the experience of a lifetime, Haley-Coleman suggests considering the following:

  • What' s your story? Good organizations will assess your interests, language skills and how much travel you' ve done before suggesting a destination. For example, an English speaker who' s never left the U.S. might be better matched to Puerto Rico than Cambodia. Deciding on a culture is probably more important than the type of volunteer service, be it building homes in Nepal or stoves in Peru
  • Show me the money. Volunteering organizations charge a huge fee, so you should find out how much of this is actually going to the community versus administration costs of placing volunteers. All nonprofits are required to publish their financials, which you can read on the website Guide Star. guidestar.org
  • They know best. Make sure the volunteer project has been determined by the community rather than a foreign charity. It' s far more likely that your work will have real benefits that way
  • Safety first. Your selected organization should come with medical insurance, liability insurance and a crisis plan in the event of a disaster.

The Visionaries:

Zábalo Cofán Community, Ecuador

Eco-tourism is just one of many innovative programs coming from the Cofán indigenous community in Northeastern Ecuador. In addition to tours, the Cofán run programs for training local rangers to protect 1 million acres of land, turtle repopulation, carbon management and making sustainable eco-canoes using traditional methods.

  • Do: trekking, canoeing, fishing, rainforest camping.
  • Sleep: swinging hammocks strung up in thatched roof huts.
  • Operated by: Cofan Survival Fund. cofan.org

TOP TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED

The book: Recently updated in 2012, Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others by Bill McMillon is packed with 150 in-depth profiles of select organizations.
The website: Catering to families and the time-poor, Globe Aware offers weeklong programs in 15 countries. globeaware.org
The international option: In Habitat for Humanity' s international program, Global Village, volunteers build and renovate homes to create sustainable communities throughout the world. habitat.org
The domestic option: The American Hiking Society offers 60 volunteer vacations each year, contributing to the beautification of trails in America' s most iconic natural landscapes. americanhiking.org
On the cheap: While volunteering usually comes with a hefty fee, Peace Corps (peacecorps.gov) pays you a stipend for 27 months service and WWOOF (wwoof.org) provides board and lodging in exchange for a day' s work on the farm.

 

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