Ghana with Grace

by Megan Quitkin – When I promised to take Grace to any country she could conjure up, I intended to fulfill my end of the bargain. But I was worried and, as such, rational thought went out the window. I imagined the worse case scenarios: Grace would contract a mutant form of malaria; civil war would suddenly break out; my family would disown me for endangering both of our lives. I wanted Grace to see the “real” Africa, but I could not schlep her around the continent as if I were traveling solo. At the same time, I didn’t want to take her on a luxurious safari where we’d encounter the big five but be deliberately sheltered from the pervasive poverty that plagues some of the world’s most beautiful countries.

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Travel Good: Voluntourism Trips

A previous and fantastic intern left my former 9-to-5, where she was making mere peanuts researching in an office, to take a job in Costa Rica and make a difference in the world. Since then, I’ve had a major crush on the country, and write it up whenever I can.

Of course, Costa Rica is one of those destinations that, because of underdevelopment, is a pure, natural place to see, but also a difficult place to wrangle. Sure, there are tons of beach getaways, but if you’re looking for more of a rainforest or cultural trip, many tour companies are a little lacking. This also makes it an expensive trip. Not to mention there are areas of the country that are so underdeveloped the locals are in desperate need of help. On the other side of this equation, greedy land owners buy large amounts of Costa Rican property to harvest the natural resources, leaving nothing for natives, and barren holes behind. Costa Rica remains a conundrum.

Luckily, I was tipped off to a voluntourism company called Globe Aware which organizes trips to Costa Rica, Peru, Romania, Nepal, Vietnam, Jamaica, and more, with a catch- you do community service while there. The tasks are more experience than labor and range from providing language conversation to Peruvians studying English, to assembling wheelchairs in Cambodia. Lodging and meals are provided on most tours, which last an average of a week and cost around $1200 (10% discount for minors).

And if you’d love to take one of these trips, but just don’t have the money, Travelocity has, from time to time, offered a $500 grant to deserving individuals who would like to spread some love across the globe. Their voluntourism page highlights tours saving Leatherback Turtles in Costa Rica (yay!), assisting medical operations in Tanzania, and even cleaning up US parks.

Read the original story at Frill Seeker Diary.

Travelocity Change Ambassadors visit Cuzco, Peru

Every quarter Travelocity’s Change Ambassadors program gives away two $5,000 grants for volunteer vacations – one to an employee and one to a deserving traveler. You can enter as an individual or a team so I tossed my hat into the ring for an employee grant last year and won with a group of friends.

We chose to take a trip to Cuzco, Peru with voluntourism provider, Globe Aware. Cuzco is perched at 11,000 feet and is the closest major city to Machu Picchu. We lived and worked at an albergue, a kind of dormitory for poor children from the small towns surrounding the city.

Watch the video below:

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Espanol en la Naturaleza

Kate Sommers-Dawes finds Spanish natural in Costa Rica

Excerpt below from the August 2009 issue of Language Magazine:

With Globe Aware, students can begin their own adventure in service. It’s “Costa Rica Road Less Traveled Rainforest Village Experience” program offers a unique way for volunteers to earn service hours while immersing themselves in the language and culture of Costa Rica. All volunteer projects are sustainable in nature and focus on both building infrastructure and preserving the natural environment. Planned cultural activities include, but are not limited to, learning how to make trapiche with the village elders, traditional cheese making, and incredible nature hikes. Globe Aware also offers a new program on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, the “Caribbean Community Experience,” in which vol- unteers can engage in recycling programs, school building and mainte- nance, and sea turtle conservation projects while also taking advantage of the distinct Caribbean culture that this area of Costa Rica provides. Take a boat ride through the canals to view wildlife, join in a coconut oil and fish salting demonstration, or simply learn the art of salsa and meringue. Globe Aware offers one of the best ways to immerse oneself in another culture: volunteering to make a difference.

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What a Trip!

Volunteer vacations are a feel-good way to spend a summer break. Here’s how to turn your family’s kick-back time into a give-back experience.

by Alia Akkam – What has been your favorite family vacation? Sitting on a beach, perhaps, watching the kids make sand castles? Or maybe that fun trip to a water park? If you’re like the Hatfield family of Provo, Utah, you might be reminiscing about mixing concrete and lugging around corrugated metal roofing. That’s because they spent one particularly memorable holiday together in Guatemala, helping families turn their dirt-and-wood houses into sturdier homes.

For people who’ve devoted their time off to volunteering, there’s nothing like the chance to combine travel, education, and service. What a way to see the world with your kids â€" and show them compassion in action. “Voluntourism,” as its known, can expand your family’s worldview, change people’s lives, and still be a fun break from the everyday.

The Give-Back Vacation

The Hatfields set off for Guatemala through CHOICE Humanitarian, a volunteer organization that sends workers to Bolivia, Kenya, and other countries. The family spent their days helping the local people, and their nights sleeping in a schoolhouse. Not your typical theme-park vacation, but an extremely valuable one for them all. “My wife and I thought for a long time that we’d like to let our children see how other people live â€" and not just from a vacation point of view,” says dad Harlan Hatfield. “You leave thinking you’re helping those in poverty, but you come away realizing that you’ve also nourished yourself. All of the things we’re accustomed to, all the conveniences, they aren’t necessary for being happy.”

Laura Kuykendall, a mom of two in Andover, Massachusetts, also found that her family’s volunteer vacation had long-lasting effects. It was her daughter, Ariel, who inspired the trip” During a school break, she’d traveled with a group from her family’s church, which had been working with the Christian group Harvest Hands Ministries to help build an orphanage in Juarez, Mexico. Her mom was so moved by Ariel’s experience that she went along the next year, and brought Ariel’s brother, Joseph, too.

During that weeklong trip, the Kuykendalls worked on various building projects at the orphanage, conducted a Bible school for local children, and cooked for residents. Kuykendall describes herself as a workaholic and says her kids were startled to see her without a Blackberry or cell phone in hand. She, in turn, was amazed that, without their iPods and televisions, her children amused themselves by making up games with rocks. Kuykendall says it was extremely satisfying to see tiny glimpses of change in her and her children’s daily lives based on what they’d experienced in Mexico: “I was the most tired and dirtiest I’ve ever been, but the most fulfilled I’ve ever felt about anything. And to do it with my children was pretty amazing.”

Voluntourism: Getting Started

If you’re thinking of giving up the breakfast buffet for a volunteer vacation, check out these organizations:

Globe Aware

The one-week volunteer vacations in Peru, Thailand, Cuba, Laos, and 11 other countries have no age restrictions. Kids as young as 2 have taken Globe Aware trips and helped with planting, building, and more.

Can You Swing It?

The truth is, voluntourism isn’t cheap. Prices can run into the thousands, and while interest has been up in recent years, it’s still a hefty price tag for most families. The website Travelocity, though, has one way to help. Through its Travel for Good program, which helps connect do-gooders with voluntourism opportunities, it awards grants of up to $5,000 to “change ambassadors,” people who want to travel and volunteer but can’t afford to do so.

“We know that when you visit a place, you don’t always really get to see what’s happening there,” says Amy Ziff, Travelocity’s editor-at-large. “We believe that travel can build bridges between cultures. We can all be change ambassadors by helping others in need, even while on vacation.” If you’re interested, check out and click on the Voluntourism button on the home page. There are four application deadlines throughout the year.

Keep in mind, too, that this kind of vacation isn’t right for every family. Some kids are simply too young. Many voluntourism trips are best for preteens and teens (though it’s worth checking, especially if you have one older and one younger child). The upside? By the time your child is old enough for a volunteer vacation, perhaps money won’t be as tight and you’ll have made a head start on planning (and even saving).

If swimming pools and fluffy towels and the chance to put your feet up are important to your family (and, hey, who doesn’t love those things?), you might think voluntourism isn’t right for you. That may be true; your family may be happiest doing other kinds of volunteering, and only you’ll know best. But don’t underestimate your kids’ â€" and your own â€" ability to adapt.

Volunteering with kids doesn’t just help others, it brings families closer together. When you can share a meaningful project â€" or a desperate need for a long, hot shower! â€" there’s a feeling of connectedness that’s often hard to find in day-to-day life. And whenever you can achieve that kind of bond, it’s the best vacation of all.

Massachusetts' Man on a Mission

Even in Tough Economic Times One Man’s Vision Has Inspired Many

The community of Gbled-Gbogame in Ghana will benefit from a new school building, access to clean water, and sanitary bathrooms thanks to the herculean fundraising efforts of Mike Devlin, of Hingham, MA.

What started as desire to simply go and volunteer in Ghana with Globe Aware to mark his 40th birthday has evolved into an impressive campaign to drastically improve the lives of children in Ghana.

Currently, the children in the Ghanaian community of Gbled-Gbogame have no running water and the children hold class in a shed held together with iron sheets. The primary school students are compelled to study under trees. Given such conditions it is virtually impossible to recruit teachers to come into the area.

“It bothered me to think that where you are born can actually determine whether you live or whether you die. Something as simple as access to clean water is not available and the current water conditions are killing children,” Devlin says. Access to education is also key to the campaign because, as Devlin puts it, “all children should have the opportunity to learn and be educated and […] to live a life that we all deserve.”

Partnering with Globe Aware, a non profit organization based out of Dallas, TX, that organizes volunteer programs in 15 countries around the world, Devlin has organized an impressive fundraising campaign culminating in a “Golf for Ghana” Golf Tournament in Pembroke, MA this month.

Devlin’s determination has already inspired many to join his cause. Donations for the volunteer projects have come from across the country, with his sister, Julie Devlin, organizing an additional fundraiser in Albuquerque, NM.

Devlin says he has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the donors supporting his cause, especially during these rough economic times, “A few of the people I know are unemployed, but gave contributions stating that they wish they could give more, but they truly understand that every dollar does make a difference.”

The “Golf for Ghana” charity golf tournament will be held on Friday, August 14th, 2009 at the Pembroke Country Club at 8:00AM. A silent auction will follow at 1:30PM.

About Globe Aware

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 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, maintains United Nations Consultative Status for the Social and Economic Council, and administers the President’s Volunteer Service Awards. Additionally, Globe Aware offsets its carbon emissions with, the country’s leading carbon offset organization. Our carbon footprint is estimated at less than 70 tons annually, and we have 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 Catherine McMillan at 214-824-4562 or e-mail

Honeyteering: Increasingly more newlyweds opt for 'honeyteering' vacations

To have and to hold – and to help

by Aimee Heckel

The most popular destinations are Costa Rica, Peru and South America, according to the Lasso study. And the most popular volunteer activities were building and teaching, following by community development (including caring for children) and conservation.

Nestoria recently traveled to Costa Rica (via to help with a sea turtle project. She said this kind of trip is ideal for newlyweds because volunteers stay in private shacks and patrol the beach at night collecting sea turtle eggs.

“During the day, there might be beach clean-up, but there is chilling out,” Nestoria said, “a lying-on-the-beach vacation, but also giving back to the local community.”

She encourages newlyweds to remember that the trip is not about them; it’s about the needy community. This can seem counter to the Bridezilla-style wedding where the couple is the center of attention.

“Just make sure your motives are in the right spot,” Nestoria said.

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