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When my children were wee I was fond of the bromide “volunteering is its own reward.” Years later, after we began volunteering as a family at one of our local food drives, my kids began to understand what I meant, that the act made them feel nice and warm inside.
But then a funny thing happened when my eldest hit middle school: from then on, whenever she volunteered, she’d receive hours toward her school’s mandatory community service requirement.
Suddenly, volunteering went from being its own reward to having its own reward. And just as suddenly, given all the demands and distractions that my daughter has in her life, I realized that if it took an incentive to get her to do a good deed, I was fine with it.
Likewise, I’m just as fine with what has become a quietly popular deal at the Westin St. John Resort & Villas, nestled on the Great Cruz Bay shoreline. Through the end of 2012, the property will give a $100 resort credit to guests who volunteer at Virgin Islands National Park, about 10 minutes northwest of the resort. Read more
Like many recent graduates, Katie Grott knew she wanted to travel after wrapping up her degree at NYU in May – after all, there’s only so much time to explore the world after a full-time gig kicks in. But instead of choosing a more traditional route, like touring Europe or backpacking around Southeast Asia, Grott put her master’s degree in social work to good use and volunteered at a hospital in Romania through a two-week Projects Abroad program.
As we wrap up our own voluntourism contest (we need 5,000 Facebook fans to send two generous travelers abroad – help us out!), we chatted with Grott about the challenges of volunteering across the globe and how even short, two-week contributions can impact communities worldwide.
When a group of Dr. Peter Slowe’s students mentioned that they’d like to take a year off to travel and teach in Eastern Europe, he didn’t balk and tell them all to get “real” jobs. Instead, the geography professor at Chichester University in Sussex, England contacted some of his colleagues in Romania, set his students up with work opportunities, and inadvertently founded Projects Abroad (www.projects-abroad.org), an organization that since 1992 has facilitated trips for more than 25,000 volunteers worldwide.
We’ve now teamed up with Projects Abroad to send generous travelers Diana Nguyen and Tom Mitchell on short-term volunteer trips – but only if at least 5,000 people “like” us on Facebook by January 15 (help us out!). To understand the benefits of volunteer-based travel, we chatted with Slowe, who has taught English in South India, gone on bird counts in the Peruvian rainforest, and run a soccer tournament in Accra, Ghana.
The people, places, and creatures that make up this great planet of ours could use some TLC, so we’re teaming up with Projects Abroad (www.projects-abroad.org) to send two big-hearted travelers on short-term volunteer trips next year. The volunteers select their destination and cause – working with orphans in Romania, cleaning beaches in Cambodia, and coaching soccer in Senegal are each possibilities – and we’ll sponsor the whole trip.
We selected these two intrepid volunteers via a Facebook video contest earlier this month, and the two one-minute submissions impressed us so much that we don’t want to pick just one.
Of course, there’s one caveat: To make these volunteer trips a reality, we’re required to boost our Facebook following to 5,000 fans. Almost 3,600 of you already think we’re swell, so this isn’t a stretch – we just need your help! Like us, and tell your friends to like us, so we can do our (small) part to make sure the world’s treasures are around for the next generation of ShermansTravelers.
Though Haiti may have largely faded from the headlines, the devastation following the earthquake that ravaged the country on January 12 is far from fixed. Donations to the Red Cross and other organizations are still greatly needed, but now there are also opportunities to travel to Haiti for volunteer projects. Elevate Destinations, a leader in sustainable travel, sent its first groups of volunteers to Haiti this week.
Elevate offers two trips that involve building or rebuilding vital community structures: A nine-day stint in Port-au-Prince centers on St. Joseph’s Home for Boys, an orphanage for former street boys that was destroyed by the earthquake. A 14-day itinerary in the port town of Jacmel focuses on constructing classrooms and a computer room for a free community school at St. Joseph Family’s Trinity House. Both trips also include side trips to explore some of Haiti’s beautiful scenery.
Despite China’s 21st century emergence as a major economic power, a lot of the country still remains hidden behind closed doors . . . but not for long. On September 23, Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific launched brand new China Experience tours designed by local experts to provide unparalleled VIP access to normally off-limits attractions. Starting at $3,000 a pop, these all-inclusive, ultra-exclusive expeditions offer behind-the-scenes peaks of protected heritage sites scattered throughout Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai – like The Forbidden City’s Imperial Palace tea room, Xian’s national treasure vault, and Pit #5 of the famous Terracotta Warrior Museum (normally only open to archeologists). In addition to dining with locals in a traditional courtyard (“hutong”) and taking private tai-chi lessons, visitors can explore the better-known Great Wall and Tiananmen Square (pictured). Read more
TOMS Shoes, a popular California-based nonprofit, sells linen espadrilles modeled after Argentinian alpargatas at stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Urban Outfitters. For every pair purchased, one pair of TOMS is donated to a needy child in Argentina, South Africa, Ethiopia, or the United States. This past fall, the company launched an initiative called TOMS Tours. Currently operating biweekly, the tours consist of eight-day volunteer trips to Argentina, where the project began back in 2006. Participants spend about half the time partaking in “shoe drops,” during which they visit local communities and hand out shoes to kids. The rest of the time, do-gooders take in the sites, including hikes in Iguazu National Park, wine tasting and horseback riding in Mendoza, and shopping in Buenos Aires. From $1,800/person, with accommodation, meals, activities, transportation (except for international airfare).
From the Feb/March issue of Sherman’s Travel magazine.
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