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Journeys for Good Sends Holiday Wishes

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Hi All,

This year, we will ring in the New Year in Journeys for Good style — volunteering with Globe Aware in Cambodia.  Please check back starting Dec. 30th for blog updates from the field.  We are excited to share this, our most recent adventure, with all of you.

 

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Kids and Voluntourism – Kids Giving Back

Young volunteers with Kids Giving Back.

KIDS GIVING BACK (KGB) is a non-profit organization that provides  kids, families, schools and corporations  with volunteering experiences.  Based in Australia, they are committed to creating the “next generation of generosity” by creating opportunities for kids and their families to give back.  Recently, we had a chance to interview Ruth Tofler-Riesel,  Kids Giving Back.  Here is part 2 of her interview. (Part 1 was posted on Nov. 30.) 

What types of projects have you done? 

Overseas Alexander and I have volunteered with the programs teaching English and working with elephants in Thailand through Starfish Volunteers, and we have also volunteered in Guatemala working at a childcare center with children living in desperate circumstances as well as at an indigenous women’s weaving cooperative. We are about to travel to Cambodia and Laos where we’ll be teaching English as well as working at a center that offers street children alternatives to a life of drugs.

Volunteering with elephants in Thailand.

Locally (in Sydney, Australia) Kids Giving Back  has involved kids in more volunteering activities than I have space to mention here. We run Cook for Good at a local community kitchen where 15 kids and an equal number of adults cook up a storm, making meals that they then deliver to homeless shelters as well as individuals in need. Each session turns out around 250 two-course meals, no mean feat. To date over 1500 homeless have enjoyed these meals made by kids and parents.

Cook for Good program.

We run similar programs for kids at risk, and it’s particularly powerful and poignant when these young adults tell us that volunteering has made them realize there are others worse off than themselves.

Other local programs include making meals for asylum seekers who often have only one meal a day; sharing tea parties and games with the elderly in aged care homes – many residents rarely receive visitors and this brings them great joy; playing with kids from refugee communities at community days, participating in bush regeneration programs, tutoring students from indigenous communities to meet their literacy and numeracy needs, and connecting students to volunteer with programs that assist children with special needs. The list goes on, this is only a snapshot.

Young volunteer with Kids Giving Back.

How does volunteering benefit kids, in particular?

Volunteering is incredibly enriching – it immerses our children in real life, helping others, and interacting with people from all walks of life. It gives our children an opportunity to discover their own strengths and qualities, and use these to help others. I also believe it helps balance our children from the materialistic consumer world we live in.

Volunteering helps our kids to understand that everything they do, no matter how small, can make a difference to someone else. Kids love being part of a team, and volunteering gives them this opportunity, with its instant immersion in a new community and another culture. There is something about being part of a group of people, all working toward a common goal that is incredibly rewarding and makes kids and adults alike feel good.

Volunteering, be it at home or abroad, opens our kids’ eyes to just how much they can actually learn from those they are helping – it’s very much a two way street. When children become involved in volunteering with other communities, our world in effect becomes smaller as they become engaged with and build links with communities beyond their own.

Young English teacher in Thailand.

What is your hope for the future of your organization?

Volunteering opportunities for kids are often hard to come by, and our hope is to continue to expand the opportunities we can offer to kids, families and schools. Our tag lines are in fact also our hopes: “Creating the next generation of generosity” and “Connecting people, bridging communities”. The more volunteering becomes an integral part of the lives of kids, families, school and community groups, the more long-term, meaningful relationships can be formed between communities and volunteers as they both give and receive and grow together.

 

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Journeys for Good travels to Cambodia with Globe Aware

Cambodia volunteer meets local children.

Journeys for Good is excited to announce our upcoming volunteer trip to Cambodia with Globe Aware.   It will be an amazing adventure and the flagship episode of our television program for public TV, currently in development.   In addition, we will be posting blog entries from the trip, so keep an eye out for upcoming entries at the end of December.  And, of course, upon our return, we will be sharing video content on our You Tube Channel.

We chose to partner with Globe Aware because they are an established leader in voluntourism.  Their mission is to promote cultural awareness and sustainability. They seek projects that are based on community need and designed to be sustainable.  While Globe Aware’s financial assistance benefits the community economically, it is actually the involvement and collaboration between the volunteers and community that is the greatest mutual benefit. Community participation in volunteer work projects is an essential component of Globe Aware’s philosophy.  This is in line with our mission at Journeys for Good, profiling volunteer trips that are sustainable, ethical and mutually beneficial to both the local people and the volunteers themselves.

Volunteers deliver wheelchairs to locals in need.

In anticipation, we interviewed Globe Aware’s director, Kimberly Haley-Coleman.

Tell us about the projects we will be engaged in on this trip?

There are so many needs in Cambodia, and the projects we work on are chosen a couple of weeks ahead of time, depending on how much the prior volunteers finished and any higher priorities that have arisen, what the weather conditions will be, etc. The December program will include assembling and distributing wheelchairs for landmine victims, work with students at a Buddhist school and a couple of visits helping a local orphanage. We usually teach English pronunciation and colloquialisms as this gives a self sustaining job skill for one of the biggest industries in Cambodia.  Its worth taking a moment to comment about orphanages.

Orphanages all over the world have real needs that can be very difficult to meet. In 2005 Globe Aware ceased trying to operate too closely in conjunction with them as many vulnerabilities rose to the surface for which we have not been able to find firm solutions. We do occasionally provide training and services in group settings (like sewing teachers, English lessons) or donations in the form of meals or educational materials. We have a firm policy against any volunteers working one- on-one with any children.  Children should not be treated as an attraction. Understanding the real challenges that needy children face worldwide is important, and we are always seeking the best way to promote such awareness.

Local children in Cambodia.

How do you develop your volunteer projects within Cambodia?

The local community makes requests for projects, and we run those requests through 4 criteria (safety, genuine need to a needy community, etc) and we ensure its something that non-skilled volunteers are in a position to do. As long as the project meets our criteria, we let the locals decide the where and how. We firmly believe that we are not in a position to tell what the greatest needs are. We are always learning from the local community.

What types of people take these kinds of trips?

In the past, most international volunteers were college students, often because they have the amount of free time available that most programs required. Our programs are one week, Saturday to Saturday, to allow the full range of busy folk to find time to volunteer abroad.  We’ve seen the biggest increase in multi-generational families traveling together. It’s a beautiful way to experience something unique and also for everyone to appreciate their own lives.

How do you incorporate cultural exploration and sight-seeing into the experience?

We incorporate 3 to 5 planned but optional excursions that are intended to highlight the true culture of a place, not just the postcard beauty. This can mean cooking classes, attending a local wedding, dance lessons, or experiencing local “attractions” with locals to give a different perspective.

Beautiful Angor Wat temples in Cambodia.

How can someone else join this trip?

Registration is always open by email, phone, fax, or through our website. Our toll free number is 1-877-588-4562 or you can email at office@Globeaware.com

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Volunteer travel to be featured in public television series, Journeys for Good.

Emmy award-winning production company, Bayside Entertainment, is looking for the very best volunteer trips to be featured in the upcoming public television series, Journeys for Good.

Filmmaking team Steve and Joanie Wynn will travel the world with their 9 year-old son Ryan to profile the very best in voluntourism. Each episode in the initial series will profile the trip, the volunteers, the local people, local projects and non-profit organizations.

The production will be a KQED Presents presentation in partnership with KQED-TV San Francisco, one of the preeminent public television stations in the nation. As KQED says,” “We expect Journeys for Good to be both exciting and touching. Voluntourism is naturally fraught with conflict and yet buoyed by the human spirit and the exotic locales provide a fascinating backdrop for a compelling cast of heroes and underdogs”.

Journeys for Good co-founder Joanie Wynn remarked “Our hope is that Journeys for Good will inspire more voluntourists and spread the word of the amazing range of opportunities that exist for travelers of all ages”.

For details on the search for volunteer travel providers, please click here:

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Kids Giving Back – Voluntourism for Kids

Last Sunday, I tuned into one of my favorite programs, CBS’ 60 Minutes.  The top story that evening focused on  “Children Helping Children” – kids who were learning early on in their lives that volunteering can be incredibly rewarding.  I practically lept out of my chair because this is exactly what we are trying to accomplish with Journeys for Good — showing people that volunteer travel is a great way to become engaged as a global citizen and that truly anyone can have a positive impact.  To see this kind of story on one of the top television programs in the US made me believe that voluntourism is truly coming into the mainstream and, conversely, coverage in mainstream  media will help people become more aware of volunteer travel.  Either way, it is an encouraing sign that this kind of forward-thinking is on the rise.

Recently, we had a chance to interview Ruth Tofler-Riesel, of Kids Giving Back.  She knows firsthand the benefits and rewards of involving kids in volunteering at an early age.  Below is Part 1 of our interview.

Ruth, what inspired you to get involved with volunteer travel?

My son Alexander is 11 years old, and like all parents of young children we want to find things for him to do that are fun and at the same time meaningful. I’ve always loved travel and in November 2010 I read an article about volunteering abroad. My brain started ticking as I realized this would be a fantastic thing to do with my active and engaging then 9-year old son. I soon became obsessed with the idea of volunteering in Thailand. I dug around the ‘net, and despite finding numerous organisations offering volunteering opportunities, none accepted children under 18. That was, until I found Starfish Volunteers.  Within a month Alexander and I headed off to Thailand for what was to be an incredibly rich and life altering experience.

Alexander helps out with elephants in Thailand.

We taught English to primary school kids in the poorest region of Thailand, we rode and cared for elephants and stayed in a village in the house of the head mahout. After work each day Alexander played with the local village children. One day after a day of teaching together, Alexander turned to me and said “Mum, why don’t we create something so that all kids can do the same volunteering that we’ve just done”.  It was his excitement that made me know that I needed to do something more, not just for Alexander but to make a difference to others.

This was the spark that ignited Kids Giving Back and I can honestly say that it was the elephants and teaching that changed my son’s life and his way of looking at the world.

Kids teaching English to kids in Thailand.

What is your organization about (their mission)?

Kids Giving Back is a recently formed non-profit founded by myself and my friend Carole Schlessinger. Our mission is to instill in children and their family unit the beauty of giving to others, not just of material things but of time, through real life experiences.

This is particularly pertinent at a time where many of our children are loaded with material goods, when what they really need (and as a recent UN study shows), is “time, not stuff”. Volunteering with children gives families time together as well as giving children the opportunity to develop new relationships, both with other volunteers as well as with members of the community with whom they are working.

Our tag line says it all: Creating the Next Generation of Generosity. We provide kids, families, schools and corporations with volunteering experiences locally, nationally, and internationally. We believe that when kids volunteer, we are developing our next generation of leaders and creating a culture of generosity and civic responsibility.

We are passionate about volunteer travel, and Kids Giving Back now has a partner relationship with Starfish Volunteers so families and school groups can book their Thailand volunteering trips directly through our Kids Giving Back travel agent.

We do however feel strongly that volunteering starts at home, and to this end we are linking kids, families and schools with a huge variety of volunteering opportunities with numerous non-profit organisations on home turf.

Kids prepare meals for the homeless in Australia.

What positive effects have you seen in your work?

Lots! Starting with the effects on the recipients – I know the difference that we and other volunteers with children have made in Thailand, teaching children whose only opportunity to learn English from native speakers is from volunteers, as well as supporting the ability of a tiny village living in poverty to live with the elephants that are a part of its culture. Locally in Australia our kids and families are making a difference every day, helping a wide range of communities. When Alexander and I volunteer, or when Kids Giving Back connects a school group with a community, the assistance these kids give is tangible, and they really do make a difference. And then there’s a whole other level on which kids touch the hearts of those they’re helping.

In terms of the effects on the kids, it’s great seeing them embracing real life, away from the cyber worlds so many of them get stuck in for many hours of the day. You can really see the kids’ focus shift as they become aware of others beyond themselves, and learn the value of empathy. It’s great when kids work side by side with their parents or teachers who, while acting as role models, also get to enjoy the children in a new way, partnering with them as together they help others. It’s a very powerful shift in dynamics.

Alexander will at times express his gratitude for the fact that he is receiving a great education, that he has a warm bed, that we have running water and electricity, and that he can eat nutritious food. This is the sort of awareness and empathy that comes from first hand experience, and I can see how volunteering has really informed Alexander’s perspective on our world.

Please check back next week for Part 2 of our interview.