Though it exists in many forms, the notion of volunteerism has been a way to help those in need for centuries. While it can focus on a purely domestic effort inside one’s own country, it often involves living within a foreign culture and working with people in a hands-on fashion.
Established in 1961, the Peace Corps is one example familiar to most Americans, whereby volunteers dedicate two years of their life to provide assistance in locations around the world. The organization’s main goals are:
- Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
Since its creation, more than 195,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 host countries to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation.
Philanthropic Travel Is Different Than Volunteerism
While the dedication of volunteer work is highly commendable, there are other ways to help those in need that don’t require a two year commitment yet provide individuals with the rewarding experience of participating in a non-profit project. This option has proven to be especially attractive to high net worth individuals who prefer the accommodations they’re accustomed to while still wanting to get personally involved with a charitable endeavor.
Exquisite Safaris Philanthropic Travel, founded by David Chamberlain, is known as a Social Venture Entrepreneurship that provides travel services to such individuals and their families. To date over $1 million has been raised and provided to non-governmental organizations (NGOs). David’s desire to help those less fortunate comes from his own epiphany while playing soccer with with children on the island of Haiti – kids with little but the tattered clothes on their back – and realizing that had he been born in Haiti such living conditions may have been his lot in life.
The Philanthropic Approach
Exquisite Safaris accomplishes this goal by forging mutually beneficial fund raising partnerships with high impact NGOs serving communities worldwide. This approach can transform your average traveler into a philanthropic traveler. As David told me, his goal is to “create a network of well intentioned, caring philanthropic individuals and their children who collaborate in a meaningful way while traveling.”
Letting go of our self-importance allows us to see that, regardless of appearances, we are all givers and receivers.
When we are in the position of the giver, we honor those we are helping when we remember the many people who have helped us.
Then we can look the person we are helping in the eye, aware that we are making contact with a human being who is our equal.
In this fashion the indigenous local culture is integrated into a luxury travel experience which may include visits to local schools, hospitals and health clinics, villages, slums or wildlife centers – all depending upon the preference of the traveler. David made a point of explaining that his company never maintains an ownership position in a targeted project, but rather partners with independent NGOs to ensure there is no conflict of interest.
“Such connections create authentic cross cultural friendships that generate trust, respect, and generous donations funding philanthropic travel projects worldwide.”
Building Long Term Relationships
Travelers may simply be interested in aiding an ongoing project, or may also possess expertise with regard to supplying clean water, building solar installations or providing medical treatment. In all cases, the priority is placed on the needs of the community, not those of the traveler, in an effort to move the community forward.
It’s an important part of the process that sustainable solutions are implemented, solutions that get to the root of the problem and not only provide immediate relief, but also seek to eliminate the cause. This, in turn, allows communities to move beyond the daily struggle for survival and to begin building a strong and healthy society.
“When we see a person in need, we may want to give them something as a way of helping them, but if we give without taking the time to see who they really are -honoring that most of all, our gift is nowhere near as powerful as it could be.”
David promotes this type of pay-it-forward approach to all his clients. In that way, gratitude and goodwill maximize the gift and inspire native populations to believe positive change is possible. Another result of this change in attitude is a greater appreciation for the local environment and wildlife, and that mindset fosters a respect for maintaining the natural balance between man and all living things.
“There’s something in all of us that hungers after the good and true, and when we glimpse it in people, we applaud them for it. Through them we let the world’s pain into our hearts, and we find compassion. When things go wrong or have been terribly wrong for some time, their inspiration reminds us of the tenderness for life that we can all feel.” – Bishop Desmund Tutu
In David’s mind such encounters represent an opportunity to build bridges and to open the hearts and minds of both the traveler and the recipient.
Life Changing Experience
“Visiting the Matare neighborhood outside Nairobi was a powerful experience for our family. What we encountered grabbed our hearts. Living there does not make for an easy life, and it is so much different from what we know. And yet we found our hearts warmed from this unforgettable experience.” – Amber Dowd
When the entire family travels together the effects on the children can be profound. While most children have seen images of poverty and hunger on the nightly news, this personal experience gives them a chance to feel what life is really like. Quite often they will encounter other children of their own age who have lost one or both parents to AIDS, or who are in need of food, shelter, medical attention or education – a far cry from the comfortable world they live in back home. This may, in the long run, be the most powerful effect of philanthropic travel; awakening the minds of children to the stark realities of the developing world.
“Exquisite Safaris is wonderful because it combines the best of everything. You get world-class accommodations, the top notch activities, and then end up at a project that is life changing.” Travel Connoisseur Magazine
Where Will You Go?
Philanthropic tours are conducted in many Asian countries, such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, as well as locations in South America and India, but the number one destination is Africa.
Every tour that David puts together is customized for the special needs of the traveler and includes accommodations, guides, pilots and drivers, as well as university-trained naturalists. His goal is to educate and inspire, to have a high impact, and to turn the participants into evangelists, thus creating a globalization of empathy.
While most of us don’t fall in the ‘high net worth’ category, what is important from a Global Patriot perspective is to get as many people as possible involved with projects which are designed to uplift those who are less fortunate and in need of our love, guidance and inspiration.
Helping others during our time off can make a difference in the lives of so many.