Giving Gifts with Impact

What’s On Your Wish List?

Give a Gift With Impact

A text from my brother, got me thinking. The adults in my family exchange names for Christmas. He heard I had his name and wanted to confirm that with me.

I replied “yes” and asked if he had a wish list.

He responded, “I would like to donate to one of your causes.”

Now there’s a Gift with Impact.

Ripple Effect Journeys Visits Peruvian Hearts In March

This prompted me to go back to an email I received from Danny Dodson, executive director of Peruvian Hearts.  Ripple Effect Journeys’ participants will visit Peruvian Hearts in March.  We will spend several days with girls, learning how Peruvian Hearts impacts their lives and that of their families.

Hmmmm.   That got me thinking about my brother’s request.

The Cost of Empowering and Mentoring Girls

I had asked Danny to tell me about the costs of supporting a girl in the program. Here’s some of what he shared.


Give a Gift With Impact – Empower a Girl To Change Her World

So this year,  I’m not going to visit Amazon or head to the nearest sporting goods store to purchase my brother’s Christmas gift.   Instead, I’m going to present Peruvian Hearts a donation in his honor while traveling with Ripple Effect Journeys – Peru  in March.

Is there someone in your life who would appreciate a Gift with Impact? 

If so, I’d be happy to handle the delivery.  Send me a note ( and we can coordinate the details.

Happy Holidays!


Travel to a Space Where Authenticity Meets Meaning

A few months ago, I had the good fortune to hear a presentation by Leymah Gbowee. A co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, Leymah was recognized for her efforts mobilizing women in a peaceful protest resulting in the end of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.

A strong believer in the importance of education, the Nobel prize money enabled Leymah to not only send girls to school but also to provide them with the support needed to succeed. According to Leymah, there have been many successes over the last 5 years. This includes two women earning their PhD’s and a continuous wave of girls entering high school.

After speaking of these successes, Leymah passionately spoke about the challenges. They were numerous and heartbreaking. Despite Leymah’s efforts, girls still experienced significant problems.

For example, one girl repeatedly ran away from school. Leymah was facing so many problems, and now this! She was a point of dismantling the program she had created.

Fortunately, before taking such action, Leymah decided to visit the school and address the girls in attendance. As she vented her frustrations, Leymah found one of girls standing next to her. It was runaway girl. Shyly, she placed a note in Leymah’s hand. It read, “I understand all that you have done for us. I don’t want to mess up my life.”

Leymah knew this was an important moment. She asked everyone, but the note writer, to leave the room.

Then, the girl explained “I’m not running away from school. I run from school when school is dismissed.” Leymah learned that this girl was the first student to get off the bus at the end of the day. Everyone in her neighborhood knew her mother was a sex worker. At school, this girl was Vice-President of the Student Council. She was smart and commanded respect. School was a different world than her reality. The girl went on to say, “I don’t want someone in my neighborhood to say something about my life as I get off the bus.”

Leymah’s story remains with me. How often do I judge someone before knowing their entire story? Just like it takes time to read a book beyond its cover, it takes time to understand someone’s story. Time to ask questions, time to listen, and time to reflect.

After telling this story several of times, I discovered another take away message. Leymah reminded us that school was a very different world for this girl compared to the reality of her neighborhood. This dichotomy raises so many thoughts within me.

I’m reminded of a Spanish teacher I had years ago in Antigua. Teachers at this school wore a uniform that included a white blouse or shirt. As I got to know my teacher, I learned that she lived in a home with one electric light bulb. She fetched water from a community well. She shared that house had dirt floors. I distinctly recall thinking, how does she keep her blouse so white and crisp? I found it challenging even with a wash machine and a good iron. Leymah’s story causes me to wonder how my teacher felt about sharing those details of her life. Was she feeling pride at being able to move beyond her limited material to work as a teacher? Or did sharing these details put her in a place of vulnerability?

Ripple Effect Journeys was created for women who want to experience the world beyond the sights and learn the answers to questions like these.

They want to meet people, particularly women and girls, where they live, work and go to school. We hope the women we meet will be comfortable in sharing their stories. What are their hopes and dreams? What challenges do they face? What do they need to be able to meet their goals? How can we support their efforts? Rather than fixing a situation, we are there to champion individual efforts.

Authenticity meets meaning! I hope Leymah Gbowee would approve.

3 Aha Moments Define Travel that Serves

My mother often remarked that good things come in threes. That certainly seems to be the case when it comes to how I’ve interconnected three aha moments with how I envision travel that serves.

Aha Moment #1

It began with watching Lume Mufleh’s powerful TED Talk “Don’t feel sorry for refugees-Believe in them.” Lume’s grandmother, who fled Syria for Jordan as a young mother, was determined to help her grandchildren understand their family’s history. When Lume was 8 years old, her grandmother took her to visit a refugee camp, similar to the one Grandmother had lived in with her small children. Upon arrival, Grandmother told Lume to go play with the children. Lume shares how she did not want to play with children who seemed so different from her. But Grandmother insisted. Later, while leaving the camp, Lume told Grandmother how much fun she had playing with the kids. “Those poor kids,” said Lume. Grandmother’s response is one that continues to impact Lume’s actions today. “Don’t feel sorry for them – believe in them.”

photo credit: Tijen Erol <a href="">Children of Palestine</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Aha Moment #2

Believing in someone is at the heart of a relationship I embarked upon about a year ago. At that time, a coalition of leaders came together with the goal of a poverty-free life for everyone in the community where I live. Designed to empower people in poverty with skills, resources and personal connections, a mentorship program was one of the strategies suggested to work toward this goal. Interested in giving back, I volunteered to serve as a mentor.

Connecting through mentoring

Two months ago, I met my neighbor, the person I would mentor, for the first time. A single mother of 2 girls (ages 10 years and 3 months at the time), my neighbor is in her mid-thirties. She works full time as a caregiver and human resources assistant in an assisted living center located about 15 miles from home. Despite full time employment, she lives from paycheck to paycheck with no reserves for unexpected expenses.

The connection with my neighbor is teaching me so much.

When we met for the first time, my neighbor was upbeat about so many things. She loved her job, feeling valued and challenged.  She owned a car, enabling her to work at the assisted living center as local public transportation was not available. A strong network of friends helped care for her kids. Her spiritual life was strong and provided a source of strength when things became uncertain. An outgoing individual, our conversation continued for more than an hour. I found myself wondering why someone felt she needed a mentor.

We met a week later, as planned. Things were no longer going so well. My neighbor felt the initiative she demonstrated at work was not being appreciated by her boss.  Childcare was getting harder to arrange. Fall-out with a longtime friend struck a blow to her self-esteem. The refrigerator was nearly empty and diapers were running short. Within a week’s time, her world had become chaotic.

My neighbor has shared a variety of ups and downs with me since our first meeting. Because of her, poverty is no longer an abstract term to me. Rather, it’s something that impacts someone I’ve come to care about. Witnessing my neighbor’s approach to life, I often find myself in awe.

Here are a few of my takeaways.

The importance of being seen in a positive light

My neighbor was invited to participate in this program. Local social service representatives, familiar with her over time, felt she could benefit from a mentor’s support. The difference in tone between our first and second meeting reminds me that people want to be thought of in a positive light despite the challenges they face.

Being seen in a positive light

The importance of listening

A story unfolds over time. This is especially true when someone is sharing their life story. As a mentor, I’ve realized the importance of listening to someone without feeling the need to fix the problems they face.  My role is to build a trusting relationship that supports someone taking charge of their own life.

The importance of listening

Resilience and the importance of believing in someone

My neighbor has repeatedly shown me her resiliency. I am in awe of her ability to bounce back from both emotional and financial challenges. She strives to improve her life despite frequent setbacks. She is not asking me to solve her problems. Rather, she expresses gratitude in my belief in her ability to live her life.

The importance of believing in someone

Aha Moment #3

I recently came across a quote by Karen Blixen that connected things for me.

“We must leave our mark on life while we have it in our power.”

For several years, I’ve been exploring how to combine the wonder of travel with the desire to serve people in need. I envisioned a trip that serves rather than a service trip. But what did that exactly mean and why should people be interested in opportunity such as this?

Travel that serves

Connecting My Three Aha Moments Provides the Answer

I believe that many of us desire to follow Karen Blixen’s direction and “leave our mark on life.” Most of us are already doing so within our families, social groups and communities. But what could we do if we thought outside of communities familiar or close to us? How could those of us who explore life through travel integrate the desire to leave our mark?

Mission or service trips have long offered travelers a way of doing so. But the focus for my vision has been different. Lume Mufleh’s grandmother has given me the words to articulate the mission of travel that serves. “Don’t feel sorry for them. Believe in them!” Our hearts break when we see people living on the edge. This is especially true when we travel beyond our own country. We want to help. How can we solve the problems that are in front of us? There must be something we can do to improve the lives of those we see.

connecting 3 aha moments with travel that serves

There is! Lessons learned in my aha moments provide a starting place.

  • Remember the importance of an individual’s dignity. Travel that serves means taking direction not giving direction. Challenges are shared only after trust is established.
  • Listening serves as a building block for trust. Travel that serves means listening to an individual define their challenges. Once challenges are defined, solutions can be explored.
  • Travel that serves means aligning with someone as they examine their challenges. It is discussing possible solutions rather than providing the answers. Travel that serves believes in people, it doesn’t feel sorry for them.

Travel that serves – what an incredible way to leave your mark on life!

Leave your mark on the world

Travel with Purpose: 13 Quotes to Inspire You

To travel with purpose is to travel deeply.  It stems from a desire to combine the exploration of new places with the hope of making a difference.  The journey to discover how to do so adds depth and dimension to the destination.

The following 13 quotes give voice to the impact possible when travel with purpose is your goal.

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. Henry Miller

Explore the world with an open mind, a sturdy carry-on, and clothes that don’t wrinkle. Madeleine Albright

Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey. Patrick Conroy

It circulates your brain. Yoko Ono

It’s not enough to read about the world; the most important education comes from first hand experiences. Richard Bronson

Traveling enables us to see the world through the eyes of someone else, and to understand their aspirations and assumptions. John Kerry

Travel is more than seeing the sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent in the ideas of living. Miriam Beard

What fills the eyes, fills the heart. Irish Proverb

Traveling-it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. Ibn Battuta

Travel literally forces us out of our routines and, in doing so, gives us the freedom to see things with fresh eyes. Annabelle Selldorf

I travel around the world in a way that tries to open my mind and give me empathy and inspire me to come home and make this world a better place. Rick Steves

Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving. Terry Pratchett

The real work of an expedition begins when you return. Louise Arner Boyd

10 Ways to Refocus a Service Trip to a Journey That Serves

10 Ways to Refocus a Service Trip to a Journey that Servecs

I See and You Can Too!

Jotting down words while pondering my vision for Ripple Effect Journeys, I experienced an epiphany! Removing the letters “i” and “c” from service, results in the word serve. This “IC” (as in I see) moment led me to think about the many definitions of the word “see.” Do the varied meanings of this word impact what it means to serve as opposed to provide service? I think so!

Here are 10 ways “IC” (I see) refocuses a service trip to a Journey that Serves.

1.  To see – To visualize

Thinking about traveling beyond the sights, you begin to think about problems that needs fixing. Because you care, you begin to visualize how your actions could be part of the solution.

A journeys that serves means gathering impressions

2.  To see – To perceive by sight

Being able to see something with your own eyes, enables you to gather information and impressions. The adage “One picture is worth a thousand words” comes to mind. Reading about a situation and experiencing it are two different things. What are your eyes teaching you?

3.  To see – To call upon &
4.  To see – To grant an interview

Journeys that serve are about partnership. As travelers, we often ”feel called upon” to make life better for those we perceive are suffering in the places we visit. But wait. Before developing an action plan for change, don’t we need to be invited in by those we wish to serve, so that we can listen to one another, ask and answer questions?

A journey that service means partnership and discovery.

5.  To see – To watch, to examine &
6.  To see – To discover

If the goal is long term sustainable change, it’s important to discover the complexities that contribute to a situation. Discovery involves going beyond what the eye can see. It involves watching without judgement. It involves not only gathering information but also examining it through someone else’s eyes. Discovery often challenges what we have envisioned. Most importantly it requires a conversation focused on learning.

7.  To see – To understand

Our “IC” journey approaches a place where we begin to grasp the complexities of what we see before our eyes. The tendency to refer to this as a light bulb moment is strong. Because of what we’ve learned, our arrival at a place of understanding comes from empathy.  Our words “I understand” are spoken with a full heart.

A journey that serves means understanding and recognition

8.  To see – To recognize

The words recognize and acknowledge are often used as synonyms. A closer look reveals a slight but important difference. When we recognize someone or something, the act typically takes place quietly. But acknowledging someone or something requires an audience. Inspired by their growing understanding, travelers learning to serve are keen to both recognize and acknowledge, and in doing so help others to understand the power of serving.

9.  To See – To imagine the possibility

Traveling to serve nurtures an empathetic spirit. The importance of this can’t be overstated. Empathy enables us to recognize that we are the visitors, serving in a supportive role. Empathy allows us to accept if our help is rejected. Empathy humbles us to accept an invitation to collaborate rather than solve. And empathy honors us with requests to serve as mentors rather than doers. Understanding empathy helps us see the possibilities for serving may take many forms.

Journey that services means possibility

10.  To See – To take care of, to provide

Whoa! This “IC” may seem contradictory. At first glance, this reaction is understandable. But nothing could be further from the truth. When learning to serve, travelers grow to understand this. As educators, champions, advocates and mentors, we serve others through acts of empowerment. Our journey towards that goal does not end once we are home. Rather, our experiences ignite a passion to champion continued steps towards change.

‘Tis the Season of Good Travels with Ripple Effect Journeys

Bea Evans, Ripple Effect Journeys founder, received her Good Travels Advisor certification on November 23, 2016. 

The Good Travels Advisors (GTA) program from Tourism Cares is a training program and learning community of travel agents committed to promoting good giving and good volunteering among travelers. Effective giving and travel fulfills the good intentions of travelers, boosts trip satisfaction and connections, and increases the benefit to local communities.

We invite you to join the Ripple Effect Journeys community.  Subscribe to our blog or join in on Facebook.  Travel with like-minded women.  Experience the wonder of new places.   “See” a destination beyond the sights.  Learn about issues impacting women and girls in countries you visit.  Explore the meaning of learning service.  Discover how you can make a difference by supporting someone’s journey.   It’s fun, it’s memorable, it’s “good travels”.

Good Travels Advisor
‘Tis the Season for Good Travels!

Inspiration and tips for an especially meaningful holiday.

As a certified Good Travels Advisor, I am delighted to share a particular magic of the season – the smiles, joy and caring that comes with giving to others.

The job of a Good Travels Advisor goes beyond superb travel advice and service – we are also guides to meaningful experiences and giving in the communities we hold dear, near and far.

Here are 6 special ways to celebrate the giving spirit this year!

1. Looking for beautiful gifts that also make a difference? Here’s a very special list of 7 items that also directly help a cause, whether its breast cancer, Cambodian girls, anti-trafficking, endangered species conservation, and more – choose one gift and cause, or all!

2. Discover the surprising way you can actually buy happiness, along with other TED Talk inspiration. Watch Michael Norton on How to Buy Happiness; spoiler alert — the key is not to buy for yourself but to give to others, with great stories and data to prove it! Also check out Bill and Melinda Gates and their reflections on wealth and giving, starting off with an anecdote about their very first trip to Africa.

3. Find your favorite quote on giving while sipping some egg nog, scotch or tea. Peruse this list of philanthropic quotes from the National Philanthropic Trust, which includes James Baldwin: “We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.”

4. Give yourself and give for others. Here’s a list of 12 surprising charitable giving options that will likely tickle anyone’s curiosity and inspire you to explore and act, in addition to what you may give to your favorite organizations and in your hometown community. There’s also a shorter list for engaging your kids!

5. Use the new year to revisit your giving overall, along with your resolutions. Your guides include “How to be smart about charitable giving over the holidays” and tips from Guidestar, the national nonprofit database.

6. Think about giving back to a destination you care about, or a place following a disaster. What are your favorite places far from home, domestic or overseas? Think about the special experiences you’ve had in the last year or two and where you think you can make a difference, even with a small charitable donation. Think back to the nonprofits, museums and community organizations you encountered – or look up the local “community foundation,” a hub for local giving. It’s a great way to connect as a family and get back in touch with places you love. Alternatively, think of a place that was hit by a disaster this year; look into the latest and make a gift to the first one that comes to mind.

Good Travels Advisors make a differenceGood Travels Advisor Partners

Questions On The Path to Meaningful Travel

A wake-up call around 4 a.m. began our day. Within 30 minutes, we were on the bus. Despite the yawns, excitement charged the air. Time was of the essence. We were on track to arrive at our destination before dawn. Once there, though, we still needed to locate the perfect place to watch the sunrise. After all, we weren’t the only ones wanting to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat. Being able to do so was an anticipated highlight of our trip to Cambodia.
Meaningful Travel in Cambodia

Adding a Dimension of Meaning to Travel

Eating delicious Cambodian food also ranked high on the list! A search for locally popular Phnom Penh restaurants led us to Friends The Restaurant. Run by former street youth and their teachers, this Tree Alliance restaurant provides training and the promise of a career for youth who previously saw no future.

Friends the Restaurant has become a destination for travelers looking to enjoy amazing Cambodian dishes. And they do so while supporting a meaningful cause. What a dynamic combination!!!

Eating at Friends the Restaurant is a meaningful travel experience.

Friends International demonstrates what is possible when addressing needs through social enterprise. The businesses they have created through training facilities provide services enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.

What Does Meaningful Travel Mean to You?

Reflections such as these inspired Ripple Effect Journeys and prompted questions like:

  • How can we create travel programs that move beyond the sights to stories about experiences shared with the people who live there?
  • Is it possible for those experiences to be mutually beneficial to travelers as well as communities of people in the country being visited?
  • If so, what does that look like? How does performing service differ from learning service?

I invite you to join us on a journey that explores questions like these.

I’d also like to learn from you.

  • How would you describe meaningful travel experiences?
  • Does the thought of “giving back” while traveling appeal to you?
  • If so, what types of experiences would enable you to give back?
  • Have you ever participated in a service trip? Tell us about about your experience.

I look forward to exploring the world of meaningful travel with you.

Meaningful Travel Experiences

Travel with IMPACT: A Service Trip Alternative

Resolving to Live Life to the Fullest

The New Year is almost a month old. Along with many of you, I’m determined to live this year to the fullest!

Inspired by Janice Kaplan’s  Gratitude Diaries,  I am writing about as least one thing I am thankful for daily. And while it may seem a bit out there, I’m practicing the Superwoman pose in front of my mirror every morning. I didn’t come up with that on my one, but rather was inspired by Amy Cuddy’s popular TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”

Preparing to Travel with Impact - Ripple Effect Journeys

Someone suggested I include a picture of me in my Superwoman pose, but I think my granddaughter is so much cuter!

It turns out that these two activities were included in Life Hacks “30 Little Things to Do to Become a Different You in 2016.” I may be on to something because the list also suggests “travel some place new.” Well that’s right up my alley!

Combining the Love of Travel and a Passion to Empower Others

As you may know, I’ve spent much of my life helping adoptive families travel to their birth country via Adoptive Family Travel—travel that I LOVE being part of.

Lately, though, I’m thinking about new ways to help. How can I combine traveling to marvelous places with my passion to support organizations dedicated to helping people by empowering them? How can I help others do the same?

Check out this recent “Reasons Why People Travel Abroad” infographic from Travel Type.
How do your reasons compare?

Why People Travel Infographic from Travel Type

Why People Travel Infographic from Travel Type

Are you among the 32% who are “curious about how others live”? Or, is your reason similar to the 24% who travel “to discover what’s really important in life.”?

Some people participate in a service or mission trip, which have increased in popularity in the past several years, as a way to fulfill these reasons. If you Google “What is a service trip?” you’ll find 625,000,000 results! So what is it?

According to VolunteerTourismViews, a service trip is “the practice of individuals going on a working holiday, volunteering their labor for worthy causes (such as) aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society, the restoration of certain specific environments or research into aspects of society or environment, in an organized way alongside touristic activities.”

Travel with Impact

But I envision a trip that is more about listening, learning, understanding, encouraging and supporting global communities and their efforts. Ripple Effect Journeys was created to do just that. Rather than “aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society,” Ripple Effect Journeys participants will walk alongside community members on their quest for change.

We’ll do so by taking you beyond the sights. Ripple Effect Journeys connects you with people striving to improve their lives and the organizations empowering them to do so. You’ll come to understand the challenges faced and champion the possibilities. As a result, we believe the desire to be a partner for change will accompany you home. That’s Travel with Impact!

Traveling with Ripple Effect Journeys, you’ll:

Ripple Effect Journeys Infographic - Travel with Impact

Travel with Impact – Ripple Effect Journeys

Ripple Effect Journeys – Peru

Our first trip will be to Peru where we’ll introduce you to Peruvian Hearts. Those of you familiar with Adoptive Family Travel, may remember that Ana Dodson, a Peruvian Ties participant, founded this organization. We look forward to introducing you to the girls Peruvian Hearts empowers. We can’t wait for you to hear their dreams and learn how they plan on making these dreams come true.

Picture of two Peruvian Hearts Scholars

Peruvian Hearts Scholars: accounting student, Maribel (L); Electical engineering student, Rosa (R).

And let’s not forget the wonderful places we’ll visit along the way. Cusco, The Sacred Valley, and of course, Machu Picchu! I can almost hear the Peruvian Pan Pipes welcoming us!

Majestic Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu’s majesty awaits you!

We are thrilled to launch Ripple Effect Journeys and excited about its impact. Join us and you’ll meet amazing, like-minded people interested in a meaningful, impactful and fun travel experiences. I can’t wait for you to participate. If you or someone you know is interested in receiving further information about our trip to Peru or future Ripple Effect Journeys, please contact me at

Bea Evans, Ripple Effect Journeys Founder

Bea Evans

By Bea Evans, Ripple Effect Journeys Founder

7 Places to Shop For Meaningful Holiday Gifts

nEY0D2CMeaningful travel creates a desire to give meaningful holiday gifts.  It is an experience.  It is a connection between people and the things they are involved with—their families, their livelihood and their interests. It is an opportunity to learn and to share, moments that provide insight and foster understanding.  And, sometimes these experiences lead you to meaningful gift ideas.

As I’ve traveled, I’ve learned about so many interesting projects that have led me to wonderful gifts to share at the holidays. As this holiday season approaches, many of us are thinking about the gifts we wish to give. Just like I enjoy meaningful travel, I’m fond of sharing meaningful gifts.   When you give a gift from any one of these organizations you are giving a gift twice. What could be more meaningful than that?

Meaningful Holiday Gifts – Heifer International

meaningful holiday gifts

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my 4 year old grandson to help me chose gifts for him, and his sister and brother. I explained I loved giving gifts that helped people, and Heifer International allowed me to do just that.  Together we looked through The Most Important Catalog in the World” published by Heifer.  While he identified the different animals featured in the catalog, I was able to explain why people were so excited to receive the various animals.  As Christmas gifts are shared, we’ll talk again about the animals. Gifts with meaning.

Meaningful Holiday Gifts  – Ten Thousand Villages

meaningful holiday gifts

Founded in 1946, Ten Thousand Villages provides a sustainable North American marketplace to members of artisan co-ops in Africa, South Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and East Asia.  Exquisite jewelry, unique home accessories, colorful textiles, charming personal accessories and extraordinary art pieces can be found online or in one of their many stores. As a volunteer at the St. Paul Ten Thousand Villages store, I often tell guests their gift giving is multiplied when making a purchase at the store. Not only are they selecting a gift for a friend or loved one (or perhaps themselves), they are giving a gift of dignity and self-sufficiency to the artisan who crafted the item.

Meaningful Holiday Gifts – SERRV

meaningful holiday gifts

Dedicated to creating a sustainable world through connections with artists and farmers, eradicating poverty is at the heart of SERRV’s mission.  Founded shortly after World War II to help with refugee resettlement, SERRV is a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization.  Since then the organization has grown to include online and catalog sales as well as three stores.  SERRV items are also often found in gift shops and at fairs throughout the country.  Distinctive décor items, colorful kitchen items, stunning personal accessories, quality apparel for both men and women, memorable holiday and gift items can be found on the SERRV website.  Each item is created by an artisan with a story to tell, a story that provides added meaning to the gift you are giving.

Meaningful Holiday Gifts –The Blessing Basket Project

Blessing Basket Correct Logo

Generating Opportunity, Empowering Entrepreneurs, Creating Prosperity.”  A China Ties – Adoptive Family Travel (a Ripple Effect Journeys sister organization) alum recently introduced me to The Blessing Basket Project.  Working with basket weavers in Bangladesh, Ghana, Uganda and Madagascar, The Blessing Basket Project sells a variety of woven goods including baskets, trays, clutches, hats and totes online and through its partners, such as Whole Foods.  Because each item bears the name of its creator, it’s possible to personally get to know that individual through the organization’s “Artisan & You” initiative.  The Blessing Basket Project employs a prosperity wage model resulting in lasting impact for the entrepreneur, their family and their community.

Meaningful Holiday Gifts – The Gift of Identity Fund

meaningful holiday gifts

The Gift of Identity Fund provides funding to adoptees “visiting their birth country with the goal of helping them understand their identity, heritage and culture” while traveling with Adoptive Family Travel, a signature Ties Program.  If you have a place in your heart for international adoptees and their well being, this is the gift opportunity for you.  Commemorate this holiday season and the New Year by giving a unique Gift of Identity ornament that reads, ““Every road, every path, every waterway leads to self discovery.”   Another idea–The ornament’s sentiment also makes it an inspirational gift for those graduating in the year ahead, or as people you know are making transitions in their lives.

christmas decoration

Just as I’m always seeking my next meaningful travel experience, I’m always interested in learning about new ways to purchase meaningful gifts.  Here are two of my recent discoveries.

Meaningful Holiday Gifts – Trades of Hope

meaningful holiday gifts

After hearing about Ripple Effect Journeys, Caitlin Borge introduced me to Trades of Hope.  Focused on helping women break the cycle of poverty, Trades of Hope markets products through a home party model (some of which take place virtually) as well as selling them online.  The beautiful items you’ll find here make wonderful gifts while also offering the gift of hope. We know of a party going on now through Dec. 9. If you’d like an invite, let me know.

Meaningful Holiday Gifts – Wakami

meaningful holiday gifts

John Quinn, co-founder of the Sinapi Foundation, contacted me after learning about Ripple Effect Journeys.  Partnering with several organizations working in Guatemala, the Sinapi Foundation “wants to participate in the transformation of indigenous communities, while respecting their culture, to increase their opportunities for creating sustainable improvement to their way of life.”  Wakami is one of these partners.  Maria Pacehco’s vision to connect rural Guatemalan villages with local markets began with Kiej del Los Bosques in 2004. In 2006 the vision grew to include opportunities in other parts of the world with the birth of Wakami. Enter Wakami’s online store to select a special bracelet or necklace for the favorite gal or guy in your life.

christmas decoration

May your holiday season be filled with meaning, and may the gifts you give, give twice!

Bea Evans

By: Bea Evans
Founder, Ripple Effect Journeys



The Love of Humanity – Blending Travel and Philanthropy

Powerful forces are created when travel blends with the love of humanity.Blending philanthropy with travel creates powerful forces for good. Imagine seeing the sights you long to see while also making a difference in the world. That’s philanthropic travel.

Philanthropy As a Noun or as a Verb?

Let’s start by defining philanthropy. The word philanthropy is derived from ancient Greek and means the “love of humanity.” It encompasses the desire of people to understand and support one another. Today, philanthropy is often thought of as the practice of supporting a cause financially for the purpose of improvement.

But what if we thought of philanthropy as a verb? What if philanthropy were acts of love for humanity? How does that mindset change impact the scope of philanthropy? And how can these acts of philanthropy enrich our travel experiences while positively impacting the global communities we visit?

Travel and the “Love of Humanity”

If you’ve had the good fortune to travel, stop a moment to remember the sense of anticipation you felt before leaving home. Recall the places you looked forward to seeing, the experiences you dreamed about. Now, think about being on vacation and the pictures you took. Breathtaking vistas, places steeped in history, tranquil scenes. People going about their daily lives, colorful markets, unique forms of transportation. A variety of experiences you don’t want to forget.

A picture worth a 1000 words

Do you remember the fun you had sharing your experiences with others? Chances are the real sharing was not done via pictures. Chances are, it was the story you told about the picture that created the really interesting, fun or inspiring message. Pictures capture a moment in time and illustrate the setting and characters in your story. It’s up to you to describe the plot. Here’s where the “love of humanity” comes in. Really good stories tell a tale about how characters, you and those you meet, are changed by their interaction.

Good stories often feature meaningful travel experiences

People travel for lots of different reasons. Here are a few: relaxation, learning, to meet people, adventure, personal growth, romance, family time, business, health, to explore something new, to see life through a different lens.

Many travelers desire authentic experiences that enable them to connect with people in the places they visit. They “live out a love of humanity” en route. Here are three ways you can add the depth of philanthropy to your next journey.

Eat and Shop As a Travel Philanthropist

1. The act of philanthropy through the restaurants you choose

Preparing for a recent trip to Peru, I learned about Restaurant Aldea Yanapay in Cusco. Described as a funky place with good food, the proceeds from this restaurant support Aldea Yanapay, a home for children. Going out to eat and trying different foods is a highlight for many travelers. And the fact that my purchase helped to support a worthy cause was like icing on the cake!

Eating at Friends International restaurants engages you in an Act of Philanthropy.

There are several Friends International restaurants in Cambodia created with a larger purpose in mind. Not only is the food delicious, its presentation is exquisite. The young people working as waiters and cooks are part of a culinary arts training program for marginalized youth supported by Friends International in partnership with TREE Alliance. Tourism in Cambodia is growing in popularity, and trained service workers are needed. The training these young people receive opens the employment-opportunity door resulting in empowered lives. And those of us lucky enough to dine there are part of the solution through our act of philanthropy.

As you prepare to travel, have fun looking for places to eat where you can make a difference.

2. Support Local Social Entrepreneurs

After a wonderful meal at Friends Restaurant in Phnom Penh, we wandered over to Nailbar, another program of Friends International. Here, girls receive training on how to give massages, manicures and pedicures, indulgences travelers often enjoy. Many hotels and spas offer these services, so there is a high demand for trained employees. Speaking from personal experience, these girls are learning the skills needed. Located adjacent to Nailbar is a gift shop featuring handmade items by young people in the Friends International community. (But I’m getting ahead of myself – more on shopping below!)

Arturo Rojas is the founder of Lima Tasty Tours in Peru. Members of his extended family were some of the original settlers in Villa el Salvador, considered one of the largest squatter settlements in the world. Thanks to strong community leaders, this area has become a thriving and productive home to many. Arturo began Lima Tasty Tours because he is excited about Peruvian food, and its influence and impact on Peruvian culture. While his company falls more in line with a small business as opposed to social entrepreneurship, it showcases and supports local producers and restaurateurs. “Que Buena Causa,” one of the tours offered by this tour company, involves a visit to a local comedor (a local soup kitchen) and artisan’s home. Before arriving to the comedor, Arturo and his guests stop at a local grocery store to purchase items to be used for future meals. Guests then exchange food items for the opportunity to visit, help with cooking and enjoy lunch. Such an experience is not a typical form of travel or philanthropy. However, it is a social enterprise that benefits the traveler and the local residents.

A visit to a local comedor with Lima Tasty Tours.


3. Shopping That Makes a Difference

Travelers often wish to return home with gifts for friends and family. Plus, it’s always fun to select something for yourself as a keepsake of your memorable time exploring another part of the world. For some, seeking out the right treasures is a fun vacation activity. It can also be an act of philanthropy as it supports local artisans and projects around the world.

Remember the gift shop I mentioned next to Nailbar in Phnom Penh? Here gift items made by a young people involved with Friends International are tastefully displayed. Jewelry, coin purses, zipper pouches and even cookbooks featuring Friends International restaurant recipes can be purchased.

Purchasing craft items from artisan cooperatives is an act of philanthropy

There are numerous artisan cooperatives in Guatemala where weavers demonstrate their craft and sell their products directly to travelers. Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit UPAVIM, a women’s cooperative located in Guatemala City’s Zona 12, an area of the city with few opportunities and even fewer resources. Members of this cooperative developed a vibrant handicraft business that now sells items locally as well as internationally. This income-generating project resulted in the women’s ability to create a variety of educational and heath care programs serving local children and their families.


In a previous blog post, Philanthropic Travel Enriches the Journey, I mentioned Theodosia, an artist supported by Paraguay Hecho a Mano. Founded by Osvaldo Codas, Paraguay Hecho a Mano’s recognizes the artistic ability of local artisans. For many of the artisans, the sale of their crafts is the only source of livelihood. Providing or finding marketplaces where artisans could earn a fair wage for their work  was a goal of the organization. Purchasing a craft item created by an artisan associated with Paraguay Hecho a Mano, as I often did in the Hotel del Lago’s gallery, allowed me to buy a gift and yet give the gift of livelihood to another. Philanthropy in action.

Philanthropy Helps You Look Beyond When Traveling

Look beyond what's in front of you

Andrew Zimmern said  “Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.”

Try incorporating Acts of Philanthropy into your travels. Doing so will enable you ‘to understand this amazing world we live in’. After all, it is this understanding that allows us to demonstrate a “love of humanity” which is at the heart of philanthropic travel.

Bea Evans

Bea Evans

By  Bea Evans
Founder, Ripple Effect Journeys