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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
By Bea Evans
Founder, Ripple Effect Journeys
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