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How Can You Make A Difference On Vacation?

What are we talking about — Meaningful or Purposeful Travel? You can use either Purposeful Travel or Meaningful Travel to describe ME to WE trips. What are they? Each ME to WE Trip takes place in a community where ME to WE’s charitable partner puts its 20-year history of holistic, sustainable development to work through its WE Villages program. What makes ME to WE Trips “world changing” is that half of ME to WE’s net profits are donated to its charitable partner, helping travelers make an even bigger impact on the communities travelers visit. The other half is reinvested to grow the enterprise and its social mission.

Credit: Me to We

“What makes ME to WE Trips unique is that travelers have the opportunity to contribute to sustainable development work, which has a 20 year history impact,” says Craig Kielburger, co-founder of WE. “The work of the WE Villages development program has been able to build more than 1,000 schools and school rooms in our partner communities, giving 200,000 children the opportunity to gain an education, provided over one million people with access to clean water, and our immersive volunteer trips have been a huge part of making that happen. 

Traveling with ME to WE is more than a trip. It’s a way to live WE, coming together to learn from each other and make the world a better place, because we are stronger together.” What are some examples? On a journey to Ecuador, travelers take a rainforest adventure in the Amazon jungle at ME to WE’s Minga Lodge and join community members to work on a sustainable development project while learning about the indigenous Kichwa culture. You will also be invited to the home of a local shaman to experience a traditional cleansing ceremony and blessing. In India, you will stay at Araveli Cottages and Tented Camp in Rajasthan, surrounded by the Aravalli Mountains. You will have the chance to help local women collect water for their families, learn to make chapatti bread or build a classroom for future generations. 

In Kenya, you will stay at Bogani Cottages and Tented Camp in the Maasai Mara. You will join the women of the Maasai and Kispigis communities to learn the craft of beading, a tradition passed down through generations that empowers these women to earn a sustainable income and provide for their families. Whose idea was this? Craig Kielburger is a social entrepreneur and the co-founder of a family of organizations dedicated to the power of WE, a movement of people coming together to change the world. Along with his brother Marc Kielburger, Craig co-founded WE Charity, which provides a holistic development model called WE Villages, helping to lift more than one million people out of poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, WE Schools & WE Day provide comprehensive service learning programs to 10,000 schools, engaging 2.4 million young change-makers. 

The brothers’ work has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, 60 Minutes and the BBC.   Craig is the youngest ever graduate from the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA program. He has also received 15 honorary doctorates and degrees for his work in the fields of education and human rights. He is a New York Times bestselling author who has published 12 books, as well as a nationally syndicated columnist. Craig has received The Order of Canada, the Nelson Mandela Freedom Medal and the World Children’s Prize. He was recently voted by Canadians as one of Canada’s top most trusted influencers in a Readers Digest poll, and along with his brother Marc, he was named Canada’s Most Admired CEO in the public sector in 2015.  Sir Richard Branson said, “What they’ve accomplished is truly remarkable. They’ve inspired a generation of young people to care and set an example for all of us.” How can you participate? Programs in Kenya, India and Ecuador take place all year as ME to WE is active in the communities all year.

While you can rough it, there are options that will provide accommodations with full facilities, and while they may not be high-luxury, they are certainly of a standard you will be comfortable. Moreover, ME to WE can customize programs for just your family, family group or also corporate team. If you are arriving via private aviation, which is not uncommon, ME to WE can provide details and assistance with the best GA airports. Again, the below itineraries are examples, and you can do something customized to your needs from 48 hours to two weeks. Here is some more detail:

Kenya Trip Overview

Credit: Me to We

When WE Charity came to Salabwek in 2007, school buildings in the community were primarily mud structures. The average child walked three to four kilometers to school, though some walked as far as eight kilometers. There was no local source of clean water. The community had an illiteracy rate of more than 90 percent, and an average family income of less than $1.25 per day. Subsistence agriculture provided the only source of income, maize being the crop of choice. Gender equality posed a particular challenge, and early marriages were commonplace. Since then, here are some of the improvements due to WE’s work in the community: 

Education   

Efforts have led to building 20 schoolrooms for students up to Grade 8 (over 700 students), and the school continues to expand. Teacher accommodations have been significantly improved, which attracts better talent to the school. Recently, the graduating class sent more girls to secondary school than boys, a great victory in the fight for gender equality. Student retention and academic performance have both shown consistent improvement. During the recent drought, when children had more pressure on them to fetch water, attendance rates remained at 97 to 98 percent. 

Water 

As new schoolrooms are built, water projects are implemented in tandem. In addition to sanitation education, a Water Management Committee oversees sustainable and equitable sharing of water. The school contains an on-site water catchment system, as well as a water system that provides clean water for the school and the community, increasing local clean water access from zero, in 2007, to 88 percent today. The clean water system has been instrumental in establishing a drip-irrigation system at the school farm.  Now 91 percent of households practice healthy water usage habits-up by 48 percent.   

Health 

A mobile health clinic visits each month, and students receive regular deworming medication. Most importantly, students have taken ownership of their health and established health and environmental clubs. Around 88 percent of households are now practicing healthy habits at home such as hand washing and dish drying.   

Food 

The school farm, tended by students, provides nutritious food such as kale for student lunches that are cooked in the community kitchen. Introduction of the drip-irrigation system has resulted in both higher crop yields and reduced costs.  

Opportunity  

As one of WE Charity’s oldest WE Villages communities, Salabwek’s alternative income and livelihood programs are well established. The goal of this pillar, as with the others, is to make the community economically self-sufficient. To that end, WE has provided financial literacy training to men’s and women’s groups.  

In 2015, 12 households participated in a Village Savings and Loans program that allows members to pool resources and take out loans for small business. Salabwek currently has 12 women’s groups and over 2,300 community members benefitting from alternative income projects.   

Empowerment In Action 

The members of the Saunok Village Savings and Loans group pass around a metal lockbox and each put in one hundred and twenty shillings. Coins clink as they drop inside, and paper rustles as members deposit bills printed in the red, green and black of the Kenyan flag. Members wave and offer a friendly “Jambo” at people passing by as the box makes its rounds. In the distance, children laugh and play in the bright sunlight outside of Salabwek Primary School. Village Savings and Loans Associations (or VSLAs) like the Saunok group are transforming the local economy in Salabwek by introducing new strategies for supporting small businesses and financial independence. 

In their early stages, groups meet on a regular basis to save money for a collective fund that members can draw on to start new enterprises or pay school fees or medical bills. But as members pick up personal finance skills and strategies for working in teams, they begin to expand their activities to include shared business projects like beekeeping, goat rearing and farming. 

The Salabwek Youth group, made up of 15 young community members, makes monthly contributions to support the half-acre garden where they grow vegetables and beans. They’ve already started reaping a profit by selling their kale crop at the local market. They’ve asked WE Charity to help install a connection to the village water supply to boost their productivity. 

The Bereigwet men’s group has become local legend after starting a sprawling 10-acre maize farm. These formidable farmers are forecasting a bountiful bumper crop of 200 bags of maize, which they plan to sell at the local market. They have already used their group savings and purchased a pair of bicycles to make travel to and from the farm more efficient. 

Trip Overview 

Flashes of red from Maasai shukas colour the rolling landscape as sounds of school children laughing and greetings of “jambo!” in the air. You will be immersed in the beauty of Kenya, as you spend time connecting with community members and experiencing what daily life is like in the Maasai Mara. Day 1 Meet your ME to WE guide and transfer to Bogani Cottages and Tented Camp. Enjoy lunch before your orientation and visit to a community school. Day 2 Walk in the footsteps of a local mama on a journey to collect water from the Mara River. Spend time deepening your impact volunteering on the build site in the afternoon. Day 3 Visit an authentic Kenya market and in the afternoon, continue the progress you’re making on your community project. Upon your return, visit Baraka Hospital. Day 4 Depart for Nairobi where you’ll check into the Tribe Hotel for the day and visit the ME to WE Atelier. High tea and farewell dinner to follow. 

Trip Highlights

  • Participate on a sustainable development project
  • Connect with community members by experiencing their daily lives in Kenya
  • Explore nature as you walk through the African bush through the savannah, led by your local Maasai guide

Accommodations

Credit: Me to We

A property designed with authentic African décor, set in the heart of the Maasai Mara, Bogani Cottages and Tented Camp offers relaxing spaces to recharge and refresh after a day of volunteering. Your accommodations are furnished with all the comforts of home, including flushing toilets, electricity and hot running water. Private cottages and tents can accommodate families and groups of all sizes. Meals are prepared daily by chefs to suit your dietary needs and preferences.

India Trip Overview

Credit: Me to We

WE began working in India 1998. In 2008, India officially joined their list of Free The Children’s WE Villages partner countries, and we’ve since seen incredible progress in the communities in which they work. WE has built and refurbished hundreds of schools, created health centers, organized women’s alternative income groups and more.

WE Villages projects in India take place in the Udaipur and Rajsamand district in the northern desert state of Rajasthan, which suffers from many environmental, economic and social crises. Girls in India, specifically among tribal populations of Rajasthan, experience a great number of gender disparities-they have the highest female illiteracy rate in the entire country. Child labor is also a rampant throughout the region.

WE goals here are to combat child labor, and provide access to education for the indigenous and most marginalized people. Here’s how we’re doing this. 

Education 

India boasts relatively high school enrollment rates, but the drop out rate in rural communities is high, and quality education is uncommon. According to a report by The Economist, half of students in rural communities can’t read at a basic level, and the same percentage of students drop out by age 14. These numbers are even worse among girls. We know that education levels and literacy rates among women have a direct correlation to the well-being of families, which is why WE Charity is determined to improve access to education for all children, and in particular girls. WE does this by building schools, teacher accommodations and libraries , plus providing educational programming 

Water 

India is home to more than one billion people, and the population is growing. This puts a huge strain on the country’s water and sanitation resources. World Bank estimates that 21 percent of communicable diseases here are related to unsafe water, and hundreds of thousands of people die every year from diarrhea alone. According to UNICEF, 33 percent of the population lacks access to latrines, and more than 50 percent of people go to the bathroom in the open. WE helps by facilitating the provision of hand pumps , hand washing stations , water and sanitation education , latrines , water clubs at schools , and watershed development. 

Trip Overview

You will be surrounded with the sights and sounds of a culture rich in history, tradition and beauty, with a backdrop of the Aravalli range- the oldest plateau mountains in India. 

Day 1 

Enjoy breakfast at the Taj Lake Palace Hotel and meet your ME to WE guide to make your way to the rural surroundings of Araveli Cottages and Tented Camp for a quick orientation before visiting the community and seeing projects underway. 

Day 2 

Spend the morning with women of the community to understand what daily life in rural India is like. After lunch, participate in a sustainable development project-lay the bricks for a new classroom or help dig a/ new clean water system. 

Day 3 

Continue the progress you are making on your community project and in the afternoon, try your hand at age-old traditional crafts like tie-dying and block-printing. 

Day 4 

There is optional light morning yoga at sunrise overlooking the Aravalli Mountain Range. Depart with your driver to your next destination. 

Trip Highlights:

  • Work with a local community on a development project
  • Connect with community members by experiencing their daily lives
  • Explore nature as you walk through the Aravalli Mountain Range
  • Experience India’s age old traditions, led by your local guide

Accommodations

Credit: Me to We

A property designed with authentic Indian décor and royal Rajashtani air, Araveli Cottages and Tented Camp offers delightful spaces or recharge and refresh after a day of exploration and cultural immersion. Each accommodation is complete with hot and cold running water, electricity, flush toilets, comfortable beds, and is furnished with unique Indian fabrics and art. Meals are prepared daily by ME to WE chefs to introduce you to local cuisine. We can also accommodate any dietary needs and restrictions. 

Ecuador Trip Overview

Credit: Me to We

Discover the wild beauty of the Amazon and connect with Indigenous communities that call the rainforest home. Recharge and reconnect on your day’s adventures at Minga Lodge, a charming destination that boasts stunning views of the Rio Napo, a tributary to the Amazon River. 

Day 1   

Arrival to Guayaquil, where a ME to WE representative will be waiting to greet you, and check you into your hotel. 

Day 2  

Descend into the Amazon basin by riverboat. You arrive for orientation at Minga Lodge. 

Day 3   

Enjoy an early morning rainforest excursion before your community introduction and participation in the build of local infrastructure. 

Day 4   

Join a local farmer to help carry out some of their daily activities. Continue working on your community project and enjoy an Amazonian night trek after dinner. 

Day 5   

Napo River boat transfer to Coca Airport and return flight to Quito where you will continue on for your journey home. 

Trip Highlights

Work with a local community on a sustainable development project

Connect with community members by experiencing their daily lives

Explore nature as you trek the Amazonian rainforest, led by your expert jungle guide

VIP Contact

Craig Kielburger, Co-Founder at craig@WE.org or +1.416.925.5896 x 160   
Website: MEtoWE.com

Doug Gollanhttp://douggollandotcom.wordpress.com
I am Editor-in-Chief of Private Jet Card Comparisons and DG Amazing Experiences, and a Contributor to Forbes.com.
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