It’s a new year, and we’re sure that at the top of billions of new years resolutions around the globe are phrases such as ‘travel more’, ‘see the world’, and ‘visit this country and that’, as it seems that the world has become increasingly infatuated with travel and exploration lately.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), destinations around the world welcomed approximately 901 million international tourist arrivals between January and August of 2017, with leisure travellers accounting for more than 60 per cent. This number has grown solidly during the past nine years, with 2017 marking a 7 per cent increase from the previous year. The UNWTO forecasts that, by 2030, the number of worldwide international tourist arrivals will reach 1.8 billion.
The affordability of travel and the prospect of taking ‘cool’ photos and recording ‘awesome’ videos for social media outlets have no doubt contributed to the development of this seemingly worldwide love affair, especially for social media-attached millennials. But, aside from taking a few beautiful photos and updating our social media feeds, what is the positive impact we leave when traveling?
Perhaps it’s time to give our travels a more noble purpose. As part of your New Year’s resolution, why not travel to volunteer or promote a good cause? If we’ve got you seriously considering this, below are three regional organizations that you can travel with in 2018.
Based on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai’s belief that education is one of the ‘most effective tools to break the cycle of poverty’, the charitable organization Dubai Cares has provided more than16 million children and young people from 45 developing countries with access to quality education since its establishment in 2007. Dubai Cares does this by constructing and financing ‘integrated, impactful, sustainable and scalable’ programs.
As long as you are 21 years old or older, physically able to handle manual labour, and enthusiastic to volunteer, you can apply here to be part of the Volunteer Globally team. Members are annually sent overseas to help construct a school in a developing country. In 2017, the team helped build a school in Nepal.
Our Storyteller Mohammed Al Ahbabi took part and described the experience as life changing:
‘It definitely made me a better person, more appreciative of what I have and more considerate of every single person and their hidden circumstances’, says Mohammed.
‘I have learned to be as joyful as the little kids playing with plastic water bottle with small pebbles in it (which I happily joined in). I have learned to be patient while the elderly say all their prayers and bless the land with the attendance of all the village inhabitants, and everyone should be respectable and pray in silence. I have learned the value of loving and sharing every material; that what matters is us as beings, not our belongings as the children shared one plate of their meal, and offered me some’.
Dubai Cares finances each volunteer’s trip, including the cost of travel, visas, abode, food and drink, travel supplies, and safety equipment. Only medical check-ups, vaccinations, and malaria tablets are expected to be covered by the volunteers themselves.
Gulf for Good
If you want to make a positive impact and get fitter in the process, then Gulf For Good or G4G is the perfect choice for you. The organization was established in the UAE in 2001 to bring Khaleejis and GCC residents together for a good cause while encouraging them to step out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves whilst raising funds for worthy children’s charities. The way it works is as follows:
1) You visit www.gulf4good.org and pick the challenge you like.
2) You pay a registration fee of AED 2,500.
3) You start training for the challenge (G4G offer free training sessions), arrange and pay for travel. Trip costs are competitive and vary from challenge to challenge.
4) You raise the minimum charity donation of AED 5,000
5) You travel to the destination of the challenge, where you not only have an adventure and get fitter but you also get to visit the charity and directly meet the children your funds are helping.
So far, G4G has raised over AED 11 million and has built a training centre for disabled children in Sri Lanka, a community hospital in Nepal, and refurbished orphanages in Egypt, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Upcoming challenges include trekking in the glacial lakes of Everest in Nepal in April and mountain biking, trekking, and horseback riding 300 km across the wilds of Mongolia in September. Funds raised will go towards building schools in Nepal and developing a centre for abandoned children in Mongolia, respectively. You can find out more about the challenges here.
Spreading Grace is a Sharjah-based education and volunteer organization that was established in 2017 to encourage adults to actively and personally contribute to children’s wellbeing, both locally and globally.
‘Giving is not limited to monetary resources’, says Spreading Grace’s founder and director, Shaima Deemas. ‘Every individual has a skill or talent that they can use to support and help children’.
For example, Spreading Grace is currently running the Smiles Dental Program in collaboration with the University Dental Hospital, Sharjah, UAE, to provide annual, free dental check-ups and treatment for more than 100 underprivileged children. The program encourages dentists to contribute to the wellbeing of those in need.
Through programs and workshops held in their headquarters in Sharjah, Spreading Grace’s passionate team of 14 also trains volunteers in education and child well-being. They then give the volunteers the chance to practice and apply these skills where they are needed.
In August 2017, five volunteers were selected from a pool of 30 applicants to design and apply an educational support program for The Creative Education Foundation, a partnering institution and school in Zanzibar, Tanzania, after undergoing a week of training. The integrative program covered languages and cultures, math and science, fitness and health, and psychological and emotional wellbeing. This was Spreading Grace’s third trip to Zanzibar.
‘Through these programs, we have introduced science learning concepts to the students, as well as support for their language, math, and artistic learning’, says Shaima. ‘We also designed and built a tree-house on the school premises to serve as an outdoor learning facility’.
The team will be heading to Zanzibar and Jordan this year, and any passionate and driven individuals from the ages of 18 to 40 (with the skills relevant to the program) are welcome to apply. The details of the trips will be released one to two months in advance on www.spreading-grace.com and on their Instagram account, @spreadinggrace.
‘One of the best things for us as a team is to see the spark that lights up in our participants when they are fully engaged in an interaction with a child, and they can see the impact that their effort has’, says Shaima.