Last updated: 06:34 PM ET, Fri October 14 2016

How One Caring Child Helped Change The World Through ME to WE

Tour Operator | David Cogswell | October 14, 2016

How One Caring Child Helped Change The World Through ME to WE

Photo courtesy of the Travel Corporation

The Travel Corporation, the parent company of tour operator brands Trafalgar, Contiki Holidays and Insight Vacations, launched a partnership with ME to WE, a for-profit social enterprise, that will include coordination between volunteer trips of ME to WE and the tour operators’ established programs.

ME to WE is an outgrowth of the WE charity, established 20 years ago by Craig Kielburger, a Canadian who is still only 31 years old today. The WE charity has built 1,000 schools and school rooms that have provided 200,000 children the chance for an education, and has provided clean water to more than a million people.

The WE charity began when Kielburger was 12 years old and read a news story about a Pakistani child who was sold at the age of four, escaped from slavery and spoke out about the conditions and then was killed at the age of 12.

Upon reading the story, the 12-year old Kielburger was seized by a passion to go to Asia to build a school to help give people ways to escape the horrible fate of the Pakstani boy he read about.

Kielburger’s parents helped him organize a trip to Asia the following year. “That trip changed my life,” he said. “And it is the reason that 20 years later I am still doing what I do. It started because of a trip. That’s why I am so passionate about how travel can change a life and also why I’m so passionate about giving opportunities for others. Travel is the reason why I am here.”

Through the partnership TravCorp tour operators will coordinate their tours with volunteer programs set up by ME to WE so that the volunteer programs will work as extensions to regular TravCorp trips.

The partnership is launching with three trips: to Kenya, the Ecuadorian Amazon and India. More trips will be added later.

All of the Travel Corporation brands, including Lion World Travel, African Travel, Inc., Adventure World, Uniworld River Cruise Collection and TravCorp’s nonprofit, charitable arm, the TreadRight Foundation, are participants in the new partnership, each in its own way, depending on the proximity of its operations to the volunteer trip locations.

Half of the net profits on the tour programs that link up with the volunteer programs will be donated to the WE charity.

Volunteers on ME to WE trips stay in accommodations in local communities where the projects are underway.

Brett Tollman, CEO of The Travel Corporation, said the company entered the partnership to promote sustainable tourism as an extension of the work of TreadRight, its not-for-profit charitable foundation. Tollman said the company has seen an opportunity based on the fact that an increasing number of travelers are interested in participating in immersive volunteer trips and giving back to support the communities where they have traveled and met the local inhabitants.

On the ME to WE Ecuador trip, participants will experience the Amazonian rainforest while staying in ME to WE’s Minga Lodge and working with the local community on a sustainable development project, at the same time getting to know the locals and learning about the indigenous Kichwa culture.

On the ME to WE India trip, participants will stay at Araveli Cottages and Tented Camp in Rajasthan and will help with building classrooms and transporting water. They will have the chance to learn about local culture and such skills as making chapatti bread.

On the Kenya trip, guests will stay at Bogani Cottages and Tented Camp in the Maasai Mara and will learn about the ways of the Maasai and Kispigis communities.

Kielburger prefers to call the programs “purpose driven travel” as opposed to volunteer travel because they are based not on just going and painting a wall at a school and then leaving.

“We work 365 days a year in these communities,” he said. “We have found we can lift a community in five years with patient development, five years of community mobilization based on our five pillars: education, water, health, food security and opportunity.”


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