Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Go Philanthropic: Making Travel Matter

The Power of Giving Back

Traveling to exotic places around the world has now taken on new meaning - more and more travelers are doing good as they globetrot and are conscious of the footprint they leave behind. They are stopping in at local NGOs and grassroots projects to build wells, bring books for schools and orphanages, and meet face to face with children to sponsor for schooling.

Philanthropy is no longer just for the wealthy. Individuals, honeymooners, families and companies are joining forces to support local outreach projects in the destinations they visit. They are seeing for themselves the power of giving back.

Go Philanthropic, based out of Rochester, New York, embraces the concept of travel philanthropy, combining vacations to exotic places around the world with support for social and environmental projects in each region. Go Philanthropic is committed to helping preserve the past and enrich the future of each destination by minimizing the negative effect tourism can have on local communities.

The company currently offers tours to Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Belize, Ecuador and India—all hot destinations in the travel market yet all developing countries with a multitude of needs in their respective communities.

Support abused Elephants in Northern Thailand

The company has been founded on the philosophy that travel broadens one’s perspective, providing a richer more profound understanding of the world. As the world becomes flatter and accessible through travel, people are seeing for themselves how others struggle for basic needs. They are searching for outlets to give back to the wonderful countries they have chosen to visit and need ready, legitimate and organized avenues to do so.

Do you need to be wealthy to be a travel philanthropist? Not in the least. You simply need to be willing. Some travelers bring school supplies; others buy ready-filled backpacks for school children in poor areas. In Siem Reap, Cambodia, for instance, $100 will launch a micro-business, $300 will build a fresh water well, $450 sends a child to school for 4 years, $1000 builds a library and $15,000 builds a school.

Schoolchildren in Vietnam receive a book box hand-delivered by Go Philanthropic clients with NGO partner Global Village Foundation

Donate a water well and bring clean water to a family (Cambodia)

Go Philanthropic believes that people are no longer satisfied with sending a check in the mail to support charities. “People want to personally learn about, connect with and support well-run projects worldwide and travel seems to be the perfect vehicle,” says Lydia Dean, co-founder of Go Philanthropic.

The marriage between travel and charity is not a new one - voluntourism is an increasingly popular way of giving back. Many travelers have a genuine desire to help out, and have increasing means to do so. Some, however, are concerned that travel experiences focusing on giving back to communities may mean roughing it in basic accommodations or having to commit to the 2-3 week stay some programs require.

“You can give to yourself and give to others…the two are not mutually exclusive," says Lydia. Philanthropic travelers are encouraged to seek fulfilling experiences for themselves, enjoy the comforts they desire, and demand quality in touring, spas and special interest activities.

School children from Kamadak (Kamarata Valley, Canaima National Park, Venezuela) in traditional clothing welcoming tourists to their school

An increasing number of hotels and travel suppliers are providing their services in a way that minimizes adverse affects to their local environments. Many high-end hotels are finding the necessary balance between luxury and social and environmental consciousness—even playing active roles in funding local outreach programs.

Go Philanthropic finds, promotes, and partners with such companies - those that are not only providing great services but also are ready to reach out and help. From the most simple to the most luxurious travel packages, the goal is to channel the tourist dollars to help the sustainable development of the host region.

Go Philanthropic goes beyond traditional tour programs by arranging visits with social and environmental programs devoted to educating and empowering local communities. These visits provide opportunities for guests to support local efforts in education, health, and business development.

"Give the gift in Person" – Go Philanthropic clients personally donating school supplies and books to a rural school in Vietnam

It’s a way for both sides to share—the guest sharing knowledge or resources, and local people offering meaningful insight into day-to-day life of the region; its authentic culture and the genuine challenges they face. It’s not a big commitment in time yet it will most likely be the highlight of the trip.

In Cambodia, for example, a guest might spend the morning on a guided tour of the famous temples of Angkor Wat, and in the afternoon meet with a micro-loan candidate wishing to start their own bicycle repair business. In Costa Rica, families can combine a day of white-water rafting with a stop to a local school to deliver much needed textbooks. In India guests have the unique opportunity to be guided on a city walk through the streets near the New Delhi railway station by former street children now fully trained as guides.

Support after-school programs in Costa Rica through the Sarapiqui Conservation & Learning Center

While Go Philanthropic's focus on this new trend in travel has been well received and has immense potential, the journey hasn't been without challenges. The act of giving can quickly become complicated. Hand-outs and charity can often hurt the self-sustainability of an area or program in need. While schools and orphanages can benefit from donations made by individuals, visits from foreigners can be viewed as intrusive to the daily life of the children.

It is for these reasons that the resources gathered through travel philanthropy must be managed carefully through innovative, transparent, pre-screened programs rooted in goals for self-sustainability. If handled properly, travel philanthropy could become a powerful tool in supporting social outreach initiatives worldwide.

“Tourism is such a massive industry. If we can simply shift how people go about it, great things can happen.”

For more information about Go Philanthropic, please contact:
Lydia Dean, President/Founder
Go Philanthropic - Changing the Way we See the World
Phone: +1-585-319-3890
Email: info "at"

Download press release (PDF): GO Philanthropic…the latest trend in the Luxury Market: Travel Philanthropy and the Search for Meaningful Experiences

Photos by Go Philanthropic