When a Luxury Vacation Cultivates Philanthropy -Jennifer Alsever New York Times Sunday Business
Vetting a charity while on vacation no longer has to mean backbreaking labor and dorm-like accommodations. A new kind of philanthropic travel lets vacationers do good works while still enjoying plush hotel suites and fine restaurants. More luxury tour operators now offer philanthropic-minded trips to places like Israel, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Ecuador, Peru, Cambodia and Vietnam that incorporate visits to local schools, hospitals or wildlife centers.
Even in remote African plains, tour operators pamper guests, who may stay in deluxe cottages with all the amenities. Travelers may leave those accommodations for part of their stay to visit charitable operations and get a first-hand look at how financial donations can be put to work. “Just one person can make a world of difference for a community,” said the owner of ExploreAmor!, a tour operator based in Nevada that offers top-of-the-line services while incorporating visits to schools, health clinics and neighborhoods with hopes that clients will make a donation or become more involved. The idea is that travelers who meet the people and see how they live can become long-term, passionate donors and proponents for change.
Chuck Ebeling, a retired vice president of the McDonald’s Corporation, had a similar goal when he took a nine-day tour of Tanzania in the spring of 2006. He paid $500 a day to stay in a tented camp where a chef prepared dinners and staff members delivered coffee at dawn. His trip inspired him to become involved in the country’s wildlife conservation efforts and led him to pay $500 to help a conservation group raise a bongo, a rare mountain antelope, with the goal of reintroducing it into the wild.
Some travelers who work charity into their trips prefer to rough it alongside the people they are helping. However, “I don’t just travel to help others,” said Mr. Ebeling, 64. “I enjoy some of the comforts and luxuries. I enjoy seeing the world. And the experience in east Africa was eye-opening.”
John Kay, the lead singer of the band Steppenwolf, came home from a luxury 2003 vacation to Cambodia so inspired that he started his own charity, the Maue Kay Foundation. Mr. Kay, who lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia, was struck by the lingering devastation from Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime, which left 1.7 million people dead in the late 1970s. He donated $50,000 to build a primary school there with its own water well and vegetable garden, and he also paid for teacher salaries, books and computers with satellite e-mail access.
Later, Mr. Kay and his wife, Jutta Maue Kay, gave thousands of dollars more to support the Gijedabung school, to protect African wildlife and to support food banks in Puerto Rico. “The old cliche that travel broadens the mind is very true,” Mr. Kay said. “We were able to have a glimpse of certain things that go beyond staying in a hotel and a day excursion.”
New York Times
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