February 26, 2013
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Travel with a Purpose

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
– Miriam Beard

If a different kind of travel – a life-altering, world-changing kind of travel – sounds intriguing to you, then you may be interested to learn more about Me to We, an amazing organization that offers travelers the chance to make a meaningful difference in the world while creating authentic connections with another culture.

What is Me to We?
Me to We is a social enterprise that strives to provide people with “better choices for a better world.”  Through its diverse offerings of socially-responsible goods and services – including international volunteer trips, leadership training programs, an inspirational speakers’ bureau, and socially and environmentally conscious clothes and accessories – Me to We encourages consumers to make a difference in the world through their actions and with their purchases.

What’s truly wonderful about Me to We is that for all areas of their business – from responsible retail to inspiring events to volunteer travel – half of their profit is donated to a non-profit organization called Free The Children, while the other half is reinvested to grow the Me to We enterprise and its social mission.

What is Free The Children?
Free The Children believes in a world where all young people are free to achieve their fullest potential. This organization was built on the philosophy that education is the key to freeing children and their families from the cycle of poverty.  Founded in 1995 by international children’s rights activist Craig Kielburger, Free The Children has constructed more than 650 schools and schoolrooms in impoverished areas and has provided clean water, health care and sanitation to one million people around the world. Through their holistic and sustainable “Adopt a Village” development model, they have partnered with rural communities in Haiti, Kenya, rural China, India, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Ghana, working alongside local men, women, and children to change the future of these villages by giving them access to education.

Me to We supports the efforts of Free The Children on two levels.  Firstly, as mentioned above, Me to We gives half of its profits to Free The Children to support its school building efforts in impoverished communities.   Secondly, Me to We organizes volunteer trips for youth, families, and adult groups to offer hands-on help in the building of new schools and schoolrooms.  So, when travelers sign up to participate in a Me to We Volunteer Adventure, they are supporting the cause by generously giving their own time and energy to work on a Free The Children project, such as a school or health clinic, and helping to promote sustainable development in a community.

Volunteer Travel with Me to We
Me to We volunteer travel opens a world of learning and adventure.   When you take part in a Me to We international trip, you’ll travel to a fascinating destination, become immersed in a new culture, volunteer alongside local community members, develop friendships on the other side of the globe, and support community development in villages that are eager and excited to give their children the opportunity to be educated.  It’s a global learning experience unlike any other, and a chance to leave a one-of-a-kind, permanently impactful legacy.

Me to We currently offers two incredible destinations for volunteer travel: Kenya and India.  These trips are open to individual adults, to families, or to groups of adults who choose to travel and volunteer together.  Each destination offers unique and amazing opportunities for cultural immersion.  In either location, you’ll have a hands-on role in building a new school and getting to know the children and families who will benefit from the education to which they’ll soon have access.  Plus, whether you opt to travel to Kenya or India, you’ll experience one of the key aspects that sets Me to We volunteer travel experiences apart from other volunteer travel programs:  their accommodations, which are available exclusively to Me to We participants.

Accommodations in Kenya: Set in the heart of the Maasai Mara and designed with authentic African décor, the Bogani Cottages and Tented Camp in Kenya offers relaxing spaces to recharge and refresh after a day of volunteering.  Built of indigenous and renewable materials, the cottages and tents are a serene place to relax and reflect after each invigorating day of volunteering. The cottages offer a variety of footprints, including fireplaces, bedrooms, and gathering spaces.  All accommodations offer modern conveniences including hot water, power, and en suite washrooms.  Guests will enjoy family-style meals prepared fresh daily by expert chefs on the property’s alfresco dining platforms.

Accommodations in India:  Designed with authentic Indian décor and royal Rajasthani flair, Araveli Cottages and Tented Camp are well-appointed, private cottages and tents with generous indoor-outdoor shared spaces and contoured landscapes that will enhance the overall experience of your adventure.  Guests can take in spectacular views of the pink-hued Aravalli Mountains from the comfort of your private arched balcony.  All cottages and tents offer modern conveniences including hot water, electricity, and en suite washrooms.  Travelers can enjoy local dishes, as well as western favorites prepared fresh daily in the central courtyard pavilion.

Me to We believes that volunteers who feel well rested, well fed, comfortable, and safe will wake up feeling re-charged and ready to make a difference through volunteer service each morning.  “We take care of all the details and creature comforts so you can focus on what’s really important – making a difference in the world,” says Roxanne Joyal, Me to We’s Co-CEO.

Making a Difference through Me to We Volunteer Travel
While each volunteer journey is unique, the itineraries below will give you a good sense of the blend of volunteer service, cultural immersion, and community connection that is offered through Me to We Volunteer Adventures.

Sample Itinerary for Kenya
Begin and end each day in the Maasai Mara, enjoying your private accommodations at the boutique Bogani Cottages and Tented Camp. School building and volunteering make up the foundation of your itinerary, with daily adventures and interactive cultural experiences to deepen your connection to each other and the community.
•    Day 1:  Arrive in Nairobi.
•    Day 2:  Fly over the Rift Valley to Bogani. See Adopt a Village projects, and the difference between old and new Free The Children schools.
•    Day 3:  Visit local mamas in their homes. Start your school building project.
•    Day 4:  Discover a local African market and continue school building.
•    Day 5:  Bead with Maasai mamas and school building.
•    Day 6:  Go on a sunrise safari and enjoy a bush breakfast.
•    Day 7:  Meet the girls of Kisaruni Secondary School. Sunset safari.
•    Day 8:  Train in the art of Maasai weaponry with a warrior. Finish school building.
•    Day 9:  Enjoy lunch and shopping at the Me to We Artisans atelier in Nairobi.

You’ll also have the option of extending your trip with a coastal experience at Me to We’s custom-built, waterfront beach house on the Indian Ocean in Toriana.  Enjoy barefoot luxury from vast indoor-outdoor terraces featuring traditional Arabic design, take in the gentle waves and tranquility of the white sand Bofa beach, and savor coastal cuisine. Discover Swahili culture and history, explore the mysteries of Gedi Ruins, and sail on a traditional dhow boat. This is an experience exclusive to guests of Me to We and is available before or after a Me to We Volunteer Adventure.

Sample Itinerary for India
Every day begins and ends at Araveli Cottages, in your bespoke hillside accommodation. School building and volunteering make up the foundation of your itinerary, with daily adventures and interactive cultural experiences to deepen your connection to each other and the community.
•    Day 1:  Arrive in New Delhi.
•    Day 2:  Enjoy a guided tour of Old Delhi.
•    Day 3:  Travel to Udaipur and settle into Araveli Cottages.
•    Day 4:  Start your school building project, and join women on a village walk.
•    Day 5:  Cook and serve lunch to local students. School building.
•    Day 6:  Participate in an artisanal workshop. School building.
•    Day 7:  Explore Udaipur, and visit an Indian market.
•    Day 8:  Learn to cook an authentic Indian meal. Finish school building.
•    Day 9:  Discover the 15th Century Kumbhalgarh Fort.
•    Day 10:  Enjoy lunch at Fatehgarh Palace
If you would like to extend your trip and further explore India’s rich history and sights, from the Taj Mahal to the beaches of Goa, Me to We’s experienced travel team would be pleased to assist in your onward travel arrangements.

Are Me to We Volunteer Adventures a Good Fit for You?
If you’re wondering if you’re physically up to the challenge of a volunteer adventure, you may be interested to know that Me to We welcomes guests of all ages and fitness levels (including children, for those who would be interested in planning a multi-generational family trip). All participants are encouraged to work at their own pace and to take breaks whenever necessary. If you have any physical conditions that will hinder your participation in any of the activities, you can simply let the staff know and they will be happy to accommodate all of your needs.

Trips are available 365 days a year and are completely customizable. The ground price of the trip is all inclusive, meaning it includes all accommodation, travel within the country, three meals a day plus snacks ( beer,  wine and soda included), purified drinking water, Me to We facilitators, security guards, all in-country materials (e.g. language books) and in-country excursions (such as the safari in Kenya). Except for spending money, proper documentation (i.e. tourist visa, travel medical insurance), and tips (travelers can plan for $5 to $10 per day), participants will not need to purchase anything else during their journey

In terms of your safety and security during your trip, this is Me to We’s number one priority. Me to We takes serious measures and precautions to ensure that all trip participants are provided with as much safety and security as possible.  From the moment that you land in either Kenya or India, your Me to We host meets you and transports you to your lodging.  During the trip, you’ll have two kinds of hosts – a local host who will share his or her experiences and give you a deeper understanding of the local culture, and a Me to We hospitality staff member who is from the United States or Canada, but has committed to living in Kenya or India for two to four years (so guests do not need to be concerned about communication).  All details – from the moment you land until you’re on your return flight home – are taken care of by Me to We.

The Frequently Asked Questions section of the Me to We site is an excellent resource for any additional questions that you may have about whether Me to We’s volunteer travel experiences would be a good fit for you.

How Can You Book a Me to We Volunteer Adventure?
For more information or to book your trip, please contact Ylber Kusari by email at ylber@metowe.com or by phone at 416-964-8942 ext.525.  Ylber has extensive experience facilitating trips and is happy to personalize your itinerary, confirm dates and walk you through all the details in order for you to make an informed decision.

If you’d like to learn more about volunteer travel through Me to We, feel free to explore the following resources.

Photo credit for header image, Walk with Maasai Warriors: V. Tony Hauser
Photo credit for Bogani Cottages and Tented Camp image: Scott Ramsey