A couple years ago I traveled to a luxury resort in Jamaica for a meeting. Prior to going, I discovered that we could take school supplies to help a local school that the resort was sponsoring. It was such a wonderful idea! I was glad to contribute, and our group collected quite a nice stash of supplies for the local kids.
When we travel, we can indeed help others. Depending on the destination and the need, there are many ways to do this.
1. SUPPORT A LOCAL ORGANIZATION THROUGH YOUR RESORT
The luxury resort in Jamaica I was staying at was the Sandals South Coast, formerly called Sandals Whitehouse. This resort is built along a beautiful beach in the midst of a primarily poverty-stricken area. Resort management trains and hires locals to give them employment opportunities they would not otherwise have. This, in turn, improves their quality of life. They also reach out to the community through The Sandals Foundation with donations to enable and support local schools. They provide a list of school supplies that the resort guests may donate to the school. They also offer opportunities to visit these schools, volunteer for an afternoon to read to children, or to do whatever the school needs help with. Many resorts have a similar program, I mention The Sandals Foundation because I am familiar with it.
2. BUY HANDMADE CRAFTS FROM LOCALS
You contribute to the well-being of locals when you purchase the items that they have handmade. Many of the islands, and Mexico, have lots of local craft markets that are easy to get to. Sometimes they are even allowed to set up booths inside your resort. On my last visit I chose to purchase a couple small woven bracelets made by local women. By purchasing the bracelets, I was able to help several women in the area and contribute to their income and happiness. These people take a lot of pride in their work. Supporting the local artists, wood carvers, weavers etc. with at least some small purchase puts a few dollars in their pocket and in general, supports the local economy.
3. VOLUNTEER WHEN YOU TRAVEL
When you travel, give something back to the local community you are visiting. This is the best way to learn about another culture, another country. Nothing is more rewarding than giving your time, skills or knowledge to help others. There are lots of charities and organizations that look for help from passing travelers. For example, the Maui Humane Society has the "Helping Paws" program where visitors can spend time with the animals. Some, who are staying on Maui for a longer time, can actually "temporarily adopt" a dog or cat for their whole stay. Where can you find out more? Do a search on “volunteer travel”, and many opportunities will appear. Churches also offer mission trips that participate in projects such as building homes or a school.
If each one of us looks for some small opportunity to help, we can make a big difference. The next time you travel, consider taking the time to do a little research to see what you can do to help once you get there. Happy travels!