Today we welcome this guest post by Grace Janssen, program manager for Xperitas -- formerly Global Citizens Network. If you're interested in doing good on your next family vacation, their resources are for you!
Taking time to volunteer as a family is a great opportunity to teach children about compassion, kindness, and service. By taking the opportunity to participate in meaningful projects, we teach children that they have the ability to make a difference in creating a better community and ultimately, a better world.
At Xperitas we provide family immersion programs with our indigenous partners in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and here in the United States.
On a Xperitas trip, participants work side-by- side with community members who are working on a locally-conceived project. Participants have the opportunity to meet families in the community and immerse themselves in a new culture.
We asked one of our participants who went to La Push, Washington, with her family last summer to share her experience with Doing Good Together readers:
My two sons, my husband, and I spent a week this summer in a place that was both familiar and not. We signed on to do a family volunteer vacation through Global Citizens Network and found ourselves in one of the most remote and beautiful places on the entire west coast: the Quileute Indian Reservation on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
The idea of a volunteer vacation had gotten lodged under my skin earlier in the year. I was struggling with the feeling that my children, and frankly most children I know, are required to do so little work apart from school. I felt that there was so much to be gained from exposing them to the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment that can come from hands-on meaningful volunteer work, and I wanted them to feel proud of something they had done that had been strictly for the benefit of others. Underneath all that, I thought they were old enough—they are 11 and 13—to appreciate how differently other people live, and possibly to appreciate the good fortune they have had in their lives. I know, it sounds quite optimistic, but I wanted to believe it so much!
Our week with the Quileutes was one of the most moving, inspiring, challenging and thought provoking weeks any of us have spent. On top of all that, we experienced it together, and each got something unique from it. One our way back to the airport at the end of the trip, my older son asked me if we would be going on another trip, and when I asked him whether he’d like to, he talked about his interest in one of their trips outside the US. Without having to sell the idea to him, he had already decided he was ready to go again!
Here is another testimony from Xperitas staff member that was able to go to La Push.
This past summer, I had the opportunity to join a program to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington to visit our partner, the Quileute community. Along with two families of four and a few dynamic women, I spent 10 days in La Push, a small town located on the reservation with striking views of the ocean and Saint James Island.
During my visit, I realized I had visited the exact place many years before as a teen visiting her older brother. While I did recall the natural beauty, I had no memory of visiting the town or the fact that we were on reservation land. This realization reminded me that this is what makes Global Citizens Network unique. We were invited by the community to participate in a crafts program at the Elder Center where I was able to chat and listen to stories while learning about (and trying my hand at!) the unique artisan work of the Quileute community. The group didn’t stay in their rooms apart from the community, but engaged in conversations, activities, projects and celebrations in town.
Since returning, my experience and learning have not stopped. I have stayed in touch with the other participants and with people I met from La Push. I have sought opportunities to educate myself on indigenous ways of knowing. I continue to learn about local communities. And I look forward to continuing our partnership with La Push and other programs to promote better understanding across cultures and find ways to create space for the empowerment of others
Xperitas -- formerly Global Citizens Network -- programs are for families that are looking for an experience that is more than just traveling: it's a chance to really learn about another culture, get to know the community, and leave the experience with a new global perspective and new friends. Visit Xperitas if you are interested in participating in one of our programs.
Browse Doing Good Together's big-hearted projects for more immediate opportunities to volunteer with your family, or check out these inspiring picture books that help children understand the complex issue of global poverty.