The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in dis-covering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.
Kindred Spirits VolunTourism
If you ever wonder why the motto is "keep digging," well, you might understand after reading about this sparkling, VolunTourism gem that I found!
This month, I had the chance to catch up with Heather Lopez. Heather Lopez is owner of Kindred Spirits Tour and Travel and founder of Kindred Spirits Foundation. Kindred Spirits specializes in VolunTourism offerings throughout Central & South America, Africa and Mexico.
The following is what she had to say about VolunTourism and her company:
In a world filled with fear and uncertainty, people are returning to their core values of family ties, education and a way to give of themselves - to make a positive difference in the world. They are looking for a life-changing experience that will create lasting memories and relationships. Kindred Spirits offers an opportunity to enhance existing bonds and to create new cross-cultural connections around the world.
With Kindred Spirits, you experience an indigenous community first hand by interacting with the native population through meaningful community service work. We have found the most successful approach is one that defers to the needs and goals of the local community. Volunteers are there simply to lend a hand in grassroots initiatives that have already been identified by native organizations. Project examples include: construction of a local school, poverty/hunger alleviation, education, agriculture, health care, infrastructure development and cultural preservation.
In partnership with local communities, Kindred Spirits vacations foster peaceful relationships, awareness of global issues, environmental conservation and an empowerment to make a positive difference in the world. As a result, our VolunTourism offerings promote self-confidence, a sense of community, and meaningful connections between fellow participants and community members. Participants have an opportunity to acquaint themselves intimately with the local customs and lifestyles through music, dance, ritual ceremonies, and meaningful cross-cultural exchange - often times even living with host families. Recreational activities are built around the core program and include experiencing the local scenic beauty, hiking, rafting, visiting local markets, etc.
Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT
Wherever the destination takes them, participants come home receiving much more than they give, their lives forever changed and their new friends having invited them to return. Kindred Spirits programs follow the VolunTourism philosophy of being an all inclusive, seamless travel experience from start to finish that integrates voluntary service to a destination and the traditional elements of travel, arts, culture, geography, and adventure. We ensure that you are there to experience the magic of cross-cultural connections and have all of the logistics, planning and coordination handled for you.
A specific example of a VolunTourism experience is the program in Ecuador - focusing on “cultural preservation through tourism.” Our primary host community of Chiguilpe is home to the Tsachila Indians, one of Ecuador’s original indigenous groups. Past participants have joined in the construction of an ethnographic museum. Through shared labor on meaningful projects, in collaboration with the Fundacion Tsachila, individuals are given the opportunity to assist in the preservation of native beliefs.
Currently, the most pressing needs in Ecuador are infrastructure development, health care, sustainable tourism promotion, and education. Kindred Spirits Tour & Travel has recently created a Foundation to lend long-term support to communities like this and others around the world through:
- Community-development grants for infrastructure development,
- A scholarship program for families of all economic backgrounds to share in this cultural experience, and
- A website dedicating 100% of the proceeds of the sale of native crafts and music CD’s to above-mentioned projects.
Kindred Spirits Foundation is a grant-making organization based on an innovative philanthropic model, which combines financial support and hands-on partnership to strengthen impoverished communities worldwide. This unique approach accelerates community development through its grant-making and by enabling donors to work side-by-side with a given community on a project of its choosing. Kindred Spirits Foundation empowers groups to make their own decisions about how to use the grant money to best meet the needs and priorities of a given community. The Foundation supports a wide range of critical local development efforts such as education, economic development, healthcare, infrastructure development, emergency relief, cultural preservation and environmental sustainability.
The gap between the worlds rich and poor is ever increasing. According to the 2003 annual report from the United Nation’s Development Program, 5% of the Earth’s population controls roughly 90% of its economic wealth. In most developing nations, and even within our own U.S. Borders, poverty rates continue to rise and access to education remains stagnant. It is the intention of Kindred Spirits Tour & Travel to address some of these imbalances within specific indigenous communities. The people in these native communities live in humble surroundings, but all possess the will and desire to help themselves. They are incredibly humble and proud people. They have preserved their way of life through native dress, arts and crafts, language, and a largely unspoiled environment.
For more information on Kindred Spirits Tour & Travel, please contact:
PO Box 474
Empire, CO 80438
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