Goodwill Travel

June 30, 2008

After a week of luxury safari travel, Bernard Wharton, a 54-year-old Greenwhich, CT architect, decided to take his family along the crowded streets of Mukuru for one last glance before boarding their flight home. What was initially an afterthought became a life changing event as Bernard was overcome by the state of poverty the people live in, still full of smiles and kindness. Before boarding the plane home, Bernard and his wife wrote a check for $100,000 to support the construction of housing for the AIDS orphans of Mukuru.

A year later, Wharton returned for the unveiling. Three buildings were in place: a dormitory for orphans, a dining hall with a kitchen, and a craft-making lounge for HIV-afflicted women. Wharton had embarked on what is a new trend in travel for the wealthy. Up 6.5 percent, “travel-anthropy” is growing amongst mid-life affluents. For a pretty penny, say $2,000-$3,000 a day, companies offer a way for travelers to experience both luxury and reality while the people in need receive all the monetary benefits.

Exquisite Safaris was created 2 years ago based on a trip David Chamberlain-CEO- took to Haiti with his grandparents in 1972. “When we are very young children, we know how to feel,” Chamberlain says on his website. “It’s innate. But as we lead a lifetime, we pick up so many feelings and ideas, that our sensitivity goes away.”

Buenos Aires is a hot travel destination for architecture, wine and tango enthusiasts. Voluntario Global takes some of them out of the cafes and cobblestone shopping districts for the day and gives them the chance to give back to the city’s underprivileged kids living in nearby shantytowns, through education, culinary, and media projects fueled by travelers who volunteer.

More and more companies are jumping on the charity-travel bandwagon; all it takes is that first experience that snaps you into realizing how well you live and how easy it is to help.

Some question travel-anthropy’s “feel good nature.” Noel B. Salazar, PhD anthropology candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, says that many affluent tourists are going to these “alternative” destinations simply for the “brag factor.” Boom Bip thinks those who boast about their vacations do it regardless of the philanthropic angle. There have always been slide shows of vacation photos; matching shots in mumus forced upon friends and family.

If you have made a significant contribution to someone’s well-being and helped a community out of abject poverty, by putting the money down to make it happen, then go ahead and boast. In fact, tell everyone so that they might be inspired to help out as well. Brag away!


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2 Responses to “Goodwill Travel”

  1. Adele said

    You rock Kira!

  2. […] Goodwill TravelAfter a week of luxury safari travel, Bernard Wharton, a 54-year-old Greenwhich, Conn. architect decided to take his family along the crowded streets of Mukuru for one last glance before boarding their flight home. … […]

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