Brea Bursch and I met on Facebook, where she was bubbling over with tales of her recent volunteering adventures. We were brainstorming ways to make a big ol’ volunteer trip happen, and she was too helpful for words. (Karaoke nights and chili cookoffs — as fundraisers!? Genius!) I’ve made room here for her to tell her tale and to get the Brand Camp peeps thinking about your own trans-continental volunteer adventures.
“You made a difference.”
I think these are words that everyone would like to hear at some point in their life. We’d all like to know that our actions, our lives, have impacted the world. Maybe not even The world, but at least Someone’s world. I know that the majority of us struggle to find a practical way to accomplish such a task. Read on to learn more about my story, and how to make your own making-a-difference story happen…
I recently returned from a weeklong stay in Roatan, Honduras. Roatan is an island north of mainland South America in the Caribbean.
I visited the island with 16 other members of my local church on a mission trip with Alternative Missions and Dwellings to build a home for a deserving family.
The majority of the local population on Roatan lives in very unfortunate conditions. They deal with overcrowding, limited public resources, little to no waste removal protocols, infrequent medical care and systemic poverty on a daily basis. Their homes are constructed out of whatever they can find; old wood, cardboard, etc. and are generally in ill repair and very unsafe.
During our 7 day stay, we completely built one home and assisted in the building of three others. People in our group worked at a medical clinic, tutored children and loved on anyone and everyone we could find.
My specific task while in Honduras was to photograph real life; the people, the buildings, the landscape; anything and everything that could tell a story and spur emotion.
I completely fell in love with the children I met. Their images, among others, will be used to bring awareness to the situation in Honduras. People there need better homes to improve health and free up income for education and hopefully end the cycle of poverty, family by family. Quality images, not just snapshots, will inspire others to give to this cause or even visit the island themselves and help. Good images will also encourage others to choose to build for a family.
My pictures will help build homes.
I was able to use my trade to change Someone’s world. I made a difference in the lives of others. In a week.
Here are the guidelines you should steal from our group when planning your own world-changing adventure…
Give yourself a long lead time.
It took about 6 months to brainstorm, plan, and fundraise. Determine what you are passionate about and the skills you can offer, investigate the cause, get help, pin down your goals, build up funds and GO. You will never get the same results no matter how many workshops, books and podcasts you give your attention to.
Fundraise, fundraise, fundraise.
People and businesses want to help and be involved in good things. So, give them the opportunity. Use your social media outlets to reach out and spread the news. Give your audience the whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys and hows. Then, give them a call to action. Be up front. Ask them to support you, to partner with you.
Make each donation tangible.
Put each $x raised on a practical level: if they donate X dollars this will purchase a window or feed a child for a week, whatever makes sense for your trip.
Get creative with your requests.
Maybe your cousin’s brother’s college roommate’s dad is a travel agent. Get him to help you book flights on the cheap. In the past, we’ve organized silent auctions, chili cook-offs, karaoke competitions and one rowdy night of bingo with all proceeds going to pay for our trip costs. Every little bit counts; make sure your supporters know that. Be grateful and be excited. For our trip, 17 people made it to the island at about $1800 a head (totaling over $30k) and we were able to raise over $10,000 for the house we built. In just 6 months.
Find an expert at your destination.
These people will have the inside scoop on budget breakers like accommodations, travel and food, can offer insight into the local culture and put you in touch with other trusted local people who can expose you to locations and subjects that may be off the beaten path, act as a translator, keep you safe, be a helpful guide and have other insider only information. We hooked up with Alternative Missions who had been on the island for some time and were able to utilize their resources.
Be open and interested in the local customs and language.
Learn a few key phrases. After our first day in the barrios, we gained the insight that the greeting ‘buenas’ was more in keeping with the local flavor than ‘hola’ and shaking hands and/or kissing the cheek was viewed as being friendly. We made sure to add those two things to our repertoire and noticed an immediate benefit in how we were received.
Say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity [within reason].
If your trusted guide asks you to go somewhere… go. Some of the most impacting experiences we had resulted because we said ‘I will go with you’. No matter how normal or mundane a destination or task might seem to you, remember–you are not at home and this is not your normal life, you cannot predict an outcome if you are without a base of information. Jeremy, the videographer, and I were asked to go along on a hike to survey 80 acres of undeveloped jungle, complete with ridges, valleys, machetes and 100% deet bug spray.
I am most definitely a ‘calculated risk’ kind of person. I don’t like surprises, I pay my taxes on time and would never go bungee jumping. Just getting on the plane was almost more risk that I could take!
I am most definitely NOT the traipsing thru undeveloped jungle kind of girl…normally. During those three plus hours of 85 degree, super humid hiking (in long pants with 20 pounds of gear each in addition to what we dubbed ‘Island Tummy’) we met people, saw things and cultivated relationships unlike all others. All because we were open to the experience and said ‘Yes’.
So, go. Show up with an open heart, ready to make changes and experience changes.
Make a difference and share your story. Tell them that sure, some parts were scary. But these feelings are normal and you wouldn’t trade a single moment. That you can’t wait to do it again. If this girl can do it, I know you can too.