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Filtering by Tag: Social Action

Unschool Yourself

Noah Halpert

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The past 19 months have proven to be quite the adventure for Winston, age 6, and Henry, 4. Their parents, Paul and Caroline King, met while traveling and decided to stick to just that. Instead of sending their boys to school, they turned to new trend known as  ‘unschooling’, or interest driven education. So far they have visited over 15 countries spanning the globe. Rather than putting the children through a formal education, the parents will discuss the experiences and places visited with their children, and help them understand the significance.

Read more here.

A Justifi trip is the perfect opportunity to ‘unschool’ yourself, explore a new destination, culture, and people, and make lifelong memories. Take a look at our upcoming Winter Trips!

Why We Select Our Destinations

Steve M

Why We Select Our Destinations

Justifi is currently running programs in 4 different locations: Thailand, Nicaragua, South Africa, and also Peru. We are in the process of setting up a new destination, which I will be flying to very soon so be sure to stay tuned for updated progress on that as we are all very excited to be expanding.

For those who aren’t exactly aware of what we do here at Justifi, our programs are typically a combination of the following things:

1.       Travel to a great destination

2.       Setting up meaningful service projects with local partners

3.       Exciting adventure activities and opportunities

4.       Fantastic groups of people who are all led by amazing staff

So, of course at the center of all this is where we go! The following information is just to give you an idea of what we look for, how we decide and what goes into each AMAZING Justifi trip…

Opportunities for Meaningful & Impactful Service Projects

Behind each destination we go to, we address a serious local issue in partnership with local organizations. These include issues such as human trafficking in Thailand, child domestic labor in Peru, post-apartheid injustice in South Africa and environmental devastation in Nicaragua. An understanding of each of these is the heart of each trip and in making it the sole priority, we work to make sure there are great organizations within those places that we can partner with to help further address them.

As you may likely already know, there are thousands upon thousands of volunteer organizations and projects out there that we could partner with, however, we want to go to a place where we know there is a real need and where we can make a real difference.

An Extraordinarily Beautiful Place

In addition to helping out with local projects and communities, each destination we head to through our Justifi trips is a place where we know is filled with natural beauty, incredible history and a place you simply may never want to part with. Whether it’s the rice paddies and stunning temples of Thailand, the incredible volcanoes of Nicaragua or the unmatched Table Mountain of South Africa, each place is nothing short of breathtaking. We know that being in the midst of so much beauty can only add positivity to your trip and it is our goal as a team here at Justifi to make sure we create as many ‘take your breath away’ moments as we possibly can for everyone that heads out on the adventure with us.

Something You Can Check Off Your Bucket List

If you have gone out of your way to track us down, spent some time finding out about who we are, and chosen to take the time off of work in order to head out on an adventure with us, you better believe we are going to make sure you have a trip you filled with plenty of “check marks” covering your bucket list. We want you to come back with a story to tell your friends and family and plenty that you will be looking back on for many years to come. Examples of these types of adventures would be hiking the ruins of Peru’s Machu Picchu, rappelling down a 40-meter waterfall in Nica or swimming in volcanic lagoons. In other words, creating memories and experiences you may have never thought you could accomplish. We want you to feel like your effort of heading out with us on a trip was all worth it.

Full Experience in a Short Period of Time

Most people on our trips have limited time off, which is why we want to offer a full experience in a short period of time. The last thing we want you to do is to fly all the way to Peru or Thailand just to spend your entire trip in one single town or village. Instead, we want you to see as much as possible, do as much as possible and experience a wide variety of things even within a short amount of time. If you decide to travel to Nicaragua for 7 days with us, you will be exploring a TON of places throughout the entire country and if you decide to spend 10 days in South Africa, your time will be spent traversing all the awesome highlights the country has to offer. We want to make sure we give you the perfect combination of meaningful projects, beautiful surroundings and plenty of adventures.

Incredible Adventure & Extra Curricular Activities

We understand that not everyone who decides to join us on a trip is going to be an adrenaline junkie, and that is totally OK! However, if you are a thrill seeker, we want to make sure you have the option to experience something pretty epic in each place we head to. Whether it is ziplining in Peru, high speed boat rides in Thailand or overnight safaris in South Africa, there is always going to be something exciting to be done. Plus, after a long day, we make sure there are also plenty of fun places to relax and explore. Rooftop bars in Chiang Mai, Thailand or local discotequas in Peru, we make sure your days begin and end in the best ways possible.

Safety is Always a Priority

We could have the best trip ever for most of our participants, but if even one of our participants were to get lost, that would pretty much ruin the trip…which by the way, has never happened just in case you were wondering. We always make safety one of the top priorities in the midst of all the fun and craziness by talking to local experts, past visitors, visits done by ourselves, reviewing government agency sites, reading news articles and making sure that it is in fact a safe destination. Although there are always risks involved with anywhere you travel, we want to take minimal risks and only travel to countries we are confident in as far as safety concerns go.

Jewish Considerations

Lastly, and of central importance, is the consideration – is it a safe place for Jewish travelers. As Jewish volunteers and travelers, we have additional considerations that must be taken into account. Is the population friendly to Jewish people, is there a local Jewish population, is there any existing Jewish infrastructure in the country? By asking these questions, we ensure that the destinations we visit are exciting, with great opportunities for service work, and (most importantly) safe for our groups.

How to Find Good Organizations to Volunteer with When You Travel

Steve M

Here at Justifi, one of the central parts of all of our programs is partnering with local organizations within the area we head out to. This helps to make each of our projects sustainable as well as a fantastic learning experience for everyone involved, as they are able to provide wisdom about the community itself. With knowledge about the population, the existing infrastructure and the traditions of the area, partnering up with local organizations allows us to immerse in the culture and create meaningful and sustainable relationships.

We make it a top priority to choose the right partner organization by knowing the various strengths of our group members, budgets per program, and of course making sure it’s a good cultural fit for what we do.

One of the many benefits that we reap from doing this is that often times we get to work with organizations that don’t typically take on volunteers. What helps to set us apart and allows us to do this is that we come with the necessary resources, we completely manage the team of volunteers, build relationships and plan for months in advance to help ensure our projects are well focused to make a real difference within a short amount of time.

However, we understand and appreciate the fact that not everyone can join us on one of our trips. Taking the time off of work, budget reasons, or conflicting dates could be factors in not being able to join in on a trip. If that sounds like you and you may be thinking about volunteering somewhere else on your own, consider the following pieces of advice on how to get started doing just that…

Before Your Start Looking for Partner Organizations:

Ask Yourself: What time and energy are you looking to commit?

How much time do you have to set aside from your everyday life and routines and maybe take off of work in order to volunteer? Do you have the time? The timing of things is an extremely big factor to most and it truly does affect the amount of options you have. Typically, the longer you commit to, the more opportunities there are and the better the chances of finding something that intrigues you as well.

Ask Yourself: What issues are important to you?

Have you always been passionate about the welfare of animals? Maybe you care about education or sustainable living? Think about it and try to narrow down your focus to specific causes that have are of most interest to you.  From there, you can begin a search in your destination area that matches your specific interests.

Ask Yourself: What specific skills do you offer?

Depending on the organization or community you are interested in, you may find that they tend to be extremely busy and may even receive multiple inquiries a week for people hoping to volunteer with them.

It's an unfortunate reality for many small organizations that taking on volunteers is a challenge that requires planning, management, and time commitment from the organizations core staff.  So if you really want to make a difference and make your visit as convenient as possible for your host organization, think about exactly what you'd like to do and be specific on what exactly you can offer them. Are you good at crafts? Do you know how to build a bamboo fence? Maybe you love cooking and cleaning? Whatever you know you can contribute and offer, tell them that and let them know the specifics on when you can come, what you can do and make it as easy as possible for them to say yes.

Tips for Finding Great Organizations

Simply Use Google

As with any other research you conduct, Google is your best friend in this case too. Type in ‘volunteer’ and place you would like to head to. Chances are, something will come up within the first page or two that will spark your interest and typically are ones that are well established and can accommodate you. The one negative thing, however, is that sometimes these are also bigger and a bit more ‘structured’ and less needy than others out there that you could help. If you are hoping to volunteer for a shorter amount of time, these may be just the right fit for you.

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Search for Specialty Networks

With English as one of the most highly sought after languages to be learned and plenty of countries with mass populations of both children and adult not being given the opportunity to learn it, the demand for English teachers is often extremely high. There are a ton of organizations out there that can help you connect with communities who are in need of English teachers and in turn, you will find that the longer you stay, the more you will get out of it and the biggest difference you will make.

If teaching isn’t quite your thing, then consider helping out on a farm through an organization like WWOOF where you will work in exchange for food and accommodation. Not a fan of farms or teaching? Maybe helping out in a hostel for a month or so checking people in and out, cleaning and organizing events may just be the thing for you!

Use Social Networks

Chances are, if you find an organization during your Google search, they have got a Facebook page where you will be able to check out the reviews, comments and personal posts and pictures of people that have volunteered through them. This also offers you a better look into a more emotional aspect of the organization as websites can often times (not always) offer as much helpful information as their Facebook pages do. Scroll through what they have there and chances are, you will get a much better idea of what the organization has to offer.

Just Show Up & Ask Around

If you are reading this and are already in the middle of an adventure abroad and are contemplating possible volunteer opportunities, then ask around at local cafes, restaurants and shops! You never know if they are being ran by someone who could point you in the right direction or if they have a bulletin board with the exact flyer that may just be right for you. Talking to locals and connecting with people personally is one of the best ways to get helpful information that could bring about new opportunities and ideas.

Note – A Word of Caution

Unfortunately, there are a lot of organizations out there that don’t exactly have the best intentions when it comes to volunteers helping out in their communities. With money as the main object in mind, these places often times leverage the needs of a disadvantaged population to attract both sympathy and profit. 

We strongly advise that although helping out at places like orphanages and with victims of abuse does sound good in and of itself, visiting only for a short amount of time in either one may not be what's needed for the population you're trying to help. Children in these places need stable relationships and proper care in order to grow and thrive and if your trip is a short one, it's unlikely you'll be able to offer them the support they need.

He Couldn't Believe His Eyes...

Dov Ber

Josh Greenstein & Tom Karen

Two years after his Justifi trip to Thailand, Josh came back as a madrich (leader) and couldn’t believe his eyes.

When he left Tom Karen’s center in the small village of Ban Huay Sak one hour north of Chiang Rai, there was one classroom which could hold about 20 kids, an outhouse for a toilet (that means a very deep hole dug into the ground, surrounded by a small wooden hut) and a few books, toys and one 1970’s Yamaha kids keyboard for the kids to play with.  

On his return, there was a second classroom full of books and maps and educational posters, musical instruments and art supplies, there was a restroom building with three toilets and a shower, there was the foundation for a new classroom, and the walls were covered in pictures of the summer camps and weekly lessons that Tom’s center now provides.

Tom Karen himself cannot believe what has taken place in such a short time.

“Before I met Jamie and Justifi, I was just a tour guide trying to find work showing foreigners around Northern Thailand.  Now I am getting to live my dream, helping my community to get educated, running English, Chinese, math and science workshops, working to prevent the our children from getting trafficked to bars in Bangkok and neighboring countries, creating programs for the elderly and sponsoring orphans in their education through the support of monthly donations from Justifi alumni.  On top of that my wife is now on the local council representing women’s rights and I have gone back to university at 42 years of age to get a degree in English!”

People often challenge us saying ‘how much difference can a short term volunteer trip make?  Really, you can’t be doing much good for the locals.’

At which point I smile patiently, offer them a drink, and spend the next half an hour filling then in on the facts on the ground.  Having been back to Thailand year after year, and experiencing it with my own eyes, I can inform them that although one group may just come in and leave having helped the local builders (who wouldn’t have had work if we weren’t there) lay the foundations of a classroom, or having painted some chairs or taught an English class which may not feel like a big deal at the time, when taken as part of a much larger ongoing project each bucket of concrete, each new English phrase learnt, eachsmile shared between volunteer and school kid, each brick in the wall helps build a strong, stable and self-sustainable edifice which is making a huge difference in many people’s lives.

You see, a brick on its own may indeed not be much use, but when it becomes part of a wall, when one person becomes part of a team which goes back to the same villages, the same schools year after year, a significant impact is made on the lives of those who stand to benefit most, which in turns effects the lives of their children and children’s children for many years to come.