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Race for Change with Journeys Within

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Join Journeys Within Our Community In A Race For Change

“Run 13.1 miles? Who, me?!” was the first thought that went through my mind when Andrea suggested that the US office run to support Journeys Within Our Community.   Climb a mountain at the crack of dawn? Sure. Swim across the lake? Sure. Hold a ridiculous yoga pose? Definitely! Pick up some new bruises in karate? Of course! Ski all day long? Absolutely! Run? Not so much… However after the initial panic, I realized that this is actually a fantastic opportunity.

Running pictureAs a member of the Tour Company team, I often interact with our partner non-profit, Journeys Within Our Community, and volunteered to help with their Hospitality Class while in Cambodia. Truth be told, I was amazed and inspired by the experience. The local people who come to JWOC are so optimistic and work hard to give themselves the tools to improve their lives and their children’s futures. On December 5th JWOC’s staff, students, alumni and friends will be running, riding or walking around Angkor Wat to raise funds and awareness. JWOC specializes in projects that start small, gain momentum and change lives. And I decided – if they can do it (in temperatures as high as 90 degrees with 100% humidity) – so can I!

So if you see me huffing and puffing my way around with block with the US Tour Company team, know that I am bravely (sort of…) going where I have never gone before. From this point on in our preparations, each new run becomes the new record for the longest distance or fastest I have ever run.

We have walkers, runners and riders around the world participating in this Race 4 Change 2015 event. Please support Journeys Within Our Community and the US team by clicking here and donating so we too can make a difference!
– Courtney Ridgel, Booking Coordinator

Please contact us to find out how you can join the Race For Change, or click here to donate.

How to help victims of Myanmar flooding

Journeys Within Myanmar Country Director Dar Le Khin helping organize relief supplies for flooding victims in Myanmar.
Journeys Within Myanmar Country Director Dar Le Khin helping organize relief supplies for flooding victims in Myanmar.

While monsoon rains flood portions of Myanmar every year, this year’s heavy monsoon season paired with the added rain caused by Cyclone Komen has been particularly devastating to vast tracts of the country. The areas around the state of Rakhine and Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River Delta are especially hard hit, and leaders of the country are calling for massive relocations and international aid to help victims of the flooding.

Here at Journeys Within, we’ve been monitoring the floods through our Country Director Dar Le Khin, who has been helping organize relief efforts in conjunction with Flood Aids Organization – a relief group comprised of travel industry professionals in the country.

We are also setting up a way for Journeys Within travelers and alumni to donate through Journeys Within Our Community, which will then funnel the dollars to organizations within Myanmar that are providing direct aid to flood victims.

Click here for JWOC’s Donate Now campaign to raise dollars for flooding victims.

 Media coverage:

Update from Dar Le (from Aug. 11, 2015):

Dear friends,

Our volunteer group, “Extend Your Helping Hands For The Flood Victims,” (composed of volunteer public-spirited members of our tourism community) is currently helping the victims of the recent catastrophic floods and associated landslides in various areas of our motherland. This unprecedented catastrophe had destroyed the lives and livelihoods of millions of Burmese people, especially rural folks and disadvantaged people. Extend Your Helping Hands is requesting our friends, both overseas and in-country, provide donations to continue the assistance to these unfortunate victims as they rebuild their lives.

With Metta,

Dar Le

The group named “Extend Your Helping Hands for The Flood Victims” was founded on 29th July, 2015 by a group of tourism professionals in order to provide help to the flooding victims of Myanmar. A three-day campaign collected donations at some crowded areas in Yangon, and has since captured the public’s awareness on the need to provide a hand to the victims along with respect for the group’s activities. This enabled the group to have sufficient funds to perform the emergency relief in the flooded areas of three different states which were all declared as being in a “state of emergency.”

The 1st relief team set off on 3rd August to Sidoktaya village as a base in Magwe division where the villages were flooded by the Mon Creek which passes through Natmataung (Mt. Victoria) National park of Chin State. The overflowing water of Mon creek has receded, but not before swallowing the thousands of acres of crops and filling houses with mud. The relief team, lead by Min Than Htut (MD of Pro Niti Travel), has traveled as far as to the Pan-Chet Village (about 2 hours boat ride from Sidoktaya). Along the way, they witnessed the full scale of the disaster as all they could see was only the tip of palm trees poking out of the water. The team brought hope for the villagers and helped a total of 418 households with about 2,000 peoples at 5 villages along the side of Mon Dyke.

The 2nd relief team headed to Kale on the 5th August led by Bo Bo Kyaw (GM of Uniteam Travel) making their first night stop at Kale collecting data to be effective with their emergency relief efforts. With the help of volunteers, the team has reached the Aung-Myin-Thar village with emergency relief such as rice, kitchen wares, candles, lighters and detergents. It’s hard to express in words the sorrow in the eyes of villagers as their livelihoods have been destroyed and they’ve been physiologically stressed. Thanks to Bo Bo’s experiences with disaster management, he has brought letters to them and read to them of the care and love by the whole nations for the victims. In sum, the Kale team has helped a total of 653 households (about 2,500 people).

While the rescues teams were distributing emergency relief supplies to the victims, the volunteer team in Yangon has put more efforts in raising funds for the second phase of the recovery process focusing mainly on health and education.

Update from Dar Le (from August 6, 2015):

I am involved as a committee member in a group comprised of travel industry professionals which is collecting donations for flooding victims. So far we have been able to collect about 140,000,000 Kyats (about $166,666 USD). Two-thirds of the funds have been used in supplying aid to three locations (1) Minpyar at Arkan state (flooding caused by Cyclone Komen), (2) Pwin Pyu township in Magwe (flood caused by overflow of a few dams) and (3) Kalay in northern Sagaing (flood caused by Chindwin River).

Aid teams already left this morning in Yangon and we are waiting for updates on the situation. We are now discussing for aftermath focusing on: (a) Rebuilding toilet facilities in those flooded areas. (b) Clean water access, such as drilling tube well/ water ponds. (c) Cleaning/sanitizing public school/clinic facilities and reinforcing them with amenities (children should be able to go to school after all).

So, if there is something you can help us on those issues, we would be very appreciative. As we have seen that people in Myanmar are very active with providing supplies and aid now, but are not as aware of how important the aftermath and rebuilding efforts will be as well.

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Presentation: Socially responsible tourism in the 21st century

Volunteers with Journeys Within Our Communities
Dan and Monica at the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

On Sunday, April 19, 2015, Journeys Within travelers Dan Hanson and Monica Weiss gave a Sunday Platform presentation to the members of the New York Society for Ethical Culture all about their “voluntourism” travels through Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, and their involvement with the non-profit Journeys Within Our Communities in January of 2015.

With an itinerary that began in Bangkok and continued through Chiang Mai (including the Elephant Nature Park), Luang Prabang, Vientiane, the Mekong River and Siem Reap, the Hansons were able to speak to their unforgettable experiences and the impact they were able to have while in this special part of the world.

While in Siem Reap, they participated in the JWOC Clean Water Program which provides rural villages with a holistic clean water solution by installing and repairing wells, providing hygiene training and distributing water filters and hygiene kits, all of which you can see in their presentation below.

Video slideshow of their talk (skip to 15:27 into the video):

Click here to skip to their talk

Click here to skip ahead to their involvement with Journeys Within Our Community

Employee Reflections: Laos

Our Loas office often refer to each other as family, as they have grown so close working together. Over the years they’ve made many special memories and have watched the company and each other grow. Take a look at their reflections of their years with team Journeys Within.

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We love Loas. This small, but infinitely charming country is the surprise favorite of many of our guests. Below are the team members that help us show off the beauty of Laos.

Houmphaeng “Phaeng” Phommaly:

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Phaeng and Nicole — our Laos dynamic duo.

What are your thoughts about Journeys Within now?:

I don’t think I can find other companies that has such best team and so big now as I can see we have more groups coming in each year.

What are your thoughts on the next ten years (or just the future) for Journeys Within?:

I think this company not just stay at the same level but it will be one of top company in the world and we have our own unique tours.

What is your favorite memory working with Journeys Within?

I had so much favorite memory working with Journeys Within. When we have Guide Training and Tour Inspection I have such a wonderful time.

Nicole Long:

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Nicole and the Laos team during  training.

What are your thoughts about Journeys Within now?:

Honestly I am still excited about working with Journeys Within and how with each passing year we continue to grow by adding to our team, extending ourselves further to new countries and in creating new innovative tours. Even though we have grown, we have continued to stay true to our goal of quality over quantity.  I feel as if our expertise on the region has grown over the years through continued training, experience, guests feedback and having eyes and ears on the ground.

What are your thoughts on the next ten years (or just the future) for Journeys Within?:

I think with our aims still in mind we will continue to improve each year. I know that the people on our team really believe in Journeys Within as a company that strives to give guests experiences of a lifetime. I think with that belief we will only continue to grown and improve our services. If you build it, they will come!

What is your favorite memory working with Journeys Within?

It is so hard to choose a favorite memory over the last 5 ½ years. There have been so many that have been made of these last years that I will carry with me forever. I think the majority of my favorite memories come from spending time with the Lao community or my Journeys Within team. Whether it was scouting tour options in villages or team building experiences with guides or joining all the SE Asian Journeys Within team in Cambodia; they were all awesome moments in my life!

What I love about working for Journeys Within is that these memories will continue to be made. Even today I added to my favorites when Phaeng, Laos Country Director and I went out to a village that we have been sponsoring for the last 5 years to give uniforms and shoes to all the students. Journeys Within sponsored 2 new uniforms and a pair of shoes for all 58 students at Phik Noy Primary School. Seeing all those smiles just warmed my heart and made me extremely proud to have the opportunity to represent Journeys Within.

Bousone Phonepaserth:

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Bousone visiting Ban Kok School.

What are your thoughts about Journeys Within now?

In my opinions Journey Within is a best company to provides any trips for tourists who are wanting to travel in Southeast Asia. On the other hand, Journeys Within is also a very professional tour organization that can highly recommend the best destinations for traveling.

What are your thoughts on the next ten years for Journeys Within?

I expect that we are a constantly growing team of travel specialists. Our goal is to provide quality travel experiences benefiting our valued clients and that shows consistent growth in knowledge and services.

What is your favorite memory working with Journeys Within?

Even though I just started to work with Journeys Within only 10 months ago but I have made many great memories with the JW Team. I got many experiences, knowledge and help from our team. We are working closely to help each other like we are a big family.

Journeys Within Tour Company Celebrates 10 years of Exceptional Experiences

This week I am proud to announce that Journeys Within Tour Company is celebrating 10 years of exceptional experiences!

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The truth is that our 10 year anniversary was last year…but we were busy and I just couldn’t quite get around to celebrating it, I think it was because deep down I wanted to wait and really complete 10 years! It wasn’t okay to say we’d gotten to the 10th year, in typical Journeys Within fashion we had to go above and beyond and excel in that 10th year too!! To highlight just that, in the last week I’ve received emails from guests describing their recent trips as “epic”, “once-in-a-lifetime” and “life-changing”. Our tenth year was truly the icing on our anniversary cake!

When Brandon and I started Journeys Within Tour Company 10/11 years ago in Cambodia neither of us realized where it would go and the lives it would change. When I talk about exceptional experiences I’m not just talking about our guests…I’m talking about the Journeys Within team as well. I feel so lucky to have a team that truly loves what they do and I think we are able to really appreciate how exceptional Southeast Asia is. Because we truly value it we’re able to create these experiences for guests that just go above the norm and create unforgettable trips. On a personal level, the last 10 years has been an exceptional experience for me!

When I realized that I shouldn’t just let our anniversary fade into the Angkor Wat sunset I looked online to see what people did for their 10-year-anniversary. Turns out, people have parties…they throw big events and they have a very good time. I thought about doing this, as I do like a good party, but my team is spread across 6 countries and getting them all together seemed unlikely. I will be taking the kids to Southeast Asia in February and in each country I’ll celebrate with my Journeys Within Family, but I needed something bigger, something that defined Journeys Within. I didn’t have to look far.

Shortly after founding Journeys Within Tour Company we founded Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC), a non-profit that has a mission of empowering local communities through health and education and inspiring change. When we founded JWOC we again had no idea of the impact it would have. Today JWOC has given access to clean water to thousands of villagers, we’ve provided education for hundreds of students at our school in Siem Reap, we’ve given out microloans to those living below the poverty line and we’ve sent over 200 students to university. And when I say JWOC has done this, I mean WE have done this — it turns out that the most exceptional experiences are not necessarily helicopter rides and private pampering (though those are great too!), but actually the experiences you take home with you are the ones where you make a difference in someone else’s life. When our guests saw the needs in the countries they were visiting they wanted to make a difference and they have! Our donors are the travelers — people that not only want to see and understand these countries, but also make a positive impact on the people living here. The idea of Active Philanthropy through travel has made measurable impacts in the communities that we work in. Our teams both at Journeys Within Tour Company and at JWOC have made these contributions count, every penny of them! In return our guests have not only seen the highlights of Southeast Asia, but they’ve made a difference in the lives of the local people that inspire us to travel. The experience has gone beyond Angkor Wat and Wat Phou and the Grand Palace, and into the villages and communities.

This to me is what the last 10 years has been about. Making travel bigger than just going somewhere new. So to celebrate 10 years of exceptional experiences Journeys Within is donating $10,000 dollars to JWOC. This donation will go towards the projects we founded and believe in and will help JWOC continue to change lives. This donation adds onto the thousands of dollars given throughout the course of the year by our guests who visit our schools and see our projects, as well as the donations that come in from our amazing travelers after they come home and want to continue making a difference!

I am so proud that what we founded 10 years ago has become something so powerful. I am so thankful to have a team that strives to give our guests the best experience possible every single day and I’m so excited to see what will happen in the next 10 years. On the phone today, I was speaking with a guest about his trip and he couldn’t say enough nice things, finally he said, “for a small company with so much heart, you really have the service to back it up.” And that, well that was all I needed.