Ban Kok village finishes school upgrades with donations from Journeys Within travelers

Journeys Within travelers who visited the village of Ban Kok, Laos will be excited to see the upgrades their donations have made possible at the Ban Kok school site.

A new sidewalk and fence have recently been completed, providing the kids with safer access to education in this rural village.

From the Ground: Makara celebrates 2 years on the Local JWOC Advisory Board

By Jay Austin

Last month, JWOC Scholarship graduate and Journeys Within Cambodia Country Director, Makara Put, completed two years as member and Chair of JWOC’s Local Advisory Board (LAB). Using his in-depth understanding of the local travel industry, knowledge of local opportunities and understanding of JWOC’s values and mission to promote equal access to quality education, he was able to be part of a team that helped JWOC’s ground team to pursue opportunities and avenues that would not have otherwise access to.

When speaking of his achievement, he said, “For me, it is really important to be in the LAB, because you will be able to learn from other members and from JWOC staff. Moreover you can speak your thoughts and turn your ideas into practice, sharing information that helps to develop JWOC as well. We never know if our ideas work or not if we don’t put them into action!”

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

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.

A JWOC success story: Sophin Sophary

Journeys Within Our Community supports giving 74 students access to higher education each year. Sophin Sophary was one of those students and one of only 2 women from her village to ever go to university. Here she shares a little about life since graduation …

Sophary mine
Name: Sophy Sophary

Age: 27

Hometown: Kor Koh village

Date of graduation: July 27, 2010 from Build Bright University

A former waitress at a Chinese Restaurant near the night market, Sophy is now the operations manager of Cambodian Self Help De-mining (CDHD). As a scholarship student, she volunteered a as a teacher in a free school program during her studies. Her current job role entails her helping people in the very poor communities and rural areas by helping to make them safe, educating the villagers and providing health care.

In her own words …

As I am a country side woman , I would like to share that in 2010 I am the second women in my village to graduate from university. Because women rights and roles are so strict, plus cultural conditions especially in the country side area, women are not encouraged to go to school.

Most parents think that their daughter don’t need to study because it’s useless. Women are taught to stay home and take care of children. This idea causes very, very bad violence in the family. I am the one who face that problem so I won’t have to see it anymore .

Now I am a de-miner and bomb disposer at my charity. I would like to advocate and to advise women that you don’t give up. Try to catch an opportunity to go to school, and you can do same thing as the men ….

How has the JWOC scholarship helped you:      

  •   I could eat good food — JWOC always called all scholarship for dinner meeting. Before I would just stay in my small room and eat 1 egg in a day with Fish source.
  • I could finished my school which pushed me to see the challenges in our society.
  • Showed me how huge the world is.
  • Make me stronger and more confident
  • Show me the direction of my life and the way I should go
  • Teach me about how to work and help people in community

What is your advice to our current JWOC scholarship students:     

  • Try your best in school — you will no regret in the future!
  • Study the subject you like and within your own ability.
  • Try to get involved in community activities by volunteering — it is a good practice and you will use that experience in your future job.
  • Keep your good attitude.
  • Keep your Scholarship Opportunity in your hand till you graduate.

What have been your notable achievements since leaving JWOC:

  • Raise my payroll.
  • Continue master degree.
  • my attitude has changed — I am more responsible.
  • support 3 poor kids in my home village
  • have sent 1 of my young brother, 1 of my young sister and 4 of my cousins to school in Siem Reap.

Congratulations Sophy from the JW team on all your success and on your undoubtedly bright future!