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Happy Thanksgiving from Journeys Within and JWOC

I still remember my first Thanksgiving in Asia, before we had moved to Cambodia or started Journeys Within and JWOC. At the time we were traveling in Borneo and I sent an email back home to my friends and family to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and I just went back through my emails and found it! Here is an excerpt:

“We just had noodles at a local stall restaurant for dinner, it didn’t feel much like Thanksgiving and I definitely missed turkey and home! We walked back to our hotel and there were so many people on the street, begging, or working or just struggling to get through and I realized that this is the perfect place to be for Thanksgiving because it reminds us how truly thankful we should be…to have been born in the West, to have an education, to be healthy and to be able to travel and enjoy the luxury of seeing another culture, not everyone has these things! I don’t know where our travels will take us, but I hope I never forget how thankful I am and I hope somehow we do our part to make someone else thankful as well!”

This was written ten years ago and a couple of years later we moved to Cambodia and were starting Journeys Within and following that, JWOC. It makes my heart full to know that JWOC exists and is really spreading the values of Thanksgiving- we support families so they can sit and have a meal together and have health, hope and something to be thankful for.

Ten years ago when we were young, naïve and wrinkle free, we wanted to make a difference and because of your support we’ve been able to. We can never thank you enough for making JWOC possible and giving so many people a chance to be thankful. Below you can see some of the things people are thankful for because of JWOC and you!

Happy Thanksgiving from Andrea, Brandon and everyone at Journeys Within and JWOC!

Sreyney Lack, scholarship student

“I really say thank you to JWOC to give me a chance to continue my study at university and gave me a lot of work experience. JWOC gave me a new life and new way to reach my goal. Thank you to all sponsors that always help JWOC help people. I wish you and your family good luck all the time.”

Searn Hean, Village Chief in Brasat Char

“Thank you so much! I wish all donors have good health, happiness and also continue to help other village in the future. It is very good that the Clean Water Project works to reduce poverty in my village. The villagers improve their health by using filters and getting good hygiene knowledge.”

Soben Kheng, eleven years old

“I want to say thank you because JWOC has helped me a lot. I have chance to learn English, read books and play many different activities in the library for free.”

From Keo Sineth, seamstress in Teakseng Tbong

“I will not forget the help from JWOC. The loan has given me capital for my small sewing business. All my three children are studying at school. Thank you!”

Souerm Lai, farmer in Brasat Char

“I now always use water filter, I don’t need to boil water so it saves me time. The well built near my house means I have enough water for using in all seasons and even enough for growing vegetable. I would like to say thank you very much to all donors who donated to my family.”                                                                                                    

Yary Vat, student in Siem Reap

“It’s great because JWOC allow me to study for free. I am studying English now and I about two months ago I finished the computer course with JWOC. I’m really learning a lot, thank you to JWOC!”

Sareth Soem, scholarship student

“I want to say thank very much to donors who are helping us – thanks for your kindness! Scholarship students at JWOC are lucky, because they can learn and work the same time. JWOC gives us the chance to study at university and also teaches us how to work, especially how to help people.”


Journeys Within Our Community is a tax-exempt non-profit charitable organization under section 501(c)(3) of the US tax code (Tax ID #47-0953817).
All contributions are tax-deductible in accordance with US tax law.
JWOC is also a registered not-for-profit organization in Cambodia. 

The inaugural Active Philanthropy Tour – Visit JWOC projects in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar

If you’re a Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) donor you will have received this heartfelt letter from April inviting you to join us on an at-cost trip to Southeast Asia to visit the highlights of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar and to see and participate in the JWOC projects. Check out her letter and sign up today, we only have 10 spots left. The perfect way to spend Thanksgiving!

Dear Traveler,

I have been working for Journeys Within Tour Company for the last four years and in that time it has become more than just a job. Having the opportunity to travel to Southeast Asia I have not only fallen in love with this region, but have literally been changed by the communities that embrace me because of mine and Journeys Within’s involvement in community development and philanthropic travel. I knew about the Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) projects prior to my travels, but while traveling and seeing the work that JWOC has been doing in the region, I became a JWOC donor and have been actively fundraising for the projects ever since.

In brainstorming the best way to share the JWOC projects and get support of the work they are doing, it felt best to create an opportunity for people to travel to the region and visit the projects first-hand. From this idea we have come up with the inaugural Active Philanthropy Group Tour.  This 16-night tour will be offered to guests at cost by Journeys Within Tour Company so it’s possible for people to afford this tour and so we can build in a $5,000 donation to JWOC. As both a travel consultant and volunteer, this is a true labor of love and I share the Journeys Within belief that travel can change the world.

I am writing to you as fellow JWOC supporters as I feel many of you may be interested in visiting or re-visiting the projects which you have so graciously been supporting with a group of like-minded travelers. I know what a joy it is to be able to visit the region so often and what a difference it will make to be able to visit my scholarship student and have coffee with her and be an on-hand mentor. I know what a difference it has made in my life to be able to be a part of the projects not just remotely, but on site as well, and I really hope that this tour allows our current donors who join, the same opportunity.

While the tour focus on the work JWOC is doing in these countries we will also visit the highlights of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, so it will be a great visit for returning guests, but also first-timers. In Cambodia you’ll meet Nicola and visit the projects we’re running there as well as the see what the tour donations have made possible. Andrea will then join the group on the remainder of the tour, visiting our projects in Luang Prabang, Laos and Yangon, Myanmar.

I know it may not be possible for you to join this tour. However, if you know anyone that would like to combine traveling with true community-change then please send the tour information along to them. We know the passion that is inspired from meeting the communities benefitting from the JWOC projects and we know that new travelers visiting the JWOC projects allow JWOC to continue to grow! Thank you for continuing to share the work JWOC is doing with your family and friends.

To find out more about this tour follow this link and if you have any questions at all you can contact me at april@journeys-within.com.

Warm regards,

JWOC students in Laos studying together
JWOC Scholarship students in Laos
Girls at the orphanage in Myanmar that JWOC helps support
Last year's Mekong Experience group at the JWOC school in Laos
A volunteer works with children at the JWOC site in Laos

Journeys Within in ShanghaiTalk Magazine

ShanghaiTalk Magazine featured Journeys Within in their latest issue in a wonderful article about volunteering during vacation. You can read the text of the article here, but be sure to see the full display on their site, or as a PDF here: Feature story

By: Kyle Patrick Long

It’s a boom that defies generational and professional boundaries, attracting recent graduates, retirees, corporations and families alike. The international volunteering industry, known as voluntourism, has boomed in the past decade, with an increasing number of vacationers skipping the spa treatments and beachside cocktails, opting instead for a more memorable, authentic local experience.

Tammy Leland, a pioneer in the industry and co-founder of Crooked Trails, a small non-profit in Seattle, explains, “We began doing this kind of work 14 years ago. There were very few companies doing community-based travel that gave the locals the power to make decisions about tourism in their own communities. People were talking about ecotourism benefiting the environment but not cultures.”

Edge of Seven was founded in 2000 when Erin Guttenplan noticed an upswing in the interest to volunteer abroad. Seeing an opportunity to connect volunteers with meaningful opportunities in developing countries in a more affordable way, the non-profit is constructing a hostel in the Everest Region of Nepal that will house 40 girls from areas where education sometimes means a three-day walk each way to the schoolhouse.

When a traveler commits their hard-earned vacation time or savings to go on a trip, they often come away with more than the locals they have come to assist. “The moment that a volunteer has a personal transformation and recognizes the need for global social change, those are the moments that inspire me,” says Guttenplan.

The organizational support these groups bring is one of the main growth drivers for the industry. According to a 2009 study by GeckoGo, volunteering with an organization was by far the preferred option, with 89 per cent of respondents saying they would like to volunteer with an operator versus 11 per cent who prefer to organize the trip themselves

Founded in 2004 and based in Sydney, Australia, Inspired Adventures bills itself as a ‘charity challenge company’ that keeps the focus on pre-trip fundraising for various charities. The company works directly with the charities to activate their donor base, getting supporters to raise money for them, with the reward of an exciting travel challenge in an exotic location. The average participant raises RMB 33,000 above their travel costs through a variety of events, such as hosting charity dinners, raffles or chocolate sales.

In May, a group of 10 adventurers who raised well over RMB 330,000 for The Heart Research Centre will spend 10 days in Beijing and trek along the Great Wall while spending the night in local villages. Kyle Taylor, Business Development Manager of Inspired Adventures, explains, “Since I started leading trips last year, I’ve already had four people change their careers. They realized they needed to do more to help people.”

Unlike most other forms of voluntourism, not every trip is exclusively focused on helping charities on the ground where the adventures take place. Taylor explains that Chinese charities are often difficult to engage with, but many of their other trips do offer a chance to volunteer for several days with children, or provide medical services in Vietnamese villages, for example. These interactions also help to bridge long-term connections between the Australian charities they support and local communities that need it most.

“We’re at a stage now where everyone who can afford to travel has probably travelled. They’ve done Europe or a safari, but this is a way to say, ‘How can I go back and have a unique experience, get off the beaten path and do something for a cause that I’m proud to support?’” says Taylor.

Leland has seen first hand that the tourism industry has responded to the uptick in interest in recent years. “We are seeing literally hundreds of operators with volunteer service programs. This, of course, scares us a little bit that once again the tourist industry is looking to make money off of indigenous people who have a project or program to connect with people from the outside world.”

Journeys Within, a tour company that offers an experience with bed & breakfasts and charitable foundations, has a slightly different approach by taking visitors to see what their donation has made possible. They call it ‘active philanthropy’ because travelers don’t just write a check to a charity, but instead travel and visit that charity, participating in the English class they helped fund, meeting the recipients of the well they provided or having lunch with the scholarship student they’re supporting.

Critics are quick to point out that spending upwards of USD 1,000 or more on airfare for volunteers or philanthropists to travel around the world could be better used by the local communities themselves, but proponents argue that voluntourism is not just about the immediate impact of the volunteer work. Establishing long-term ties and transforming the volunteer into a life-long supporter of the cause is an important part of the process.

Guttenplan points out that many of the past volunteers return to their home countries and become advocates, helping to secure grant funding, host fundraisers or speak in their communities about their work. It’s a sustainable approach that has helped Edge of Seven maintain and grow its operations to Cambodia, India and Thailand with meaningful projects.

Leland warns, “The impacts from this kind of travel can have enormous benefit to both hosts and guests, but it can also have many negative impacts if not properly done.” With that in mind, it’s always a good idea to check the background of any company offering these services and check online for opinions and stories from other travelers before you commit.