Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why are we taking this trip?

For those that don’t know, the two of us met 15 years ago on a college volunteer service trip to Appalachia. The group went on a hike and we all sat down on the trail to take a quick break. Someone further up the trail kicked a rock, and it came rolling down. It was headed right for Mary, and Kristen reached out and caught it. That little life-saving moment, started us talking and was the beginning of quite a friendship.

It was later that week, that Mary got to witness Kristen eat the first PBJ of her life.

After college, we both did the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, coincidentally both in Missoula, Montana (we're two years apart and both had different preferences where we wanted to go, but the powers that be sent us to Missoula). While in JVC, Mary worked as a Case Manager at a YWCA Women's Shelter and Kristen worked at the children's program at that same shelter and also worked at the Missoula Food Bank. JVC is a program in which people commit a year to living in community with other volunteers, work for social justice, and live on a small stipend. We both had incredible experiences during JVC and that year had a strong influence on Mary's decision to pursue a career in Social Work and Kristen's decision to become a teacher.

That first trip to Appalachia set the bar for travel because we quickly realized the most fun and most memorable trips are those where we’re contributing positively to a community in some way. Between the two of us, we’ve since done volunteer trips to New Orleans, Tanzania, South Dakota, Peru, Oregon, and Mexico.

These trips have helped shape who we are and how we see the world. This is what led us to plan what we expect to be the trip of a lifetime. With no kids, pets or mortgages tying us down, it seems like if it's going to happen, now is the time. At least that's what most of our 50 year old friends are telling us.

Our goal is to not only help organizations and people that desperately need it through hands-on work and financial contributions, but to learn about the issues affecting these communities through talking to the people that live there. Given our backgrounds, we’re interested in broad issues of education, aging, and environmental concerns, but we’re also interested in things like what music Hungarian kids are listening to these days, how to make traditional Thai food, and what it smells like in the Costa Rican jungle.

We’re setting out with open minds and hope this trip is the beginning of a larger purpose in expanding our knowledge about the world, other cultures and how we can come back to the US and do our best to make a positive difference in our own communities.

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