“Senorita! Senorita!” Hands outstretched, black button teddy bear eyes imploring, the children jostled for position around me. They were selling delicate, multi-colored, hand woven bracelets. I had already bought several bracelets during my trip. But, how I could deny these children a little bit of money towards a full stomach that night?
The problem is that no matter how many bracelets I bought, it would never be enough to fill their stomachs or to ensure them a warm bed to crawl into at night. I swallowed hard. Bought another bracelet. And, turned away.
I love to travel. International travel, in particular, is always a kaleidoscope of experiences that simply delight me. New places, new cultures, and new stories–I never tire of it. But these encounters with people who have needs I could never fill always depress me.
So, I started a philanthropic adventure travel company—Llama Expeditions. During our trips, we visit projects that I personally vet and make a donation to support their work. The goal of these projects is to empower local people to create a better life for themselves rather than to just simply give them a hand out. Donations can be financial. But, more often than not, they are items on the project’s wish list such as school supplies. Llama Expeditions always makes a donation. And, we invite our guests to join us.
Projects Llama Expeditions works with include a school that educates impoverished girls and helps them develop self-esteem, an organization that is working to save traditional family life in rural Peru by saving their ancient textile traditions, and a nonprofit in Lima that rescues street children.
What has surprised me most is how enthusiastically our guests have responded to these project visits. Ratings for this part of the trip are consistently higher than they are for the tour of Machu Picchu. In the words of one of our guests, “It was a life changing trip for me.”
If you are planning a trip to Peru, Bolivia, or the Galapagos, I hope you’ll consider traveling with Llama Expeditions.
And, if you know of a project in one of those locations, please let me know. I am currently looking for projects that specifically help women and girls.