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By Sanjeev Ranabhat. October 24, 2011 - 7:07 pm
An HPU professor has devised a different concept about travel, and as part of his vision, students now have the opportunity to travel abroad on more than a sightseeing trip.
Travel2change was founded officially in April 2011 by Assistant Professor of Marketing, Dr. Thomas Kohler, with the vision of creating meaningful, social change through purposeful traveling.
“We want to change the way of traveling – traveling combined with social engagement that creates a positive impact on people’s lives,” Kohler said.
HPU students help to realize and promote travel2change. Travel2change.org provides a platform for travelers, locals, and organizations to submit innovative project ideas.
The most promising ideas were realized this past summer. Nina Ahlers, a senior health science major had the idea of H2O education in Kenya. She and Dr. Kohler went to Oyugis, a small village in some 200 miles northwest of Nairobi, from Aug. 5 to 22 to educate the local youth about safe drinking water and basic personal hygiene. This educational project was built around a soccer tournament that mobilized the local community.
During their two-week trip, Ahlers and Kohler collaborated with a local non-profit organization, created liquid soap, taught about the prevention of waterborne diseases, and demonstrated proper hygiene practices.
“Throughout the program we emphasized the importance of participants passing the message of sanitation along to their friends and families,” said Ahlers.
“My experience in Kenya was absolutely amazing and perfect,” Ahlers posted on her blog. “ I wouldn’t change anything, for this experience enhanced my personal growth as a future public health professional with the added bonus of simultaneously learning about an entirely new culture.”
Lavanya Indralingam a 2009 HPU graduate with a degree in public relations, went to Sri Lanka in September for two weeks. She visited Hikkaduwa, on the south coast of the country and worked in a small school that lacked bathrooms and running water.
There she helped with the installation of piping, tanks, and pumps. She also assisted with the construction of a well to provide the school with running water.
She shared her feelings on her blog: “I was born into a privileged life for which I am truly thankful … My parents showered us with unconditional love, more than enough shelter, fabulous times and holidays overseas, sent us abroad to further our education, and all things awesome along with that.”
Indralingam explained that her childhood years were golden and seemed to contrast with the experiences of the children she met in Sri Lanka, who never enjoyed the same opportunities.
“I really want to dream bigger for these village kids,” she said. “It wasn’t just about water and electricity. We were aiding in educating these children for the future.”
Travel2change is offering travel experiences for participants who come up with innovative ideas to help positively change a community abroad. Interested students should stay tuned for the next idea challenge.
“I encourage everyone to get involved, inspire with ideas and help us realize the most promising projects,” Kohler said.
Kohler believes travel should be a two-way street; rather than function as top-down charity. Travel2change aims to work on bottom-up sustainability and help people travel from developing countries to the Global North.
Check out the blogs of Ahlers and Indralingam and join the community on Facebook: facebook.com/travel2change.