In 2013, Kathryn Pisco and her husband Mike left their corporate jobs and decided to take a trip of a lifetime in an attempt to unearth and discover the world. Over the next 250 days, the pair traveled to over 20 countries and volunteered at 5 different volunteer projects.
It was during their volunteer experiences that they learned the ins and outs of volunteering abroad. Although their time volunteering was meaningful, they were surprised to see how broken the system was.
A lot of projects charged tons of money for volunteers, were not exactly beneficial to the host community, and were not sustainable. The couple returned home and realized that they had to share their knowledge and experience of what they learned.
In 2014, they launched their social enterprise Unearth the World, an international volunteer organization that strives to improve the international volunteering industry by promoting cross-cultural learning, fostering reciprocal partnerships and elevating social consciousness through responsible international programs.
Today they work with 6 non-profit partners in Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala and Zambia which they have personally visited to ensure that each volunteer experience benefits the local community and provides sustainable change. Since they founded Unearth the World, 200 people have already dedicated 3,500+ hours of service over the past two years in collaboration with their six international nonprofit partners.
Teaching in Peru with Unearth the World
I first met Kathryn at the Women in Travel Summit in April and instantly connected. She is a mom like me and has a passion for sustainable travel and a zest for life. I knew I wanted to feature Unearth the World on my blog so I set up a phone interview to learn more. Here is a transcript of our conversation.
Me: What did you and your husband do for work in Chicago before setting off on your epic travel adventure? Had you ever traveled before? How did you pick your countries and volunteer projects?
Kathryn: Mike and I were both in sales for medical companies prior to traveling the world. While we had done quite a bit of personal travel in the past, it was more traditional tourism. We would maximize our allotted vacation time each year but that was the extent of our travel. Prior to our professional careers, I did a traditional study abroad program in Paris and Mike spent a summer living/volunteering in Nicaragua. Mike’s Nicaragua experience inspired us to volunteer on our epic adventure.
When choosing where to travel, we prioritized regions that were far away and – therefore – challenging to get to on a typical 7 – 10 day vacation. We also sought out countries that were relatively secure and affordable. Once we had outlined our 20-country itinerary we tried to spread our volunteer projects evenly throughout the trip. Our idea was to have a few weeks of personal travel and then a few weeks of volunteering. It ended up working out quite well!
We did a lot of research on where we should volunteer but found it really challenging to understand what organizations were legit based upon online research alone.
Me: Tell me a little bit more about the five different volunteer projects you did. What did you learn about the world of international volunteering?
Kathryn: We taught English in Kathmandu, Nepal, worked at Children’s Homes in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Phnom Penh Cambodia, taught at a school in Ofaakor, Ghana and built homes in Mwandi, Zambia. Through these experiences we learned how important it is to ensure that you have the proper skills to engage in each project. I have adopted the belief that if you are not qualified to do something in your hometown – why would you be qualified to do it abroad?
We realized that so many of our projects were well-intentioned but not truly as helpful as they could have been. There was such a disconnect between the true needs of the community and the projects that were designed to appeal to volunteers. We heard horror stories about schools that were built and torn down each year with the sole purpose of attracting and making money off of international volunteers. We also experienced some great things! In Zambia for instance, the organization is 100% locally run and the entire community is engaged in the mission. Mike and I worked alongside local people and learned from them every step of the way. Finally, we saw how incredible cross-cultural exchange can be for both volunteers and local communities. We built authentic and lasting relationships at many of our projects and are still in touch with people from all around the world.
Me: How did traveling and in particular volunteering abroad change you?
Kathryn: In so many ways! I entered the trip thinking that – as a 30 year old woman – my values, personality and worldview were pretty set. On the trip I learned how to thrive outside of my comfort zone. I became a better communicator, leader, and person. I also realized that I have so much to learn from people of different cultures.
Me: Why did you decide to launch Unearth the World?
Kathryn: As I mentioned earlier, our five volunteer projects varied greatly in intentionality and impact and illustrated the pros and cons of volunteering abroad. We learned that there are many problems in the current multi-billion dollar volunteer travel space: a lack of financial transparency, an absence of meaningful volunteer training, and a shortage of community driven projects. So, we returned from our trip inspired to create our own social venture – Unearth the World – that strives to improve the volunteer travel industry by promoting cross-cultural learning, fostering reciprocal partnerships and elevating social consciousness through responsible volunteer exchange programs. We founded Unearth the World to make volunteer travel more transparent, accessible and positively impactful.
Me: Where did you come up with the name?
Kathryn: Unearth the World was actually the name of our travel blog during our nine month trip. We thought it really encompassed what we were trying to accomplish on our journey. We sought to unearth – or discover – the world around us in a meaningful way. We decided to give our business the same name because we believe that international service and cross-cultural exchange is a great way to understand the world around us.
Me: What makes you different from other volunteer organizations?
Kathryn: We saw that the industry lacked financial transparency and affordability with many projects costing several thousand dollars for just one week. We also saw a lack of community driven projects. Instead, we saw many volunteer opportunities that were created with the purpose of bringing in tourists rather than actually addressing a true need in the community. Additionally, we saw that many of the volunteer sending organizations fail to train and educate their travelers before and after their trip leading to uninformed and unqualified volunteers. These problems in the industry saddened us greatly. UTW’s innovative model addresses the problems in the volunteer travel market in three ways: transparency, reciprocity and volunteer preparation.
Me: What has been the most powerful experience you have experienced with Unearth the World?
Kathryn: That is a tough question. I am always impressed by the transformative effects of our programs.
I have seen the biggest impacts on people who have not had previous international experiences. For instance, we recently had a student from Cornell University join a group trip to Nicaragua. He had never been out of the country before. His experience volunteering in Nicaragua sparked something in him. He immediately booked a second trip – this time to Zambia – to continue to engage with the world. Upon returning to school, he is considering shifting his major to something more focused on social impact and he has begun to volunteer in his local community.
Another great story is from one of our Advisory Board members – Amy. She took her two daughters to Nicaragua as a way of exposing them to different cultures. A memorable moment from their program was when one of her daughters turned to her and said “Mommy, I want to do really well in school so I can continue to travel and learn about the world.”. Amy was so inspired that she joined our board.
Me: What kind of advice can you give someone who wants to try volunteering abroad?
Do your research and ask tons of questions. Make sure that you have a true understanding of the impact on the community and planet that your trip is having.
To learn more about volunteering with Unearth the World, please visit their projects page to learn more about our opportunities.
Have you ever volunteered abroad?
This has been an original post by Nicole Melancon of Thirdeyemom in the USA. Additional posts by Nicole on World Moms Network.
From September 21st-23rd, 2017 World Moms Network will be at the International Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship using social media to engage more students and people to study abroad! Follow the Summit at hashtag, #studyabroadbecause.
Managing Editor, Elizabeth Atalay, Senior and World Voice Editor, Purnima Ramakrishnan, and Founder, Jennifer Burden on a video call to kick off the new season!
Welcome back, everyone!
This summer we all took a well needed “Blogcation” from the site. It was nice to take a break. The summer was busy for me and my family. We were in Europe and splashing along New Jersey’s coast in the USA, as well as, day tripping into New York City. Our adventures left very little time for sitting in front of a computer! But now that the kids are back to school, I am excited to be a part of picking up where we left off…
Getting back into the swing of things last week all started with Purnima in India posting to our editors’ group on Facebook: “Are we starting our posting schedule today?”, and then we all started scrambling into position from around the globe!
Elizabeth Atalay in the USA began organizing the schedule and surveying what had been written in the queue. She called me on the phone later in the week, and we agreed to organize our first Senior Editors meeting of the year. Kirsten was on jury duty in Canada, so we’d have to wait another week for her input. We agreed to meet on Wednesday morning. It was like getting all the Super Heros together!
Here’s how it all went down:
I chose 9:15am because it’s early enough in Purnima’s evening in India for her to attend, and it would give me enough time to get the kids on the bus, and then be back in time to fire up my computer with my cup of tea. However, one of my daughters slept in this morning, and I had to give her the full on mom physical — feel her head, take her temp, ask her questions — to see if she was ok to go to school. She was. So, after getting one kid on the bus, I had enough time to pack the other kid up, and drive her to school. So, not the calm stroll from the bus stop onto the video call that I envisioned! I messaged Purnima to let her know I’d be running late.
Once on the call, Purnima’s internet in India kept cutting out on us. It also took us both awhile to tinker and find the right mic and volume settings on each side. We FINALLY got it all going, and then out of the blue my husband comes running down the stairs and says in a panic, “I need a ride to the bus stop! I’m not going to make it, if I have to park! Sorry, I received a call I had to take a few minutes ago! Can you take me?” He had been working in the office upstairs, but needed to head to NYC for a meeting. So, I then had to end the video call. Yep. And I had to tell Purnima I’d call her when I got back from driving my husband to the bus.
It’s now after 10am. On the way back, I got a text from Elizabeth, “Did I miss the call?” She had other business this morning, and couldn’t get on earlier, but was now free. I say, “Perfect timing.”
I head back into the house, and before you know it, I’ve got both, Purnima and Elizabeth on the video call. Success!
Later, we share what we discussed in our editors’ group, and Senior Editor, Kirsten Doyle in Canada, got to add on to what we were building.
This about explains what it’s like behind the scenes, here, at World Moms Network. Did you expect something else?
We pull it all together. We always do. We’re the #WorldMoms. So, this is a note to let you know how grateful we are that you stop by here to read. We’re not in a big office building churning out editorials. We’re out and about around the globe, on the ground, and enthusiastic about making this work into our day. It really means a lot to us that you’re reading!
What can you look out for? #WorldMoms will be hitting New York City next week for events around the United National General Assembly. Elizabeth Atalay, Nicole Melancon and myself will be attending the Travel Blogger Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. The Summit is a continuation from the White House Travel Blogger Summit that I attended in 2014. They have a great lineup of speakers and sponsors, whom we can’t wait to meet! The hashtag is #studyabroadbecause
Margie Webb in Arkansas and Tes Solomon in New York will be covering this year’s Social Good Summit in New York City hosted by the UN Foundation, Mashable, UNDP, and the 92nd St. Y! World Moms Network has been covering this event since 2011, and it’s always an interesting event to hear about the progress towards the world’s goals to end extreme poverty and more! The hashtag is #2030Now
Tes Solomon will also be attending a high level United Nations Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals, too! We are covering a lot of bases, and can’t wait to keep you posted on what we learn. Make sure you keep up with our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds September 21st-24th!
Drop us a line in the comments and let us know what you’d like to hear more about from us in the year to come! We’d love to hear from you. And…Welcome Back!
Founder of World Moms Network
Children in Nepal, Image credit to author
When we become parents, we make a promise to our children that we will do everything in our power to protect them and to help them learn, grow and thrive. But did you know that the world has made a similar promise to all children to protect and promote their rights to reach their full potential?
On November 20, 1989 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been acceded to or ratified by 196 countries – more countries than any other international treaty.
The Convention sets out the basic human rights that every child should have to develop to their fullest human potential, regardless of where they live in the world. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; promoting the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. The Convention also protects children’s rights by setting standards that governments should provide in the areas of health care, education, and legal, civil and social services.
As UNICEF notes,
The articles of the Convention, in addition to laying the foundational principles from which all rights must be achieved, call for the provision of specific resources, skills and contributions necessary to ensure the survival and development of children to their maximum capability. The articles also require the creation of means to protect children from neglect, exploitation and abuse.
Interested in learning more? Below are a few of the rights guaranteed by the Convention along with photos of children that I have taken around the world.
Article 1: “A child means every human being below the age of 18 years.”
A child in Zanzibar, Image credit to author
Article 2: Children must be treated “ … without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of … race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.”
A child in Cameroon, Image credit to author
Article 3: “In all actions concerning children … the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
Articles 5 & 18: State signatories must “… respect the … rights and duties of parents … [and recognize that] both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing … of the child.”
A family in Morocco, Image credit to author
Articles 12-14: “… the child who is capable of forming his or her own views [has] the right to express those views [and] the right to freedom of … thought, conscience and religion.”
Article 19: Children must be protected from “… injury or abuse … including sexual abuse, while in the care of parents … or any other person….”
Article 22: “… a child who is seeking refugee status or who is … a refugee … [shall] receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance ….”
Article 23: The State recognizes “… the right of the disabled child to special care” and the right to “… enjoy a full and decent life in conditions which ensure dignity ….”
Article 24: All children have the right to “the highest attainable standard of health … [including access to] primary health care … nutritious foods and clean drinking-water.”
Children in Norway, Image credit to author
Article 27: Every child has “the right to a standard of living adequate for [her/his] physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.”
A child in the Iceland, Image credit to author
Articles 28 & 29: State signatories must “recognize the right of a child to education…[that develops] the child’s personality, talents, mental and physical abilities.”
Photo Credit to the Author
Articles 32 & 36: Children must be “protected from economic exploitation … and from [hazardous] work [and] all other forms of exploitation.
These are just some of the rights set forth in the Convention. You can read the full text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child here.
For ideas about activities that you can do with your kids to teach them about rights and responsibilities, check out our past Human Rights Day posts:
10 Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day (2011)
Human Rights Activities To Do With Your Kids (2013)
Human Rights Activities To Do With Your Kids (2014).
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Jennifer Prestholdt.
L to R: Gwen Zwanziger – Flu Prevention Advocate, Amber McCarthy- Founder, Flu Moms Facebook Group, Dr. Barbara Rath – Co-founder & Chair, Vienna Vaccine safety Initiative, Janet Tobias – Producer & Director, Unseen Enemy
When you’ve gone to a few Summits like I have, you start to wonder if you’ll be as inspired as you were previously. This past Moms+SocialGood Summit on May 4th definitely proved that out.
Going on their 5th year, Moms+SocialGood Summit continues to raise awareness about issues that affect so many, from poverty to maternal mental health. The speakers range from health professionals, celebrities and moms like me who attend to speak about topics that matter to them.
Every year, Global Moms Challenge asks a question of their speakers for Moms+SocialGood and this year’s is: “What do you wish were true for every family, everywhere?”
Of the numerous speakers that day, one made quite an impact on me. A conversation centring on the theme of having “A Future Where Unseen Enemies Are Defeated” addressed Gwen Zwanziger’s story of her daughter tragically passing away from flu complications in 2014. Shannon, Zwanziger’s 17-year-old daughter came home one day complaining of not feeling well and informed her mother that someone from her school had the flu. She didn’t seem to be sick so Zwanziger advised her daughter to rest. By the next day, Shannon developed a high fever, prompting Zwanziger to take Shannon to their doctor. After being seen and determining that it was the flu, she was advised to bring her daughter home and to give Shannon lots of fluids. Thinking that it was just the flu, Zwanziger believed that it would “just run its course”. But a week later, Shannon became worse and after being hospitalized, died of flu complications. Her story made it even more tragic because her daughter’s demise could have been prevented by doing one thing: getting a flu vaccine. As easy as that may sound, it doesn’t take away the heartbreaking fact that one decision changed Zwanziger’s life forever. Zwanziger’s commitment to raising awareness on the importance of the flu vaccine through her involvement in the documentary film, “Unseen Enemy” by Janet Tobias, is crucial because lives are lost unnecessarily every year to this virus and from other infectious diseases like Zika and Ebola globally.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) recommends that every person, 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine every year. This season’s flu vaccine against the Influenza A(H3N2) virus has been 48% effective. While the type of influenza virus varies each year, it shouldn’t hinder any person from being vaccinated, unless one is considered to be at high risk for influenza complications, like adults older than 65, as well as persons who have asthma, cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, to name a few.
As a mom, I made sure that my daughter was up to date with her vaccines every year, and while I knew a few moms who didn’t believe their child should be vaccinated for their own reasons, it didn’t dissuade me from protecting my child and our family from infectious diseases. Vaccines ensure that every person is provided with the means to fight for their health and well-being, and at the end of the day, that’s what every Mother wants. That said, I never considered the Flu vaccine to be important. While it’s not 100% effective, this story has made me reconsider whether or not I and my family should be vaccinated yearly.
While Moms+SocialGood Summit was a day filled with advocacy and initiatives to solve today’s global problems, and every speaker responding to the question, “What do you wish were true for every family, everywhere?”, my takeaway is this:
I wish for a future where health care and education are accessible to every person, in order to fully reach their potential and be a responsible, global citizen that others can look up to and emulate.
Our world is imperfect, but as citizens, we can aspire to be more than what we are and inspire others to build a lasting global community.
So we ask our readers this – “What do you wish were true for every family, everywhere?
Save The Children
has launched the #Lunchless campaign this month to help raise awareness of the severe growing hunger crisis in East Africa. The world needs to act now to save the nearly 20 million lives that are at risk in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda where children are suffering from extreme hunger. Families in this region are in urgent need of food and safe drinking water, and many severely malnourished children are in need of immediate treatment.
A combination of drought, man-made conflicts, and refugees flooding into already fragile surrounding countries have exacerbated shortages, creating the perfect storm for a humanitarian crisis of this scale.
According to the UN this is the worst hunger crisis that the world has faced in decades, with areas of South Sudan experiencing famine and other areas of East Africa currently on the brink. The UN defines a region where over 30% of the children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition as experiencing famine. Malnutrition is the greatest underlying cause of death in children under the age of five around the globe, yet it is an entirely treatable condition. With proper treatment a child on the brink of starvation can be brought back to health in less than two months.
Recently the CEO of Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, traveled to Somalia with David Muir to report on the hunger crisis
. The report that aired on ABC News last week served as a wake-up call to many on the severity of the situation. I attended the Moms+Social Good event in New York City last week in where Carolyn spoke about the experience of seeing so many children suffering first hand. She recounted part of the interview caught on film with David Muir and Dr. Yousif Ali
at a feeding center in Somalia where Dr. Ali states that the children who were at the clinic, even the ones in critical condition, were the lucky ones. Many others had perished on their way to get help.
In the year 2017 no mother should have to watch her child die because of lack of food and water.
What if each of us gave up our lunch for one day? Save the Children is asking us to go #Lunchless to experience what it might feel like to go without by missing a meal. If for one day this week each of us went #Lunchless and donated our lunch money to Save the Children instead, we could save lives. Each #lunchless donation to East Africa Child Hunger Crisis & Famine Relief Fund is being matched by two separate anonymous donors up to $150,000 further amplifying each gift.
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. Skip lunch and post a photo of yourself/your group going #Lunchless.
2. Through May 31st you can donate your lunch money by texting LUNCHLESS to 20222 to donate $10* (or donate any other amount here: http://ow.ly/lJUB30bdXAQ ).
3. Challenge your friends, colleagues and peers to join you by going #Lunchless by tagging them in your social media post.
Photo Credits: Save the Children