The Ripple Effect: An African Adventure with Anna Strahs Watts, Part One

Anna Strahs Watts in Africa

Image source: Anna Strahs Watts

Welcome back to our interview series, The Ripple Effect. The Ripple Effect explores the emotional impact of volunteer travel and its lasting effect on people’s lives. Today we’re speaking with Anna Strahs Watts, blogger, baker and avid traveler. Anna sold the gluten free bakery she built from the ground up to go on a month long volunteer trip to Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Her blog, A Girl and Her Backpack, chronicles her experiences overseas and how they have changed her perspective on the world in which we live. Please check back in tomorrow for part two of our interview with Anna Strahs Watts.

The Ripple Effect: Helping Children in Brazil with Brian Harley, Part One

Brian Harley in Brazil

Image source: Brian Harley

Welcome back to our interview series, The Ripple Effect. The Ripple Effect explores the emotional impact of volunteer travel and its lasting effect on people’s lives. Today we’re speaking with Brian Harley, a veteran and humanitarian who traveled to Salvador, Brazil to make a difference in children’s lives. His story illustrates the transformative effect of volunteering: how it can shift a person’s perspective, changing him for the better. Please check back tomorrow for part two of our interview with Brian.

Jenkins/Penn Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO)

Sean Penn Haiti Volunteer

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When a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in early 2010, it seemed like the entire world turned its eyes to the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation – and Sean Penn was no exception. In the wake of the disaster, which virtually leveled the tiny country, Penn and fellow philanthropist Diana Jenkins sprung into action and formed the Jenkins/Penn Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO).

Unlike some other celebrity-based charity organizations, the J/P HRO and its namesakes were not only at ground zero immediately following the disaster but, nearly three years later, are still actively involved. Sean Penn’s volunteerism through the J/P HRO is, in fact, so lauded that he was recently named ambassador at large for Haiti.

Friends of the Orphans: Raising Children, Transforming Lives

Two Girls

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Of all the many suffering people in the world, there are none more helpless than the children. Children often suffer the brunt of hardship. They can’t protect themselves. They can’t strike out on their own. They are dependent on the care of their parents and guardians—people who love them and look out for them—but these guardians are in peril too. So many people are dying preventable deaths around the world—in wars, from drought or famine, and from disease. They are dying young, when they still have young families to support. They are leaving homeless, helpless kids to fend for themselves in an impossibly difficult world. Some of these kids will die. Some of them will join gangs of other homeless, parentless children. Some will suffer abuse and torment at the hands of adults. And some, the lucky few, will find their way to a well-run orphanage with the best interests of the children at heart.

Helping Children Achieve with Outreach360

Volunteer with Outreach360

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Sometimes it’s difficult to comprehend disadvantage. Living here, in the United States, I have so many luxuries. While I am not rich compared to my neighbors, I am a millionaire compared to so many people in the world. It’s easy to see yourself through the lens of your own culture—to forget that, on a global scale, the picture is so dramatically different. I thought about this a lot at the beginning of the Occupy movement. Here were millions of Americans, rallying together to fight the 1%, the people in America who enjoy the vast majority of the wealth. Who were we fighting for? We were fighting for the rest of our population—the 99% of Americans who pay taxes, fall behind on mortgages with outrageous interest rates, default on student loans, and can’t find gainful employment. There is no doubt—the way America works is deeply flawed and innocent, hard-working people suffer—but what I think we forget is that, on the global stage, Americans are the 1%. We are the privileged. This is what it means to have a global perspective.