Why are we doing this?
Teresa: My life felt as if it was way off track. I was the Executive Director of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). I spent 3 hours a day commuting, and only saw my kids early in the morning or late at night. That was when I wasn’t traveling to raise money for AIA. I had recently become a single mom. I was on a plane back from Peru where I had seen extreme poverty for the first time. I had always thought I would do something to help people in need “one day”. My oldest daughter was going to graduate from high school in a year and I was about to turn 40.
I realized that it was time to make some drastic changes. I decided on that plane ride that I had to leave my job if I was going to be there for my kids, and I figured as long as I was going to make that change, I might as well just go for it and do something I have always dreamed of doing. I would pull the kids out of school, travel cheaply in developing countries and volunteer. Kids do it during gap years – why couldn’t we?
I realized it could be done very cheaply – especially if we gave up our home, car, and most of our things so we had no regular bills to pay. We moved out of our large house and rented a two bedroom duplex, cut back and started saving. I gave notice at my job and started doing research – home school, visas, cost to travel in each country…but the project expanded – the more I thought about the places we planned to volunteer, the more I wondered how I could visit without trying to raise money to do more for them.
With the help of many other people a drastic measure to get my life back on track turned into a non-profit with the goals of raising awareness of global issues and empowering people to combine small actions to make a big difference in the lives of others.
What do the kids think about the trip?
Before: After I got over the shock and asked questions about how we would survive without income, how we would travel, how we could set up such a big project, I got excited and told my mom that she had better not change her mind half way through the planning and saving stages. I really want to help people and I love history, so I am looking forward to seeing many of the places I have read about and producing content for students to make history more interesting for them.
After: I loved the trip. It helped me grow a lot as a person. It was tough being away from my friends and delaying college, but it was worth it!
Then: I don’t like change very much, so I would rather have stayed home.
Now: I had a lot of fun and the things I worried about – crime, weather, safety, lack of money, didn’t turn out to be a problem. My favorite part was seeing technology in different places and getting to know some Maasai tribespeople.
Then: The whole thing can be blamed on Three Cups of Tea. My mom read it to us and kept saying how “moving” it was. The next thing you know, she says we have to go around the world. But the more I think about disasters like the earthquake in Haiti, and the way people live, the more I think the trip is a good idea.
Now: Super-awesome! Loved – buggy-jumping, zip-lining, skiing in Dubai, meeting kids and getting to know them. Scary stuff – being questioned by the police after my brother and sisters threw confetti off our hotel room balcony – I was innocent! All the bugs in Kenya after the rains (two words – cockroach wars!) Teaching an art class in Calcutta – there were a lot of kids and they already know a lot about art!
Then: At first, when my mom told me I might be able to go, I thought “Heck, yes, I want to go! I want to make a difference and I want to travel.” But as it gets closer, I am worried about leaving my family – especially my younger brothers and sister who I take care of a lot, and all of my friends.
Now: It’s changed what I want to do with my life. There is so much to see and do. I realized that even ideas that seem crazy at first can be done if you set your mind to it. It was great to come back and see y family. A lot has changed in one year!
Are you connected to an organization, or is it just your family?
The trip is just our family, but we have started a non-profit, Round the World with Us, so that contributions are tax-deductible and so that we can ensure good governance of all aspects of the projects including selection, approval, expenditures, etc. Members of the Round the World with Us Board of Trustees and Advisory Council also bring tremendous skills and expertise that we wouldn’t otherwise have. We feel very fortunate that such a talented group of people have agreed to be involved in such a meaningful way!
What are your plans for RTW with Us now that you’re back?
Well, we’re not going to stop, that’s for sure! We got so much encouragement and support from so many wonderful people. We raised over $150,000 last year and this year our goal is $225,000. The projects are high impact, done in partnership with a local charity, and are done in partnership with the local community (not crammed done their throats based on what we think they need). Plus this year we’re developing a way for kids in the US to get more involved via an after school program / club that allows kids to have FUN learning about other cultures with the goal of getting them engaged in global issues and showing them just how much peer they have to help others and themselves.
Do you have not for profit status with the IRS?
Yes! We are a recognized 501(c)3, therefore all contributions are tax-deductable. Our tax ID number is 27-1637167 and our address is 1009 Francisco St, San Francisco, CA 94109. Even though we do business as Round the World with Us, our official name is Change a Life; Change Your World.
Do donations fund your travel?
No, donations do not fund our travel. We are funding our travel with savings, proceeds from the sale of our things, and a loan against my 410(k). Your donations go toward the humanitarian projects and to the cost of generating educational content and raising awareness of world affairs issues. Content cost will be low as we will produce most of it ourselves as we travel. You can even restrict your donation to the project of your choice.
Are you missionaries who will promote a particular religion?
No. Teresa is a member of First Church Unitarian, a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church in Littleton, MA. One of the principals of the UU church is that people are entitled to their own beliefs. FCU is made up of people from many different religions as well as atheists and agnostics. What unites us is a belief that we should support each other in our journeys through life, helping others (even if we don’t know them personally), and promote justice for all. We encourage everyone to get involved and adopt projects – no matter their religion, age, race, stage in life, economic status, etc – everyone can do something – and all of those actions add up!
How did you select the projects?
We knew we wanted a variety of projects and we knew we wanted to experience and see many different countries and cultures. We also knew that to be able to afford the trip, we needed to spend almost all of our time in developing countries – and that is also where we would have the most impact. We began to research charities within the countries we wanted to visit and charities that are working in education, health care, economic development, and environmental issues that have an immediate impact on communities.
When we found a charity that was doing particularly good work, we approached them with the idea of volunteering and raising money for a sustainable project that would have a significant impact on people’s lives. Some charities said ye and some said no. Some wanted us to raise awareness of their work and raise money for a project, but did not have the capacity to allow us to volunteer. For some projects, we decided that just visiting the site would suffice. For almost all of them, we have worked out arrangements to live at the site or close to it and to volunteer for two to four weeks so that we provide better insight into what it is truly like to live in that community.
We believe that we ended up with 12 compelling projects that will give people a very interesting look into other cultures and world affairs issues. Check them out on our projects page and see if you agree.
Where will you stay during your trip?
In many cases, we will live at the project site. For example, in Kenya we will stay in the village that was built to care for abandoned and orphaned children who are HIV+ and the elders who lost their children to AIDS. During the parts of our trip when we are not volunteering, we will stay in hostels or other budget accommodations.
Will you volunteer during the whole trip?
No. I don’t think the kids would have a good experience if we didn’t build in some down time, some time for reflection on what we have seen, and some time just to see the sites and experience other cultures. Our itinerary is divided up into volunteering, resting and touring. Throughout all of it, we will produce content that we hope will get others interested in experiencing other cultures, be it through our website, their school, by traveling themselves or other means.
What are the goals of your project?
1) discover how we can best help people in need around the world
2) connect people who can help with those in need – via the web and by partnering with other organizations
3) help people learn about global issues such as poverty, hunger, lack of education, disease, etc by sharing pictures, videos and other information about individuals who face these challenges in their day-to-day lives
4) increase cultural understanding and awareness – the idea that people share many of the same dreams and challenges regardless of where they live, how much money they have, or the policy decisions of their government
5) show teens – especially those at risk of dropping out of school – that they are powerful and can make a difference in the world – give them the sense of purpose and confidence that can help them tackle challenges in their own lives
6) create easy ways for people to get involved – earning money for our projects by visiting out website (5 cents/visit/day), spreading the word about the site, donating funds, sponsoring a particular project or even contributing content to the site
7) to spend time together as a family, learning about the world and experiencing new things
8) inspire others to spend some time traveling – there are many benefits, one will develop and improve many skills, it can be done far cheaper than one might think and many businesses will approve a leave of absence
How can I contribute content to your site?
Are you a talented and creative writer who is interested in researching other cultures, telling people about your own culture, or learning about the different ways people do things around the world? Please contact us! We need lots of help to fill our content pages with useful and interesting information. You can also help in other ways. Just let us know if you are interested!