TRIP REVIEW: Bike Across Cambodia for Good

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“We have to learn before we can help,” is the motto behind PEPY Tours, a development education tour company, where the focus is learning rather than volunteering.  PEPY stands for Promoting Education, empowering Youth in line with its mission to inspire people to improve the way we give, travel and live. What Daniela Papi, the founder of PEPY Tours who has been traveling and volunteering for many years, realized is volunteer travel can be problematic. It risks giving the impression that volunteers are superior to those they are helping, and/or fostering that false belief system. At times, it can cause more harm than good. When someone volunteers in another country where they don’t understand the culture, they may be working on what their ‘perceived’ versions of the problem are, rather than the actual problem itself. In Daniela’s case, she spent time building a school in Cambodia, then stuck around after its completion... only to find that the school was not being used, as there was no one to teach in it. Volunteering can risk supplying short term solutions, rather than sustainable aid.

PEPY is unique in that it integrates travel and sightseeing in Cambodia with experiential learning, all the while raising money to support local community development. They offer student study trips, where the students learn about the culture of Cambodia and about sustainable development, and also get to experience it all firsthand. They also offer custom adventures, and social enterprise adventures, that follow a similar structure. Learning about the culture of those you are trying to help can allow you to see what the real problems are, which will lead to effective, long-lasting solutions.

And if you’re into adventure, it’s PEPY Ride that will really get your heart racing. PEPY Ride is their annual cross-Cambodia cycling adventure that introduces bikers to community development projects. It gets you off-the-beaten track, up close and personal with the culture and people while you bike the rural back-roads of Cambodia. As you do so, you focus on learning about development issues and responsible tourism in Cambodia.

You start out in historical Siem Reap in the north, and bike all the way down to beautiful, coastal Kep in the South, with the option of finishing early in the capital city of Phnom Penh. The group size ranges from 5-18 people, with at least three English-speaking trip leaders. You can bring your own trusted bike, or rent one. You’ll be staying in a variety of accommodations, ranging from basic hotels with hot water to mid-range hotels. It’s a strenuous trip, with a medium-high level of physical activity (some days you will travel over 100 km!), but you don’t need to be an experienced cyclist.

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There is also a fundraising requirement that is both a great way to learn, and a great way to give, as it lets you contribute even after you have left. Each biker is matched with a mentor who will provide ideas and resources to help you reach your goal of $1,500. The money is spent on the local groups working on sustainable development programs in Siem Reap, one of Cambodia’s poorest provinces, directly benefiting them.

PEPY believes in a world where “travel offers two-way learning... and a lot of fun,” and PEPY Ride aims for both, which is what makes them so unique. If you’re looking for adventure, cultural immersion and a chance to give back, look no further. Not only will you be making a difference, but because of PEPY’s focus on learning about culture you will know why and how you are making a difference. This is the keystone to PEPY’s philosophy. 

So if you’re interested in PEPY Ride, check it out here

If you’re not a biker, but are still interested in PEPY’s mission, learn about their other trips here.

TRIP INFO: Dates: PEPY Ride begins on December 24th, 2012, and ends on January 12th, 2013, lasting a total of 20 days, with the option of finishing early in Phnom Penh. Prices: $1,650 for the full 20 days.$1,425 for two weeks, if you leave early in Phnom Penh. Price includes accommodations, entrance tickets, in-country transport, instructors and guides, donations to the NGOs you will visit, and most meals. Airfare not included. The fundraising portion of the trip is spent on the sustainable development programs in Siem Reap.

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Chantal Stein can never reply to the question “where are you from?” because there are too many answers. She has traveled extensively and now lives in New York City. Her favorite place (so far!) is Easter Island, and her dream is to one day visit Antarctica.

TRIP REVIEW: Surfing South Africa to Help Out

The downfall of many volunteer organizations is cost. All too often there will be a $1000+ price tag on a trip that lasts only a week or two, not included airfare. This isn’t news, so it should come as no surprise that there are people out there who are working to fix this. One of these people is Daniel Radcliffe (no, not the actor). After collecting a Masters of Business, Daniel decided that it was time to give back to the world. He began to research volunteer trips. He too ran into this roadblock, but unlike someone like me who will simple notice the problem and then write about it, Daniel decided to do something. International Volunteer HQ was founded upon his return to New Zealand in 2007. “IVHQ was born with the goal of providing safe, affordable and high quality placements in areas where there is a real need for volunteers.” One of these places is South Africa.

It’s easy to read a statistic or to watch a documentary and think that we understand. Sure, we have problems here in the United States, there’s inequality and poverty everywhere, but, honestly, we cannot imagine what some citizens of the world live through. In South Africa the average life expectancy of a white South African is 71 years. The average life expectancy for the black population is 48 years. In 2005 it was estimated that 31% of the female population was infected with HIV, most of them black. There are 1,200,000 orphans. These are numbers and statistics, I could throw them onto a graph and you would see the vast differences, but you still wouldn’t know, you would still be using your imagination. Over there, it’s a reality. South Africa needs help and, if you feel so inclined, you can give it.

IVHQ sends volunteers to South Africa on the first and third Monday of each month. They normally arrive in groups of twenty to fifty people and the assist the community in an astounding variety of ways. Participants can involve themselves in a teaching project, in childcare, computer training, sports development and, an organization after my own heart, a surf outreach program.

Maybe you’re wondering what good a surf outreach program would do for children when they could be receiving extra medical attention or extra food and shelter. In the words of Ellen Varoy, Marketing and Media Coordinator for IVHQ, “The Surf Outreach program is designed to provide these children with an after school activity, keeping them off the streets of Cape Town and placing them in a safe and encouraging environment. Through the program, these children have the opportunity to learn new skills, take up new challenges, gain confidence and interact with our international volunteers, who the children look up to as role models.” It’s not about whether or not these kids learn to surf. It’s about showing them that there are people who care. It’s about being a ray of light on an otherwise bleak horizon. As a surfer would say, it’s about sharing the stoke. Would these children benefit more from help that focused on their health and nourishment? On the spreadsheet, probably, but where would they go after that? I say give them role models, give them hope and teach them that they can overcome. That, in my opinion, will last much longer than a loaf of bread.

The cost of IVHQ trips is one of the things that makes this organization so great. Prospective volunteers for the surf outreach program only have to pay $320 for one week. Longer periods of time require more money, being capped off at six months for $4580. This does not included airfare or visas or spending money. Also, if you want to participate in the surf outreach program you must know how to swim. I just thought I would point that out. If you are interested in any of the other programs offered for South Africa, you can find more information here

IVHQ is a fantastic option for people who want to volunteer for an affordable price. A full range of trips can be found at their website, http://www.volunteerhq.org/. As usual, if you were interested in the trip, but don’t think it’s for you, check back with Mission.tv next week for the next article in our series of trip reviews.

For testimonials by volunteers who completed the surf outreach program, check out: Testimonials  

To check out a video from the trip click here.

LEARN MORE ABOUT IVHQ

KINO CROOKE spent the last three years juggling school and travel. He most recently spent the last two months traveling across Spain before moving to New York to work with CATALYST.