Uncornered Market » Hope for Humanity http://uncorneredmarket.com travel wide, live deep Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:23:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Passports with Purpose 2012: Help Bring Clean Water Access to Haitihttp://uncorneredmarket.com/passports-with-purpose-2012-clean-water-haiti/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/passports-with-purpose-2012-clean-water-haiti/#comments Wed, 28 Nov 2012 03:59:13 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=12313 By Audrey Scott

This is a story about travelers giving back. It’s a story of people working together to support communities far from home. And it’s a call to action: buy a $10 ticket for a chance to win some fabulous prizes and become part of a story about bringing clean water to a couple of communities in […]

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By Audrey Scott

This is a story about travelers giving back. It’s a story of people working together to support communities far from home. And it’s a call to action: buy a $10 ticket for a chance to win some fabulous prizes and become part of a story about bringing clean water to a couple of communities in Haiti.

Washing with clean, safe water

Washing with clean, safe water in Haiti. Photo courtesy of Water.org.


Over the last few years Passports with Purpose (PwP) has helped build libraries in Zambia, village houses in southern India, and a school in Cambodia. By bringing together the blogging community, travel industry and people like you, PwP has raised over $191,000 for these projects.

We’re honored to have participated in each of these initiatives as bloggers and contributors. And this year is no different. Keep reading to find out why we’re so excited about this year’s PwP cause, the prize we are hosting, and how you can get involved.

Water and Passports with Purpose 2012

Clean water access is something we’ve become more passionate about recently. Some of you might remember that we donated our birthdays this year to Charity Water to raise money to build wells that would provide communities in Africa with access to clean water. Water: a resource that many of us take for granted. For almost one billion people, access to water can mean life rather than death, school instead of no school, and wellness rather than chronic sickness — for almost a billion people throughout the world.

When PwP zeroed in on clean water access this year, we thought: “Great fit!”

Passports with Purpose PwP’s goal this year: to raise $100,000 to build five community wells in the Boucan Carre and Mirebalais (about 7,400 people) areas of Haiti. These five wells are part of a broader 18-month project organized by Water.org and executed by its local partner Haiti Outreach.

The timing for this clean water project in Haiti could not be better. Many areas of Haiti hard were hit hard by hurricane Sandy earlier this month. Crops were washed, already scarce clean water became even more difficult to find, and rates of cholera and other waterborne diseases shot up.

We’d like your help to make these wells a reality. Don’t worry, getting involved with PwP and helping to bring clean water access to Haiti is easier than you think. It’s even kind of fun.

I’m in! What do I do now?

Go to the PwP Donate page and check out the prizes on offer. Each prize has a minimum value of $100; many are worth much more. Each year the prizes get cooler and more varied, so be sure to check ‘em all out.

Decide which prize (or prizes) you’d like to win most and purchase $10 ticket(s) to be entered into a raffle to win that prize. The more tickets you buy for a prize, the higher the chance that you’ll actually win it. So if there’s something you would really, really like, you may want to splurge for a couple of tickets.

Ten dollars goes a long way in many parts of the world and you may win a fabulous prize. Everyone wins here.

PwP fine print: All tickets must be purchased on the PwP donate page between November 28, 2012 and December 11, 2012. Prizes will be announced on December 18, 2012.

Our Hosted Prize for Passports with Purpose

What more appropriate prize for this fundraiser than one of travel? This year, we’ve teamed up with Skyscanner for $200 to be used towards a flight of your choice found on Skyscanner, a clever online flight booking engine. How you might use this prize towards your next trip — and the paths to finding them on Skyscanner — are truly endless. So dream away!

We began using Skyscanner a couple of years ago after discovering that, among other features, its flight search capabilities had included all low-cost airlines, something relevant to our own flight search landscape. As a bonus, they offer some fun and flexible search functions, including the ability to enter your departure airport while leaving the arrival destination blank. Skyscanner will then serve up a list of destinations by price. For those of us with wanderlust, this can prove dangerously and deliciously distracting.

The fine print on the prize:
1) Entrants must be 18 years of age or older.
2. The winner will be awarded $200 (or Euro/GBP equivalent) worth of flights found on Skyscanner. The Skyscanner team will book and pay for your selected flights to the value of $200.
3. If you’d like to use the $200 as credit towards more expensive flights, Skyscanner will provide $200 towards the cost of your chosen flights.
4. Flights must be booked within 6 months of winner being contacted.
5. By accepting this prize, the winner accepts full and complete responsibility for their own safety and welfare at all times, including familiarizing themselves with visas, insurance, and other travel requirements.
6. Any extra activities and costs beyond the specified prize are the responsibility of the winner.
7. Prizes are non-transferable.

What are you waiting for? Buy a Ticket! Have some fun!

This holiday season, help us help others – buy a ticket and spread the word of PwP to friends who would enjoy contributing and getting involved. Thanks for your support and we look forward to helping fund five community wells in Haiti!

One last time, here’s the PwP donate page. Now get to it! Good luck…and travel well!

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Birthday Month – A Charity: Water Challengehttp://uncorneredmarket.com/charity-water-birthday-challenge/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/charity-water-birthday-challenge/#comments Thu, 09 Aug 2012 16:54:21 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=11612 By Daniel Noll

Before you continue reading, go to your nearest water faucet, turn it on for a few seconds, turn it off, then stand back. The simple task you just performed constitutes a dream for nearly a billion people around the world. Why are we telling you this? Because we hope to use our birthdays this month […]

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By Daniel Noll

Collecting Water at the Well - Old Dhaka, Bangladesh
Women collecting water at a well in Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Before you continue reading, go to your nearest water faucet, turn it on for a few seconds, turn it off, then stand back.

The simple task you just performed constitutes a dream for nearly a billion people around the world. Why are we telling you this? Because we hope to use our birthdays this month as a platform to give to an organization that aims to deliver on that dream, one community at a time.

And we’d like your help.

Yes, August is birthday month for the two of us. We don’t often do much in the way of fanfare to celebrate our birthdays, but this year we are doing something different.

We’re joining our birthdays together to raise money for Charity: Water, an organization whose sole aim is to bring reliable clean water access to communities around the world.

Our birthday challenge: raise $1,500 by August 25, 2012.

If prose isn’t your thing and you’d like to cut to the chase, here’s where you can find all the details you need to help us make this happen: Uncornered Market Birthday Month – Charity: Water

Buy Us a Virtual Beer on our Birthday…So Someone Can Drink Clean Water for Life

Imagine joining us to celebrate our birthdays this year. A big open place with street food stands, people from all corners of the world and maybe some live music. Yes, we’re dreaming a bit, but it’s our birthday fantasy so please allow us this momentary break from reality.

Dan and Audrey Berlin
Hipster hooligans in Berlin.

Perhaps you’d like to buy us a beer or glass of wine to toast the occasion, or a gift. Even if you could imagine giving nothing at all…

We ask that you consider giving to Charity: Water through our joint birthday campaign that will run until August 25, 2012 (Audrey’s actual birthday): Uncornered Market Birthday Month

charity water rwanda
A new Charity: Water well brings clean water to a community in Rwanda.

Not only will 100% of your donation go directly to water access programs, but you’ll actually get to see where in the world that money is being spent, right down to the GPS coordinates of the wells being dug and the treatment facilities being operated. This is not a passive giving process, but one where you can get involved and feel part it.

Why clean water?

Imagine not having access to clean water in your own life. Stop for a moment and seriously consider this little thing that no doubt you’ve taken (we have all taken) for granted at least once in your life.

Imagine, however, walking each day for hours to collect water from a dirty stream or a standing water source. Then imagine carrying that water back – sometimes 40 pounds a canister – for several hours more. Imagine the result: murky, bacteria-ridden water, carried back home not only to wash and to clean, but also to cook with and to drink.

Drinking water in a village in Ethiopia.

Think of the health consequences: dysentery, skin infections, disease — to name only a few — all because of the lack of access to clean water.

Here’s the good news: we have the technology to solve clean water access through wells, purification methods and other techniques. All that’s needed: the will, some resources and the mechanism to bring it all together effectively.

Ethiopia drill water
A Charity: Water drill at work in Ethiopia.

That’s where Charity: Water comes in.

Around 800 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water. Charity: Water’s mission: keep going until everyone possible has access to clean water. You could say that Charity: Water desperately wants to work its way out of existence.

Madurai, India: Girl and Pitcher
Girl at Well in Madurai, India

Why did we choose Charity: Water for our birthdays?

When we consider organizations to work with and support, we look for the following characteristics: commitment, investment in local partners, and transparency.

Charity: Water fits.

Passion and commitment of the founder.

We were fortunate to see Scott Harrison speak last month in Portland at the World Domination Summit and to spend time with him at a speakers’ dinner. His personal story includes going from New York nightclub promoter to volunteer in West Africa to setting up Charity: Water to solve a problem he became passionate about when he worked aboard a surgical boat off the coast of Western Africa. Long story short, so many of the medical complications he’d seen boiled down to one thing: dirty water. When he returned to the United States, he dedicated his life to doing something about it.

Commitment to transparency.

Scott has implemented a “show, don’t tell” system at Charity: Water so that you, as a donor, can see how your money is being used in every step of the process. You can see the actual communities where your money is being used and the ways in which it’s being invested. This approach not only connects donors to the programs they contribute to, but this level of transparency also raises the bar for the nonprofit sector in general.

100% of public donations go directly to programs.

When Scott set up Charity: Water, he made a promise that 100% of public donations would go directly to programs. He’s been able to keep this promise through corporate and private donations for administrative costs and in-kind contributions for things like office space.

The upshot: all that you donate goes directly into the field.

Working with local partners.

Charity: Water works with local partners to carry out projects, thereby providing local jobs and increasing training opportunities for community members. Sustainable development is all about investing in and training local partners so that they themselves are vested in the process and possess the skills to manage and extend projects where necessary.

Thank you!

We can’t think of a better way to celebrate our birthdays than by using the occasion to give back. A big thanks for getting involved and helping us achieve our birthday goal to bring clean water access to a few more communities around the world.

One last time so we don’t forget, here’s the page to make it all happen: Charity: Water Birthday Challenge

Now let’s do this thing!

ethiopia clean water

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Passports with Purpose: Help Build Libraries in Zambiahttp://uncorneredmarket.com/passports-with-purpose-libraries-zambia/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/passports-with-purpose-libraries-zambia/#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2011 17:25:45 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=9888 By Audrey Scott

This is not a story. It’s a call to action: buy a $10 ticket, get a chance to win some awesome prizes, and help out a few communities in Zambia. Over the last few of years, Passports with Purpose (PwP) has built schools in Cambodia and village houses in India. This year, PwP is headed […]

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By Audrey Scott

This is not a story. It’s a call to action: buy a $10 ticket, get a chance to win some awesome prizes, and help out a few communities in Zambia.

Over the last few of years, Passports with Purpose (PwP) has built schools in Cambodia and village houses in India. This year, PwP is headed to a new continent with a new mission: to build libraries and raise literacy in Zambia with Room to Read.

Young Kid Grabs Camera - Mto wa Mbu, Tanzania
Get books into the hands of village kids like this in sub-saharan Africa.

And we’d like your help to make it happen. Don’t worry, getting involved with PwP, helping to build a library and putting books in kids’ hands halfway around the world is easier than you think. It’s kind of fun even.

What is Passports with Purpose Again?

It’s one thing to talk about giving back, it’s another to take action and make it happen. That’s what four travel bloggers in the Seattle area did a few years ago. They got together and came up with an idea that enlisted other travel bloggers and leveraged their desire to give back. All that combined blogging and social media savviness has already helped to raise money and make a difference in communities around the world.

This year’s PwP challenge: raise $80,000 to build two libraries in Zambia.

We’re excited to be one of this year’s participating blogs helping to improve literacy halfway around the world. In addition to building libraries in Zambia, Room to Read, this year’s PwP partner is also committed to girls education. They run a special program for secondary school girls to acquire life skills. As you know, investment in girls and girls’ education are topics very close to our hearts.

Nepali Schoolgirls - Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Nepali girls on their way to school on the Annapurna Circuit.

I’m sold. How do I get involved?

Go to the PwP Donate page and check out the prizes on offer. Each prize has a minimum value of $100, many are worth much more. There’s some really cool stuff, from a 15-day Eurorail pass to a biking tour from Bangkok to Koh Samui to the latest Kindle Fire.

Decide which prize (or prizes) you’d like and purchase $10 ticket(s) to win it. As you may have guessed, the more tickets you buy for a prize, the more you increase your chances to actually win it. So if there’s something you really, really want you may want to splurge for a couple of tickets.

Ten dollars goes a long way halfway around the world and you may win a great prize. Everyone wins.

And the fine print. Be sure to head over to the PwP donate page between November 30 and December 16, 2011 to buy your tickets and get involved. Otherwise, you’ll miss out and you’ll have to wait another year for your next chance. Now you wouldn’t want that, would you?

Our Hosted Prize for Passports with Purpose

This year, we’ve teamed up with ExOfficio for a $150 gift certificate. We use ExOfficio gear ourselves and have written lots about the versatility – and durability (we’re not easy customers!) – of our ExOfficio clothes. Here’s your chance to try out ExOfficio clothes yourself.

Tree Pose at the End of the World - Petra, Jordan
You too can do the tree pose at Petra!

We sincerely thank ExOfficio for working with us and Passports with Purpose 2011.

Get Moving Now! Buy a Ticket! Spread the Word!

So this holiday season, help us help others by buying a ticket and spreading the word of PwP to friends who would enjoy contributing and getting involved. Thanks for your support and we look forward to helping fund a couple of libraries in Zambia!

One last time, here’s the PwP donate page.

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Girls from Around the World, A Girl Effect Slideshowhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/girls-around-the-world-slideshow/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/girls-around-the-world-slideshow/#comments Tue, 04 Oct 2011 08:04:33 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=9493 By Audrey Scott

We offer the following slideshow of girls we’ve met during our around the world travels in support of The Girl Effect, an organization whose goal is to promote awareness of girls’ issues around the world and to highlight the benefits of investing in girls as a means to poverty alleviation, better public health and community […]

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By Audrey Scott

We offer the following slideshow of girls we’ve met during our around the world travels in support of The Girl Effect, an organization whose goal is to promote awareness of girls’ issues around the world and to highlight the benefits of investing in girls as a means to poverty alleviation, better public health and community development.

The more we travel and see the world, the more I realize how fortunate I am. I grew up in a family that valued me as a female. They supported my education, encouraged me to pursue whatever profession I could possibly imagine and never pressured me to get married.

This favorable circumstance and social flexibility is still a rarity in many parts of the world.

Audrey with Group of School Girls - Khashia Village Near Srimongal, Bangladesh
With a group of school girls at a mission school outside Srimongal, Bangladesh

Why Invest in Girls?

Investing in girls is not just about human rights and equality. Besides being “the right thing to do,” focusing on girls’ education and health also offers huge practical knock-on effects for economic and social development. Girls who are able to remain in school longer are more likely to marry later in life and thus have fewer children, raise healthier families, contribute more economically to society, and pass the net benefits of all of this onto their own children. (Source: The Girl Effect Fact Sheet)

Take a look at the faces of some of the girls we’ve met along our journey. Imagine the potential if they all had opportunities for education, health protection and support from society (some of them have, some of them have not). Imagine the positive cycle reinforced as they invest in their own children in a similar way.

The future begins to look a little brighter, doesn’t it?

Photo Slideshow: Girls From Around the World

If you don’t have a high-speed connection or want to read the captions, you can view the Girls from Around the World photo essay.

 

Photos in the slideshow above from: Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, China, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkmenistan, United States, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam

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This post is part of the The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign taking place October 4-11, 2011. Share your own thoughts on the importance of investing in girls and The Girl Effect by participating here.

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An Evening with Refugees: When Going Home Isn’t an Optionhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/refugees-going-home-is-not-an-option/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/refugees-going-home-is-not-an-option/#comments Tue, 30 Nov 2010 18:44:33 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=6096 By Audrey Scott

Thanksgiving, an American holiday fueled by family gatherings and gratitude, came and went last Thursday. Unfortunately, we were away from home this year so we couldn’t spend this occasion with our family. But this was borne of our own choice, circumstances of our own making. In contrast, many people in this world do not have […]

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By Audrey Scott

Thanksgiving, an American holiday fueled by family gatherings and gratitude, came and went last Thursday. Unfortunately, we were away from home this year so we couldn’t spend this occasion with our family. But this was borne of our own choice, circumstances of our own making.

In contrast, many people in this world do not have this choice. Simply put, they cannot go home. Because of their political or religious beliefs, they face persecution and the threat of injury or death if they do.

We met two such families this past weekend in Bangkok. While speaking with them and getting a glimpse of their lives, we began to comprehend what it really means to be a refugee: a life in fear, a life of prolonged uncertainty, and a life of fighting for survival.

Note: Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, I have used false names and I have attempted to provide context without unnecessarily exposing the identities of the people involved.

Yeng: Five Daughters and a Detained Husband

Down a narrow alley, we found ourselves in a one room concrete house about 200 feet square. Donated clothes, toys and various belongings were piled into the corner. We sat on the floor as Yeng held her youngest daughter — a fussing 18-month old just recovering from being sick. Yeng’s four other daughters — none older than 11 — slowly emerged with a little coaxing.

The girls were shy, but with a little effort we managed to draw a few smiles, a few words. They looked like so many little girls – laughing, curious, adorable – that we’ve met in our travels throughout Southeast Asia.

But their future, as it turns out, is much more uncertain.

refugee kids in bangok

Photo courtesy of Dwight Turner of In Search of Sanuk

Yeng, her husband, and their children are ethnic Hmong from Vietnam. They are Christian and fled because of religious persecution. Over a year ago, after crossing the border into Thailand, the family was refused official refugee status (a decision that is rarely overturned). They didn’t feel they could return home, so they remained in Thailand hoping to find a way.

The father was eventually arrested for working illegally and has been held in Bangkok’s International Detention Center (IDC) ever since. Because his wife and daughters are effectively in hiding, they cannot visit him. They haven’t seen him in almost a year. His release is unlikely and the family lives in continual fear of being caught.

For them, the threat of permanent uncertainty hangs in the air. They are stuck.

Yeng cannot work to provide for her family. The risk of being picked up while working illegally is too great. Some of their Thai neighbors help them out by providing the family with extra clothes and portions of food — when they are available. To pay for additional food and rent, Yeng’s family receives additional aid from a local church, the refugee center and an organization called In Search of Sanuk, run by Dwight Turner.

For much of our visit, Yeng was quiet. The stress of her situation ran through the lines in her face. You could literally see the concern in her eyes.

As our visit drew to a close, Dwight gave her some bags of food and some money. Amidst both the tension and the relief, Yeng broke down — she will just be able to make rent this month.

An Activist on the Run

Back home, Roshan had been a director in a human rights organization. He was active in raising awareness about issues that rubbed the government the wrong way — corruption, misdirected aid, religious freedom. He was an advocate, but he was also a lightening rod.

Last year he organized a rally that drew 25,000 people. This proved the final straw. Roshan was warned and realized he needed to do something to protect his family. With a few important papers and valuables in hand, he and his wife, daughter and mother-in-law fled to Thailand.

Photo courtesy of Dwight Turner of In Search of Sanuk

Through a meticulously cataloged binder of credentials, he recounted to us his life back home. ID cards, newspaper articles connected with his activities, and degrees all spoke of an active yet seemingly secure existence: a nice house, extended family gatherings every weekend and a respected profession and position.

These days, Roshan, his wife, mother-in-law and 18-month-old baby all live together in a one-room apartment. They’ve even had to sell their wedding jewelry to make ends meet. Upon Dwight’s asking, Roshan opened his wallet. No cash. Only business cards, notes and a few slips of paper from the pawn shop. “This is my money these days,” Roshan joked in a matter of fact.

Without a hint of self-pity, Roshan focused instead on how this has been a learning experience, about how he and his family have grown through these challenges. He is a connector within the community and helps new arrivals.

For them, the future is more hopeful, the path to resolution clearer than most. They had recently been given official refugee status by the United Nations, and now they’re playing the bureaucratic waiting game to find out where they’ll be resettled. In the meantime, Roshan remains in limbo, unable to work legally. Recent raids and arrests of other refugees from his home country means that he must remain vigilant. Although he receives a small stipend from the United Nations that covers his rent, his church and others help to make ends meet.

In spite of all that, Roshan’s mother-in-law prepared a veritable feast — including chicken curry — especially for our visit. So even as we enjoyed eating, we also felt somewhat guilty that they spent some of their precious few resources on us.

But hope, hospitality and kindness all run deeper than financial means.

How we ended up here

Last Saturday, Dwight (the founder of the organization In Search of Sanuk) invited us to join him on this week’s visits and distributions of food and money.

Both families we visited came from countries I had a personal connection with — in one case, a place we visited during this journey, in another case, a childhood home. As a result, I could imagine the land, the culture, the places from which these refugees had fled.

Most importantly, our visits illuminated for me how insufficiently the topic of refugees and human rights violations are substantively addressed in mainstream media.

Photo of Dwight and kids, courtesy of In Search of Sanuk

Because of the delicate legal situation of refugee families in Bangkok, it’s difficult to find or stumble upon families in need. Over the last few months, however, Dwight has built a network of nine refugee families that his organization supports and that he visits regularly.

While NGOs, churches and the UNHCR are able to help some refugee families, their assistance is often not sufficient to cover rent and food. That’s where Dwight and his organization come in — to help fill the financial gaps. More importantly, the emotional gaps — he is there, he is present. To families that can barely leave the house or neighborhood, to know that there’s someone outside the only walls you know – someone who cares, someone who shows up regularly, someone who is constantly asking you to call if you need help (he means it) – is priceless.

The Refugee Catch-22

One of the things struck me during these visits is how the models for sustainable community development that we often promote (e.g., microfinance) don’t apply to refugees.

Even families who have been granted official refugee status are not allowed to work while awaiting their resettlement details. For those refused refugee status, the situation is even worse. How can you give a small loan to a woman to start a business when she might be arrested if she and her children leave the house?

Without security and protection under the law, even microfinance cannot work.

In the case of refugees, what’s needed is basic humanitarian aid – money, food, clothes, medicines – to enable refugee families to survive from month to month. If the basics are provided for (a big if), one can look further to other programs such as skills training.

Regardless, many refugees may live in limbo – in between lives and in a no-man’s-land of legal status – for years on end. And for the lucky ones who are resettled, the challenges of reshaping a new life in a completely foreign land cannot be overstated.

So although Thanksgiving came and went, this past weekend reminded me to be thankful for something I had previously taken for granted: the ability to go home.

—————–

Interested in learning more about refugee issues and getting involved?

1) In Search of Sanuk and refugees in Thailand

If you are interested in learning more about the families we visited and others like them, check out the links below and connect on Twitter with @insearchofsanuk
- Read: Helping the Hidden for the Holidays
- Sponsor a family for a month or more (usually around $100). Information on how to donate can be found here.
- Read: The Best Way to Go to Jail in Thailand
- Volunteer: If you do find yourself in Bangkok, check out these volunteer opportunities.
- Check out the Bangkok Refugee Center for additional information and ways to donate or volunteer.

After spending a day with Dwight – first in the morning with Thai children from a disadvantaged community and then in the evening visiting refugee families – we can attest to his dedication, compassion, and resourcefulness.

2) Awareness and education

Spend some time online or at the library researching refugee issues to understand the reasons why people are fleeing, the process refugees must undertake to be officially recognized, the impact of international agreements, and the challenges associated with it all.

Here is something interesting I found in an overview of refugee issues that definitely makes you think about where the greatest needs are:

It is therefore a myth that the majority of refugees are located in rich countries. Most refugees have the means only to travel across the nearest border and 80% are currently to be found in the developing world. The burden of hosting refugees therefore falls largely on countries least able to cope.

3) Be Curious, Ask Questions

We don’t often think to ask — respectfully, of course — recent immigrants how they ended up in the country. If you do so, you may learn something and perhaps you’ll be in a position to help someone adjust to their new home.

If you’ve traveled, you are in an especially unique situation. You just might have knowledge of where a family is from, giving you an advantage in comprehending what cultural challenges they may be experiencing. Think of it as being a cross-cultural mentor of sorts.

4) Find Local Organizations, Volunteer, Donate

When we were in Scranton, Pennsylvania this past summer, we met a group of refugees from Bhutan who had spent the better part of 20 years in Nepal and India waiting to be resettled. A local organization in Scranton had sponsored them and volunteers were engaged, helping them learn about and build a life in the community. If Scranton, Pennsylvania features such organizations then your community may, too.

Bhutanese Refugees Settling Into Scranton
Bhutanese Refugees in Scranton, Pennsylvania

If you’re not up for being a sponsor, consider teaching English, raising money, or taking up a collection of in-kind donations.

- For more ideas on how you can help as a volunteer or in raising awareness of refugee issues, check out this post on World Refugee Day from Got Passport.

- Finally, from the International Red Cross, a list of organizations working with refugees.

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Passports With Purpose 2010: Let’s Build a Village in Indiahttp://uncorneredmarket.com/passports-with-purpose-2010-build-village-india/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/passports-with-purpose-2010-build-village-india/#comments Mon, 15 Nov 2010 11:41:10 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=5924 By Audrey Scott

Buy a ticket. Win a prize. Help build a village in India. Here’s the story. Last year, Passports with Purpose (PwP) raised almost $30,000 to build a school in Cambodia, complete with a nurse and a garden. This year, the goal is to raise $50,000 to build 25 houses in a village in Tamil Nadu […]

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By Audrey Scott

Buy a ticket. Win a prize. Help build a village in India.

Here’s the story.

Madurai, India: Girl and Pitcher
Girl at Well in Madurai – Tamil Nadu, India

Last year, Passports with Purpose (PwP) raised almost $30,000 to build a school in Cambodia, complete with a nurse and a garden. This year, the goal is to raise $50,000 to build 25 houses in a village in Tamil Nadu (Southern India). Proceeds will go to Land for Tillers’ Freedom (LAFTI) through their US-based NGO. What we like about LATFI’s approach is that communities participate in the building and development process so that those benefiting are vested and have a sense of ownership.

Travelers really have hearts?

We know, we know. It’s easy to think of travelers spending their lives sprawled out on beaches, cocktails-in-hand, focused on “me, me, me” and the next massage. But for some, there’s another side to travel.

Something happens when you visit a place. You meet the people, you share their food, you have an emotional experience. Next time you watch a news program about the area, it’s no longer a series of detached images and faces streaming across the screen, but a reminder of conversations you had, children you played with, and people you shared a meal with. The entire cycle is personal and it often makes you want to act, to give back, to do something to help.

The Eyes: Trichy, India
Mother & Child in Tamil Nadu, India

People often don’t know how to make that first step in giving back. But four travel bloggers in Seattle — Pam Mandel, Debbie Dubrow, Michelle Duffy, Beth Whitman — decided three years ago that it was time to act — and Passports with Purpose was born. They enlisted other travel bloggers to use their energy and social media savvy as a way to give back and make a real difference in communities halfway around the world.

This year’s challenge: to raise $50,000 to build a village (25 houses) in Tamil Nadu, India.

OK, OK. I’m sold. How do I get involved?

Go to the Passports with Purpose donate page, check out the prizes on offer. Every prize has a minimum $75 value. There’s some really cool stuff, from a vacation package for Waikiki to a Norwegian cruise to a $250 gift certificate for Sky Mall (be honest, you know you’ve always wanted some of the whacky stuff you see there).

Decide which prize you’d like and buy a $10 ticket for a chance to win it. If you’d like to increase your odds of winning, buy several tickets. Ten dollars goes a long way halfway around the world and maybe you’ll win a prize. Everyone benefits.

Our Hosted Prize

CSN Stores has kindly donated a $100 gift certificate to use at any of their online retailers. The breadth of products on offer through CSN Stores is mind boggling — from a suitcase to kitchen supplies to baby gear to hiking shoes to everything in between. The only catch is that you have to use the gift certificate at one time (i.e., you can’t split it up into different shopping sessions). Simple enough.

We sincerely thank CSN Stores for working with us and Passports with Purpose 2010.

Madurai, India:  A Stitch
Sharing a moment, mother and daughter.

So this holiday season, spread the word to others who would enjoy contributing. We look forward to helping Passports with Purpose meet their goal. We hope you will too!

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Holiday Gift Ideashttp://uncorneredmarket.com/holiday-gift-ideas/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/holiday-gift-ideas/#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2008 18:09:55 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/?p=461 By Audrey Scott

If you find yourself in the giving mood and stuck for an idea this holiday season, we offer a few gift ideas from our online shop and some charitable donation ideas from organizations we’ve recently discovered. Uncornered Market Photo Gifts and Shopping with Amazon Our online shop at Cafepress offers calendars and note cards featuring […]

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By Audrey Scott

A Christmas Elf in KunsthofPassage - Dresden, Germany
A Christmas elf in Dresden, Germany.

If you find yourself in the giving mood and stuck for an idea this holiday season, we offer a few gift ideas from our online shop and some charitable donation ideas from organizations we’ve recently discovered.

Uncornered Market Photo Gifts and Shopping with Amazon

Our online shop at Cafepress offers calendars and note cards featuring our photography. We’ve also set up another online shop at Zazzle.com. In addition to titles on each calendar page, the most popular calendars (Children of the World, Food Markets of the World, People of the World) have been updated with photos from China, India, Nepal and Burma.

Note: Due to time constraints, we expect to shut down our online shop in January 2009, so stock up now if you see something you like. If you see an image in our photo gallery that you’d like on a note card or postcard, just drop us a line and send us the link to the image.

Support by Shopping with Amazon

If you shop with Amazon.com, please begin your shopping from our website. Click on the Amazon image on the left-hand side of our website or just follow this link before placing items in your shopping cart.

We get a percentage of the sale as commission, while the price of whatever you purchase remains the same to you. It’s not every day that you get a win-win situation like this.

Charitable Organizations

Please consider donating to one of the following:

Adrianne and Rick, K.I.D.S.

Adrianne with Cambodian orphansWe look to them and their work for inspiration. For background, you can read about them here and here.

They plan to return to Cambodia and Burma in January 2009 to continue their grassroots development work. This time around, their goals include building a school for Burmese refugees on the Thai border, as well as working with orphanages, children’s hospitals, and fair trade organizations in Cambodia. All the money they receive in donations goes directly to development projects where they actively involve local people and organizations. They sell local crafts back home to fund their personal transport and living expenses.

You can contribute at: K.I.D.S (Kids International Development Society) at 545 Vancouver Ave. Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, V9S 4G6.

Every contributor will receive regular email newsletters outlining how their donations are being used, as well as hard copy newsletters with photos. Their newsletters are profoundly moving and inspiring. Adrianne and Rick show how much can be accomplished when resources are employed wisely and leveraged through the commitment of local people.

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Passports with Purpose: The brainchild of four travelbloggers in Seattle who put their web-savvy and networking skills together to support Heifer International this holiday season.

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Voces de Mompox (Columbia): We recently learned of this project in New York City while chatting with its founders – Francisco Collazo & Julie Schwietert Collazo. In Mampox, Columbia, they began working with 9th grade students to promote creativity through multimedia projects. They quickly realized that the needs of the town far outstripped their resources and consequently set up a structure to help build on their work after their departure. Take a look for yourself and see the work they’ve done with students and the projects they have in mind for the future.

You can donate money directly on the top right sidebar of their website Collazo Projects or send school supplies, clothes or other needed supplies. Contact Julie Schwietert for more details.

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Kyrgyzstan: Women Can Do Ithttp://uncorneredmarket.com/kyrgyzstan-women-can-do-it/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/kyrgyzstan-women-can-do-it/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2008 15:11:37 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2008/01/kyrgyzstan-women-can-do-it/ By Audrey Scott

When times were difficult during the years following independence, the men felt sorry for themselves and the women carried on with the business of providing for the family. – a Georgian friend explaining the situation there during the early 1990s. Although the quote above is from Georgia, we heard it echoed by women throughout the […]

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By Audrey Scott

When times were difficult during the years following independence, the men felt sorry for themselves and the women carried on with the business of providing for the family.

– a Georgian friend explaining the situation there during the early 1990s.

Sidewalk Backgammon - Ismaili, Azerbaijan
Men playing backgammon in a market in Azerbaijan.

Although the quote above is from Georgia, we heard it echoed by women throughout the Caucasus and Central Asia. When we traveled throughout this region, we got the distinct impression that women do much of the work – not only by caring for their families, but providing for them financially as well. Witness a typical scene: groups of men sitting and whiling away the daylight hours on the streets or in cafes, playing backgammon, drinking tea, and eating sunflower seeds. Of course, this stereotype doesn’t apply to every man in the region, but travel in the area for any length of time and you’ll likely notice a pattern.

Yet in spite of the critical economic and social roles women play, men still occupy most of the leadership posts in politics and business. Although the situation appears to be changing slowly in this region, leadership is still considered the domain of men.

Audrey will be the first to admit that we also have a long way to go in the United States on this front. However, our conversations and observations in Central Asia and the Caucasus suggest that a woman’s challenge to “break through” there is much greater than in the West.

This backdrop and contrast is what makes the women we met in the town of Karakol in eastern Kyrgyzstan so inspiring.

Campaign Season in Karakol

Women Planning Election - Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
Election strategy in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan.

The first evening of our visit to Karakol found us having dinner with our host and her friend and fellow candidate for local office. Banura and Marhaba were two of eight women running in an election coalition called Women Can Do It. Based on their personal and professional experiences, these women could offer local politics a lot. They both obviously knew how to accomplish a great deal while juggling commitments and keeping family first priority.

Between forkfuls, they drafted campaign slogans and augmented their existing campaign strategy to cover critical neighborhoods. They asked us if we had any ideas or lessons based on how campaigns were run and managed in small town America.

NGO Leader

We’ve talked about Banura, our host in Karakol in a previous post, so you know a bit about her already. Sixteen years ago, Banura launched Leader, a non-governmental organization (NGO) and volunteer school leadership program whose focus was to encourage students to interact more with the outdoors and their environment. Today, the organization is the largest NGO in town and has expanded its programs into the areas of NGO development, women’s leadership advocacy, NGO legal support, and community public policy dialogue. Its reach is so broad that a microcredit agency is now also loosely affiliated with it.

Banura is always trying to apply to Leader and to Karakol what she’s learned on training programs abroad. As we were departing, she had just applied for a Japanese visa that would enable her to attend a month-long training program there. If you ask her what her husband thinks of all her activities, she’ll reply with a smile that her husband is not a typical Kyrgyz man. Having met him, we can vouch for that. Likewise, Banura is not your typical wife and mother.

Business Leader

Marhaba is a Tatar woman whose family moved to Karakol several generations ago. Though she’s not ethnic Kyrgyz, she happily calls Kyrgyzstan her home. She started her business seven years ago by drying and salting fish in her house and selling her products at the local market.

Since then, her business has grown substantially. She now employs over 60 people and has a large factory complex that not only processes fish imported from places like Scandinavia and Siberia, but her business also dries local fruit and herbs for use in packaged food products. Most of her products cater to hotel restaurants and spas that line the northern shore of Kyrgyzstan’s Lake Issyk-Kul.

Marhaba’s business success story is impressive anywhere. However, in eastern Kyrgyzstan’s challenging business environment, it is an exceptional achievement.

Election Results and Kyrgyzstan’s Future

Little Kyrgyz Girl - Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
Little Miss Sunshine. A Kyrgyz girl in Karakol.

A month after our visit to Karakol, we were in touch with Banura about the elections. How had she and Marhaba done?

Unfortunately, neither of them won a seat in the local government, but two other women from the Women Can Do It coalition were successfully elected. Not a bad result considering that this was the group’s first active year in politics. Banura was far from discouraged. She followed up this local political news with the fact that three women from Bishkek and Osh were set to run for seats in the Kyrgyz national parliament. Woman Can Do It planned to support them.

We only spent a short time with Banura and Marhaba, but their dedication and commitment to their families and their community left an impression on us. Their energy not only contributes to Karakol’s development today, but it also serves as a role model for other communities and for future generations.

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Svaneti, A Mountain Inaugurationhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/svaneti-mountain-inauguration/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/svaneti-mountain-inauguration/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2007 02:07:29 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2007/08/svaneti-mountain-inauguration/ By Audrey Scott

As the first tourists to take advantage of the Svaneti Mountaineering Tourism Center (SMTC), we planned our arrival in the town of Mestia to coincide with the organization’s inaugural party. Because of our exceptionally long ride from Zugdidi to Mestia, we barely arrived in time for the opening speeches, including one which singled us out […]

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By Audrey Scott

As the first tourists to take advantage of the Svaneti Mountaineering Tourism Center (SMTC), we planned our arrival in the town of Mestia to coincide with the organization’s inaugural party. Because of our exceptionally long ride from Zugdidi to Mestia, we barely arrived in time for the opening speeches, including one which singled us out and unexpectedly turned the local crowd’s attention to us.

Man with a Guitar - Svaneti, Georgia
A Georgian song of ages. Mestia, Svaneti

At the conclusion of the ceremony, several men huddled close and sang a cathedral worthy chant-like melody in Georgian that marked the beginning of the real festivities. The ensemble included three men from London, making this a truly international event. The quality of their vocals were so authentic, however, that locals were as surprised as they were impressed.

Supra: A Georgian Feast

No event could be classified as Georgian (or Svan) without astronomical amounts of food, however. As guests found their seats, picnic tables were set for a serious Georgian Supra (meal). Sprawling plates of mint and cheese rolls, eggplant salad, meat, herbs, cheese corn bread, and cheese mashed potatoes were piled atop one another and vied for scarce table space.

A Georgian Tamada and Endless Toasts

The only thing in shorter supply: dead air. Georgia’s tamada (toastmaster) tradition was in full swing before the first forkful as toastmasters and deputy toastmasters sprang up at each table. More difficult than understanding the point of each toast (in Svan or Georgian, of course) was figuring which of the four glasses of various liquors and wines we should consume with each toast.

Warm Welcome - Svaneti, Georgia
Audrey makes a new friend at the opening party in Mestia.

As alcohol flowed indiscriminately, it was abundantly clear that it didn’t matter. Toasts to women, family, Svaneti, community, and toasts to those who lost their lives in the mountains bounced off one another as toastmasters, deputies, officials, and local drunks spun long yarns.

Halfway through the eighteenth toast, one of the British singers turned around to us and said, “Uh, this one’s for the two of you, by the way.” We looked around; glasses were lifted to us, the first tourists of the new center and the symbol of a generation of independent travelers that the region hopes to embrace.

More on the Svaneti Mountaineering Tourism Center

After the euphoria of the opening party subsided, we asked a Tbilisi-based representative of one of the founding partners, the German organization Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), to answer some questions about the goals and work of the new center.

How SMTC Came About

SMTC came together through the collaboration of three organizations – FES, Swiss Development and Cooperation Office in the South Caucasus (SDC) and the Georgian Union of Mountain Activists (GUMA). SDC paid for the physical renovation of the center while FES supports the center’s staff, internal furnishings and a tourism development program. The head of the center, Zaur Chartolani, is well-known and well-respected in Svaneti. Every time we mentioned his name, people would nod in approval.

In an effort to develop a tourist infrastructure throughout the region, the tourism development program plans to train host families and guides, teach basic English skills, mark existing and new hiking routes, and print maps and publications. For example, when we met our guide in the village of Mulahi, Zaur passed on a stack of Georgian-English mountain-guide phrase books for distribution to young guides for improvement of their language skills.

Direct Contact with Svaneti

SMTC helps tourists make direct contact with local Svan service providers rather than forcing them to go through a tour operator or other intermediary. This benefits all direct participants: the local provider gets paid directly and the tourist gets direct contact and can customize their path through the region.

Sunset at Svaneti - Svaneti, Georgia
A Svaneti sunset, Mestia.

This last point really appealed to us. We were happier putting money directly into the hands of the village home-stay families than to a tour operator in Tbilisi. We also preferred how the center is encouraging tourists to get out of the main tourist village of Mestia in order to see other villages in Svaneti (Mulahi, Adishi, Kala, Iprari). The benefit here is two-pronged: tourism income is more widely distributed to villagers and the tourist is afforded a closer look and deeper understanding of the region and its people. Most organized tours nowadays only include Mestia and Ushguli. For us, the villages, scenery and life between those bookends tell the real story and provided the highlights of our week there.

Goals and Markers of Success

The long-term goal of SMTC is to raise income levels of the local population through tourism development. Host families, guides, interpreters, rescue teams, drivers and vendors are all needed when there is a healthy tourism sector. Tourism is not a panacea though. Svaneti’s tourism season lasts only a few months of the year (May – September) when the roads are passable.

When we asked what the indicators of success might be, the response was “a large number of satisfied tourists and local population.” There are enough reasons to bring people to Svaneti – natural beauty, hiking, people, culture – but the region needs to make it easier for tourists to come and to stay. This region once had a flourishing tourism infrastructure during the Soviet era, but it quickly collapsed after the break-up. Sustainable tourism development needs the buy-in of the local population. In order to get their buy-in, locals will need to believe that they will benefit now and more importantly in the long-term.

Sustainability of SMTC

FES plans to support the development of the center for two more years. We have seen many tourism development programs die when the foreign funding tap shuts off, so we asked what SMTC’s long-term funding strategy is. At the moment, this is uncertain. FES is currently working through some scenarios in order to make SMTC independent of external subsidies and funding. It is likely that the center would need to introduce service fees for making arrangements and bookings. Even with service fees, additional funding will still likely be needed for some time until tourist numbers increase dramatically.

Contacts for Svaneti Trekking and Mountaineering:

If you are planning a trip to Svaneti, we recommend the services of SMTC. To get started, check out their website – www.svanetitrekking.ge

For direct contact with SMTC, call the Head of the center, Zaur Chartolani, at +995 99 419353 (speaks Russian) or Shorena Gvarliani at +995 95 358049 (speaks English). Email: svaneti_trekking_ge [at] yahoo.com

If you are in Mestia, SMTC is located on a hill up from the road leading to Zugdidi (before getting to the main square). Look for the new brown roof with a crumbling Svan tower next to it. Ask around if you have trouble finding it.

Once you find the office, Zaur and Shorena will be happy to show you trekking maps, tell you about home stays, and help make arrangements. Zaur even managed to sort out our guide and village home-stays during the center’s inaugural party!

Svaneti trekking and homestay costs:

  • Home-stays outside Mestia: 35 Lari/person (including all meals)
  • Home-stays in Mestia: 35-45 Lari/person (including all meals)
  • Trekking guide: 50 Lari/day (English speaking guides also available upon request)
  • Transport from Ushguli to Mestia: 50-100 Lari
  • Transport from Tbilisi to Mestia: 25 Lari from Tbilisi (marshrutka), 15-20 Lari from Zugdidi (jeep).

We thank Ia Tikanadze and Guenther Fichtner from FES for putting us in touch with SMTC, inviting us to the SMTC inaugural party, answering our many questions, and helping to make our time in Svaneti a highlight of our travels in Georgia.

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Rally Madnesshttp://uncorneredmarket.com/rally-madness/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/rally-madness/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2007 14:56:51 +0000 http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2007/08/rally-madness/ By Audrey Scott

Where do you find a $200,000+ Aston Martin V8 Vantage sportscar followed by a clunking white Indian Ambassador? In Turkmenistan, of course. In Uzbekistan, we’ve also come across small cars covered with stickers and driven by Westerners desperate for the next mechanic or gas station. What’s all the fuss? Awareness, fundraising and rallies. Driving Home […]

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By Audrey Scott

Where do you find a $200,000+ Aston Martin V8 Vantage sportscar followed by a clunking white Indian Ambassador? In Turkmenistan, of course.

In Uzbekistan, we’ve also come across small cars covered with stickers and driven by Westerners desperate for the next mechanic or gas station.

What’s all the fuss? Awareness, fundraising and rallies.

Driving Home Road Safety 2007

Phil Colley and Richard Meredith are driving an Aston Martin V8 Vantage sportscar from Tokyo to London to raise awareness for road safety and safe driving. We met them while staying in Ashgabat.

Astin Martin Sports Car in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Fast Car: Tokyo to London

Richard was fined $100 for smoking in his own car (smoking in public places in Turkmenistan is prohibited). After almost three hours of negotiation, their guide managed to convince the police officer not to impound the car and take their passports for a few days. As a result, they managed not to overstay their visas and made it on schedule to the Caspian Sea ferry from Turkmenbashi to Baku. If they survived the roads in Georgia, they should be arriving in London any day now.

Future Hope Drive Home

Max and George are driving an Indian Ambassador from Calcutta to London to raise money and awareness for an orphanage in Calcutta called Future Hope. Future Hope was started by a British banker working in Calcutta who began taking in street kids from the train station. This developed into a proper orphanage and has now grown into a network of several.

London to Mongolia Rally

The Uzbek desert is littered with sticker-adorned compact cars (maximum engine is one liter) on their way to Mongolia. Just so happens that our route through Uzbekistan coincided with a few rally teams, including Rob Dewhurst and Phil Giblin of Team Tempus Fugit. We shared the same hotel as they set down in search of a good view of Bukhara and a good mechanic.

Although the drivers are racing through countries without much time for sightseeing, they are all gaining and learning from the experience. Rob and Phil shared stories with us of their drive across Iran where they were met with overwhelming hospitality and kindness. For example, they almost ran out of gas because of Iran’s current gas rationing regime. A local family came to their rescue and gave them almost seven days worth of gas (20 liters) and refused payment.

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