Quick question... if I told you twelve guys went on the trip together over Spring Break, where do you think they would go? Twelve dads, twelve husbands (or ex-husbands), twelve guys with real, adult jobs. So where would they go? Vegas, golf trip, spring training to see some baseball games? Nope.
Try El Salvador. Yes, that El Salvador. Number two in the world on the list countries with the highest murder rate. A place still emerging from a decades-long civil war, a place still finding it's footing in terms of government and infrastructure, a place most travel websites don't usually feature on their "Top Ten Vacation Spots!"
And what did they do there? They spent FOUR long, hot (really hot) days rebuilding a primary school. A school on the side of a dusty highway. A school in desperate need of some attention. With the help of the students and the community, the guys spent their time cleaning up and painting the whole school, while building new bathrooms, a new kitchen, a new soccer field and new play structures.
These guys worked their asses off, had a couple beers at the end of the day at a little beachside hotel, went to bed by 9 p.m. and loved every minute of it. Oh, and they also released endangered baby turtles on the last morning of the trip.
Welcome to what we like to call "Adult Helping Camp."
Who are we? OneKid OneWorld... a tiny little non-profit you've never heard of. Our mission is simple: To make a difference in the lives of children in need around the globe... one world, one school, one kid at a time. Since 2006, we have raised over 1.2 million dollars, with 93 percent going directly to the projects in Africa and Central America. If you want to check out what we have done, take a look at our website here: www.onekidoneworld.org
And while we are proud of all we've been able to accomplish, the best (and most fun) thing we do is our volunteer trips. A.k.a. -- Adult Helping Camp.
You remember camp, right? A time in your life when you got thrown into a bunk with a bunch of kids you barely knew and spent the summer playing sports, eating bad food and generally not worrying about anything besides what girl was going to sit next to you at the campfire and had the time of your life. Well, now transfer that to a bunch of adults spending a few days or weeks together, eating bad food, drinking good beer, and making a difference in the world.
Since 2006, we have taken hundreds of volunteers to Kenya and El Salvador. For Kenya, the trips last about two weeks. El Salvador is usually between four and six days. The trips started as a way to raise money and awareness for our projects but have become about so much more. Of course, it's about the kids and schools, that is always our main focus, but we realized that these trips are just as important for the people going on them. They are, literally, life changing.
Look, we know people are busy. We get it. Between work, family, friends, those Scandal episodes backing up on your DVR, the overflowing Gmail inbox, there is barely time to eat... let alone make a difference in the world. That's why these trips are so important. They are a moment in time (a tiny blip) when people can block out all the noise in their life and just focus on what is right in front of them... usually that is painting an entire classroom blue, playing soccer with a bunch of kids who have never seen a new soccer ball or hauling bucket after bucket of sand for a new playground.
We can't tell you how therapeutic and freeing it is to show up to a school on a Friday morning and by Sunday afternoon see the whole place transformed into a clean, safe, inviting place for children to learn. Everyone working together towards one goal. One. And no one -- not a boss, co-worker, consultant, advisor -- no one stopping us from doing it. That just doesn't exist in the real world today.
We have done trips filled with all women, high school students, famous actors, NFL quarterbacks, groups of Hollywood agents -- you name it, we've taken them -- and everyone comes home transformed. More importantly, their eyes have been opened (or re-opened) to how so little can have such a huge impact.
And yes, we understand that real life can very quickly wash away the glow of one of our trips... it happens to all of us. But what is left are the memories -- when you watched a little girl's eyes light up at the new textbook you gave her, dancing with all the students to a Katy Perry song (yep, she is popular everywhere!), scoring a goal and running around with a bunch of kids on the dusty soccer field, just getting in a zone and painting an entire classroom by yourself. Those do not go away.
We also know that spending a few days at a school in a far away place is not going to radically change the way the whole world is now. But it will a little. And little by little is all we are trying to do. Because every new classroom, new textbook, new soccer ball is a vessel of hope to a child. Hope of an education. Hope of a new world. Hope of a better life.
Every volunteer that goes on one of our trips gets an OneKid OneWorld t-shirt. By the end of the trip they end up very sweaty and very dirty. And on the back of each shirt is our motto: LIFE IS SHORT. MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
So next time you are looking for something different to do on vacation or just need a break from your life, think about joining us for Adult Helping Camp and you will get to see that motto in action.
You'll also get to release baby turtles, which is pretty cool too.