In 2017, Toronto-based Exodus Travels committed to taking at least 2,017 disadvantaged children from around the world on education trips that would give them the opportunity to share in the same adventures as other travelers.
That effort, known as the Inspiration Project, saw children from Nairobi, Kenya who had never seen a real giraffe or lion taken on safari for the first time in their lives, while disadvantaged youth in India were taken to the Taj Mahal to learn about their own cultural heritage and in Bosnia, a group of inner-city children left Sarajevo and visited Sjutjska National Park.
When all was said and done, Exodus has taken a grand total of 2347 children around the world on trips that they would not have otherwise been able to afford on their own.
“These trips give children the opportunity to experience incredible sites and natural wonders that exist in their own backyard, that they would never be able to see otherwise,” Exodus Marketing Manager Robin Brooks told TravelPulse during a recent interview.
Since that initial 2017 kick-off, 4,378 children in 28 countries around the globe have been treated to such excursions, trips that not only impacted the participants but also supported 127 local drivers, 31 restaurants, 164 attractions, and four hotels.
The entire effort inspired leaders at Exodus Travel to begin thinking about additional creative ways that the company could continue to give back to the communities in which it operates and use its power as a travel brand to do good in the world.
This year, that answer to that soul-searching has resulted in the launch of a unique brochure project.
A new collection of Exodus brochures have been released featuring extraordinary original cover art created by celebrated Bosnian and Herzegovinian artist Martina Crepulja, who uses her work to encourage and support children.
Exodus is matching a portion of Crepulja’s fee and donating it to the Inspiration Project. That donation will allow more than 400 children to be taken on trips in 2019.
There’s also a way for travel agents to participate in the giving back. For every order made for brochures by a travel agent in the US, Exodus Travels will donate $0.25 to the Inspiration Project.
“This year, Exodus wanted to find a way to make brochures, which are an industry standard for every tour operator, more than just a sales tool,” Brooks told TravelPulse. “We wanted our brochures to not only be beautiful, but meaningful as well.”
“We hope this can serve as an example to other travel brands that it’s possible to leverage standard operational practices, such as brochures, into actions that can make a difference in the world. All it takes is a little motivation and creativity,” added Brooks.
Brooks said the travel industry bears a great responsibility and that it is entirely possible to leverage the industry’s standard operational practices into actions that make a difference.
“Overall it’s about thinking creatively and we are encouraging people in the travel industry at large, to think a little bit outside of the box,” she said.
The Inspiration Project meanwhile, is about far more than merely providing field trips for school children. The experiences serve to expand a child’s perspective on their culture, heritage, and local wildlife as well as inspire local children to feel a sense of ownership over their homelands.
“By making extraordinary, traditionally touristic experiences accessible to children who may not otherwise possess the resources to enjoy them, we hope to expand their worldviews,” said Brooks. “We believe that if a child can better understand the roots of their culture and the complexity of their environment, they can also better understand themselves, and the role they can play in the world beyond their own neighborhoods.”
What’s more, the impact doesn’t end after one day. The children who participate in the trips then go back to school and give presentations, or create art, or present information about what they learned to younger students.
“I think sadly, we often take for granted that just because someone lives in a country they get an opportunity to experience all of these things that we do as travelers, but sadly, while for many of us a $10 entry fee is a drop in a hat, many locals can’t afford that” said Brooks.
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