BOSTON - Global citizenship, and a sense of responsibility to help overseas communities in need, certainly resonates with older American travelers, says Alan E. Lewis, Chairman and CEO of Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.). In the last five years, O.A.T. travelers, Americans 50 and older, have donated $5.0M to 1,257 projects serving communities overseas. In 2017, O.A.T. travelers donated $824,946 in support of 196 projects in 30 countries.
"We have found that many older, seasoned American travelers consider themselves global citizens and feel a responsibility to support communities they have encountered in their travels," said Lewis. "They visit schools, villages, and communities, see what the needs are firsthand, and respond. They open their hearts - and their wallets."
The top concerns of communities become the top concerns of travelers. Education, clean water and sanitation, solar lighting, and self-sustaining gardens that can feed a school or an entire community are key areas of traveler involvement, and the goal of each project is community self-sustainability once the project is underway. Each project is coordinated through O.A.T.'s charitable arm, Grand Circle Foundation, local community leaders, and O.AT.'s employees who live and work in the region.
Between 2013 and 2017, 555,868 O.A.T. travelers donated $5.0m., with an average donation of $88.53. Last year, 7,822 travelers donated $824,946, with an average donation of $105.46. Of the 196 projects funded in 2017, the majority supported low-income schools with basic educational needs, including books, furnishings, toilets, lights, etc.
In addition, 42 projects helped support the WASH initiative projects of Grand Circle Foundation. WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) provides toilets, clean water, funding for communities and schools, community and school gardens, solar panels, and projects that help communities achieve self-sufficiency through such endeavors as goat rearing, weaving and other traditional crafts, and raising chickens. To-date, 82% of schools and 58% of villages visited by O.A.T. travelers now have access to clean water, while 96% of schools and 58% of villages visited now have toilets that meet or exceed the local standard.
Some examples of 2017 projects include providing community toilets in the Anangu village in Ecuador; funding of a mushroom farm at the Min Tu Orphanage in Hue, Vietnam in support of self-sufficiency; building a water reservoir in Tin Keo Village, Laos; and helping to construct a secondary school in Amboseli, Kenya.
"I continue to be amazed by the generosity of our older generations who, little by little, donation by donation, have helped to improve the lives of thousands of people worldwide," said Lewis.