Generous Travelers
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Generous Travelers

You've probably experienced the joy of watching a child's face light up to see you or of having a child take you by the hand. Perhaps a child has produced a drawing or sung a song for you with a mixture of shyness and pride. For travelers, these moments are often set in schools that have no cafeteria, gymnasium, computer lab, or other educational tools we so often take for granted here; or in villages where a one-room house fills a family with pride. We are honoredand humbledthat visits to schools and villages supported by Grand Circle Foundation so often inspire our travelers to want to give back, too.

We'll be updating this site regularly with more stories of generous travelers, so stay tuned. And if you have a story that you'd like to see featured, please send it to

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Bob and Julie Girsch make giving back to Laotian schoolchildren an ongoing commitment with quarterly donations totaling $3,000 to date to the Kia Luang village school in Laos. With those funds, a water filter was purchased and installed at the school last year. Thanks to the Girsches' generosity, students and teachers enjoy clean drinking water, without having to bring it from home, and the school also shares the clean water with the village.


Making dollars go as far as you do

When Em McEachron and Bill Staab traveled to Tanzania with Overseas Adventure Travel, they were struck by the enthusiasm of local schoolchildren. Em, a longtime teacher, wanted to help the students in their work, and the couple decided to donate composition books. But their gesture multiplied with a little local know-how.


Your Impact Around the World in 2012

In 2012 the generous donations of nearly 1,000 Grand Circle and OAT travelers have impacted programs around the world. Because of their support, students in Zimbabwe are learning about environmental protection … Bedouin women in Israel have an opportunity to join a small handcraft business … and children in Argentina can wear lifejackets on their boat ride to school … and more.


Author, Author!

After joining the Ultimate Africa trip with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), Linda Brumagin was inspired to write a book about the harmony of the animals she had witnessed on safari. She knew she wanted to do something to help schools like the one she had visited on her adventure, so when she published her book, she contacted Grand Circle Foundation for help donating the proceeds of its sales to the Ziga Primary School in Zimbabwe.


By the Book

When OAT travelers Carolyn and Lawrence Broeren celebrated their anniversary with a family trip to Tanzania, the highlight wasn't what they received, but instead what they gave to a local school.


A Fridge for Fontein

OAT travelers Ingrid and Sherman Bartholomew make a big difference at a Swaziland daycare center with donations of a refrigerator and chickens. But that is not the end of the Bartholomews' contribution to the center: Sherman will soon return to Swaziland to enlarge the school facility, fix the plumbing, and rewire the electricity.


Raising the Roof

A roof collapsed at a Zimbabwean primary school days before first-time OAT travelers Mike and Gretchen Zeller visited the site. Inspired by a passionate headmaster and an active Trip Leader, the couple generously offered a donation of more than $2,000 for sturdy building materials and construction.


Feeding Mouths to Feed Minds

In Tanzania, the Njia Panda Primary School's need for a dining hall inspired two couples of OAT travelers to give in different ways. Yvonne and Michael Fuchs of California personally donated $5,000 to the cause, while Sue and Rick Jayroe of Michigan launched an original YouTube campaign to raise funds among their church community.


Ties to the Tigre

It's been almost four years since Rodger Kollmorgen visited La Concepción, a primary school isolated on an island in the Argentina's Paraná Delta. But despite the time and distance, his unique holiday gifts have built connections between his family and the students and teachers on the Tigre River.


A Parting Gift

In the beginning, it was a storybook romance. Randy Larrimore and Eileen Madden were high school sweethearts who reconnected in 2004 and fell in love all over again. They married in April 2007, and set out to see the world together. In seven years, they visited 49 countries. Tragically, this past January, as they were traveling to Antarctica, to visit their seventh continent, they suffered a terrible accident while hiking, and Eileen did not survive. She was 63 years old.


A Gift that Kept on Giving

As experienced travelers, Jim and Jean Allen of Granby, Connecticut, were used to seeing very different living conditions than what we experience in the U.S. But when they traveled to India on OAT's Heart of India adventure, they saw something that startled even them. All the students were standing up.


Lighting Up the Lives of Schoolchildren in Africa

When Marie Talian of New York City was a just child, she visited the World's Fair in the Flushing Meadows neighborhood of Queens. Her family outing included a visit to an African exhibit, where, in her words, "I was mesmerized by the beauty of the people, the dancing, and the drumbeat." She determined right then and there that she would someday travel to Africa, so she could experience the culture firsthand.


Jumping at the Chance to Help

For evidence of the impact of American culture on the people of other lands, look no farther than the Pachar school of Peru. Located in the Sacred Valley, an ancient Inca center in the Peruvian highlands, the small village of Pachar seems almost untouched by time. It is a village where local residents still build their homes with adobe bricks and plow their farmlands with oxen. And a one-room schoolhouse served about 150 students, ages six to 13, until Grand Circle Foundation funds helped to build a second classroom to help focus the children's learning experience.



Little Dresses for Little Darlings

Elizabeth Garvey is a dedicated world traveler, touring with Grand Circle and Overseas Adventure Travel 17 times in the past six years. Lately, she's been filling her suitcase with more than just climate-appropriate travel gear. On adventures in Tanzania, South Africa, and Israel, Elizabeth has given out over 600 dresses to local girls in need. How does she bring that many dresses and still have room for her own clothes? She says the key is that "whatever luggage you check is filled with things you're giving away. You can live out of a carry-on quite easily!"



New Construction at Banjika Secondary School

Every year for more than a decade, Susan Rickert of San Francisco, California, has traveled to Africa with OAT, and every year, she asks the same question of the headmaster of one of the schools in the village of Karatu: "What do you need, and how can I help?" She never balks at the response, even when the needs are many—because she knows she can engage her community to help.



A Dream Come True in Tanzania

Like so many travelers who visit Tanzania for the first time, Anne Guiltinan came for the wildlife … but fell in love with the people. "I'd dreamed of traveling to the Serengeti ever since I was a young girl watching 'Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom,'" Anne says. Little did she know as she prepared for her "dreamiest of dream vacations" that she was about to help make many dreams come true—not only for herself, but for an entire Tanzanian community.


Your 2010 Donations in Action

In 2010, we raised nearly $600,000 from 8,539 donors for our schools and villages around the world. And while the true impact of these gifts will be realized in the months and years to come, we have already seen great progress. Here's just a sampling of projects that our generous donors have helped make possible.


A Teaching Moment

Some travelers can circle the world—but find their hearts anchored to one particular destination. Two such travelers are Tom and Dianne Klein of Bowling Green, Ohio. The destination that draws them is Thailand. As retired English teachers, they were especially moved by their visit to a Thai primary school. What they did about it could change these children's lives forever ….


Helping Others—One Project at a Time

Like most people, Gail Sawosik isn't comfortable asking people for money, even if the cause is a worthy one. But unlike most people, she doesn't let that stop her. Whether it's replacing windows in an African school or helping women in Egypt become self-sufficient, she does what she can to inspire others to join her in giving back … one place and one project at a time.  


Pets Providing Pedals

During their safari, Naomi and Mark Hughes were struck by the responsibilities faced by the children of Tanzania, in addition to their schoolwork. They realized that because of the importance of these chores to the family, getting back and forth to school becomes a big hurdle—so much so, in fact, that it may prevent children from attending school at all. The couple realized the bicycles could provide a life-changing solution ... and soon found themselves back in Tanzania, with 45 very special gifts.


Inspiring Young People to Help Their Peers

As a child, Kristina Tester dreamed of living in Africa one day. So when her grandmother offered her the chance to join her on a southern African safari, along with her parents and twin sister, Kristina jumped at it. It was a decision—and a trip—that would change her life.


Linda SteffensLinda Steffans

8-time traveler - Port Jefferson, New York

In Swaziland's Esitjeni community, where the population has been ravaged by violence and HIV/AIDS, children are often forced to grow up much too soon—and for many of them, the Esitjeni Primary School and Orphanage is the only home they know.

"Visiting the orphanage was the most overwhelming single moment of any trip I've ever taken," says Linda Steffens, an eight-time traveler from Port Jefferson, New York.

Javier BarrientosJavier Barrientos

5-time traveler - Cambridge, Massachusetts

Before visiting Africa, Javier Barrientos had never considered himself an activist—but when he visited Tanzania for the first time in 2007, something changed. He was exploring Ngorongoro Crater—which he describes as "the most beautiful place on earth"—when the group stopped to visit the Kambi Ya Nyoka primary school in the village of Karatu. "You could easily miss this school, and most do," says Javier. "But the Foundation makes a point to stop."


Kathleen Kircher & Dana Vannoy

2-time travelers - Williamsburg, Michigan

Reverend Kathleen Kircher and Dr. Dana Vannoy traveled the narrow, bumpy road to the De Ji orphanage during their recent adventure in China—and from the very first moment, they felt compassion for the children who lived there. "The October air was cold," Kathleen remembers, "and the little ones who greeted us were without gloves or mittens, and shivering in their lightweight jackets."

Gale FamilyJim & Jeanne Gale

6-time travelers - Moline, Illinois

This past July, 16 members of the extended Gale family embarked on a safari in Tanzania. Before they departed, Jim and Jeanne had a special request: Could anyone help them organize a day of community service at one of the schools supported by Grand Circle Foundation?

Maury Peterson, Vice President of Grand Circle Foundation, was happy to oblige. Here's the story of their very special day.

Susan Rickert

10-time traveler - San Francisco, California - Washburn Award Recipient

"My last child was off to school. So, I decided that now I belong to the world." With that
sentiment, 10-time traveler Susan Rickert of San Francisco, California, set off on her first safari to Tanzania, where she had once served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer.

The itinerary included a stop at a school similar to the one she had taught at more than 35 years earlier. There, she found a classroom with a dirt floor and no roof, windows, or doors, in which a single teacher was presenting lessons to 100 children. "That was a turning point in my life," Susan recalls. "I was so moved, I decided to collect money for the school on the spot."

And she's been collecting money ever since. With the assistance of Honorary Director Willie Chambuloowner of Kibo Safaris, an Overseas Adventure Travel partnerSusan has supported four primary schools and led the charge to build a new secondary school in the village of Karatu. She has also found sponsors to establish dozens of scholarships for deserving students. So far, she has raised more than $100,000. "This remains my number one passion besides my children," she says. In honor of these extraordinary accomplishments, Grand Circle Foundation presented Susan with its first Washburn Award. Named in honor of Honorary Director Bradford Washburn, the award is given to an individual in recognition of a personal commitment to giving back to a community where the company travels.

To learn more about Susan's activities on behalf of the schools of Karatu, Tanzania, click here.

Hugh ThurnauHugh Thurnauer

6-time traveler - Westlake, Ohio - Washburn Award Recipient

When Hugh and Alina Thurnauer of Westlake, Ohio, were deciding where to go for their next trip, they knew they wanted to see animals in the wild. A Tanzanian safari was a natural choice. When Alina fell ill and was unable to go, she urged Hugh to go ahead without her. He did. And on his return, he reported to Alina that he was moved by his visit to the Elerai Primary School in Sinya, Tanzania, which is housed in a straw hut, and by the children he met in the village of Karatu. "I told her I wanted to build them a new school," he said, "and she told me, 'Why don't you do something for the people instead?'"

Hugh did. When Alina passed away, he established the Thurnauer Family Scholarship in her memory and made a pledge of $25,000 to provide secondary school scholarships for students from three Karatu primary schools and the Elerai Primary School. In appreciation of his generosity, Grand Circle Foundation awarded Hugh the Washburn Award and pledged to match his gift.