Around the World
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Around the World

At Grand Circle Corporation, philanthropy is a way of life. For more than 20 years, Alan and Harriet Lewis have engaged everyone involved with the company— associates, Trip Leaders and Program Directors, community partners, and travelers— in service to others. When the company's network of worldwide offices was established, that effort was extended abroad. The community service events organized by our regions demonstrate that giving back is truly a team effort, company-wide.


Paint Drops Kept Falling on Their Heads

Just outside of Xian, China—home of the famed Terra Cotta Army—lies the village of Shao Ping Dian. Here, the Huo Kou Primary School, a Foundation partner since 2004, was in need of refurbishment, to provide the children with a more cheerful learning environment. On January 31, a group of 23 Program Directors and Trip Leaders, office staff from Grand Circle's regional office in Hong Kong, and local vendors teamed up to provide that service for the school.


Associates in Japan help a tsunami-stricken city

In today's world of short attention spans, major natural disasters usually receive a lot of media attention when they happen but then are quickly forgotten—except by those who have to live with the aftermath. Such is the case for the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. The country was devastated, and recovery efforts remain ongoing. Especially impacted was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, where the continuing recovery effort is not just environmental, but also economic—and emotional.


Giving Back Globally in 2012

With 36 regional offices around the world, Grand Circle has many homes. Like our caring supporters and travelers, our associates around the world make giving back a priority—no matter where they're based. This year, 483 generous regional associates volunteered more than 2,000 hours. Here are some highlights of what has been accomplished in 2012.


Two Steps Forward

In 2002, the Dva Skalina (literally, "Two Steps") association was founded in Dubrovnik by a group of parents whose children have severe special needs. Their mission is to promote a better quality of life for their children, and to improve the level of social and medical support they receive. On September 8, 2012, the associates at Grand Circle's Dubrovnik office spent their Saturday at the Dva Skalina daycare center for a day of community service.


Brighter Teeth, Brighter Futures

Associates from Grand Circle's regional office in New Delhi and 30 Trip Leaders of OAT's Heart of India adventure banded together to provide dental check-ups for schoolchildren and fix up a handcraft cooperative in Rajasthan.


Pencils & Peppers

On June 14, the students of Guang Ming Primary School in China's Hu Xian County warmly welcomed a group of 16 visitors from Overseas Adventure Travel's Imperial China, Tibet & the Yangtze River trip, along with Trip Leader Alex Yang and OAT's regional office staff. The visitors distributed pencils and school bags, and then worked with the children in the school's vegetable garden, which supplements poor students' diets.


Oxygen Cocktail, Anyone?

In the late 1960s, Soviet professor N.N. Sirotinin developed a technology to boost patients' oxygen levels by injecting oxygen into a foaming beverage. This April, Grand Circle associates purchased a machine to make these drinks for a Mongolian orphanage and kindergarten to help keep the children healthy.


Changing Lives in Eastern Europe

This year, Grand Circle Program Directors and Overseas Adventure Travel Trip Leaders in Russia and the Baltics had the opportunity to participate in not one, but two service events in their region. What they didn't anticipate was snow…


Trip Leaders Experience A Day in the Life of Zimbabwe

This past January, a group of 24 Trip Leaders attended a training camp at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, where they were treated to A Day in the Life of the Tsholotsho area, which is on the boundary of the Wilderness Camp Concession. Integral to the event was community service to two schools supported by Grand Circle Foundation in the region: Ngamo School and Ziga Primary School. 


Improving a Pre-School in South Africa

At Grand Circle Corporation, giving back is so deeply woven into the corporate culture, it is even a component of the training program for OAT Trip Leaders and Grand Circle Program Directors. So, when the leaders of the regional office in Cape Town, South Africa, had a training program coming up for their Highlights of South Africa Program Directors, they began looking for a community service project that could be incorporated into it.


Turkey Associates Give of Themselves … Literally

On the afternoon of October 23, 2011, the eastern Turkish village of Tabanli, near the city of Van, was rocked by a powerful earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale. The quake and its aftershocks devastated the region, killing close to 600 people and collapsing thousands of buildings. Grand Circle Corporation's regional team in Turkey decided to organize a blood drive to support the Turkish Red Crescent Society. Led by Trip Leader Ayberk Akdeniz, a team of associates in the city of Izmir donated blood on December 21, to brighten the longest night of the year—and the prospects of those who needed blood urgently.



Worldwide Community Service: 2011 in Review

It's one thing to organize community service events in our own community—but what about the communities where we have offices around the world? In 2011, 23 of our regional offices took it upon themselves to organize a community service event—or, in some cases, multiple community service events—in their own neighborhoods. Here are highlights of what was accomplished.



A Morale Boost and a Facelift for the Tarangire Primary School

Once a nomadic people, the Maasai tribe of Tanzania has increasingly settled in permanent villages, called bomas, as modern concepts of land ownership and government restrictions have limited their territory. These bomas allow the Maasai to retain the social and ceremonial traditions of their culture while making necessary adaptations to live peacefully in modern society.



Happier Mealtimes in Thailand

Of the 220 students who attend classes at Thailand's Pu Ong Ka Primary School, around 70% are from the Mon ethnic tribe, whose families emigrated from the Thai-Burmese border. These families earn meager wages farming for a living, and are well below the economic standards of the rest of the country. Our team in Thailand chose Pu Ong Ka as the location of their annual community service event this past August.


Health and Happiness for Children in India

On the vast subcontinent of India, the needs of the people are as diverse as the landscapes they call home. Grand Circle Foundation supports several villages in India, spanning both north and south—and our team in India, led by Regional General Manager Iliyas Mohammed, recently visited two of them to host community service events.


Making Magic for Children in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, China, is generally recognized as one of the most advanced cities in Asia. Yet the so-called "rich-poor gap" is among the highest in the world. "According to government statistics, one in every four children in Hong Kong lives below the poverty line," says Christine Wong, Grand Circle's Area Manager in Hong Kong. "For our community service event, we decided to bring a ray of light to some of these children before the summer came to an end."

Keeping a Family Afloat in Cambodia

There are no wealthy families in the floating village of Me Chrey, situated 25 miles southwest of Siem Reap on Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake. But Mr. Chin Mab and Mrs. Prom Sok, who live here with their four young grandchildren, face exceptional challenges. In the early morning hours of July 13, 2011, a team of 35 associates, Trip Leaders, and vendors boarded a longtail boat for the village of Me Chrey, where they had planned a special community service event.


Repairs and Recreation in Laos

The people of Kia Luang make a humble living by farming, tending livestock, and weaving—and have neither the time nor the resources for regular entertainment or repairs to their facilities. During a day of community service, our team in Southeast Asia joined the community in making crucial improvements to their village—and having fun at the same time.


Giving Back in Russia

Our Program Directors and associates in Russia recently participated in a special day of community service—an event that, as Russia's Regional General Manager Natalia Janjic notes, generated plenty of enthusiasm: "Since it was the first time we were participating in this type of event in conjunction with a Program Director training, everybody was really anticipating it."




Keeping a Promise in China

Back in November of 2010, our team in China participated in a surprisingly enlightening community service event at a nursing home for the elderly. They learned a great deal about the difficulties that senior citizens face in their country—and as a result, organized an additional event to help brighten the lives of seniors.




An Auspicious Start to a New Year

The village of Donghan, China, is in the midst of transition, with more prosperous residents abandoning their old, traditional homes for the comforts of modern life. The families who can't afford this, however, face daily challenges of poverty and inadequate living conditions. On January 27, 2011, our team in China helped bring two of these families a happy Chinese New Year during a day of community service. 

Worldwide Community Service: 2010 in Review

It's one thing to organize community service events in our own community—but what about the communities where we have offices around the world? In 2010, nearly all our regional offices took it upon themselves to organize a community service event—or, in some cases, multiple community service events—in their own neighborhoods. Here's an overview of what each region accomplished.

Furthering the Cause for Seniors in China

In traditional Chinese culture, it is the duty of every child to personally care for their parents when they grow old—and as a result, the eldercare industry isn't nearly as developed as it is in the U.S. In fact, it's practically nonexistent. Through community service, our China team challenged stereotypes and learned valuable lessons about the face of eldercare in their country.


Celebrating a New Partnership in Panama

This past September, Grand Circle's team in Central America brought a new partnership one step further with a special community service event. Led by Regional General Manager and Gutsy Leader Wolfgang Brunner, the group visited the General Manuel Benigno Higuero School in the small fishing village of San Carlos, which officially became a Foundation partner earlier in 2010.


A Breakfast Fit for Kings

Notorious as the "red light district" of cosmopolitan Sydney, Australia, the Kings Cross neighborhood may not be a frequent stop on Grand Circle or Overseas Adventure Travel vacations—but in August of 2010, it was the chosen destination for a team of Trip Leaders, Program Directors, and the associates of Grand Circle's Sydney office.


A Helping Hand in Peru's Sacred Valley

In early September, a team of 13 associates and Trip Leaders from OAT's Cuzco office took a 90-minute bus trip to the village of Urubamba. This is the heart of Peru's Sacred Valley, not far from the spectacular ruins of the Incas—but there are much more recent ruins here as well, left behind by the mudslides that devastated the area in February of 2010. It was these ruins, and not the famous landmarks, that brought the OAT associates to Urubamba that day. They were ready to help repair them.

Friendship and Partnership at Don Chum Village

Since 2004, Grand Circle Foundation has been partnering with the village of Don Chum in Thailand's Phrae province—first as part of our Day in the Life program, and, most recently, as the site of an agricultural cooperative through our Invest in a Village initiative. So when Rung Chatchaloemwut, our Regional General Manager in Thailand, decided to plan a community service event for the staff of our Bangkok office, Don Chum was a natural choice.


Better Days for Hill Tribe Students

Just 25 miles south of Luangprabang—the ancient, royal capital of Laos—lies the tiny, hillside village of Ban Kew Mak Nao 1, population 429. Ten years ago, a school was constructed here. Today, it is attended by 178 students in grades 1-5, under the instruction of three teachers. Funds were limited, however, so the school was built without toilets, requiring students and teachers to walk home or go into the jungle to answer the call of nature.

Service with a Smile in Ecuador

Quito DaycareThe name of the daycare center is "Caritas Sonrientes"—or, "smiling faces." But behind the scenes, the director of this facility in the small village of Rumicucho, Ecuador, often has little to smile about. The center serves the poorest people who live in the area, and operates under a monthly budget of just six U.S. dollars per child. While the daycare's capacity is technically 40 children from one to five years in age—already a challenging number for the four teachers on staff—sometimes the director is compelled to accept more children so that their single mothers can work to support them.


Supporting a "Generation of Hope"

IsraelIn Arabic, "Jeel Al-Amal" means "Generation of Hope"—and since 1972, a Palestinian orphanage of this very name has given hope to several generations of destitute and displaced children. In spite of ongoing political conflict in the region, Jeel Al-Amal has consistently provided expert care and quality education for 350 children at a time, who are either referred to the orphanage by local social agencies or brought there by families who simply cannot afford to support them. It is the only orphanage in Palestine that accepts and supports girls.

Above and Beyond in Vietnam

Vietnam staff

In Vietnam, our Regional General Manager Johnny Cuong has always been passionate about making a difference in his homeland—even before he worked for a company that shared his dedication to philanthropy. "I used to be a tour guide for different companies," says Johnny. "During that time, I would raise money independently among my tour groups to support the local people." Among the contributions he orchestrated were 438 water buffalo for farmers throughout the country and four houses built for the poor. "I was so happy each time I could do something good for my people," Johnny says.

Cape Town Associates Help Troubled Children Remember What It's Like To Be Carefree

Cape Town Community ServiceIn November of 2009, the associates of Grand Circle's Cape Town, South Africa office gathered for a rewarding opportunity to bring joy to local children who have been forced to grow up too fast. At a children's indoor fun park, the team hosted 46 troubled youths for a day of fun, food, and Christmas presents. "These children all deserved a little sparkle in their lives," says Roger Clulow, Grand Circle's Regional General Manager in Africa. "Most of them have been victims of crime, ranging from domestic violence and armed robbery to molestation and even rape. Others may have committed crimes themselves, but generally out of necessity."

Young at Heart in Bratislava

Service in BratislavaNothing is more rewarding than seeing joy light up the face of a child—and that is exactly what the crew of the M/S River Aria experienced on November 24, 2009, when they welcomed 89 kindergarteners from three schools and a local orphanage aboard.

A private nonprofit institution, the orphanage is located in the small village of Kocurice, Slovakia. The three kindergartens located within the complex are supported by Grand Circle Foundation. In the spirit of the Foundation's commitment to community service, the staff of the company's regional office in Bratislava, Slovakia, organized the event to, as Roman Cangar, Grand Circle's Area Manager, European Rivers, puts it, "create a beautiful experience for all the children."

Sprucing up a Floating School in Cambodia

Service in CambodiaThe Grand Circle team in Cambodia has been very active with community service in recent years.

Led by Area Manager Leang Var Eng, in 2007 the team chatted with the principal and teachers at the Chong Knies Primary School, a "floating" school on the Tonle Sap River in Siem Reap that can only be accessed by boat, to discover what was needed most. At the school staff's request, Grand Circle regional associates, Trip Leaders, and select students from the school spent a day and a half scraping and painting the school's exterior and classrooms.

In August 2008, regional staff, Trip Leaders, and vendors gathered to help change the life of an impoverished mother of four who was too ill to work. The family was living in a thatched house with a roof that leaked in the rain. The team helped build a new home and also donated books, money, and clothing to the family.

Civil war had left the infrastructure of the country devastated, and many locals were reluctant to donate personal time to a project that might not benefit them directly. In August 2009, however, associates, Trip Leaders, vendors, coach drivers, and the host families of home-hosted events in the village of Krovann spent an exhausting day repairing the local road. It was a project that not only benefited the community, but also demonstrated the value of volunteer service.

The Surdas School in India Gets the Personal Touch

Service in IndiaIn July 2009, a Trip Leader workshop in India included a service project led by Mohammed Iliayas, OAT Area Manager for India and Bhutan. In all, 44 volunteers, including Trip Leaders, GCC staff, and vendors, spent a day renovating the Surdas School for the Blind, near Agra (site of the Taj Mahal). Named for a medieval, blind Hindu poet, the school is home to approximately 80 male students, age eight to 28, and was in serious need of paint and repairs. The volunteers divided into teams to paint the school and temple, repair doors and windows, plant trees, install ceiling fans, create a library for the students, entertain them, and serve lunch. They even installed a new water pump!

Because it is customary in India to donate money for a cause rather than do the work personally, the school's headmaster was not only extremely grateful for the improvements, he was also overwhelmed by everyone's personal involvement.

Moscow Associates Sparkle Up a City Park

Service in RussiaIt isn't every office where the staff works overtime Monday through Thursday so that they can work for free on Friday-but the associates at Grand Circle's regional office in Moscow, Russia, did exactly that. On August 19, 2009, they abandoned their work desks for brooms, rakes, and plastic bags and headed out to a popular park in a remote part of the city.

Featuring a unique old mansion that is currently being restored and a pond with ducks, the park is large enough that authorities are unable to maintain it properly. Grand Circle's Russia team split into two groups and spent the day under drizzling skies cleaning children's playgrounds. Eventually, the weather cleared, and the associates regrouped to enjoy a picnic together, as well as the satisfaction of knowing they had done something positive for their community.

Six Teams of Volunteers Take A Day to Make a Difference to the Baan Pu Ong Ka School in Thailand

Led by Regional General Manager Rung Chatchaloemwut, a total of 97 volunteers convened at the Baan Pu Ong Ka School and the community of Pu Ong Ka village in Thailand in the summer of 2009 to help change the lives of the children and the community. Participating in the event were regional associates, Trip Leaders, vendors, students, teachers, and villagers. Divided into six teams, the group spent the day fixing and repainting toys and equipment at an outdoor playground, repainting walls, repairing doors and windows, tiling the kindergartens, and cleaning and improving the cafeteria at the school, as well as building a new bathroom for a host family for the company's home-hosted event.

Many team members also brought gifts of toys, a computer, stationery, towels, and snacks to improve the daily life of the children at the school.

Students in Istanbul Experience the Grand Circle Tour of their City's Cultural Treasures

service in turkeyThe Darussafaka School is a boarding school in Istanbul that was founded in 1863 to serve fatherless children from all over Turkey. The school is highly selective, and students must pass a rigorous entrance exam to be accepted. In return, the school takes care of all of their educational, medical, and social needs.

To enhance the students' education, Grand Circle staff decided to do what they do best: provide Darussafaka students with an insiders' tour of their own city. In March 2008, two Grand Circle associates and seven Trip Leaders/Program Directors, accompanied by four teachers from the school, took 67 students on a tour of Istanbul, featuring the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome, the Underground Cistern, and the Rahim M. Koc Museum, which is dedicated to the history of Transport, Industry, and Communications. Lunch was also provided on the excursion.