Worldwide Community Service: 2010 in Review
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Worldwide Community Service: 2010 in Review

Thanks to our regional associates for doing so much to help their communities

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 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's an overview of what each region accomplished.

Africa/Middle East:
Our associates in South Africa, led by Regional General Manager Roger Clulow, gave a group of disadvantaged children a day they'll never forget. Despite living just 25 miles outside of Cape Town, most of the young residents of the Casablanca Community Center had never seen their country's beautiful port city. On a Saturday in November, our team took them on a cruise to Seal Island and on a tour of the waterfront—including a visit to the Cape Town Aquarium.

Regional General Manager Abdul Sra led our team in Morocco to the Dar ET-Taleb Education Center, which is supported by Grand Circle Foundation. The group spent time with the students and painted the building's façade.

In the village of Lakia, Israel, which is also supported by the Foundation, Area Manager Moshe Ben Simon organized a day of educational fun and games for schoolchildren in the community. The event coincided with both the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and the beginning of the school year—and, according to Moshe, "no one wanted to go home."

In February of 2010, mudslides devastated Peru's Sacred Valley—and two families who regularly host OAT travelers suffered serious damage to their homes. Thanks to our travelers and associates, the Foundation raised more than $24,000 to help the rebuilding effort, and in September, Area Manager Erik Cardenas brought a team of 13 associates and Trip Leaders to the village of Urubamba to pitch in.

Also in South America, Area Manager Gaby Bohorquez and his team spent three days at the Santiago de Quito School in Ecuador, replacing wooden floors to help retain heat in the classrooms and installing bars on the windows to prevent thieves from stealing what little the school has. And in Argentina, Regional General Manager Magda Zoroza and her team painted three classrooms at the La Concepcion School in the Parana Delta, which had sustained serious damage during seasonal flooding.

In Central America, Regional General Manager Wolfgang Brunner led two community service events. In Panama, a team of associates and Trip Leaders visited the General Manuel Benigno Higuero School in San Carlos, which had just been selected to receive Foundation support. The group painted the walls of a classroom. And in Costa Rica, a team repaired a network of footpaths at the San Francisco Microfarm, which had been damaged by tropical storms.

In Ireland, Area Manager Orla Hurley led nine associates in an event at St. Joseph's Day Care Center in County Kerry, which provides basic health care, meals, and social activities for elderly people living in isolated areas. The team painted, cleaned, and hosted a social with food, songs, games, and prizes.

Sinisa Antunovic, Regional General Manager in Croatia, organized community service at the Multiple Sclerosis Society in Dubrovnik. The team helped to renovate a common area and improve restroom accessibility for patients in wheelchairs—all the while learning more about a disease that is widely misunderstood.

Our Bratislava, Slovakia office, under the leadership of Regional General Manager Roman Cangar, reprised a successful event that promises to become a yearly tradition: The crew of the M/S River Aria welcomed 110 kindergarteners aboard for a day of sailing, snacking, and enjoying onboard activities.

In Turkey, our staff, Trip Leaders, and Program Directors gave a special tour of Istanbul to 83 migrants and refugees from all over Eastern Europe and North Africa. As Mehmet Guler, Program Services Manager in Turkey, puts it, "Our travelers travel for leisure and pleasure, and so do we. However, some people 'travel' to escape war, famine, and persecution. We thought it would be great to provide a real tour for people who have spent years in Istanbul without being able to visit the sights."

North Asia:
In China, Regional General Manager Elaine Yau organized two separate events for our Beijing and Hong Kong offices. First, the Hong Kong team ran a booth at a fundraising event for their local Caritas branch, which provides social, educational, and youth services for the needy. Aided by a team of nurses, our associates' booth performed simple health checks like blood pressure and blood sugar. Then, the Beijing team brightened the day for seniors at the Beijing Aidi Nursing Home—and learned important lessons about cultural stereotypes in the process.

Our team in Japan, also led by Elaine Yau, participated in "Clean up Kyoto"—a government-sponsored program that helps keep Japan's most historic city beautiful. While the city appears clean, the team learned that things aren't always as they seem, since litterers have become adept at concealing trash along riverbanks and behind bushes.

South/Southeast Asia:
Under the leadership of Rung Chatchaloemwut, our Regional General Manager in Southeast Asia, five community service events took place in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. In Thailand, associates visited Pu Ong Ka Village, which is supported by the Foundation. The team painted the community center, repaired the roof of a home, repaired a road, and organized games for the children. Another event was held at the Don Chum agricultural cooperative, where the team planted 1,500 teak trees to help counteract deforestation, painted the Senior Center, and more.

In Laos, the team helped to install three toilets in the hill tribe village of Ban Kew Mak Nao 1, and delivered a cabinet and 18 sets of donated tables and chairs to Baan Kia Luang School. They also painted the windows and cleaned up the garden. And in Cambodia, the team visited Krorvan Village, where they worked for hours in extreme heat to repair flooded footpaths.

Our team in India, led by Area Manager Iliyas Mohammed, visited the village of Ramsingh Pura within Ranthambhore Sanctuary, which is home to a school supported by Grand Circle Foundation. The primary goal of the event was to clean up trash in the village, but, as Iliyas observed, "The idea was also to educate the locals by our actions." When a group of passersby paused to pitch in, he knew they had succeeded.

South Pacific:
Led by Regional General Manager Simon Kay, our associates, Trip Leaders, and Program Directors in Sydney, Australia, visited the notorious Kings Cross neighborhood to serve breakfast at the Wayside Chapel—an organization that provides meals, clothing, counseling, and housing referrals to people who live on the streets, be they drug addicts, prostitutes, or the mentally ill.

Thank you to all of our regional associates for proving that at Grand Circle, community service truly is a team effort that engages everyone—company wide, and around the world. We look forward to reporting on more of your efforts in our 2011 e-newsletters.

This story was featured in our January 2011 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.