Worldwide Community Service: Highlights from 2012
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Worldwide Community Service: Highlights from 2012

Our regional associates help out communities close to their hearts

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, 640 generous regional associates volunteered more than 2,900 hours. Here are some highlights of what has been accomplished in 2012.

At the Rastafarian Community Pre-primary School in South Africa, our team repaired ceilings, painted classrooms, and even updated electrical wiring. Even as the temperature inside the school topped 100°F, our associates were driven by the spirit of the day. "We had a great deal of fun interacting with the curious children," said Ian Wallace, Program Services Manager, who later discovered that the students were curious about their team because they seldom come into contact with people who do not have dreadlocks. "The adults taught us a lot about ourselves, their history, and our own history," he recalled. "We achieved the goals we set out for ourselves and left knowing that this little community was better off, as were we."

In Zimbabwe, 24 Trip Leaders joined 12 teachers and 45 students to plant corn and a hedge fence to protect the Ngamo and Ziga schools. It was a true team effort: Trip Leaders with hoes made the holes for the seed, and the children followed with seeds. Community members followed with fertilizer and covered the holes.

The Americas:
In Panama, an enthusiastic group of 21 volunteers, led by Rina Barber, painted classrooms, planted a garden, and provided audio equipment and an air conditioner to improve the General Manuel Benigno Higuero School.

A new site supported by the Foundation, the Salantai Day Care Center in Lithuania provides services for mentally and physically challenged adults. Our associates' community service was a big event for the Salantai city itself—it actually was the first charity event in the region. The city mayor greeted our group of more than 20 Trip Leaders and associates from the Baltics and Russia. The team had planned to tend to the center's outdoor areas, but when they arrived in the town, they were surprised to see everything covered in snow. As Oksana Nageviciute, Area Manager of the Baltic States told us, "Weather is very unpredictable in the Baltics, and it surprised us again … But we called the center and told them that snow could not stop us. We were coming anyway!" So instead the group worked alongside the residents cleaning the inside of the building. In return, the residents taught our group of volunteers how to create pots from clay.

In Russia, the Social Adaptation Center Marfino is a government-supported transitional center for those who find themselves in a socially difficult situation—people who were robbed or have lost their homes, as well as elderly people who lack family support. After our 30 Program Directors and regional associates cleaned the center and provided 600 toiletry kits to residents, they were surprised with a concerts the residents had prepare to express their gratitude. As Natalia Janjic, Regional General Manager, explained, "It was the day when everyone of us felt clearly how things that seem minor to us, can become huge for somebody else."

In September, associates from our office in Dubrovnik, Croatia, painted an entire day care center. As they worked, they were honored by presence of several of the center's parents and children, who shared stories about some of the challenges they encounter in their everyday lives.

South Pacific:
In New Zealand, the Auckland City Mission's community garden, nursery, and ecological restoration projects are only possible because of volunteers. The garden provides an opportunity for homeless people to grow food and give back to others in need. Our group of 21 Trip Leaders from Australia and New Zealand and associates from our South Pacific office potted more than 300 plants in the nature reserve and mulched the gardens.

Hong Kong associates spent an afternoon at the God Love Elderly Center, a home for the elderly where each resident has only 36 feet of living space—room for a bed and small cabinet. After playing games and interacting with the residents, the group provided snacks to all and visited the rooms of those who were too ill to attend the event.

As part of our Trip Leader training for our Heart of India adventure, our team arranged dental and medical exams for the children at the Saini Adarsh Vidya Mandir in India and provided students with toothbrushes and toothpaste. At the nearby Dhonk Women's Cooperative Center, another group pitched in by painting the walls, doors and windows.

In Mongolia, our associates donated toys and food to an Ulaanbaatar orphanage—along with a unique machine that adds oxygen to create a healthy drink for the children.

In Burma, the Kalaywa Tawya Monastery provides shelter and education to more than 1,000 Buddhist monks, ranging in age from 10 to 90 years old. All of our Burma Trip Leaders and several regional associates pitched in to help clean grounds and interiors, and a Foundation donation of $1,270 helped to renovate existing toilets and build new toilets for the monastery residents.

The Ban Kia Luang Primary School in Laos is located in a farming village 45 miles west of Luang Prabang. The students' standard of living is very low for the country. The school's equipment is old and has been weathers with temperatures of about 99-104 degrees Fahrenheit in the classroom. Our regional Bangkok office helped to improve the atmosphere by providing electric fans and school supplies, and renovating four toilets in a nearby Hmong village, where many students live.

Featured in our December 2012 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.