47660_1705240279694_3043157_nAndrew Mersmann is the author of the global guide to Volunteer Vacations:  Frommer’s 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference (Gold Award from Society of American Travel Writers Foundation: Best Travel Guide) and Executive Vice President of Synergy, Strategy, and Engagement for evox Television. He has volunteered on service projects ranging from post-earthquake reconstruction at an orphanage in Haiti, mentoring Native American reservation youth, as a certified crisis counselor on the National Crisis Textline, working and living with the homeless on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, and saving stranded pilot whales in Key West to  a humanitarian/medical excursion by horseback in Rajasthan, India. He is proud to be a longtime volunteer and former board president with the Alisa Ann Ruch California Burn Foundation serving survivors of serious burn injuries.  He is a travel writer, former editor in chief at Passport Magazine, and has been a restaurant reviewer, entertainment writer, and celebrity profiler. He has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator in many venues, from the New York Times Travel Show and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends on satellite radio, The Smithsonian Institute, and NY1’s Travels With Val, and judged the Condé Nast Traveler “World Changers” awards. The fire and burn safety education puppet show he wrote, “Lucky the Fire-Burping Dragon” has been performed at children’s museums throughout California.


33 responses to this post.

  1. Hey great blog! I would like to touch base with you about your blog.

    Look forward to hearing from you.



    • Posted by David & Antonia on September 1, 2010 at 9:19 AM

      Andrew,,, Come to Slovakia and help me lay a brick. One brick in your hand, that you can feel and touch, and watch it as you lay it in the wall that will support the roof over my families head.

      Come to Slovakia, see my wife, hear my kids laughter.

      Come to Slovakia and breath the air that will fill my childrens lungs as they grow.

      Come to Slovakia where you can’t communicate but only with a nod and a smile.

      Come to Slovakia.

      This is my daily life. My struggle to endure. Please help me. Come. http://www.forantonia.com


  2. Hey Andrew, Finally checked out “change-by-doing.com” and enjoyed the posts and reminders of making a good life and good choices. Do you send daily reminders or do I need to check periodically for inspiration? Otherwise, hope all is going well. Now “I” want a tiger instead of a dog. Take care. David


  3. Posted by Aunt Barbara on July 19, 2009 at 4:56 PM

    Looking forward to getting a copy of your book (autographed of course) in the fall. Great concept.
    Will now also enjoy this website. Keep up the good work. and play.
    Aunt Barbara


  4. Posted by Bob on August 21, 2009 at 9:47 AM

    your blog is awesome. if I don’t tell you that enough – I love that you are doing this.

    you, my friend, rock


  5. Posted by Emily on September 11, 2009 at 5:17 PM

    This is an exciting blog for those of us who are dedicated to seeing the world in a sustainable, productive way. As a former Peace Corps Volunteer and someone who loves to travel and understand the cultures I encounter, I find the posts here really fun and interesting. I work with a women’s basket-making cooperative in Namibia, the Oshikuku Basket Project, and know that the women of that project are much more concerned with action that relying only on hope.

    Great blog!

    -Emily D. Crews


    • Posted by Andrew on September 11, 2009 at 5:35 PM

      Bless your heart Emily–Thank you so much for your kind words. I’d love to learn more about the work of Oshikuku and how you are involved (as well as how others can get involved). Perhaps you can contact me via email and let me know a bit more? email address: 500andrews@gmail.com


  6. Andrew – Great concept for a book! Can’t wait to read it. Have you checked out http://www.globalservicecorps.org ? They have been doing great work with their voluntourism for many years in Africa and Asia. Their emphasis is HIV/AIDS education, sustainable agriculture and teaching English.


  7. Hi Andrew. I have been looking for voluntourism where I can bring my children and they can assist as well. The youngest I have found so far is for age 8 and up. My children are 1,7 and 10. Any ideas?

    Thanks. I enjoy your blob.


    • Posted by Andrew on April 16, 2010 at 4:13 PM

      Hi Barbara–first of all, I LOVE that you are teaching your kids about being of service–that is huge and a gift to all the rest of us to raise them that way. I don’t know of projects for younger kids–8 seems to be the cut-off for many. Especially for international stuff. There are probably some great opportunities that may not be the entire vacation, but, for instance, some hotel chains (Ritz-Carlton, Fairmont) have volunteer packages for an afternoon. The whole family could probably do a nighttime baby sea turtle release, for example, helping assure the hatchlings get to the open ocean…some animal support programs like that could make for great family memories. I’ll dig around, but for full-on projects haven’t found under-eights yet.


    • Hola Barbara,

      I am so glad I saw your post! And I am happy to let you know that I run a Volunteer Vacation company called Destination:PEACE. My Sister and I just launched our new company this year and it’s been a huge success. Please, check out our website here: http://www.destinationpeacemexico.com AND I think this video will give you a good idea of what you and your family can experience: http://www.youtube.com/user/DestinationPEACEMexi#p/u/3/rc0imxUFpZ0

      We partner with local non profit organizations in communities and create very special volunteer opportunities, any where from 2-4 hours a day. AND we create a luxurious experience for you as far as accommodations, food and other activities. We’d love to have you and your family. I encourage you to check out our pictures, testimonials and press page. AND as far as age requirement, we don’t have any. We welcome ALL ages and love to have the kids involved! The more kids involved, the better!

      If you have any questions or would like to talk with me I can be reached via email: katherine@peacemexcico.org, 503-568-8462 and 303-250-4319.

      Thanks so much and have a wonderful day!



  8. Dear Sir: I am very interested in volunteering and travelling. Where can I get more information on this subject? Is there a website? Please inform. Minoo


    • Posted by Andrew on April 20, 2010 at 2:33 PM

      Well, I’m a little biased since I wrote it, but a good starting place would be my book: “Frommer’s 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference” It should be available at your local bookstore or online retailer–came out in November, and has opportunities around the world in 15 different categories of work, based on what you want to do, or where you want to visit.


  9. […] About « Operation WELL Worth It […]


  10. You are an inspiration to others, especially myself. My travel experience is limited, however both my husband and I try to take every opportunity to help make this planet, and its inhabitants, a better place for future generations. I look forward to reading more of your work and learning all I can, in hopes of perhaps inspiring others to get involved, as well.


    • Posted by David & Antonia on September 1, 2010 at 8:35 AM

      I liked your reply. Wish more people were like you.

      It is too bad our “cause”, MY cause, will never make the book “500 places where you can make a difference” . In my opinion it would be No. #1 in the book, but of course I am biased. But you would probably agree it should be No. #1 to if given the same circumstance.

      Our blog is: http://www.forantonia.com You don’t have to look at a Haiti or Pakastan to see a real need. It is sad that these big “events”, as the press puts them, are the only things that make the headlines.

      Reading these comments here have helped me realize that there are still good people in the world and hopefully if I keep reading them and internalize them I will keep from getting cynical,,,, which I find myself falling down that slipery slope.

      Thanks for your sincere words.

      Wish George Clooney could hear about us.


  11. Posted by David & Antonia on September 1, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    Andrew,,, Come to Slovakia and help me lay a brick. One brick in your hand, that you can feel and touch, and watch it as you lay it in on wall that will support the roof over my families head.

    Come to Slovakia, see my wife, hear my kids laughter.

    Come to Slovakia and breath the air that will fill my childrens lungs as they grow.

    Come to Slovakia where you can’t communicate but only with a nod and smile.

    Come to Slovakia.

    This is my daily life. My struggle to endure. Please help me. Come.


  12. Great site and great way for kids to showcase what they are doing to make a difference. You may want to also feature these two kids (www.onemoregeneration.org) Email me and i can send all the information. Truly amazing 😉


  13. Hey Andrew!
    Thanks for writing about us in December! How’d you hear about our work?


  14. Hey Andrew!

    Thanks for writing about us in December! How’d you hear about our work? Appreciate the props!

    dZi Foundation


  15. Dear Mr. Mersmann,

    We love your site and wanted to see if you might consider adding our story to your site to help the founders of OMG inform kids all over the world about the importance of getting involved with cleaning up the environment, and helping endangered species survive One More Generation… and beyond.

    OMG is a nonprofit organization founded by two elementary students who are trying to clean up the environment, and save endangered species.

    OMG founders just launched a “Say No To Plastic Bags” coalition in their community and will be partnering with the ISFoundation (Ian Somerhalder from the famed Vampier Dairies) so we can raise awareness to the problem plastic bags are causing to our environment and to endangered species. http://generationextinction.com/ Local groups such as the Atlanta chapter of SurfRider, the folks from GreenPlate, The Center for Biological Diversity, Chico Bags, Orange Halo, and ConservingNow have all joined the coalition.

    OMG founders recently had a great meeting with North Georgia Annual Conference UMC Sustainability Committee. The North GA Conference represents over 900 churches, and we have the opportunity to educate and affect change in many caring communities. They presented their plans to get as many communities in GA to enact a “Say No To Plastic Bags” program. They showed the “Bag-It” movie trailer and are hopeful this meeting will lead to many more communities inviting us to come and speak about our initiative.

    Also, the folks from KooDooZ are going to help us set up a Nation-Wide challenge for kids to get involved. One such Challenge with be about Endangered Species Awareness and the other about Plastic Awareness.


    Here is info on the organization. We hope you will consider contacting us after you have seen all these guys are doing.;

    These two will also be featured on Chicago’s Progressive Talk Radio on their new segment “Our Town” with host Julia Shu coming soon, and were just interviewed by New Zealand’s most popular Motivational Radio station with host Lisa Lomas. Carter and Olivia were also featured on German TV (ZDF/Logo) in August for their work with saving Sea Turtles caught up in the Gulf Oil Spill. They are scheduled to be featured on KooDooZ by Brandi Milloy later this month and Good Morning Atlanta aired their story in Dec as well. The folks from the ISFoundation just flew up to Atlanta and did an interview with the kids at Zoo Atlanta which will air soon.

    Carter (age 9.5) and his sister Olivia (age 8) are so passionate about wanting to make a difference that they started their own organization called One More Generation (OMG). Their goal is to help clean up our environment, save endangered species and helping kids “Give Back”. What these guys are accomplishing should be shared with youth around the world.
    The two students have been adopting Cheetah’s in South Africa (from the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Center) for years and as they started asking why some animals needed adopting, we told them that unless someone stepped in and helped, there might not be any Cheetah’s left in the wild by the time they had their own kids. Well that was all we had to say and these two sprang into action.

    Since starting OMG, Carter and Olivia have been involved in numerous initiatives both locally and globally to include:

    They just recently returned from making a trip to the Gulf where they delivered badly needed Animal Rescue Supplies to the folks at the Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Rescue Center in New Orleans. You can check out what they did in the Gulf to help save Sea Turtles: http://onemoregeneration.org/2010/09/07/animal-rescue-supplies-delivered/ and watch their video about the trip as well: http://vimeo.com/14798358

    Also check out what they are doing to help Sharks and Whales http://onemoregeneration.org/2010/09/17/save-the-sharks/ and http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=163429810347176

    They have been in communications with Pete Bethune (Ady Gil Captain from Sea Shepard) who suggested we attend one of their Nov World-Wide Anti Whaling demonstration in Atlanta. This was Carter and Olivia’s first demonstration and they absolutely loved it. Here are the pictures from the event: http://on.fb.me/9GnIdX

    Carter and Olivia recently won the Grand Prize in a Nestles Heroes Contest. The prize is essentially an ice cream party for them and up to 50 of their friends. They both decided to share the prize with their classmates at their school since the entire school has been so helpful with our organization from the start. The ice-cream party was last Friday and was held at the Fayette Montessori School in Fayetteville GA. All the kids had a blast. Here is a link to the story: http://bit.ly/bDt23G

    Working with our State Legislatures on proposing Legislative Language changes to the current laws written by the GA DNR (Georgia Department of Natural Resources) in an effort to help stop the Rattlesnake Roundups in our state. They have partnered with the folks from the Center of Biological Diversity out of AZ and their legal team has helped them write the language changes we want to introduce in Spring. So far these two enterprising young students have collected over 1,100 signatures on a petition asking for change to the Roundups. Last week they met with the head of the GA DNR to discuss changes for the future of these events.

    They are working to try and raise $50,000.00 for a Cheetah Rescue program in South Africa. The Ann Van Dyke Cheetah Center runs the program and they are doing a tremendous job. The process is slow and funds are extremely hard to come-by but they just held a silent auction a couple of weeks ago where they auctioned off painting kids in the community did of their favorite endangered species.

    They are working with various organizations in our immediate area on raising awareness to the plight of the many endangered species across the globe. We have an educational program that we present to the visitors of the Atlanta Zoo, The Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium, The Atlanta Botanical Garden, Cochran Mill Nature Center and their local Fayette Public Library.

    They are in talks with the folks from The Art Miles Mural Project (http://artmiles.eplanetsystems.com/), which is an international organization that raises awareness to various initiatives globally through art. We recently proposed to them that we collaborate on such a project about endangered species. We are very excited about the prospect of organizing such an event.
    Carter and Olivia were just invited to be a guest speaker at the Caring for Creation 2011 Conference at Lake Junaluska, NC in March/April of 2011. They are preparing their presentation as we speak for what will definitely be their largest presentation to-date. See Sunday’s agenda here: http://www.lakejunaluska.com/events.aspx?id=5460

    Thanks to a meeting these two kids had with our State Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, a further meeting was just held with Deputy District Director Andy Bush were Carter and Olivia discussed the needed support for HR14 which covers Ocean Acidification. Carter and Olivia enjoyed the meeting and we will be reporting on the results in the coming weeks. Here is our link to the issue (http://bit.ly/aoaziw) along with an image of the two during the meeting.

    They hosted a “Water Event” at the Fernbank Museum where they discussed the importance of water on all living things and also partnered with an organization called Ryan’s Well which helps build water wells to poor villages around the world to ensure everyone has access to clean drinking water. Also on that same day, they participated in a celebration at our Sate Capital by being part of “Uniting Voices”: An Interfaith Worship Service Calling for Climate Justice, which is an event that hopes to raise awareness to the problems with our climate do to pollution etc.

    Both events were videoed for inclusion in the “One Day On Earth” organization that is hoping to document historical events from this special day and preserve them for future generations.

    We are also now working on a joint project with the folks at Healthy Vending and the folks at TerraCycle in an effort to create a program designed to reduce the amount of plastic in our environment. More on that later 😉

    Finally, they are attempting to work on a joint project with Jungle Jack Hanna from the Columbus Zoo and or Jeff Corwin to help raise awareness of the issues regarding endangered species to kids nationwide. (This is one of the projects, which they really want to move forward with. So far neither have returned our calls or answered our emails, we are still trying 😉

    Well I think that about covers it. We hope you will agree that this story shows kids everywhere that Anybody Can Make A Difference and that you might consider writing about them. Getting kids involved at an early age is our only hope to help change the global situation around and what these two have accomplished is impressive.

    Should you have any further questions, or need any additional information, please feel free to give me a call at anytime.

    Thanks for taking the time to listen and we hope to hear from you soon.
    Best Regards from the entire OMG Team 😉



    • Posted by Andrew Mersmann on March 4, 2011 at 10:12 AM

      Hi Jim–great to hear from you! I actually did blog about the kids and OMG a while ago: https://changebydoing.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/one-more-generation-keeping-the-worlds-species-around/

      I’m excited to hear of the new developments, and definitely look forward to doing an update. Maybe we can even do a short email interview with them? A feature I put up irregularly, but it is always popular, is the “Changers Profiles” of people who are committed to change, and learning about what first got them going…I think the OMG team would be ideal for that…let me know if that seems feasible. Only 10-12 questions, easy via email, and a couple photos.

      Thanks so much for your kind words/support.
      All best,


      • Andrew,

        Thanks so much, we never saw the story on you site. Thanks for sharing. Yes we would love an interview. Do you want to send us the questions? Carter and Olivia just launched their “Say No To Plastic Bags” Coalition in an effort to clean up our streams and oceans so we can save more endangered species. We would love to focus on all they are doing in that regards.

        We are still feverishly working on trying to raise $50,000.00 for the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Center in South Africa so that might also be an area we could touch on.

        Let us know how you want us to proceed.

        Thanks again for caring and at some point we need to talk about our plans to visit South Africa and get your suggestions on how we can make the trip one where we can also do some good while there.

        Best regards from the entire OMG Team 😉


  16. […] About « Change by Doing… working and living with the homeless on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, and saving stranded pilot whales …. Posted by Tara Aarness on August 31, 2010 at 4:36 PM … […]


  17. Thank you for the mention around Earth Day.
    International Bicycle Fund – http://www.ibike.org
    Promoting sustainable transport and understanding worldwide.
    A non-profit organization.


  18. Andrew,

    How are you doing? We hope all is well. The kids have been following your progress and we all love what you are doing to make our world a better place for future generations.

    I wanted to let you know that Olivia and Carter are staying busy with their Plastic Awareness Curriculum program. They recently signed a partnership deal with Novelis who is one of the largest recyclers of aluminum. We will be looking at incorporating the need to recycle all aluminum into our current weeklong environmental curriculum which we feature to elementary schools. The more we can get kids, their families and their communities to recycle the existing aluminum, the less raw materials will have to be mined which is a win win for our environment.

    OMG receives corporate sponsorship from Novelis (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.467602189930296.111215.108864552470730&type=3)

    The kids have also just launched their Rhino Letter Writing Campaign where they are trying to collect 1,000 letters addressed to the South African President (President Zuma) asking him to get serious about stopping poaching of rhino’s for their horn. At the current rate of poaching in his country, rhino’s WILL become extinct in our lifetime and in our opinion, that is unacceptable.

    Our goal is to collect 1,000 letters from folks all over the world and then to personally deliver the letters to President Zuma in the hopes that the media awareness will force his government to act before it is too late. You can read more at the link below:

    Dear President Zuma, (http://onemoregeneration.org/2012/07/20/dear-president-zuma/)

    Olivia and Carter wanted me to send this to you in the hopes that you too would consider sending us a letter for their campaign. Reaching our 1,000 letter goal will be difficult and we could use all the help we can get. If you want, you can either mail us the letter or send it via email. We post all letters on our website as soon as we receive them. Maybe you would also consider posting this on your FaceBook page or via Twitter to help us expand our reach.

    Thanks again for all your hard work and for your consideration to help. BTW, check out what else the kids have been doing to try and make a difference:

    OMG Supports the full ban on Bullhooks at circuses (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.466020940088421.110790.108864552470730&type=3)

    Best regards from the entire OMG Team 😉



  19. Hi Andrew,
    Just wanted to stop by because of all your great work in the volunteer industry. If you’d be interested in answering some questions about your volunteer experiences for GoOverseas.com, email me at katie at gooverseas.com.



  20. Andrew,

    Thanks so much for mentioning VolunteerForever.com in your blog! We’d love to get in touch and discuss some collaboration opportunities! I’m also in LA, so perhaps we can grab a coffee?

    Steve Weddle
    Founder & CEO, Volunteer Forever


  21. Dear Andrew–

    Thought you might like to know that, thanks to your blog, I just made a greeting card purchase at Sanctuary Spring. I’d kept your blog post in my files – https://changebydoing.com/sanctuaryspring – anticipating that one day I would get around to placing an order. Well, given the recent disaster in the Philippines, it seemed the time had come. Thank you for turning me on to this amazing organization!!

    So nice to know that, in these chaotic, turbulent, sometimes insensitive times, there are people and companies out there trying to make life-altering changes for others in need. Bravo to you for helping us find them!

    Best Regards,


  22. I wish to talk with Elon Musk about SaveNatureFree but have no clue how to contact his people. Our foundation members (who join in a team free) are early-birds who get paid for planting trees. SaveNaturefree info kiosks will be run by small local groups in neighborhoods all around the world. The venture is not funded by anyone at present and is a risk of dying.


  23. Hello My name is Ted Karfakis, ecological scientist, consultant and activist from Greece. I found about your blog . I am the head of the board of directors of a non governmental non profit grassroots organization from Greece, Terra Sylvestris. We work in a hotspot for biological conservation in the inner Ionian. We have a program for which we accept volunteers. Perhaps you can write about it in your blog or elsewhere. Ours is work which is in an area where among other things we still have a number of species of marine megafauna. We work on restoration and protection of biodiversity and also run a permaculture project aimed at developing alternatives to environmental degradation among other things also.


  24. Posted by orla conolon on November 15, 2019 at 7:38 AM

    ngl ur kinda fit barbs ye know pop round me crib and we can Netflix and chill xoxoxoxoxo


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