Posts Tagged ‘elevate destinations’

Elevate the Gulf–It is Out of the News, but the Crisis Persists

Our world is in constant flux, and sometimes change happens in dramatic ways, in the form of disasters, natural or human-generated. Because we’ve all grown used to 24-hour news cycles and are immersed in everything from contentious election rhetoric to award season gowns and shenanigans, it is understandable how our collective memory might be challenged to hold on to priorities and perspective. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has been reduced for many of us to the occasional BP television commercial addressing the work they are committed to doing to continue cleanup. For the folks living in the area who lost livelihood, and the ecosystem that lost life, the challenges in the aftermath have not gone away. Quite the contrary–there is still so much to do to help the region heal.

Elevate the Gulf is a fantastic “urgent service” volunteer trip from Elevate Destinations. This organization helped me get to Haiti post-earthquake, and is deeply committed to the same kind of direct service for the Gulf. The trip is April 9-14, and signing up needs to happen quickly (shooting for next week–March 5 deadline). In addition to the expert team leaders and local partner organizations, you’ll be learning from and working alongside Mark Spalding, the Executive Director of the OceanFoundation. Each of the six days you’ll work with scientists and researchers from the Alabama Coastal Foundation and The Nature Conservancy to restore oyster reefs, seagrass beds, and coastal marsh habitats. The planet has always done a pretty good job at restoring itself, but we made this mess, we ought to be dedicated to the cause of cleaning it up. We have lost probably an entire generation of sea turtles and fish, and the shrimp and oyster population, on which so many locals depend for income, was slammed in a way that won’t bounce back for several seasons of natural renewal.

Trust me on this one–if you are looking for a volunteer vacation opportunity, here is a great option. Domestic destination so you needn’t mess with international airfare, springtime in the South=gorgeous, and a host (Andrea Atkinson) and host organization I know and adore, and promise will take care of you in ways more professional and efficient than you likely would take care of yourself…and the planet needs your help and your effort.

Mountains for Water—New Trip with Elevate Destinations

The severe, debilitating drought that struck Kenya at the end of the last century is still being felt, and causing suffering, today. Communities, livestock, and wild animals struggle for water, leading to entire communities—human and other animals—fighting dehydration and its attendant health issues. On example is the prevalence of trachoma, which can lead to painful blindness. A relatively simple reservoir system can make all the difference to people living in the area…and YOU can make all the difference by participating in this trip of a lifetime from Elevate Destinations.

You and your fellow intrepid travelers will climb Mount Kilimanjaro (I’ve been aching to do this for YEARS! I dream about Kili!) to raise funds and awareness. The money raised from this educational trip will build a rainwater reservoir for a rural community in Northern Kenya. This is a 7-day ascent of the highest free standing mountain in the world, on one of the most scenic routes, with the support of professional guides and support staff. Cross a huge entry off your bucket list, and make a lasting change for a community in need. Your efforts can literally save lives and certainly improve the health of the region. There are still a few slots left for this January journey.

I have traveled with this terrific company before (to volunteer in Haiti) and I can promise you I will travel with them again–I recommend them so highly. When you’re there, at the summit of Kili, tell the Mountain I hope to see it soon!

Flight of Friendship—Volunteering in Japan

AP photo/The Yomiuri Shimbun, Reiri Kurihara

Disaster relief volunteering is always a delicate measure with timing. The quick arrival of skilled volunteers for emergency medical relief or shelter work is one thing, but when it can be effective and productive for the rest of us, as dedicated but lay volunteers, always takes a little longer. Elevate Destinations, with whom I did my post-earthquake volunteering in Haiti, has an inspiring focus on “Urgent Service” volunteer trips (including continuing work in Haiti as well as cleanup in the Gulf from the BP oil spill), and with their partner network of in-country NGOs, truly understands the timing.

Flight of Friendship is an Oregon-based organization that previously brought volunteers to projects in post-tsunami Thailand and post-hurricane New Orleans…and they are ready to get volunteers into the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged communities of Japan. Their humanitarian excursion is May 29-June 4, and while brief, is designed to have a definite impact (and like all volunteering, the person doing the volunteer work always comes away with more than the person or community being served. We truly help ourselves when helping others). The first days are in Tokyo to be briefed on conditions and expectations, then the group moves on to Sendai to assist at shelters, orphanages, and schools. It would be a huge thing to take on while the situation is still so raw.

Are you ready? They are definitely ready for you.

My Trip to Haiti…and You

My apologies for being AWOL last week. I was sick as a dog. While everyone else on the East Coast (and much of America) was sweating through a heatwave, I was buried under mounds of covers with an electric blanket set on “7” and shivering because I still couldn’t get warm from a raging fever. I’m back in the saddle, but bummed I missed a bunch of blogging days.

Photo by Renee Dietrich

I leave for Haiti in less than a week (and hope to be able to blog from there, but may be inconsistent, as I’m told Internet…and electricity, are going to be inconsistent as well) and wanted to be sure folks know what I’m up to. I also wanted to create an opening for anyone who might be inspired, to support the work our little band of volunteers (myself, a 27-year-old woman from Florida, and a 45-year-old mom and her 15-year-old daughter) will be doing. Here is a link to a secure donations/fundraising page for my project ( The organization is a 501(c)(3) charity, so donations are tax-deductible as charitable contributions.

My explanatory text from the First Giving web page:

The January 12, 2010 Earthquake shook the already frail country of Haiti mercilessly.  Around 230,000 deaths resulted as well as the displacement and destruction of legions of families and lives. Just over six months later, human resilience prevails as Haitians move to pick up the pieces, making a new life out of less than the little most people once had. The emergency stage is over, and now the long-term rebuilding begins. Volunteers who were not medical or engineering professionals were urged to stay away, as one in-country Doctors Without Borders physician told me “It [Haiti] is like an intensive care patient. It has healing to do before there can be visitors.”

Now there is a way for me to be useful. The hard work of locals is being supplemented by carefully curated volunteer projects. On August 15, I go to Haiti for 2 weeks to do a construction project, building a computer lab/classroom space for a school in Jacmel. (Jacmel is a town 2 1/2 hours from Port-au-Prince…70% of Jacmel’s buildings fell or were damaged, but like so many cities that are not the well known capital, they are getting far less foreign aid). Nearly every leader from within Haiti and of international aid programs and efforts agrees that education is at the top of the list of infrastructure that must be prioritized in a new Haiti. This school serves the poorest in the community who would otherwise be unable to access education, as well as the restavek population (“restavek” children are essentially modern day slaves, and this is the first outreach education to this alarmingly large population in Jacmel)

Elevate Destinations, Scopa Group, and Make a Difference Now are joining forces to support rebuilding efforts…and put me to work. I’ve paid for my trip, gotten my shots, bought my mosquito net, and am filling an extra suitcase with as many extra donated items as I can squeeze into American Airlines’ luggage rules. Now I want to ask your help, and just provide an opening for you to support the project. Money you donate will go directly toward paying the professional crews at the project (a huge consideration is that we NOT take paying jobs away from locals, but support them) and building materials. By the time we leave, the computer lab will be finished and ready to open doors, literally and figuratively/electronically, for the kids.

I hope you’ll find a way to pitch in. You’ll be in my heart and head while I’m there, it’d be cool if you were in the mortar and paint and plaster as well.

It wasn’t just rhetoric when everyone said rebuilding would take years. Join me and be a part of that. Thank you for standing by Haitians as they start anew. Please forward this to anyone who you think has been moved into solidarity and action by the tragic events of January 12th.

Thank you so much,


“We think that we’re not happy because of what we’re not getting, but really we’re not happy because of what we’re not giving.”
–Marianne Williamson

Elevate Haiti

OK–this one has gotten hold of my imagination and won’t let go. My friends at Elevate Destinations are facilitating volunteer vacation trips to help the rebuilding efforts in Haiti. This is a 15-day trip in August or late November/early December, to do construction work at Jacmel, a port town where 70% of the buildings were damaged in the January quake. You’ll be doing construction work at a free community school, building a computer lab and classrooms. Conditions are tough, work is in the heat of the sun, accommodations are on the floor or in tents (or for an additional cost, at local hotels/guest houses), and meals are basic (peanut butter, bread, fruit, beans and rice. Grocery stores and restaurants are nearby), and the difference you will make is HUGE.

For a while there was no way for lay volunteers to be effective in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, if anything we would have been in the way during emergency rescue and recovery work, but the time has come for rebuilding and working alongside Haitians to recover and heal communities—an effort that will take years. This project, a blister-your-hands, exhaust-your-body, enrich-your-world, fill-your-heart work trip committed to the children of Haiti, is a chance to truly immerse yourself in service. Anyone who has ever done construction work knows, at the end of the day, you can look back and see what you created that was not there in the morning. At the end of these two weeks, there will be facilities that will be used by, and enrich the lives of, generations to come—because of you.

I’m already looking at trying to make my schedule work…shall we meet there?


dom_photoThis is another interview with somebody who has taken on making a huge change in the world while also creating a path for us to do the same. I met Dominique Callimanopulos in a simple desk-side meeting at my office where she had come to tell me a bit about her company, Elevate Destinations. I had been impressed for a while by Elevate’s website (even their tag line gets me in the best way: “Make Travel Matter.”), and even wrote one of my earliest blog postings, which Dominique didn’t know, about the company. I was immediately taken with how easy and comfortable she was in our conversation, and how lit up she was about the work she does. I wish that kind of passion on all of us…

Mission Statement: Elevate Destinations, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a philanthropic travel company that combines singular journeys with social good.  Five percent of the net cost of every trip is donated to local non-profits and projects that support the environment and community development. Customized itineraries feature community initiatives and volunteer opportunities as well as eco-hotels and lodges.  Elevate destinations also specializes in donor travel: organizing first class trips for donors and board members of leading international organizations.

Elevate also has a terrific “conscious travel blog” that you should absolutely bookmark: Responsive Travel.


With Bedouin leader in Sahara Desert, 03/2009

Dominique Callimanopulos, Founder and CEO, grew up witnessing the disparity between tourists and local conditions they visit and created Elevate Destinations to provide unique travel which cares for local people, wildlife, and natural resources.
Dominique studied the impact of tourism in the Seychelle Islands for her Anthropology thesis at Wesleyan University and has continued to explore global social and human conditions through 25 years of work with social change organizations in the fields of human rights, international development, environmental protection, and psychology before founding Elevate Destinations in 2005.

Tell me a little bit about the genesis of Elevate Destinations. What possessed you? There must have been easier things to start—why this?

Elevate Destinations was an outgrowth of Elevate, Inc. a consulting company I founded to work with clients making a positive social impact.  I was traveling a lot, consulting with international non-profit clients, and saw the opportunity to create a sustainable travel company that gave back to destination communities.  For me, this was a way to leverage funds for important global issues.

What obstacles along the way almost stopped you?

Nothing almost stopped me.  I have been excited about my company from the start!  While there has been a slowdown in travel on the consumer front this year, because of the economy, our donor travel programs have continued to flourish–testimony to the power of witnessing the impact of projects in the field.  We have used the recession to strengthen our programs and partnerships and develop new initiatives.
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Conservation Wars

This is a blog entry from earlier this month from friends at the Responsive Travel Blog

This is the terrific blog of ELEVATE DESTINATIONS, the travel company that makes travel matter–giving you authentic experiences in wildly diverse cultures while making a difference for the communities and habitats you visit.

I had the recent pleasure of meeting the company’s founder and president, Dominique Callimanopulos, when she was in New York–if you think the company is inspirational (and you will think that), try sitting across the desk from Dominique. She is so comfortable in her skin, and knows she is having an impact.

her bio from the website:

Dominique Callimanopulos
Founder and President, Elevate Destinations

Dominique Callimanopulos, Founder of Elevate Destinations, is a lifetime world traveler committed to combining singular journeys with social good.

Dominique grew up witnessing the disparity between tourists and local conditions they visit and created Elevate Destinations to provide unique and enchanted travel for clients, while caring for local people, wildlife and natural resources.

Dominique studied the impact of tourism on social change in the Seychelle Islands for her Anthropology thesis at Wesleyan University and continued to explore global social and human conditions through 25 years of work with social change organizations in the fields of human rights, international development, environmental protection and psychology before founding Elevate Destinations in 2004.


So read this upsetting blog entry, bookmark and return to, and when you’re ready to head out into new (to you) places and contribute to life where you land, think

‘Conservation Wars’ and an Attack on a Kenya Conservationist

Filed under: Initiatives, Issues, Outreach, Resources — kristie @ 1:37 pm

Elevate Destinations is sad and shocked to report that recently a good friend and conservationist, Kuki Gallmann, was attacked and almost killed by poachers on her property in Lakipia, in Northern Kenya. A major land steward at the edge of the Great Rift Valley, the Ol Ari Nyiro Conservancy encompasses 100,000 acres. The conservancy has won many awards for its protection and cultivation of Black Rhino and other species and is also a center for community and cultural projects and host to many visitors to Kenya every year.

Photo Courtesy of Kuki Gallmann

Ms. Gallmann, now recovering, is the author of the best selling book I Dreamed of Africa. She is a dedicated activist and conservationist who has long fought the ivory trade. In Ms. Gallmann’s own words:

I was attacked in the Conservancy while alone in my car by seven men on a mission to kill, as a revenge for my involvement in anti-poaching efforts and attempts to break into the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade. I was hit several times, first in the neck, and then the left hand I used to shelter my head  and it was shattered from blows with poles, fence posts and rocks they threw. Miraculously I at last managed to insert the first gear and with the good hand drove over a mile before losing consciousness; when I came to I raised the alarm and help from my security staff and the wonderful and most efficient Kenya Wildlife Services team stationed on the conservancy came immediately to my rescue.

Photo Courtesy of Kuki Gallmann

In 1989, Ms. Gallman helped to stage the burning of 12 tons of ivory in Nairobi National Park:

Kenya had burnt all its ivory back in 1989. We personally helped. It was our old Toyota truck which brought the 12 tons of ivory to be burnt…This bold and brave message, sent to the world, stopped the legal trade on ivory; for 19 years the poaching was enormously easier to control. All ivory was illegal. Ivory is neither food, medicine nor fuel. It is not an essential commodity. It is the tooth of a majestic animal. It is criminal that the great herds are destroyed to just make bad taste trinkets no one needs, but this is what is happening.

Photo Courtesy of Kuki Gallmann

According to Ms. Gallmann, the fight against the ivory market was hurt last year by a 2008 Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) decision to permit South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe to sell their stockpiled ivory to China, causing a black market revival on “legal” ivory trade.

This latest attack highlights growing ‘Conservation Wars’ that are taking place around the globe. Population pressures and shrinking resources have escalated conflicts between environmental and human interests, and while many conservancies now educate local inhabitants in sustainable land management, opportunistic groups continue to engage in poaching and illegal trade.

Photo Courtesy of National Geographic

In July of 2008, National Geographic News reported a fatal attack on a World Wildlife Fund truck carrying wildlife conservationists and rangers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The attack killed two, including an 18 year old girl, and injured several others. The attack took place in Virunga National Park, where over the past ten years over 110 rangers have been killed. In Jakarta earlier this year, there was another attack against conservationists reported by MongaBay, this time by a company, Sinar Mas – a logging company with thousands of hectares of holdings throughout Indonesia. The company’s security guards attacked peaceful Greenpeace protesters, kicking and punching them when they chained themselves to the company’s headquarters. Less than a month after that attack, a nature reserve officer was shot in the head in Malta, on one of Bird Life’s conservations sites. Bird Life reports over 20 attacks on rangers in their Malta parks and the government seems to turn a blind eye. Despite these attacks, they do not damper the will of conservationists, but rather inspire them to move forward stronger than before, as is the case with Ms. Gallmann.

These ‘Conservation Wars’ are more of a reason than ever to give back to the places that you travel and to travel responsively.

Awakening the Responsive Traveler Within: Do you know of other incidents that fit into the ‘Conservation War’ category? Are you inspired by Ms. Gallmann’s story, struggle and courage to join the fight for the conservation of our planet? How could travel help pacify the ‘Conservation Wars’?