Tuesday, October 10, 2017
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Just ask Tricia Donaldson—the director of operations of Trekking for Kids, Inc., in Washington, D.C.—who first became involved with the organization as a volunteer.
“I became involved with Trekking for Kids the first year they officially offered a trip, and I helped put together some of the logistics,” said Donaldson. “Besides trekking, we spend 3 to 4 days with the children at the sponsored home or school, helping to finish some of the projects we have helped fund, doing art projects with the children, playing with them, and taking them on a field trip.”
The expeditions range from 7 to 21 days, and Trekking for Kids offers people the opportunity to travel the world doing something adventurous and something good at the same time. Soon after Donaldson’s first trip, the organization wanted to hire someone to help plan their trips and she was the logical candidate.
“It was being in the right place at the right time and meeting the right people,” she said. “However, I feel like I have been preparing for this job my whole life.”
Donaldson started traveling the world at a young age with her family, then on her own during college and even started helping her college friends put together trips to Europe on a budget. She volunteered at an orphanage in India for a semester and got a degree in Anthropology.
“I used to coordinate volunteer projects for the U.S. Forest Service and the Parks and Recreation program in the city that I lived in. I have always loved hiking and being outdoors,” said Donaldson. “This was the perfect job for me.”
Her responsibilities include planning, organizing and leading many of the expeditions that Trekking for Kids offers.
“We offer expeditions around the world to some of the most iconic trekking places, and we give back to the area we are trekking in by either helping a children’s home or school for at-risk and disadvantaged kids with infrastructure projects such as new roofs, bathrooms, walls, furniture, computers and other educational materials,” she explained.
“In addition, we help with repairs to the home or school and income-generating projects, such as chicken farming or income saving projects such as solar panels, LED bulbs, etc.”
Donaldson finds the orphanage or school that the organization wants to help, manages the project budgets, acts as the project manager from afar and corresponds with the people who sign up for the trips. She also writes grants to help with some additional funding of the projects. Since Donaldson leads several of the trips each year that she plans, she has ample opportunities to travel.
“The Trekking for Kids expeditions have taken me to Nepal, Peru, Morocco, Spain, Guatemala, Ecuador, Romania, Thailand, Argentina, Chile, and Tanzania,” she said.
If you want a job like Donaldson’s, there are certain skills you must have: “They would need to be good at paying attention to details, have experience with organizing things, a lot of travel experience, good people skills, writing skills, and leadership skills,” she said.
“I get to see the world while doing something I love and, at the same time, help make a lasting difference in the lives of children all over the world. I also get to meet a lot of interesting people from so many different backgrounds and make some lasting friendships.”
There aren’t many cons to the job, she says, but setting limits to her workday is often hard:
“Since I work from home, I don’t have any set office hours, so I often find myself answering emails and working at odd hours of the day and often feel like any free time I have I should be doing something for Trekking for Kids.”
She is most proud of one project in particular: “That was helping rebuild a school in a remote village of Nepal that fell during the earthquake of a few years ago. This was a huge undertaking for Trekking for Kids and, to be honest, we were not sure how we would raise enough money to pull it off since it was a much larger project than we had ever done before.”
With the luck of some grant money and many generous donors, the school was built.
“This school is benefitting over 400 children from the surrounding mountain villages,” said Donaldson. “Some of these children walk several hours a day to get there. When the school fell, attendance was down dramatically. But now that they have a comfortable and safe place to go, there are more children attending now than ever before. Now these children can get an education and have a chance for a brighter future.”
Donaldson’s best advice for others who want to work in this field: “Don’t ever think it isn’t possible and just put yourself out there and get as much experience you can doing what you love,” she said.
All of the people who participate on the trips pay for their own travel expenses and commit to raising a minimum of $1000 in tax-deductible donations, which goes in its entirety to helping fund the projects at the school or children’s home. Since Trekking for Kids is a 501c3, part of the trip is also tax-deductible for the participants. Search All Travel Deals One Go With Best Search Technology and Save Up To 70% on Roundtr ip on AirFare and Hotels
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