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How Volunteer Travel Changes Lives

We never know what may result from our volunteer travels. Sometimes the impressions made on us may lead to a return trip, other times it may spawn larger ambitions to give back which could lead to a career change or the creation of a business or a non-profit that would give back perpetually or meet a particular need in the world or both. Such is the case of Jan Hanson. We love her story because it embodies the promise and potential of every volunteer and every volunteer trip.

Jan Hanson was working for a nationwide banking company, marketing their financial services. In early January 2007, she decided to spend two weeks working with orphans in Ayacucho, Peru. Her work there was simple: teaching English to children and teenagers, cutting out paper dolls for a group of 8-year old girls, and piling rocks to make a fence around a school so that children could have a safe place to play.

Realizing how her volunteer work really did make a difference helped Hanson realize that working at her job was no longer enough, she can and needs to do more. She felt that doing something good to make the lives of orphans and poor children easier was truly her life’s calling.

When she returned home, she built a web-based nonprofit organization called 200 Orphanages Worldwide. The mission of 200 Orphanages Worldwide is simple — to help established organizations worldwide that have identified a need for housing orphans in their communities. The website serves as a forum for existing organizations across the globe to raise awareness and funds for their various projects. Today, more than 21 organizations are featured on Hanson’s site, with projects totaling about $3 million.

200 Orphanages Worldwide

All the orphanages submitting funding requests are screened to ensure that their existing operations are healthy and the funding requests are only for expansions and not for operating expenses. Her work now involves building support and creating a solid donor base, getting the word out, and mobilizing volunteers around the world to host events that spread the word and raise funds. Once people hear about the children and their needs, they often want to do something to help. Jan is also in the process of developing volunteer trips abroad for those who want to connect with the orphanages they are helping fund.

The needs of the orphans are so overwhelming they have to be broken down into bite sized pieces. The projects featured on 200 Orphanages Worldwide represent about 5,000 orphans. That means that if 3,000 people each gave $1,000, all the projects could be built. She’s working to make that happen. It’s one bite at a time. If you like to volunteer or donate to any of these projects, go to www.200orphanagesworldwide.org for more details.

Although Hanson’s organization is only a small piece of the puzzle, it just goes to show that volunteer trips have far reaching benefits for both the traveler and the global community. Many of these trips are experiences of a lifetime, and each return trip or new organization puts us one step closer to making the world a better place.

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