It is often said that travel is the best form of education. At AFAR, this is one of our founding principles. We believe that we are able to gain knowledge and understanding through experiential travel that we would not have gotten at home. Through these experiences, we change the way we see ourselves and our relationship to the world. Experiential travel helps make us better individuals. Accordingly, the more people who travel this way, the better for all of us.
We certainly hope that AFAR helps inspire this sort of travel for everyone, through our magazine, website, and events. But we also want to do something more, especially for young people. So we started a nonprofit program called Learning AFAR, in which we sponsor international travel for students who cannot otherwise afford to experience another part of the world. We have committed at least 1 percent of our revenues to the program.
This program is not just about a trip. Learning AFAR is a process that takes place over a number of months, in which the students study the ecology of the place they are going to visit as well as the whole concept of culture. What they think of as “normal” may not be considered so by people from another culture.
In our first year of the program, 10 students from Oakland (California) High School and 14 from Yonkers (New York) High School went to Costa Rica with Learning AFAR and our partner, Global Explorers (now known as No Barriers Youth). Most of these students had not traveled outside of their local area, much less outside the country. This was a big step for them. They applied to participate in Learning AFAR and were chosen based on merit and need. In addition to the science and culture curriculum, Learning AFAR emphasizes leadership and service. The students engaged in volunteer projects while they were in Costa Rica and when they returned home as well.
Prior to the trip, we also took the students on a retreat during which AFAR staff and contributors instructed them on chronicling their journey through writing and photography.
Eight years later, this program is still going strong. We know that our annual trips have a great impact on these young people, and we hope that the stories they tell will inspire more young people to look beyond the scope of the here and now to the rest of the world and future generations.
Thanks much for your interest and support.
FOUNDER & CEO
This appeared in the July/August 2010 issue