Imagine a child who lives 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean but has never been to the beach. Imagine that child attends a school where 95 percent of the students qualify for the free-lunch program. Now imagine taking that child on a trip to China.
John Zavalney got to do that with 11 of those kids this year, through Learning AFAR, the flagship program of the AFAR Foundation. John is a science teacher at the Foshay Learning Center, a K-12 school in South Los Angeles. “For me, it was like taking a young child to Disneyland for the first time,” John says. “Some of these kids hadn’t flown before, and most had never been out of the country. The trip was full of firsts.”
In Beijing, the students saw the sights: Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City (pictured), the Great Wall, and Beijing University. In Hangzhou, they visited a tea plantation and took part in a traditional tea ceremony. And in Shanghai, they experienced genuine moments of cross-cultural exchange, when they visited a home for the elderly and sang “It’s a Small World” in English and in Mandarin. “Before this trip, the students were afraid of cultures they didn’t know about,” John says. “These experiences opened their minds.”
Since Learning AFAR launched in 2008, the program has funded travel for 431 students on trips to China, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Mexico, Peru, and the American Southwest. This year we worked with six schools, in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, and Fort Collins, Colorado. The program extends far beyond the 10 days in the destination: Students work with trip leaders for nine months, putting their travels in cultural, political, and environmental context.
For 2016, we are planning to expand our footprint to reach even more students—and their communities—around the country. To do that, we need your help. This holiday season, please consider making a donation—large or small—to Learning AFAR. A gift of $135 covers the cost of one student’s passport fees; $3,500 pays for a full trip for one student; and $40,000 funds a program in a new school.
At AFAR, we believe that travel is the best form of education. Help ensure that more children have the opportunity to see the world. Visit learningafar.org today for more information and to donate.