"ME to WE": A New Community-Driven Travel Social Enterprise“Our purpose is community-driven,” says Craig Kielburger, co-founder of WE that has partnered with the tour companies under The Travel Corporation umbrella to bring more immediate, meaningful impact to destinations that could use the help the most.
Voluntourism has existed for years, but Kielburger’s vision for the “ME to WE” initiative he recently unveiled is to afford travelers a two-prong approach: a culturally-immersive yet luxurious experience while benefiting communities in tangible ways.
This means that customers, who book trips with The Travel Corporation brands (e.g. Trafalgar, African Travel etc.) can decide to tack on a few days before or after a tour to linger, and decide how to help communities in the way that they personally chose, rather than blindly plant a tree or follow the somewhat mysterious regimen of a prescribed volunteering program.
Kielburger is no stranger to the art of charitable giving: he has been a champion for the rights of children since he was 12 years old when he started a children’s charity. “We would host volunteers around the world at various chapters,” he tells me in a phone interview.
When he started WE.org, he wanted a five-pillar approach to "bring clean water, perform community maintenance, afford healthcare, build medical clinics and increase food security through crop yields in destinations that need it the most, from the Maasai in Kenya to fishing villages along the Amazon river,” he adds.
This is far from the drudgery normally associated with voluntourism: guests on these trips won't give up those luxurious fixings they’re used to, and can choose to do as much or as little as they choose, right down to purchasing items like delicate tasseled Rafiki bracelets handmade by Kenyan Mamas.
These souvenir bracelets come beautifully wrapped in packaging that clearly give you the purpose of the proceeds. One says, “We Give Education"; another goes to "Clean Water." So you will always know where your money goes: this in and of itself is brilliant because too often souvenir proceeds seem to slip into a black hole (a site called TrackYourImpact.com shows you the end-use of your donation).
ME to WE trips range from those in the Maasai region in Kenya to help break the cycle of poverty, to a Sacred Ganges trip with Uniworld.
Kielburger has received numerous awards, including the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Award and the Roosevelt Freedom Medal, for his work.