Refugees in New York Raise Awareness Through Fashion

Comments and photos provided by the Refugee Center in upstate New York…

The Heart of a Community

Refugee Welcome Center in Albany New York
Refugee Welcome Center

Albany, New York is both the center of the capital region and home to a number of diverse communities. Organizations like the West Hill Refugee Welcome Center (RWC) work tirelessly to create opportunities for its members, as well as an accepting atmosphere for those who are looking for a collaborative space to make lasting connections. 

Building Lasting Connections

The RWC works toward building a sustainable community that is supportive of its more established members as it is welcoming of newcomers. The center is known for its efforts in helping refugees polish their skills and tools they need to thrive as newcomers in the United States. They achieve this by organizing youth activities such as movie nights; mentorship programs; as well as safe and affordable housing. They also offer English and civics classes, and space to grow their gardens.

Local Partnerships

This summer, the RWC partnered with two local professors, Dr. Vera Eccarius-Kelly and Dr. Alison Schaeffing, with the purpose of creating a community museum with refugees living in the underserved West Hill neighborhood. A group of 12 Americorp fellows, students, many of whom are refugees themselves, were also involved in the program, which was facilitated by the Siena Project Incubator (SPIn), hosted by Siena College.

Unforeseen Obstacles

The supervisors and their fellows had originally hoped to engage with the RWC by developing a museum exhibit that showcased the voices of refugees. However, the spread of the coronavirus created several obstacles for the group.

They instead started a virtual fashion series, titled “For Us By Us.” The series features West Hill community members who showcase thee refugee community through fashion. 

Learn how men and women dress across different cultures.

For Us, By Us: A Fashion Series

The “For Us By Us” project highlights more than just beautiful clothing. Descriptions of the outfits written by the models tells you more about the history of the garment and its use.

The project strives to provide a space for refugees to share their experiences, stories, and needs with the wider Albany community. The SPIn fellows hope that the future will allow them to use the images and their descriptions from the series as a feature in a new museum exhibit that will eventually be created through this initiative.

Meet the Models

Jeanne Sinzinkayo is not only a curator of the “For Us, By Us” Series, she is also a model for the fashion show. Along with another member of the AmeriCorps team, she is researching the Banyamulenge struggle for recognition, with the long term goal of publication of digital information for a virtual museum exhibit. With both projects, she hopes to serve as a record keeper for the unheard voices and experiences of the diverse communities, along with developing a comprehensive case study to publish.

Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an iribaya and ipantaro
Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an iribaya and ipantaro

Jeanne Sinzinkayo: This blue outfit is a two-piece set in African clothing. The top is called iribaya (shirt) and the bottom part is called ipantaro. This is the most common for everyone of all ages. Usually, younger women would wear this as is or pair the iribaya (shirt) with a skirt (ijipo). Older married women would wear the iribaya (shirt) with another piece of igitange as their skirt. It is handmade and it is very versatile. It can be used interchangeably. For example, the top could be worn with jeans, and the pants could be worn with t-shirts. To save money and time, there are extra stitches so if one gains weight, one can take out some of the stitches to make the clothes lose to fit. The cloth itself is high-quality so it can sustain longer. 

Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an Banyamulenge Ibubu
Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an Ibubu

This yellow dress is called ibubu. This is commonly worn by older women in the Banyamulenge community of Congo. It is loose and it gives you room to be able to move around. It is typically worn with a headpiece because older women from the Banyamulenge community cover their heads as a sign of respect. When it is worn by younger women, they usually wear it without the headpiece. 

Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an Igitange
Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an Igitange

This green outfit is made out of a fabric called igitange. It is a set with pants and a long blazer, the blazer is called ikoti (jacket) and the pants are called ipantaro (pants). This is usually worn by younger women and it can be made for men as well. After selecting the fabric you can take it to the tailor with a design and they will make the outfit for you. 

Ethnic tunics have become part of mainstream fashion globally.

Balqees Sayed is also a SPIns Fellow, a model, and a local resident of the West Hill community.  She is a recent graduate of Russell Sage College. She has been volunteering at the RWC for the past two years. Balqees is working as a part-time Program Coordinator at the RWC after graduation.

 Balqees Sayed in an Afghani Kamees
 Balqees Sayed in an Afghani Kamees

Balqees Sayed: I love wearing my Afghani Kamees (ethnic Pashtun dress). For me, this is an opportunity to show another part of who I am. I am not just a girl from a developing country. I am not oppressed. I am not controlled by men. This is a vintage dress worn by Kuchi women (Pashtun nomads). My ancestors were nomads. Traveling to colder areas in summer and warmer areas in winter. These dresses are perfect for colder weather in summer. It is very loose and has a huge pocket where you can store many things. And this is all handmade!

When I bought it, my mom sewed some torn parts of the dress. This is more than just a dress. This is a part of who I am. This is the beauty of my culture. This is what the media fails to see. We are humans. We have cultures. We have insights. We are smart. This is an Afghani kamees, to all the white people out there appropriating our culture. This is not a “boho” dress. This is a handmade Kochani kamees (nomadic dress). 

Handmade Dress by Balqees Sayed
Handmade Dress by Balqees Sayed

The second dress was designed by me and my mother. Then it was sewn by my aunt. In Afghanistan, people who know how to make clothes, sew their own clothes. It is a very traditional way of wearing clothes. This dress was made from scratch, except the chest part which I bought from a vintage shop. This dress is usually worn in parties and different formal and informal occasions. 

Model Ishaque Ismail in a traditional Afghan

Ishaque Ismail: Men’s fashion is a way to express yourself. People can tell a lot about you just by looking at your outfit. This is a traditional Afghan male dress. It is called shalwar kameez. I wear it on Eid and to weddings.

Muzzamil Khiljee continually strives to spread love and acceptance throughout all of his lyrics. He has persistently fought for his work and message throughout his changing environments. Sip has continued to drop high-quality music with top-notch production to attract a mainstream crowd, all the while fostering the same message that culture is not necessarily just black and white. Music is unity; music is the culture that brings everyone together.

Muzzamil Khiljee in a handmade logo outfit

Muzzamil Khiljee: As a Hip-Hop fan, this handmade “culture” logo that you see on the back of my jacket is an international brand by one of the most talented Afghan hip hop/rap recording artists called Sip.

Continue Spreading Awareness

Looking for ways to become a part of the cause? Consider donating to the West Hill Refugee Welcome Center today, or, if you are a local of the Capital Region in Albany, consider volunteering at the Center and make a difference in a fellow community member’s life.

What You Need To Know to Travel Sustainably and Meaningfully

More than Just Memorable

Painting a Rural Community Church in Jamaica
Painting a Rural Community Church in Jamaica

The more I travel, the more I find myself seeking meaningful, not simply memorable, travel experiences. This desire has taken me down the path of researching how to travel sustainably, considering the footprint that I have left on past trips, and even partaking in immersion travels where the focus is on cultural awareness and international relations.

I know first hand that this kind of travel can take a lot of time and effort to plan out, so let’s talk about some of the easy ways you can start traveling sustainably today.

Keywords of Sustainable Travel

In recent years, many keywords have emerged in regard to sustainable travel. These words include – Green Travel, Social Responsibility, and Environmental Consciousness. 

While figuring out the nuances of each term can be a bit tricky, it is important to know that they all promote the same thing – that is traveling with footprints and impact in mind.

Decide What it All Means to You

Impact Travel Alliance Mission for Sustainable travel changes
Impact Travel Alliance’s Mission for Change

Kelly Campbell, co-founder and executive director of The Village Experience, an organization we partner with, says “Green/Sustainable travel is traveling in a manner that respects and takes into consideration the local community, wildlife, and the environment.” Her company organizes tours to Kenya, India, Guatemala and other countries, that also combines giving back to the local communities.

Meghan Aftosmis, SR PR and Media Network Lead at Impact Travel Alliance, states that green travel and sustainable travel are not interchangeable concepts. Green travel connotes that it’s solely focused on environmental conservation, whereas sustainable tourism has a much broader perspective and meaning. The keys to sustainable travel are that a destination’s local people, culture, economy, and environment – are all benefited by tourism in that place. Even beyond the travel industry, businesses often describe this as a triple-bottom-line: people, planet, profit.

With this in mind, think about your own travels and decide what sustainable traveling means to you. Ask yourself how you will integrate more best practices on your next trip?

Do Your Research and Choose What’s Right

Traveling sustainably with the Village Experience on a Kenyan Safari
Sunset on a Kenyan Safari with The Village Experience

With sustainable travel, as with any kind of travel, it is important that you do your homework before you go. Doing so will ensure that you not only choose the right destination, but that you also engage with the right kind of organizations and travel companies when you get there. To get an even better understanding of the destinations practicing sustainability, check out Go Eat Give’s recommended travel destinations and blog here.

One place to start your research is to look for travel companies that have direct partnerships with locally owned hotels, restaurants, excursion tours, and shops. Choosing entities like these, over large commercial tourism companies, helps to confirm that tourism dollars stay local. This also helps the community stay economically stable and that the culture of that destination stays intact.

Prepare For the Trip

Traveling Sustainably Starts with Packing Sustainably

If you are like me, you have a stash of basic travel products that you bring on every trip. In the past couple of years, I have personally added a reusable water bottle, snap and go snack containers, a cotton wrap sheet (to be used as a beach sheet, picnic blanket, or poolside cover-up), and a packable travel towel – to my ever-growing expanse of sustainable travel gear! Each item has saved me so much time and effort while I’m jetting off from place to place. It has also cut down on the waste that I have left behind.

These Hydro Cell Stainless Steel Water Bottles keep liquids hot or cold and come in a variety of fun colors. 

Take the time to purchase a few sustainable travel products that you can reuse on all your trips. Keeping these items on hand can go a long way in saving you money, while reducing the footprint you leave behind.

Engage With The Local Community

Immersion Trip to a Guatemalan Elementary School
Immersion Trip to Guatemalan Elementary School

In addition, it is important to continue giving back to the destination you visit every time you travel. By partnering with local charities and social enterprises that have sustainable visions and missions, you’ll leave a positive footprint behind. There are many easy ways to integrate this into your next trip, no matter where you choose to go. When you travel again, consider shopping at fair trade stores, taking eco tours, joining cooking classes led by locals, and eating at locally-owned restaurants

Another way to take this a step further is by donating your time. Many local organizations offer opportunities to volunteer for a few hours to a few weeks, bring much-needed supplies, or donate any special skills you may have. It is best to find out from the local organization what assistance they need. Go only with reputable nonprofits that ensure that no one is taken advantage of in the process.

Also, some of the activities Go Eat Give volunteers have done in the past include teaching English to businessmen and women in Spain, farming on a cooperative farm in Cuba, giving lessons on health and sanitation in Indonesia, and organizing life skills classes for women in India. Anything that involves touching wildlife is typically a No Go!

Start the Connection at Home

Even when you are not traveling, you can continue to learn about sustainable and meaningful travel while at home. Doing so will ensure that you have the right mindset before you take off on your next adventure.

The nonprofit travel organization, Impact Travel Alliance offers a series of virtual events that introduce travelers to a sustainable mindset. These are educational, offering facts and perspective from travel industry members from around the world. All events are free, but donations directly support their travel partners.

If you are ready to start planning your vacation, with sustainability in mind, of course, The Village Experience is offering $100 off any 2021 trip listed on their website. Make sure to mention this post when you book!

~By Jordan Dunn, Marketing and Communications Intern at Go Eat Give. Jordan is a Public Relations and Communications Marketing Major at Siena College in Upstate NY. She has a passion for writing, traveling, and advocacy. Follow her on Facebook and Blog about her personal travels.

Love Travel? Get This New Conversation Starter Card Game

“Do I need a conversation starter?”

It’s not an uncommon question.

We want to get know people better, have genuine connections, and be closer to each other. Whether it’s a friend of a friend, a traveler we meet, a colleague, an acquaintance, or even our friends at home.

But, sometimes we don’t know what to ask, or how to start a conversation.

To help create engaging conversations around travel and culture, I launched Travel Banter, a deck of conversation starter cards based on the popular #CultureTrav chat and blog.

I’ve been hosting my #CultureTrav Twitter chat for almost 4 years now. It’s been incredible to watch travelers connect with each other online, become friends, and have fun meetups offline.

I wanted to create the same fun chat interactions in a new way: an offline version of #CultureTrav chat called Travel Banter. Travel Banter travel-themed conversation cards feature popular questions asked by my #CultureTrav community.

The design process for Travel Banter

The concept of conversation starter cards came to me at the dinner table earlier this year. I started thinking that while it’s great to talk about travel, it’s even better to talk about it when you have a question or interesting prompt to consider.

Over the years of hosting my Twitter chat, thousands of questions have come my way. Fellow travelers, my co-hosts and I would think about engaging questions that we were curious to know the answers to. While I love hearing about people’s personal favorites, I find it even more compelling to hear about how people deal with things like language barriers or mishaps. I love hearing about people stumbling upon hole-in-the-wall cafes or having unexpected adventures, or discovering local street art.

A lot of these types of stories and conversations often come up during my Twitter chat, so I thought, “How can I translate the Twitter chat questions into in-person conversation starters?”

The concept of a conversation starter isn’t new. Companies have used conversation starters in their HR process to get to know candidates, and people have used conversation starters during events or orientations. But, I wanted to add a fun and engaging twist to travel-related conversations.

After thinking about it more, it was time to get “down to business” and start brainstorming design concepts. My boyfriend has advanced Photoshop skills (and is an entrepreneur of several product-based endeavors), so I asked him for help with the initial design of the cards. Additionally, I hired three graphic designers on Fiverr to see what they could brew up for the design. In the end, the final card design is a mix of my boyfriend’s design, elements of designs from the Fiverr designers, and feedback from family about an added visual element: a photo. Each card features two conversation starter questions on one side, and a community-featured photo on the other. I love that I’m able to highlight my traveler community’s photos as part of the game, because this game is very much a communal effort.

How to use conversation starter cards

While there is nothing “wrong” with talking about the weather, that’s not exactly exciting.

We carry around flash cards when studying Spanish or French verbs, but for some reason, it’s considered unusual to carry around a conversation starter card. And, when we have conversation starters on hand, how do we introduce them to people in a way that invites the conversation, and isn’t awkward?

It’s not that you’re bad at having conversations. But, a conversation starter can be a fun and useful guide to getting people to share stories that you may not have heard otherwise.

It’s easier than you think!

Here’s a real conversation brought to you by the Travel Banter question, “Would you try a local delicacy, even if you found something about it objectionable?”: 

“And, yeah, I ate a jellyfish!”
“….what did you do that for?”
“I know! Crazy, right?! Part of it was revenge for that time I got stung by a jellyfish.”
“Wait! What?!”
“But, really, jellyfish tastes like nothing. It’s like nothing. Which makes sense, I guess!”
“But, we were also on a trip with my students and I was trying to impress them by eating this weird thing.”
(Overheard at the Travel Banter Kickstarter launch party on Wednesday, October 17).

And, there you have it! A conversation created by Travel Banter. A story told that you may not have otherwise heard at all.

Wouldn’t it be great to have questions to ask to create a better conversation?

Travel Banter wants to make stimulating conversations happen. Travel Banter gives you a fun and easy way to bring you closer together, and share memorable moments.

Get to know your friends and family better, and also learn about strangers on the road. The next time you’re at a family gathering or party, pull out a Travel Banter card and ask a meaningful question. You’ll be pleasantly surprised about the things you can learn.

By guest blogger Nicolette Orlemans. Nicolette is the founder of #CultureTrav and CultureTrav.coTravel Banter is the byproduct of the conversations shared on the #CultureTrav Twitter chat. Follow her on Twitter.  

7 Places In Bali Can Make You A Better Person

Many travelers claim that the spirit of Bali has the power to seep into your unconscious mind and radically change your thoughts, beliefs, and actions. If you are capable of finding a sense of awe in watching colored puffs of incense rise from small flower offerings and centuries-old Balinese temples scattered throughout stunning natural settings, then no other place on this planet is more ideal for you than Bali. There is a good chance that if you visit these places in Bali, you may go back home as a better person.

The Holy Waters of Gunung Kawi Sebatu – Ubud

This temple is unique and infrequently visited. Lush and scenic, it is perched upon a forested hillside drawing water from holy mountain spring-fed water sources. It was embellished with statues, ornamental fish ponds, water shrines, and bathing spots around the temple complex. You can think of the Gunung Kawi Sebatu temple as one of the finest tranquil and soothing retreats that stands far away from the busy streets and the bustle of Ubud. From here, go to the Pura Dalem Pingit, which is revered as a purification spot among the Balinese Hindus.

Pyramids in Sea – Semeti Beach

The test of this place is that to reach the vantage point for a phenomenal view, you will have to cross an extremely rough and rocky path on Semeti Beach. The stones on this beach share an uncanny resemblance with the crystal box in planet Krypton. But after you reach there, you will be able to see pyramid-like rocks rooted in the sea and crossing these towards your vantage point will call on a lot of your conviction and perseverance.

Bali Spirit Festival – Ubud

This is an annual event taking place in March. Yoga practitioners and instructors from Bali and all around the world, artists, dancers and musicians performing colorful concerts gather for this event. Participate in yoga workshops, Dharma Fairs that have health bazaars and organic food stalls. The stage acts as the center of attraction and many world musicians keep up the vibe of the celebrations throughout the day.

An Almost Private Island – Gili 

Some of the Gili Islands are so isolated that they will feel like your own private island! So, if you’re looking for a place to self-exploration and retrospect whilst island-hopping in Lombok, then the white sandy shores of the Gilis are made for you. Here, you can sunbathe, swim,  snorkel or even explore the marine life around the breathtaking coral reefs.

Magic Tree in Trunyan Village – Kintamani

This is an ancient and remote village on a Balinese lakeside which is known for odd burial rites and a magic tree. The magic tree, locally known as Taru Menyan, grows in this village’s open-burial cemetery and releases a strongly fragrant resin which interestingly neutralizes the odors coming from the decomposing dead bodies. The silence of this remote area coupled with the chilling sight of graveyard skulls and bones will most likely unnerve you, but your close encounter with the ancient and upheld traditions of this place will teach you to be accepting.

Battles of Tenganan Pegringsingan – Candidasa

The old Balinese village is only a 15-minutes north of Jalan Raya Candidasa road. The age-old tradition of the Perang Pandan ‘battles’ is a highlight event of this place and is unique to only this village. This ritual is actually dedicated to the Hindu Mythology god of war and sky, Indra. The battles entail friendly duels between male villagers who are each armed with a rattan shield and a tied packet of the thorny pandan leaves. This ritual highlights their sportsman’s spirit and comradeship.

The Twin and Spiritual Gitgit Waterfalls – North Bali

Gitgit is Bali’s most popular waterfall that is both a beautiful natural attraction and an important spiritual destination for visitors. You will be able to reach its base after a few minutes trek by foot, after which you can enjoy the tall twin spouts that constantly crash into a rocky pool. For spiritual travelers, another bonus waterfall awaits near Gitgit that can be reached via forested pathways adorned with cacao trees, called the Jembong waterfall, which is considered to be a place for spiritual purifications and healing.

There are a lot of unexplored and unconventional places in Bali that have a completely different energy than the regular tourist places. So, coming here and exploring something that may not be on your regular itinerary can make you see things, think of them and feel their significance like you have never done before.

~ By guest blogger, Palak Narula. Palak is a full-time travel writer who visited Bali in 2017. She lives for good conversations, holistic experiences and the beauty of words. Follow her on Instagram @Wordbeatle

To book a personalized sustainable individual or group trip to Bali with a focus on spirituality, yoga or volunteering, contact us.

Reasons your travel insurance claim could be denied, and how to make sure it isn’t

As you can imagine, having your travel canceled, interrupted or simply not go as planned is never ideal. When you have travel insurance, however, you can feel better knowing that at least some of your travel expenses will be reimbursed. Hurricane season starts one month from today, and after last’s year’s record storms, many are ensuring they are covered if something does arise this year. This brings light making sure you have your home insurance up to date too just in case a storm does come and you are away from your home whilst it is being damaged. You need to review your insurance policy to see if there is anything that needs to be changed so you are fully covered. Check on your declaration to see what exactly you are covered with, you can also view other declarations to know what you are looking for, you can click to view the page from Simply Insurance who have laid it out clearly.

But what if you file your claim, and it comes back denied?

Stan Sandberg, travel expert and co-Founder of TravelInsurance.com, is a respected authority on travel insurance in the U.S. has provided some information below on reasons a claim could be denied, and how to ensure it isn’t. Given tropical storms could start hitting as soon as next month, having this knowledge could hopefully come in handy when, not if, storms affect travel this year.

You didn’t purchase the right kind of insurance for your needs: A common mistake that those filing claims make is not taking the time to fully understand their travel insurance policy and the coverage that it provides, before making the purchase. For example, if a traveler is going heli-skiing and gets injured. If he or she did not purchase Adventure Travel coverage, the medical expenses likely won’t be covered. Many travelers submit claims for coverage that they do not even have because they assume that travel insurance will cover just about anything.

Take the time to read your policy, and if you haven’t purchased one yet, look at a few quotes online to get a general idea of how travel insurance works. If you need to submit a claim, a solid understanding of your policy will be the best tool at your disposal. Most policies will have glossaries of the terms, or you can review one online. Click here for the one on TravelInsurance.com.

You misunderstand what is needed when submitting: Some travelers may think they understand everything they need to submit when filing a claim, but they may miss important details. This can hold things up at best, or cause the claim to be denied altogether.

We recommend always calling the insurance company prior to submitting a claim. Read up on your plan so you have a basic understanding. From there, you can ask what documents are needed specifically, the correct steps to file a claim and the best route to send in the claim. The process is usually straightforward for filling out forms and submitting them with the right documentation, but the more complete everything is, the faster the claim will be filed and the payments made.

You failed to provide proof: Documentation is key when it comes to receiving a payout for covered situations. Even if travelers are fully entitled to the benefits of a travel insurance claim, they can wind up with a claim denial if they do not provide the documentation to back their claim up. An insurer will want proof of a trip delay, cancellation or event that causes a policyholder to file a claim, along with receipts that pertain to the purchases made.

Before anything goes wrong, it is always important to keep track of your purchases related to your trip — receipts and credit card statements showing that you actually paid for the flights, hotels and other trip-related costs that you are claiming against. When you submit your claim, make sure you have all the documentation you can think of. For instance, for ticket compensation, you will need to produce receipts for the tickets. For lost luggage, you will have to provide the list of items inside the luggage as well and so on. Without this information, the insurer has no way to verify that you actually paid for the trip costs. If you are filing a claim for a stolen personal effect during your travels, you should make sure to save the documentation provided by the local police (when you reported the theft) so the insurer can validate that the event actually happened. You might also want to take pictures of all of the items you are bringing on your trip just before you pack them.

You waited too long: Most insurance providers require consumers to file a claim within a specific period from the event of loss. Some insurance providers may offer a period of a few weeks while others may offer a period of one month to file a claim.

Travelers should review their policy or call the insurance company to know about the exact period. If a claim is filed after the due date, most insurance providers will reject the application without any consideration. Most modern travel insurance companies have websites that allow claims to be digitally submitted and processed. This is a great way to get the process rolling and helps save time to meet the deadlines.

You take no for a final answer: Travel insurance claims usually take a few weeks to process. However, complicated claims take longer. For some, if their claim is denied they may fume, but do little to change the outcome.

If your claim is denied, contact the company or agent that sold you the travel insurance plan right away. They will often help with filing an appeal. The good news is that about 50 percent of appeals are honored, so taking this extra step is not a wasted effort, especially if you feel strongly that your claim is valid. When a company will not honor an appeal, the next step is to contact the state insurance commissioner and the Better Business Bureau and see if they can assist.

~ By guest blogger, Sarah Mann

Why I Ditched That Luxury Vacation For A Volunteering Trip

For some travelers, a ‘holiday/ vacation’ is synonymous with a relaxing time, or maybe just another break to do nothing and just chill. While I also had the option for the same, I decided to do something different and take a volunteering journey to Nepal. I had no idea how it would turn out to be like! Yes – to be honest, I was tensed and skeptic thinking whether I can really do this or not. But once I was there, all my doubts melted away. I knew that this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever taken and here are the reasons why I feel good about ditching the regular holiday for a more meaningful one.

Discovering Myself

I’m bothered by certain social causes that catch my attention on and off. I feel bad to see the little boy at the traffic signal selling balloons to earn his daily bread. Nobody cares to stop and ask him what he wants to do in life. This is just a small incident – there are probably hundreds of other things that catch our attention, and then get wiped off our minds. On a volunteer trip, I can actually do something about it, and bring smiles to others faces.

Doing Something for Others

There’s no denying that all our lives we work, we earn, and we spend on ourselves. Instead of complaining, I accepted  that life isn’t easy for all, but if we can help others to live better, then we should. As a volunteer in an orphanage in Nepal, I had to take care of the toddlers who became like my own kids in no time. There was an immense sense of satisfaction to see them happy when they were around me. Maybe, we can’t totally change someone’s life, but even if we can give them a moment of happiness – that counts!

Spending More Time with Locals

When we are on a holiday, we mostly spend time doing nothing. We barely make any effort to know the place and the people, often being too busy clicking those endless selfies that we can show off to the folks back at home. A volunteering journey, on the other hand, is the best way to connect with the natives of a place. During my stay in Nepal, I was living with a host family who took care of me like their own. Not even for a day did I feel like a guest at their place. It was fun to adapt to their way of life, follow their customs, take part in their festivals, and attend family gatherings. Now that I’m back home, I know that I have another family in a faraway land, and I can go back to visit them whenever I want to.

Exploring Unique Places

On a regular vacation, we mostly visit those listed touristy places that are almost always crowded and overpriced. Often, I’ve seen that those places are hyped and not as good as they appear in photographs. Quite opposite to that, a volunteering journey can endow us with the opportunity to explore the hidden gems of the country – courtesy: the local friends! I went for a hike in the Himalayan trails, and trust me when I say this, I’ve never seen a view so beautiful. The tiny little villages tucked on the slopes, the majestic mountains covered with snow right in front of me, and the humble people who called me for a warm cup of tea just made my life worthy. Witnessing the gorgeous sunset with the Himalayan backdrop is something that has left mark on my mind, and I can visualize it every time I close my eyes.

Meeting Like-Minded People From Around The World

During my volunteering trip, I realized that the world still has good people. There were folks from different parts of the world, people of different age groups and from different walks of life, who came together for a common cause – to help the little ones at the orphanage. We brainstormed together, thinking what we can do better for the kids. We worked together for hours, sharing thoughts and ideas, planning games and activities for the children, we fundraised to buy stuff for them and renovated the care center to make it more vibrant and lively. It was such an amazing experience that I would probably never had if I chose just another regular holiday.

I was lucky to find an organization like Volunteering Solutions, who offered me the opportunity to volunteer at an orphanage in Nepal and supported me throughout my entire journey. The time that I got to spend with those toddles there has left a mark on my mind, heart & soul.

If you are also craving to set out on a meaningful journey, then don’t procrastinate. Know that there are millions of people out there who need your help. And if you have the time and strength to make a difference in their lives, you must do it.

~ By guest blogger Riyanka Roy from Haryana, India. Roy has traveled extensively throughout India. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Looking for a Luxury Spring Break! Here’s Why You Need to Head to Monte Carlo

There aren’t many places in the world that give off a clearer air of luxury than Monte Carlo. Because of this, a lot of people write it off as a place they’ll probably never actually visit. But this is actually a mistake! Yes, it’s a luxurious destination. Getting there can be expensive, and some of the activities and meals you’ll enjoy once there will be pricey as well. But you can actually spend a night in a fairly nice hotel for under $200 – which is expensive, but really not too bad for international tourism.

If, then, you decide that Monte Carlo doesn’t have to be taken off the map, you might start exploring what a trip there would actually look like. The best time to go is during the spring, and below we’ll get into a few of the things you might do there.

Explore The Harbor

If you have a picture in your head of Monte Carlo, chances are that picture includes a large Mediterranean harbor filled with yachts and sailboats. This indeed is the trademark postcard image of the city, and it’s one of the more iconic city views in the world. Exploring the harbor and taking a look at the spectacular boats is an absolute must when you’re in Monte Carlo (and it’s free!). As one write-up put it, the harbor sits like the stage of an amphitheater upon which the rest of Monaco looks down. That’s about as nice a way to explain its situation and appeal as there is. And if you want to enjoy it even more intimately, there are a few different opportunities to essentially rent time on one of the yachts.

Lounge On Larvotto Beach

In a place like Monte Carlo it’s only natural that there will be a few great beaches. The most famous of the bunch (and probably the most fun) is Larvotto Beach. It’s very much a city beach in one sense, just steps away from luxury condos and fancy restaurants. However, it’s also a very pretty shoreline where you can lounge, swim, and even rent a kayak or jet ski to go out on the water.

Visit The Casino

Visiting just any casino may not sound like your ideal hobby. It may also sound somewhat unnecessary or old-fashioned given that casinos have been reborn as a thriving online industry with articles like this freespinsnodeposit.bet Powerspins casino review becoming more popular. People want to know about the best online casinos and the best way to do this is by reading reviews! Where once there were crude poker sites there are now full-fledged online platforms, complete with their own mobile apps. A single download can include over 500 games, begging the question of why anyone would need to visit a real life casino. Monte Carlo, as it turns out, has the answer. This establishment is not about the gaming or the money, but rather the experience. It’s an elegant, beautiful, world famous venue where you almost can’t help feeling like a movie star. Even if you don’t sit down at a poker table or spin a slot reel, it’s worth checking out as a sightseeing point of interest. If you’d prefer to gamble online, there are a few all mobile casino websites for you to give a try if you wanted 🙂

Tour The Oceanographic Museum

The Oceanographic Museum is actually one of the more famous attractions in Monte Carlo, which is saying something in a city like this one. It’s known primarily as a museum – a large, striking building on a hillside sticking up over the sea. The museum largely contains sea-related relics retrieved by Prince Albert, who founded the establishment early in the 20th century. What really sets it apart though is the fact that it doubles as an aquarium. The museum contains more than 90 tanks with sea creatures in them, including an indoor shark lagoon.

Eat At Elsa

As you would no doubt expect there are a lot of truly wonderful places to eat in Monte Carlo. Elsa is certainly among the best of them though. A combination of fresh local ingredients, Mediterranean seafood preparations, and seaside seating make for a simply delightful experience. Plus, it’s one of the few very nice restaurants in Monte Carlo where you don’t necessarily feel like you have to be dressed up and formal.

Watch The Grand Prix

As a final point, if your trip happens to overlap with the Monaco Grand Prix (which is one reason it’s great to visit in the spring), you’ll have the opportunity to see one of the world’s most iconic sporting events. It’s an annual Formula 1 race through the streets and by the harbor, and it’s a true treat for everyone who’s able to see it. The whole town tends to be abuzz with energy during the race and the few days on either end of it, and there are numerous ticket packages you can look into that allow you to experience the action, whether via watching the drivers practice or sitting on a yacht during the race.

~ By guest blogger, Jonathan Nelson.

Eat Around The World in Berlin

If there is anything to take advantage of in Berlin, besides exploring its rich history and plethora of museums, it would definitely be the food culture. Berlin is a diverse city with residents from all over the world, which creates a very unique opportunity to have all of these culinary traditions at your fingertips. I hardly ate German food while in Berlin, because there were so many global cuisines I was craving for. Although if I did want some German food, I would go to a Berlin CurryWurst stand on the street and grab a snack.

Falafel Doner with “Everything”

Street food is trending in Berlin. It is common for friends to go to small restaurants on a square and grab a great, quick meal for 5 Euros before moving on to the next adventure for the night. One of Berlin’s best street foods is actually the Doner Kebap. This food tradition came to Berlin with Turkish migrants in the 1970’s. Doner Kebap is your best bet for a delicious, filling meal for only 3.5 Euros, and every place has a slightly different way of making it. It can have fresh veggies, homemade sauces, chicken or beef, falafel or haloumi, in toasted bread or wrap-style (Durum). I always suggest just getting “everything,” because then you get the fullest, most flavorful experience.

It is rumored (and I can confirm) that the best Doner is at Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebap in the Kreuzberg district, right outside of the Mehringdam U-Bahn station. The cue for this food stand is almost always at least forty-five minutes long, but it’s well worth the wait, especially if you go into the nearby Night Shop and get a beer to enjoy while you chat with friends in line. The Doner at Mustafa’s bursts with many savory flavors, including curry, and teriyaki.

There were many dining establishments in Berlin that were so good, I wanted to go back, but because I was short on time, Mustafa’s is the only place I actually returned to, cue and all.

Gemuse” means vegetable, which Mustafa’s puts plenty of in their version of Doner.

If you’re in the mood to taste multiple offerings, try out Berlin’s attempt at the urban food-stall trend, Markthalle Neun. This re-purposed train depot houses stands represents multiple global cuisines as well as German delicacies. This was a neat place to visit, but also has much more room to expand its offerings.

I had a snack at Kame, a Japanese Bakery, which serves up matcha pastries and cookies. Although, their Onigirazu Sukiyaki Beef was also delicious!

Right around the corner from Markthalle Neun, you can find the best Sudanese food in Berlin at Sahara Imbiss. Walk into the small restaurant and place your order for Haloumi, falafel, or meat, in sandwich or plate form, which they serve with tasty roasted vegetables and cover with homemade peanut sauce. The food is plentiful, flavorful, and also a steal at around 5 Euros.

Plate with salad, haloumi, falafel, and roasted veggies!

The diversity of cheap eats you can take advantage of in Berlin is truly endless. I happened upon many great spots to enjoy some Pho, especially for those cool early summer evenings in Berlin. I tested out Co Chu, which served some mint, ginger, and lemon tea that was to die for, as well as the cheaper street food option, Hamy, where the small menu changes every night.

Tofu Pho and Ginger Tea at Co Chu

If you need to fit a sushi break in with the long days exploring all the treasures of Museum Island, I recommend this spot near the Freidrichstrasse U-bahn station. Sushi Miyabi (Mitte) is just a few blocks from Museum Island and has a sushi happy hour all the time. What is sushi happy hour, you may ask? It is half-off sushi all-day-every-day. While this may be a poorly-veiled marketing gimmick, I found this sushi to be fresh, delicious, plentiful, and more than reasonably priced.

Lastly, if you’re like me and need to squeeze in a little work time even while traveling, I highly recommend paying Betahaus a visit. It is one of those coffee shops designed to be a work environment, and the aesthetic is incredibly clean and bright with an enormously helpful and kind staff. I felt right at home there.

Shared work space with great coffee

~ By Virginia Spinks, former intern at Go Eat Give and a recent graduate of Emory University majoring in religion and anthropology. As an Atlanta native, she has grown up around many different cultures and cuisines, and has always had a passion for food. She views food as an experience: a point of connection to bring people together and create lasting memories.

Each One Teach One – Volunteer Abroad With Kids

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ? Nelson Mandela.

What is ‘Education’?

This might sound like a very easy question and everyone is well versed with how the Oxford Dictionary defines the term – “The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university”.

But in reality, the word has a much deeper sense associated with it – ‘Education’ is not just about what Oxford Dictionary tells us. It is the means of understanding life, and knowing what we want. It is the tool to polish our thoughts and turning them into actions. It is an art of choosing between right and wrong, good and evil, truth and lies. Great people like Rabindranath Tagore never went to school, but he was one of the most learned men that the world has ever seen.

Generally, when we talk about education, what we majorly mean is schooling and knowing the basics of reading and writing. The parameter of literacy is judged by an individual’s capacity or write his/her name in any language, preferably in the mother tongue.

What statistics have to say?

According to the UNESCO data, more than 17% of the total world population is still illiterate, of which 2/3rd are women. Undoubtedly, this makes gender equality more difficult to be attained.

In most of the developing countries, the situation is worse compared to the First World Countries. An estimated number of 122 million youths and nearly 67.4 million children are currently uneducated and dwell in some of the most poverty-stricken lands of the World.

While Europe and America are at a much better position, countries in Africa and Asia are the most affected. Several government and non-government organizations have taken up the issue of education, and thousands of youth who believe in the proverb – ‘Each One Teach One’ – have stepped forward to make a difference.

How can you contribute for eradication of illiteracy?

It is always easy to talk about a problem from outside, but if you are really concerned about this grave matter then try to be a part of the solution, and contribute in whichever manner you can.

While many people initially chose to donate money for the cause, it was later seen that half of that amount wasn’t properly utilized. Therefore, it is more advisable to give time to the kids and get involved with them so that there’s some real difference.

One of the best ways that most of the millennials are opting is to volunteer for the cause of education. Thousands of University students, gap year travellers and even professionals are traveling abroad to spend time with underprivileged kids, and spreading love and knowledge among them.

Volunteer Abroad With Kids
Volunteer Abroad With Kids

Being a volunteer myself, I’ve stayed in a tribal village in Rajasthan, India, where I taught kids in a government school. In spite of a huge enrollment in the school, only a handful of students turned up, and my main aim was to get all the kids to the school. It was a challenging task, but not an impossible one – and in nearly 5 months time, I was able to get them all to the school. The moment of satisfaction was when they said they love to come to school because of me.

Once you’ll take up the cause of spreading the light of education, you’ll see that people will eventually come under the rays.

Volunteer Abroad With Kids
Volunteer Abroad With Kids

In countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, India and Vietnam, most kids dwelling in the slums never get the opportunity to visit a school. Even if they do, those schools suffer from a lot of inadequacies like lack of staff, poor method of teaching etc. The infrastructural facilities aren’t proper, and many kids stop going as they don’t find the process of learning interesting.

What is necessary in this case to focus more on activity based learning – where kids can be involved in the process of teaching, so that it’s more of a communicative procedure than a boring class.

You don’t need to be a teacher to teach these kids – all you need is patience and perseverance to deal with them and make them learn something that would help them in later years of their life. If you are good at singing, dancing, painting or origami, you can teach that as well. You could even show them children sing-alongs to uplift their mood? – Every step counts!

If you are thinking of how to be a part of the change, then take the first step of volunteering. Travel to a new country, and spend some time with the kids who need you. From my personal experience of volunteering in a tribal school of India, I can assure that it’ll be one of the most satisfying chapters of your life.

And not only will you make a difference to someone else’s life, but you’ll also inspire other people to think about the cause and doing something for it.

If we want to have a better tomorrow, then we have to spread the light of education – as that is key to make this world a better place to live.

Here are a few organizations which have specially curated volunteering programs for people who really care for the cause: PeaceCorps, Volunteering Solutions, and GoAbroad.

~ By guest blogger Riyanka Roy in India. Riyanka is a self proclaimed die-hard traveler and has explored India through its length and breadth – from Himachal in the North to Kanyakumari in the South, and from Kutch in the West to Gangtok in the East. She currently lives in Gurgaon, Haryana. She loves to binge on local food from the places where she travels to. She has previously written for Tripoto, Youth Ki Awaaz, Your Story and Huffington Post. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

New York City’s Best Subway Art Guide

As a native New Yorker or a tourist looking to explore the city, you’ll no doubt take the subway. While crazy New York City subway stories make you crave a cab, New York’s underground can be a great experience, too. This is especially true is you’re into colorful creativity, as art in the subway abounds!

NYC takes its title as one of the world’s art capitals seriously, so expect to come across some of the finest art in the city just taking the subway. In addition, keep your eyes peeled for the various gems you’re sure to come across —  especially when it comes to the five installations listed below!

1. Life Underground

art in the subway
Where: 14 St @ Eighth Avenue Station

This 16-year-old installation captures “life in New York,” and is one of the city’s best pieces of art in the subway. Artist Tom Otterness used over a dozen bronze sculptures to depict everything from the homeless being watched over by police to New York’s famous sewer gators chomping on the head of a wealthy citizen. It’s easy to rush through the city when it comes to a commute, but these playful figures are worth slowing down for! Stop by the 14th ST/Eight Avenue Station to see Life Underground.

2. Happy World

art in the subway
Where: Flushing/Main Street

Flushing is often noted as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city — a fact that Ik-Joong Kang made a point of celebrating with this art piece. Happy World uses over two thousand hand-painted ceramic tiles to depict various aspects of the large world Kang saw in Flushing and beyond. This includes many different people, events and views of NYC. With so much happening all at once, it can be comforting to see it condensed into a single installation (even if condensed refers to over two-thousand tiles!).

3. REACH

Where: 34th St/Herald Sqaure

Suspended above the N/R platforms of this station, there is a green bar with sensors that run along its side. While this horizontal rack has a tendency to go unnoticed by commuters, it’s actually a brilliant piece of interactive art in the subway that encourages New Yorkers to communicate with one another, even at their busiest. Waving your hands in front of the sensors causes a light to flicker on, and a sound to come from the rack on the opposite platform. With this unique musical instrument, those on the downtown and uptown platforms can interact without a single word!

4. My Coney Island Baby

Where: Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue

There are a number of creative reasons to make your way down to Brooklyn’s Coney Island. NYC street art is one, while the other is the artwork of Robert Wilson. Showcasing Nathan’s Hot Dog stand and other famous attractions, this installation features a wall of glass bricks showcasing silkscreened images. The format of this unusual, yet unique, exhibit makes the pictures especially alluring on sunny days when light streams in, illuminating the images. While adding whimsical fun to your commute, it’s one reason to plan your Coney Island trip for a sunny day!

5. Elevated

Where: Lexington Avenue/63rd St

With the Second Avenue Station nearly a decade in the making, artist Jean Shin had to pull out all the stops when planning her contribution. Sure enough, her mural “Elevated” is a standout even among the world-class art of this brand new subway line. In addition, this piece spans over three levels of the station. It depicts the construction done to dismantle the Second and Third Avenue line, along with stills of commuters. Furthermore, all levels are composed of ceramic tile, glass mosaic and laminated glass. This piece works to connect the past of New York to the present. And this is something you can be a part of for yourself, now that this new subway line is open!

~ By guest blogger, Shania Russell, a senior at Bronx Academy of Letters with a passion for writing. She has used programs such as Young Playwrights Inc., The Moth and Girls Write Now to channel these passions. Russell is the managing editor of her school’s literary magazine, One Pen. When not busied, she can be found with her nose in a book or humming the tune of whatever musical soundtrack she is obsessed with that week. THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON NYC TOURS & PHOTO SAFARIS.