A free trip goes to…

Alison, congratulations on becoming our Most Valuable Participant of the 1st Travel2change Idea Challenge! Alison submitted two project ideas in our 1st Travel2change Idea Challenge and has further significantly contributed to travel2change’s mission and development over the last few weeks. She wins a free trip along with one of our winning projects! Find out in our interview what project Alison chooses to join…

Alison, how did you feel as you heard you are our Most Valuable Participant and thus are offered a free trip with one of our four winning projects?

“I was absolutely lost for words. I actually still am but luckily this wasn’t a video-log so I’ve had time to collect my thoughts. Speechless is definitely not my normal state – you normally can’t get a word in – but getting this kind of award is immensely special to me; a chance to see first-hand, upfront and personal, local project work in action. Volunteering is all about experience, a total immersion in a truly foreign community life. I am indescribably excited at taking this trip!”

We are very happy to hear that! What are the two projects you submitted to our Idea Challenge?

“The first project is Texting water to Enkito. It’s a project in a small maasai manyatta (village) in Amboseli, SW Kenya, which seeks to sink a well to aid the women who currently have to walk up to 8km for water from the river.  Though the maasai are possibly the most adaptive to their environment, renowned for living in symbiosis with nature, even they are beginning to struggle with global warming’s reduction of the glacial cover on Kilimanjaro, resulting in regular and devastating droughts.

The second project I submitted is called AmazonArt. It aims to employ music and the Arts to inspire understanding and promote the protection of the rainforest, its river and local communities. It also assists the Ama Institute which teaches the fine art of making instruments from the Amazon wood.”

AmazonArt is a great project and one of our winning projects. How did you learn about this project?

“A year ago in 2010, my son’s local High School hosted the Brazilian Ensemble, an “Amazonian” folk and classical fusion trio of cellist Diego Carneiro de Oliveria, accompanied by Carla Ruaro Pires on piano, and Felipe Karam on percussion and cavaquinho (a small high-pitch guitar). During the day the trio held workshops with the students then a concert in the evening.

I got talking to Diego that evening and found out that in his spare time he runs his own charity, AmazonArt. I was so impressed by his idea to employ music and the Arts as educational tools to raise awareness of his home’s local traditions and environment, specifically the survival and importance of the rainforest and river around northern equatorial Brazil.“

 So let us find out a little more about you.

“First and foremost I’m mother to my 2 fantastic teenagers, between us we also care for our dobermann, guinea pig and 2 lop-eared rabbits!

I am also running AVIF (Able Volunteers International Fund), a global volunteering charity that assists with sustainable development via online and onsite volunteering. AVIF evolved back in 2006 after a chain of events led me to set up a large summer school in NE China, with teachers from all over the world. The project was initially coordinated via internet until I moved myself and 2 young children to Zibo, Shandong Province, PRC. As an unpaid trustee I quickly learnt to run AVIF entirely virtually using free or very low-cost technologies like Skype, SMS and social media to manage programs and coordinate the development work, from the UK.  Luckily, with powerful concepts like “voluntourism” growing in popularity this facilitates my job. When Facebook burst onto our desktops AVIF almost ran itself as volunteers suddenly had a place to meet, share and discuss their experiences, with no geographical barriers.

Another of my passions is travelling and motorbikes. With the support and mentoring from various local and statutory organisations I’m about to launch a collaborative “community interest company” using dirtbikes to re-engage disadvantaged kids back into education and training. The bikes are even brand new zero-emission machines; no noise, no pollution.”

Sounds like you are keeping busy! So where have you travelled so far in your life?

“I love travelling! I was lucky enough to inherit my Mother’s wanderlust! After various family holidays around the islands of Greece, I went to live and work in Florida, at 18 which also allowed me to travel up the entire eastern seaboard. I’ve visited Switzerland and Italy, ridden round the whole of France on my motorbike and more recently ticked off Venice. I lived and worked for almost a year in rural China, with my children, and dragged them throughout rural western Kenya. We’ve lived in Germany, and even survived a few years in the south of England! Last year I was lucky enough to fulfil a dream and do a road trip through some of the Wild West, USA, ending up in the Black Rock Desert for Burning Man!”

Wow, that’s amazing travels you have had! Speaking of travels…Let me ask you the probably most exciting question to our travel2change community…Alison, what project would you like to join?

“It will be an absolute joy and dream to visit the AmazonArt communities along the river that flows through the lungs of our planet! It will truly be an honour to experience the Amazon jungle and the people who live on its edge at least. Thank you so much, travel2change, for making this possible!”

Thank you very much for this interview, Alison and congratulations again to win a free trip and join our AmazonArt at the Combu Education Centre in Brazil project!

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