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Taking the Kids on a Volunteer Vacation

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By GreatSchools Staff

Barbara Everhart, a Minneapolis mom and her 6-year-old daughter, Kailey, traveled to Xiloxochico, Mexico, to build a casita, or small house, in 2006. With their group, they stayed in a co-op hotel in the nearby town of Cuetzaltan, run by native women of the Nahua tribe.

"It became one of my favorite places in the world," says Everhart. "It was great to see the women running the hotel and benefiting from it." The tribeswomen did everything from making the soap to cleaning the rooms. Everhardt was impressed by Global Citizens Network, too, and the way they work within a community to form a cooperative partnership.

Everhart and her daughter had no prior building skills, but that wasn't important. They were able to help chop and carry bamboo from the forest, and sift sand to make into cement. Kailey also got to play with the native children, see their school and teach them a few words of English.

"For children the benefit of a trip like this is they learn that the world is a lot bigger than their neighborhood," Everhart says. "They get see another culture, another place and another world. My daughter (now 8) still talks about it and she was only 6 at the time. For families, the trip builds cohesiveness; it's an experience you can relate to and remember later on for making comparisons in your own community. It gets you out of your comfort zone."

"Last summer I decided to travel with Global Citizens with my 6-year-old daughter Ananda to Mexico for three reasons," says Linda Stuart, a Minnesota mom and Global Citizens executive director "to share with her my belief that giving isn't a privilege but rather a way of life; to integrate her into my work of responsible exchanges and alternative tourism; and to show her in person that 90% of the world does not live as we do and their lives are so rich!

"Ananda in turn taught me to have unconditional compassion for others. Upon return, we shared our stories with anyone and everyone who would listen. Our awareness for the world beyond our world was enhanced by that one-week experience together. We had quality time to get to know each other. An overwhelming sense of belonging came over me as I watched Ananda play hide-and-seek with the Nahua children of Xiloxochico. It truly was a great reminder of the 'oneness'and humanity that binds us all."

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