Business Travel Travel News

Countdown to the REAL ID ACT

One year from today, the REAL ID ACT will go into effect, changing the required identification needed to board an airplane. A year goes by fast. To avoid future problems, here’s what you should anticipate for the October 1, 2020 deadline.

What do I need to know about the REAL ID ACT? 

Once the REAL ID ACT goes into effect, only the correct identification will allow entry into federal buildings, including federally regulated commercial aircrafts. Though passports will be accepted, driver’s licenses and identification cards need to be updated to include scannable microchip technology. It is the responsibility of the individual state to implement these changes. If the traveler does not have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, they will need an additional form of approved identification, or they will not be allowed to board the aircraft. 

For years the REAL ID ACT has been surrounded by confusion and chaos. In January 2018, the government as a whole delayed the enactment of the REAL ID ACT until October 1, 2020. The purpose was to give all 50 states adequate time to prepare. Now that the 2020 deadline is approaching, it’s time to make sure your state is compliant and you have the appropriate identification. 

How do I know if my driver’s license is REAL ID compliant? 

Because every state is responsible for issuing REAL ID compliant identification, it’s best to check your state’s DMV website for up-to-date and correct information. With only a few straggling states, almost all are currently in compliance. 

There is also an easy way to tell if your license has the scannable technology. A star in the upper right corner indicates it is REAL ID compliant, though there are various versions of the star logo. 

real-id-act-starIf you do not have a star in the upper corner, you will need to get a new driver’s license. 

Another point to remember, if your state is compliant, and your license is due to expire before the October 1, 2020 deadline, the new id sent to you will have the RFID indicated star. 

Have additional questions? Read this information packet from the TSA.  You can also tweet them with specific questions regarding #check4thestar

Choice Humanitarian Travel News

Choice Humanitarian Volunteer Trip – Gabby’s Story

Every year, Christopherson Business Travel sponsors an volunteer trip for a selected group of their employees. A non-profit working in seven countries, Choice Humanitarian strives to end extreme poverty by focusing on raising up small communities. This year’s employees ventured to a small village in the mountains of Guatemala. There, they helped dig foundations for future buildings and painted.

Volunteering in Guatemala

I was not sure what to expect with on my team’s recent expedition to Guatemala. You hear stories and read articles, but nothing compares to actually being a part of such a trip. I cried, laughed, and tried to take in as much as I could of the scenery and people. It was a trip designed to give, but in actuality, it gave me more than I gave. It was a trip to help eradicate “extreme poverty,” and while the area is certainly not like what you typically see in our cities, it gave me insight into “extreme wealth,” but not in ways that one may see visibly.

On the first day we arrived, a woman was making corn tortillas at dinnertime. This being one of my favorite foods, I was eager to help. She was happy I wanted to help, and was happy for her to show me her skill. Even though I couldn’t speak the language, we made do by enjoying the camaraderie together. Another day, we had an opportunity to visit a local village which consisted of three generations of one family living together. The family was very welcoming, showed us their homes with pride, introduced us to the family members, and even let us partake in the daily chore of shucking corn, a dominant staple in their diet. I was reminded that no matter where we are in this world, pride in family is universal. The extreme reliance on family is primary to survival, particularly in these remote villages. This is a wealth that many in industrial societies may not have the advantage of.
Learning the average mortality rate is 57% and the average pregnancy age is age 10-14, was shocking. Seeing what CHOICE Humanitarian does by helping communities learn new skills and gain education, and knowing I was there to help in any way I could, was the proudest moment of my life. No matter how little we felt we did in just one week, I know it was far greater than not doing anything, and I am proud to support CHOICE Humanitarian.
Business Travel Guides Travel News

How to Select the Right Corporate Travel Partners

I recently had the pleasure of attending the GBTA- North Carolina’s Education Day.  Themed ‘Bridging the Travel Gap’, it focused on helping both buyers and suppliers bridge the gaps that may exist during the purchasing process. The keynote speaker was Neil Hammond of Goldspring Consulting and he focused on Better Engaging the Buyer and Supplier Relationship. While he delivered a breadth of beneficial material, I really enjoyed his process on selecting the right corporate travel partners. By breaking it out into steps, it makes the process less daunting. It also allows for increased communication and guidelines, ensuring everyone’s needs are met for future travel management practices.

Selecting the right corporate travel partners for your business:

  1. Involve any key stakeholders to get internal support. Gaining this support is especially helpful when a introducing a new policy or changing vendors.
  2. Align your message internally in order to deliver the same message to your travelers.
  3. Educate key decision makers as necessary. Take the time to explain why vendor options are being evaluated.
  4. Define your strategy in advance of collecting a proposal. Will you be awarding a single contract or multiple?
  5. Survey your travelers. This will give you a clear picture of what travelers like and also in keeping their opinions in mind, will ensure buy-in as you proceed in the decision making process.
  6. Agree on your decision making process. What parameters are you looking for? Do these align with your company policy? Do you have a clear timeline for the implementation of this change?
  7. Clearly express your requirements to potential suppliers.
  8. Evaluate suppliers, engaging throughout the process to gain clarification and provide updates on your timeline, if necessary.
  9. Execute a decision according to the defined timeline.

While making a change to your travel program is never easy, following these steps will help you stay organized while selecting your corporate travel partners. And remember, Christopherson is always here to help. With more that 60 years experience in corporate travel, we understand the challenges that businesses face with travel management. If you would like to discuss the process of choosing corporate travel partners in more depth, feel free to contact us, or read our additional blogs below.

Choice Humanitarian Travel News Vacation Travel

CHOICE Expedition – Tammy’s Story

Christopherson Business Travel is a proud corporate sponsor of CHOICE Humanitarian. In addition to voluntary employee contributions and matching program, Christopherson annually sends a group of employees on a week-long humanitarian expedition. Based out of Salt Lake City, CHOICE Humanitarian works in seven countries to help those in extreme poverty.  Using a village-centered approach, they work to improve quality of life through self-sufficiency.  This year, our group employees visited a small village in the Buena Vista region of Guatemala. Tammy Irvin, a corporate travel advisor from our Alabama office was selected to volunteer on this trip.

Tammy’s story with Choice Humanitarian

The CHOICE Humanitarian expedition to Guatemala is a trip I will never forget. This trip brought out so many emotions in me—laughter, sadness, heartbreak, and amazement. I cannot thank Christopherson Andavo enough for the opportunity to participate.

I arrived to the hustle and bustle of Guatemala City. It was a little overwhelming at first, but our trip leaders made me feel at ease. We were treated to a great meal at a local restaurant and a trip to the Market. Once the rest of the team members arrived, we went to our first stop, a resort called Rio Dulce. There, I met Amy, my roomie for the week and the other Christopherson Andavo team members, along with the other expedition participants. We enjoyed dinner together and had a great time relaxing at the pool.

The next day, we went on a boat ride and then boarded two small buses. I am extremely afraid of heights, so I was not looking forward to this part of the trip. We wound around the mountainous roads and finally, we arrived—to the “drop-over- the-edge-and-you-will-die point.” I got a few heckles, but my fear faded and I was fine.

Finally, we arrived at Sikaab’e. Sikaab’e is a vocational training school in the Polochic Valley. Sikaabe is Q’eqchi for “seek your path.” We were lucky enough to stay in their dorm for the week! The next day we began our work of digging trenches, building chicken coops, and painting the dorm. We took a day to visit with the women in a neighboring village and teach hygiene, while the men bonded with the local soccer team. Every day was an adventure. As the week went by, we slowly realized that you can disconnect, be unplugged, and you will survive.

In short, we ate, laughed, cried, made new friends we will never forget, and helped someone make it through one more day. The trip is actually helping me make it through one more day. I know it’s not what you have, it’s what you give—in whatever way you give it. I have never seen so many happy people—so many people that didn’t have much, but what they had, they were grateful for.

I have a million memories and for that, I am thankful.

Choice Humanitarian Travel News

Choice Humanitarian: Brandon’s Story

Every year, Christopherson Business Travel sponsors an volunteer trip for a selected group of employees. An NGO working in seven countries, Choice Humanitarian is driven to end extreme poverty. The employees volunteering this year ventured to a small village in Guatemala. There, they helped build in-home stoves and paint community buildings. As a corporate sponsor and long-time supporter, these annual trips are just one of the many avenues in which Christopherson cooperates with Choice Humanitarian.

Brandon’s volunteer experience

Going on the CHOICE Humanitarian expedition to Guatemala was an experience that ingrained itself in my life from the moment I got off the plane. We landed, made it through customs.  While waiting for our bus, we were greeted by a panhandler asking for $2 (although it was never clear if he was hoping for $2 or just 2 quetzales, the currency in Guatemala). The ability to convert currency on the fly became an immediate trait that one had to adapt to quickly. Then a young man and his elementary school aged brother helped load our luggage, and asked for 3 quetzales—roughly $0.40. It was then that it really became apparent to me that we were in a third world country.
Aside from the poverty, run down city, and areas that you would never dare venture into at night, Guatemala had some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen. Of course, having the chance to travel with and help CHOICE made the trip most appealing.

Meeting the villagers and getting to experience their customs and way of life has forever changed my views on extreme poverty. It also helped me to conclude that, if you are thinking about, or have ever wondered if you should participate in one of these expeditions, the answer should be a big YES. The people I met and the friendships I developed are ones I will cherish for a lifetime.
See more of Brandon’s team’s photos here and pictures from previous expeditions.

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Business Travel Travel News Travel Tips

Avoid Syncing Your Phone To A Rental Car

Beginning another year in the business travel industry, I often find myself reflecting on the changes and advances I’ve seen in the previous year. The biggest change I’ve notice is the growing access to technology conveniences while traveling. Aircrafts are equipped with USB charging ports and entertainment apps. It’s easy syncing your phone to a rental car or connecting to free wireless networks in hotels.  With so many ways to stay connected during business trips, I now even find myself feeling annoyed when an airport does not offer free Wi-Fi access.

The compulsion to stay connected while traveling

Being “connected” to the office, email, current news, etc, is becoming an ever-growing necessity of business travel. Not only do we always feel the need to stay connected, but we demand it in a convenient manner too. In this growing frenzy to stay locked in with those in the office, many travelers unknowingly put their employer’s information and personal data at risk while achieving this growing need. With this growing accessibility, I find myself easily forgetting the consequences as well.

Why you should avoid syncing your phone to a rental car and other no-no’s

While reading a recent USA Today article, I was reminded of the hacking risks related to connecting to unknown or unsecured networks. When free or instant wifi is offered, security is often a second thought. This is how hackers and identity thieves are so successful. Our “careless connection” behavior is found in many circumstances when traveling, including hotel wifi issues or basic phishing schemes. Below are a few surprising situations in which you might encounter unsafe network activity.

  • Syncing your phone with a rental car. Most newer rental cars immediately offer pairing with their onboard infotainment system. Unbeknownst to most travelers, your information can stay within the car’s system after you return the car. This leaves you susceptible to the future drivers of the car. Or, hackers can install malicious software to the car before you rent it, accessing your information once you connect your phone.
  • Using the free USB charging stations in the airport. Plugging your phone into an infected USB hub is so common it even has a name – “juice jacking”. While connected to this port, hackers can easily access your private information.
  • Connecting to free wifi in your hotel or airport. Are you seeing a trend here? Free access leaves many open to malicious software and hacking schemes.

Tips for avoiding hacking scams

As we’ve covered, immediate and instant communication is a necessity for business travel. And unfortunately, the easiest routes often put you in arms length of security issues. Below are a few easy tips to avoid hacks. Some of these tips are from the Federal Trade Commission.

  • Avoid connecting your phone to a rental car’s infotainment system. Instead, manually enter the addresses needed.
  • Charge your phone in a rental car with a cigarette lighter adapter. This is the only way it will charge your device without accessing your personal information.
  • ‘Do you trust this computer?’ Say ‘no’. Don’t quickly skip through this step. If you are traveling and accessing unknown devices, always select ‘no’ for this option.
  • Delete your data before returning the rental car. If you do sync your phone with a rental car’s infotainment system, be sure to delete your information before returning the car to the rental office. Deleting information is usually done by going into the settings menu of the infotainment system. Find your device and go through the prompts to delete the data. The owner’s manual or car rental company may have more information.
  • Bring a fully-charged portable phone charger with you. These portable devices act as a second charge for your phone. When you are almost out of battery, just connect your phone to this device, and it charges your phone without needing to access an electrical outlet. Just remember to charge it before you leave home.
  • Use a company VPN to access sensitive data while in hotels. Ask your IT department to set up an VPN connection to use while you’re traveling for business. This connection is a secure access straight to company files, so your information can not be hacked.

Our world is continually changing with increased accessibility and connectivity. With this instant gratification, it is very easy to overlook the potential security issues involved. I hope these tips will help as a reminder next time you are about to sync your phone with a rental car or in other ‘convenient’ situations.

Choice Humanitarian Travel News

Choice Humanitarian Expedition – Carmen’s Story

Christopherson Business Travel sponsors a group of employees to participate in a humanitarian expedition with Choice Humanitarian annually. Being a corporate partner with this international non-profit organization, we engage and volunteer whenever possible. This amazing organization assists villages across the globe in extreme poverty by providing self-sustaining techniques to improve their community from within. This year, the group, including myself, assisted in the Polochic region of Guatemala.  Read my story below, and be sure to leave comments on our blog or Facebook page.

Carmen’s Story

I knew that going on a CHOICE humanitarian trip would be a life-changing experience—traveling to a remote village in extreme poverty is bound to be eye-opening. But to be honest, I wasn’t ready for what I found.
The objective for our trip was to install new stoves in the villagers’ homes. Their current stoves were simply open flames constantly burning. The smoke was a true hazard, harming their lungs and eyesight. But the stoves we installed have a metal stovetop which contained the flame. More importantly, they have an exhaust pipe to push the smoke outside the house.

The conditions of the villagers’ homes were one of the first things I noticed and something that will stay with me forever. Most had one or two rooms total, but some families had additional buildings. Their ‘living room area’ was often their kitchen. Beds—typically just wooden boards with a blanket—were separate. It made the camping pad I brought with me look like luxury. Floors were made of dirt, hardened from years of wear, yet they still kept their homes clean and swept. Animals roamed everywhere, particularly chickens, running inside and outside of all buildings and structures. Though they had dogs and cats in the village, they were not kept as pets and were malnourished and starving, only bones and skin. One family had a pig. We were told they were one of the wealthiest families, as this was a luxury.

The village children were a highlight. They were always happy, generous and intrigued. I never saw them argue over a toy or gang up on one another. One girl named Carmen was particularly bright, ambitious, and creative. She was one of the only girls not wearing the traditional skirts the other girls wore. Someone told me her family could not afford the traditional clothes for her, so she continued wearing the ‘modern’ clothes that most girls transition out of.

It could be that Carmen and I share the same name, but I know she will stay with me forever. Though she’s bright and clever, she was born in a small village with very strict gender rules. She will likely never go to college or travel abroad or even experience life outside of this rural mountain. Though I obviously can’t foresee political or social changes for Guatemala, it’s unlikely things will change for her. Thinking back to how stressed out I was about little things before going on the expedition now makes me feel so selfish—things like how annoyed I was that Target didn’t have my favorite mosquito repellent to bring with me, or how mad I get when a show won’t load on Netflix. I haven’t been simply handed much in my life, but I have opportunities that many, many, many others don’t.

I am so grateful for the CHOICE expedition experience. The main purpose of the trip was to help others in our world, but I can confidently say I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. See more photos from the expedition group on Facebook.

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Choice Humanitarian Travel News

Choice Humanitarian Expedition – Marta’s Story

Christopherson Business Travel is a proud corporate sponsor of CHOICE Humanitarian. In addition to voluntary employee contributions and matching program, Christopherson annually sends a group of employees on a week-long humanitarian expedition.  CHOICE Humanitarian provides support to these small villages in extreme poverty with a village-centered approach. By teaching self-sustaining skills and implementing needed updates, CHOICE is driven by eliminating extreme poverty. This year, the group of nine employees visited a small village in the Buena Vista region of Guatemala. Marta Musich, a corporate travel agent from our Denver office volunteered this year. Below is her experience.

Traveling with our team on the CHOICE Expedition was a fantastic experience, even though it was somewhat bittersweet. It was a long ride to get to the village in Buena Vista, high in the mountains. It was a beautiful and bumpy ride into the jungle. We arrived at the village in the late afternoon. There was a wonderful and joyous welcoming from the villagers. We went down a steep mountain trail to end up by their small but clean school where we would be spending the next few days. I was sure happy to hear that the village men would be bringing down our luggage for us.

They put on a dance for us by the children, The Dance of the Dear. This is a dance that has been used over the years to welcome the visitors to the village. I really enjoyed watching all the children and villagers welcoming us. They were quite happy to see us and I was getting excited to start helping them with our assigned project.

We split up in groups. I was in the painting group. We were going to paint their community center. We were handed our supplies to complete this task and worked with several men from the village.

This was quite a highlight for me. I was able to spend time with the men and the children too. The villagers I painted with tried to teach me Q’eqchi. I had to pronounce the words over and over until I had them just right. We made a game out of it, they had to pronounce them in English. This helped break the ice. My favorite word was “us” which mean good. I used it a lot. The child were great. They wanted to help us too, until we brought out the coloring books. Then they decided they liked that a lot more.

After finishing the painting. I went over to help with the stove building. Everyone was helping to make their homes a much healthier place for them to live. The old way of cooking caused the walls and ceiling to be blackened with soot.

Some of my favorite moments were trying to grind the corn and make tortillas. I never realized how hard it was to do from scratch. I never was able to form one correctly. I need a lot more practice. It was quite fun laughing with the women in their homes. I so enjoyed being with the people of the village.

They really enjoyed the soccer balls that were brought and the children had so much fun with bubbles, coloring books, and jump roping. It made me smile from inside out.

The week was filled with many emotions. It saddened me to hear that their government would not pay for a teacher to come to the school and that the children had been without one for six months.

One day, I really wanted to take a shower after hours of long hot, sweaty work. But after I learned that the villagers were not using water so we could have a shower, I felt that I could stay a little dirty. It was so selfless of them to do this for us. They already a have so little; how could I take more from them?

There was hardly anything in their homes, yet they all seemed happy with so little. You hardly ever heard a child crying or not sharing with the others. These are lessons that so many of us need to learn. Maybe a few less possessions and more time spent together doing things would be good.

The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” still seems to apply here. I’m not sure if this is one of the reasons our children have become so isolated, where we don’t even know the family that lives next door, but it was such a wonderful time watching everyone together. A movie was shown one night and for some of the children this was the fist time they had seen one.

Personally, I have been downsizing for many years. I have realized that you don’t have to have a lot to be happy. But I am saddened that these villagers don’t even have the basics. There aren’t many ways to make money that far in the jungle. My outlook on poverty has changed a lot after this trip. I see how stuck people can become when it comes to getting out of poverty.

I was so lucky to meet such wonderful and caring people from the CHOICE group. We are so fortunate to live where we all can get an education and have an opportunity to make our lives better. I am very thankful for all that I have. This has opened my eyes and I hope I can find opportunities to help out the less fortunate here, near my own community.

See more photos from Marta’s expedition group on Facebook.

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Choice Humanitarian Travel News

Choice Humanitarian Expedition – Merrilee’s Story

Christopherson annually sponsors a group of employees to travel with CHOICE Humanitarian. Based out of Salt Lake City, CHOICE Humanitarian is a strategic non-governmental agency (NGO).  Working in seven countries, their goal is to end extreme poverty.  Using a village-centered approach, they work to improve quality of life through self-sufficiency. Christopherson has been involved with CHOICE for more than 20 years and is also a corporate sponsor. This small group of volunteers provides one week of service on one of Choice’s international work sites. This past year, the group assisted in the Polochic region of Guatemala, helping the villagers build in-home stoves and painted the community center. Employees who are part of the employee contribution program are eligible to go on an expedition. These employees contribute donations to CHOICE monthly, with Christopherson graciously matching the donation.  Merrilee Rease, a corporate travel agent out of Salt Lake City shared her experience from this year’s trip to Guatemala:

“Participating on the CHOICE Humanitarian Expedition was a life changing event. In fact, I highly recommend it over a regular family vacation. The villagers’ daily struggle just to prepare meals and get water from the river both amazed and saddened me. They even conserved water leading up to our arrival so that we could take quick showers while we were there. We didn’t learn about this until about two days before we were to leave. I decided not to shower after finding this out. My most memorable times were playing with the kids. They are so happy, even with what little they have. It was like Christmas for a week for them. CHOICE brought a movie screen and projector for the village to watch movies. To hear their giggles and screams during the movie made me incredibly happy. It was the little things like this that we take for granted that meant the most to me.”

See more pictures of the 2016 expedition team’s photos here.
To view pictures from previous expeditions, visit our Facebook page.

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Choice Humanitarian Travel News

Choice Humanitarian Expedition – Laura’s Story

Every year, Christopherson Business Travel sponsors a group of employees to participate in a humanitarian excursion with Choice Humanitarian. As a corporate partner with this international non-profit organization, we engage and volunteer whenever possible. This amazing organization assists villages across the globe in extreme poverty by providing self-sustaining techniques to improve their community from within. This year, the group assisted in the Polochic region of Guatemala.  Secluded in the hills of Northern Guatemala near Cobán, they helped build stoves and paint the community center.

Laura’s humanitarian expedition story

As I boarded my flight to Guatemala City, I knew I would be seeing firsthand what extreme poverty would look like. Once I arrived, and began our four-hour bus ride (which really took seven hours until our first stop), I was amazed at the beauty of the country, the colorful but poorly constructed buildings, heavily congested roadways and traffic. Trash also seemed to be a huge problem, as it was strewn everywhere!

Once out of the big city, I saw another side of Guatemala. The landscape was still beautiful and colorful, and the people seemed pleasant and genuinely happy. I think overall, they accepted their way of life and appreciated the things they had.

My next five nights spent in a Q’eqchi’ village was the best experience. The landscape was like the movie Jurassic Park! I thought I’d really see a dinosaur come tromping through the trees! Of course I never did … but I did see a couple of lizards!

Our living arrangements were similar to primitive camping. We all brought our sleeping bags and air mattresses. CHOICE provided and prepared all the food. All of our meals were delicious! Even the daily homemade tortillas were a treat!

I was overwhelmed with the children’s eagerness to learn and help. I never once saw a child in tears or angry. Even the adults were curious of our presence. I was always reminded of this at our meal time! There was always an audience of villagers watching our every move.

Our project in the village was to assist with building cinder block stoves and painting the inside and outside of their community center. Our purpose was NOT to change their way of life, but to enhance and/or minimize their daily tasks. These people were proud of their way of life and their traditional heritage.

I’m still processing everything that I experienced and would go back in a heartbeat! “Laain Sa Lin Ch’ool!” (Q’eqchi’ for: I am fine, happy in my heart.)

Stay tuned for stories from our other adventurers. Check out our Facebook photos from this trip and past expeditions. Chirstopherson Business Travel is an award-winning corporate travel management company with 60 years of experience. 

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Choice Humanitarian Travel News

Choice Humanitarian Expedition – Donna’s Story

Nine of our employees had an experience of a lifetime this summer. Every year, Christopherson sponsors a group of employees to travel with CHOICE Humanitarian to volunteer on one of their international work sites. Based out of Salt Lake City, CHOICE Humanitarian is a strategic non-governmental agency (NGO) working in seven countries: Kenya, Nepal, Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. Their overriding goal is to end extreme poverty and improve quality of life through a bottom-up, self-developing, village-centered approach. Christopherson has been involved with CHOICE for more than 20 years and is also a corporate sponsor. Employees who are part of the employee contribution program are eligible to go on an expedition. These employees contribute donations to CHOICE monthly, with Christopherson graciously matching the donation. Below is Donna Alford’s story from this year’s trip to Guatemala:

There really isn’t any way to adequately describe my recent CHOICE Humanitarian trip to the Polochic Region of Guatemala.

Was it hot? Yes! If anyone hears me complaining about the heat and humidity in Alabama, you have my permission to whack me on the head.

Was it exhausting? I typically sit at a desk all day. So, yes! It was exhausting.

Was it amazing? Absolutely. I would go back in a heartbeat!

It was such an incredible experience and I’m so honored to have met and worked with the villagers of Chimaxyat. To say that these people don’t have much is an understatement. At the beginning of the trip, my first inclination was to feel sorry for them. By the end of the week, I realized that what they lacked in material things, they more than made up for in their wonderful spirits. They were so gentle, happy, and full of grace, and I am so thankful that they welcomed us into their lives.

The CHOICE model states that “rather than participating in short term service delivery, we focus on building long term, sustainable solutions to issues related to extreme poverty” and boy, did we see that in action. Instead of CHOICE deciding what is best for a community, CHOICE involves the people of the village themselves. They determined what was needed for their village and we all came together to make that happen. In this case, it was a stove project.
Before this project began, the women and small children spend all day in close proximity to an old, unvented stove or, in some cases, just a re pit, which causes many health problems. Our project was to build new, more efficient stoves that were vented to the outside. They were so welcoming and kind to us as we went into their homes for this project.

We were also fortunate to visit the Sikaabe (meaning “Seek your Path”) Training Center. This is an educational and vocational school that can accommodate up to 32 students. It is a real life changer. The school teaches classes such as masonry, animal production, farming, hospitality, and culinary arts. The students gave a presentation and it was incredible to see the pride in their eyes. No translation needed for that! As a bonus, one of the students was getting married the day we were there and we were all invited. After the wedding, the groom changed back into his work clothes and proceeded to give us a tour of the animal production facility. All in a day’s work!

From the moment we arrived to a ceremonial dance performed by the children, to the end of our stay with the men of the village carrying our luggage on their heads, up the muddy, slippery trail to the bus, we were wrapped in love and caring from “our” village. The CHOICE staff did a wonderful job taking care of all of the logistics and the in-country team of cooks and servers were incredible. They served us three delicious meals each day and I am craving more of their hot chocolate. I am forever ruined for Swiss Miss in a packet.

See more pictures of the 2016 expedition team’s photos here.
To view pictures from previous expeditions, visit our Facebook page.

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