Bound South: 3 brothers cycle from Alaska to Argentina to raise money for charity

Every once in awhile, I read something really inspirational that makes me see the real potential of society. After learning about the Berg brother’s bike ride from Anchorage, Alaska, to Patagonia in Argentina, to raise money to build a house for the Lake Agassiz Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, I knew it was one of those times.

Since August 11, 2011, Nathan Berg, 24, Isaiah Berg, 22, and David Berg, 19, have been cycling over the Pan-American Highway, living on $10 a day by buying donuts on sale and covering then in peanut butter. The boys are aiming to raise $60,000, enough to build one house for a person in need. Their goal is to cross the border of Mexico by late November and make it to Argentina by May.

While this particular ride was inspired by the boys’ sense of adventure, they are being fueled by their desire to help others. They also aim to document a trek full of beautiful and moving landscapes as well as off-the-beaten path travel. The kindness of strangers has also helped them along the way, including an inspired group of elementary school children from their home state of North Dakota writing them letters, people offering a place to sleep, or being given a generous meal.

So, what sets this charity ride apart from the others? On their Bound South Facebook Page, the boys write:

“Many charity rides spend a great deal on various amenities and promotional efforts. We wanted something different. Bound South is a rugged journey of reflection, a fully self-supported trek across some of the most inhospitable places in the Americas. Supporting our cause allows you to become a part of our story. Every dollar you donate will go directly to Habitat for Humanity to build a home.”

For more information on their trek, or to donate to their cause, visit their blog, Bound South.

Habitat for Humanity building an eco-tourism village in Indonesia

Habitat for Humanity has partnered with Asia Pulp & Paper, one of the world’s largest paper producers, to bring a struggling village in Indonesia out of poverty in an unusual way: by making it into an eco-tourism destination where visitors can stay with families.

This controversial conversion will take place in Soran, a village where 60 percent of the resident families live below the poverty line, despite their long traditions of creating crafts and music, and their location near to one of Indonesia’s most precious attractions, Prambanan Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Central Java region.

The Soran project will improve living quarters for most families by adding guest accommodations, expanding kitchens for the preparation of guest meals, earthquake proofing and adding laundry facilities. Furthermore, the project will train-to-employ over 250 villagers as laundry management workers (50), cooks of traditional foods (100) and performers and marketers of the village’s traditional arts (100 families). Over 100 villagers will also be trained in “disaster risk mitigation.”

You can watch Habitat for Humanity coordinator Johannes Sigit P. talk about this first-of-its-kind for HfH project in the video above. What do you think?

Inn by the Sea to cut rates, benefit Habitat for Humanity

Inn by the Sea, an eco-luxury property in Cape Elizabeth, ME, is dropping prices 50 percent Sunday through Thursday this spring. The goodwill go guests is wrapped in a larger act of conscience – guests taking advantage of this rate will write a $35 check to Habitat for Humanity.

The “Hospitality for Humanity” program is sponsored by the Maine Innkeepers Association (MEIA), which raises cash to help put deserving Maine families in homes. It runs from May 1 – 22, 2009.

For 50 percent off plus a $35 donation, this is a hell of a deal. Inn by the Sea boasts four diamonds, and a recently completed renovation added several amenities, including a full-service spa, fireplace bar and a restaurant with ocean views.

So, you’re saving some cash, supporting a good cause and living it up at a great destination.

Volunteer Vacation Reviewed

Now that I’ve given you a week of blow-by-blow insider detail and a look at how fun volunteering while on vacation can be, let’s do a quick review. First question people always ask, “How can I do something like this or volunteer with Habitat for Humanity?” Joining a GV Team with Habitat for Humanity is usually the easiest part I find. Before signing up for the first plane to Uganda to help build homes start by learning about the organization. Habitat for Humanity International is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. Their mission is to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. I was introduced long ago when I read an article in TeenPeople Magazine about Sarah Michelle Gellar doing GV builds in Dominican Republic. I was so inspired I immediately looked Habitat up and followed homeowner, volunteers and other participant stories on their website until taking off for my first build.

There are many ways to get involved with Habitat. Check out their Get Involved page to find an opportunity for you. Global Village builds often leave people wishing they had done more. AmeriCorps/VISTA has several long term programs (up to one year) with Habitat located in many different locations throughout the U.S. If travel to foreign lands to lend your hand is what you are after, head right to the Global Village Program. Search the list of available trips and then apply online or download the application to submit via post. From this point there are two roads you can take, possibly more if you are a sharp thinker. One road is to raise the money for your trip expenses by fundraising and other activities. The second road is to raise the money from your very own paycheck or savings. I’ve taken both roads and I’ll say the first is much better if you have the time and can be a great way to spread the word and get others involved with Habitat and their mission.

Once you’ve taken care of all of the above, you’re pretty much on your way to fun times and doing great things. Beyond all it’s one of the most rewarding ways to spend your time, energy and did I mention work hard!

If you missed the Volunteer Vacation installments you can catch up on them all here:

Volunteer Vacation Day Seven: Last Day of Building

This was it – the end of the Global Village road. The final day of building had reached. When we pulled up that morning in the van we were greeted by several smiling Tajik children who extended their tiny hands for the shaking. As we walked away from our new friends to the house we saw a huge dump truck filled with dirt blocking our way. As you might guess now this dirt was dumped right in front of the gate. Ignited, we most definitely were, but also curious as to why the dirt couldn’t have shown up two days prior? No matter, we had work! Lots of it! We would go out with a volunteer bang on our last day building!

The mound of dirt was to be shoveled, placed in buckets and moved to the front porch area of the house. At the the time there was clutter filling the hole and once the clutter was removed we started on the task. I did some parts of the bucket line, but also got deeply engrossed with shoveling the dirt. Shoveling is not my strong suit. I have about zero upper body strength, so it takes a lot to really dig into the dirt, yet I was determined. As fast as the dirt had appeared, I wanted it to vanish. I started shoveling like a mad woman, quicker and quicker. Moving dirt wasn’t the only thing happening on this last day either. One volunteer was needed to make a cement paste for brick lying and there were two working on laying bricks in the window frame. I was seriously curious why none of this was thought of the first two days? It could have been they were waiting on materials, but everything we needed with the exception of the dirt appeared to have been there all along.

I wasn’t sure whether we would finish the work in half day’s time, but we did so with flying colors and as a special treat the women of the household made Kurutob! Now one of the other volunteers and me had been searching for this uniquely Dushanbe dish which is mentioned in the Lonely Plant guide in some restaurant we were never able to locate so we were thrilled the women decided to make it for us! I was so excited I’d asked if I could photograph this special occasion and gladly they let me snap away. After my photo session they rushed the large serving down to the worksite table were everyone was waiting to sample the dish. Overall, I believe it is safe to say all enjoyed the dish and I myself especially loved it!

But as I mentioned earlier this was it – the end of the Global Village road. We would return later only to provide the homeowner with gifts and say our final farewell in cleaner attire, but our manual labor was a wrap. Was our mission accomplished? Yes and no. Most of us always believe we can do more, that everyone can do more to help not just in the city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, but in communities all over the world where there is a need for decent housing. For Dushanbe this was the first time a Global Village team had worked in the city and there is still a lot to learn for the affliiate and most certainly for any future volunteer who decides to embark on over to this incredible country.