American students bring Thanksgiving’s message of coexistence to the Middle East

This Thanksgiving, holiday traditions and messages are going farther than the family dinner table. In fact, they are going all the way to the Middle East as American young adults spending time abroad will be spreading the message of coexistence throughout diverse communities by recreating the Thanksgiving feast from their childhood.

Masa Israel Journey, a project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli Government, sends more than 6,000 young Americans to Israel each year to study, intern, and volunteer, as well as spread a peaceful and harmonious message. Diverse groups of people such as Arabs, Israeli Jews, Palestinians, Europeans, and American peers are all positively affected by the introduction and blending of Thanksgiving traditions.

Some examples of how American young adults have spread their traditions and the message of coexistence include:

  • Abra Berkowitz, a Boston-native who studied at Masa Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, shared a potluck dinner with other students from Jordan, Isreael, the Palestinian Territories, South Africa, Canada, and Australia. A blending of cultures could be seen by a turkey seasoned with zaatar and a side dish of tahini stuffing.
  • Detroit-born Josh Kanter, who enrolled in Masa Israel’s Career Israel internship program, celebrated Thanksgiving at a Herbrew University-sponsored dinner with other international students from Argentina, Uruguay, Guatemala, Israel, and the United States. While there was turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, hummus was also a big hit at the table.
  • Jessica Simon from Philadelphia, who studied at Masa Israel’s Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, was also volunteering at Jerusalem Open House, the organization that supports LGBT people and their allies in Jerusalem. She planned a Thanksgiving potluck and read from a gay friendly prayer book with Hebrew explanations about Thanksgiving to the Israeli attendees. Because sweet potatoes were not available, Simon substituted them with carrot soup.

For information on Masa Israel Journey and how they help spread the message of coexistence, click here.

ProjectExplorer’s Thailand Launch Party raises $8,500 for global education

ProjectExplorer held their Thailand Launch Party on October 17, 2011, at the Tribeca Grand Hotel in New York. The event featured an auction, cocktail hour and after party, hors d’oeuvres, and the premier of the company’s new Thailand video series, “Sawasdee, Thailand!”.

The Thailand series has 50 videos total which are all free for students, as the mission of the organization is to “foster the next generation of global citizens by encouraging awareness of the world beyond a student’s own community through the creation and distribution of engaging and free multimedia educational materials”.

Andrew McCarthy, actor, director, and travel writer, spoke at the VIP screening of the event, which was followed by mingling, drinking, and eating. Tote bags filled with magazines (which included many destination travel articles) and a baked good were given to attendees.

With 200 in attendance at the event, ProjectExplorer was able to raise $8,500 toward their next educational series.

Check out the launch video for yourself:

Introduction to’s Sawasdee, Thailand! series from Jenny M. Buccos on Vimeo.

New travel philanthropy partnership helps children in Uganada, Africa, through their “$1 for the Future” campaign

Beginning this month, Marasa’s Mweya Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, Africa, launched their “$1 For the Future” campaign in conjunction with USAID’s Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift Program (USAID-STAR) and the Uganda Community Tourism Association’s Pearls of Uganda Program.

Guests who stay at the Mweya Safari Lodge are invited to donate $1 per day of their stay to help rebuild and construct schools for children. This also includes building murals that reflect the theme of conservation and children being taught the values or protecting wildlife.

Not only does this campaign aim to help children, but also to protect the land in East Africa through conservation and education. The “$1 For the Future” program is an example that highlights the ways that tourism can support sustainable tourism.

Man sets out on 5,000 mile hike throughout Asia to raise money for charity

Winston Fiore, a 26 year old Marine from Bloomington, Indiana, has set out on a 5,000 mile journey, by foot, throughout Southeast Asia and China. Fiore arrived in Southeast Asia on September 25, 2011, for what is called “Smile Trek”, and is projecting it will take him a year to walk the entire route, which begins and ends in Singapore.

The goal of the journey is to raise $50,000 or more for the International Children’s Surgery Foundation, a not-for-profit that provides children in developing countries with free corrective surgery. Through fundraising efforts, such as giving presentations at rotary clubs across the United States as well as having help from the CouchSurfing community who have helped organize benefit dinners, charity walks, and media interviews, Fiore has been able to raise over $28,000 for the cause.

Fiore’s inspiration for Smile Trek stems from an experience he had when training for the Marines in a very poor region of Lingure, Senegal. When he returned home, he read a newspaper article about a successful plastic surgeon in the United States who gave up his career to perform free surgeries in developing nations for children with cleft palates and lips. From there, the idea began to grow.

To follow Fiore’s Smile Trek or donate to his cause, visit his blog here.