Brazil : part 1 : as a volunteer

scwc at ChristoI’ve just returned from two weeks in Brazil, in Lonier near Rio de Janeiro.

I was just one of the many volunteers, from lots of different countries, who were at the Street Child World Cup. It was an incredible experience and was a fortnight filled with the highs and lows of emotions and tears of total despair & sadness but also tears of joy.

I learned of Street Child World Cup (SCWC) through one of the co-founders, John Wroe. John and Tim are Swansea Jacks (meaning they support some football team called Swansea City). John’s enthusiasm and total commitment to the SCWC was impossible to resist and when I saw a tweet asking for volunteers for the Comms Team, I leapt at the chance. I didn’t tell John though and, at the volunteers training weekend earlier in the year, when he saw me, his first words were “What are you doing here?” Chuckle, I was warmly welcomed after that. The Wroe family is just wonderful, John and Jo and their two daughters, Alice and Ruby. Yes, I am using superlatives but they deserve every single one . . . and more.

One thing I did find out was that it’s hard work being a volunteer! I was part of the Comms Team and we spent the first few days in the media room, ensuring all was ready for the football tournament. From before breakfast until you went to bed – those people were so dedicated and committed to what they were doing, you happily joined in. On one day, 06.30 was the first meeting and, at the end of another, 22.30 was the last!

Hard work it most definitely was, but with so many pluses. The joy of meeting new people, learning new things, sharing experience and expertise and being part of a team. I cannot properly put into words how exhilarating it was to be a member of a team that was doing something totally for others, to give without wanting anything back, to get so much from it. It was an absolute privilege to work as part of the ‘J’ Team, Jo Clark, Jo-Jo Ellison and Joe Hewitt. Not forgetting, wonderful Ben, amazing Matt, lovely Jo, gorgeous Malachy, Wilf and Alan, beautiful Ben, Becky, Kate and Vicky, Tanzi and Hena, Jessie and Bex, Nick and Paul, Sam and David, someone called Lynn (without an ‘e’) and, and, and . . . . . .

As for the sleeping arrangements; our little room slept five with just enough space between the beds to put your suitcase side on! We five,  Sue, Bev, Ingrid, Lynn without an ‘e’ and me, got on really well, especially as there was only one key for the room. You had to remember to take it to main reception if you were the last one to leave the room – thank goodness we didn’t have too many moments of forgetfulness.

The children, who were in the teams, were amazing. Some of the stories of what they’d been through would break your heart, but that’s for another post.

Brazil volunteers arriving backThis is a photo of some of us arriving back at Heathrow after our 12 hour flight – all looking extremely glamorous, of course. Great timing!  I hope we stay in touch, wonderful friendships were forged.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely!

P.S. Just have to mention the outrageously lovely reception peeps – WonderWoman, Angel and her hubby, Superman.

P.P.S. Not too late to donate and help the street children – it isn’t just for the duration of the Street Child World Cup.

www.JustGiving.com/lynnerosie

 

 

 

 

Street Child World Cup 2014

SCWC-Logo-Brazil2014If you don’t know about Street Child World Cup, let me tell you about these wonderful people. The Street Child organisation had its first event at the South African World Cup in 2010 and things started to happen. South Africa made changes to the whole matter of street children – and all to the good. Life is wonderful, when you make a difference.

In the world of travel and tourism, the street children are often hidden away and never ever mentioned – the countries’ governments do not usually understand nor address the situation. The children are not worthy, they have no official identification, they do not exist. In putting the teams together, the Street Child World Cup (SCWC) team works with local charities and government agencies in each country. This gives encouragement to improve the way they deal with homeless children, sometimes from seeing them as criminal vagrants to recognising them as human beings who need support. For the first time, often, they are registered as citizens so they can be given a passport. And the needs of the wider homeless community are spotlighted as a result.

These children on the road to Rio 2014 come from 19 different countries; there are both boys and girls teams. All they want to say is ‘I Am Somebody’. The countries are El Salvador, USA, Zimbabwe, Argentina, England, Mozambique, Nicaragua, South Africa, Burundi, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Liberia, Brazil, Egypt, Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania and the Philippines. Have a look at the SCWC website to find out more.

I am very proud and privileged to have been included in the volunteer comms team going to Rio – so lucky, I’ll get to make a difference. All the volunteers met up at a weekend training session at Gilwell House in Epping Forest last week. So inspiring, so many fabulous people.

Should you wish to make a difference too, I’m trying to raise £2000 towards the central fund, it costs about £1,000 per child to get them there – and it has such an impact on their lives – this is the world cup that matters. Please donate here justgiving.com/lynnerosie – thank you.

From the chaos of Hanoi to the calm of Ha Long Bay

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Sailing out in the bay

Never having been to Vietnam before, we were unaware of the traffic rules in the country. Actually, there really doesn’t seem to be any, other than you ‘should’ stay to your side of the road and at most junctions, no one has any precedent over another.  With mopeds, scooters and bikes outnumbering cars by at least ten to one, it makes for really interesting journeys and, as the SAS so succinctly puts it, who dares wins!

Four full-on hours of travelling tension in Vietnam’s chaotic traffic – and for what? For a 2 night & 3 day voyage –  a cruise around Ha Long Bay. Was it worth it? Oh yes, indubitably my dear Watson.

So why go on a cruise? Basically, I’d heard about Bhaya Cruises and how they were making a difference to the local community and environment, and they invited me for a 2 night/3 day cruise to see what it was all about. Also, it would be another first – I’ve never been on a cruise before. Big smile as I tick another one off the bucket list. Two actually, first time in Vietnam.

The ship's manager, Albert Long, at the Cat Ba village which Bhaya Cruises supports.

The ship’s manager, Albert Long, at the Cat Ba village which Bhaya Cruises supports.

Conscious travel/tourism is good, local is good, responsible is good & sustainable is pretty good too! Not something you would expect from a cruise company; but when they all come together, it’s time to let people know! The Au Co II, Gulf of Tonkin, the newest vessel in the portfolio of Bhaya Cruises, is just a few months old and has 32 cabins, all with their own balcony or terrace. We were picked up from our hotel in Hanoi at 08.00 hours and the minibus picked up another three couples, then off we went.  As I said, four hours of driving, with a comfort stop at a restaurant. Situated within an enormous warehouse, it morphed into an Aladdin’s cave, full of goodies for the tourists to choose from.  Ha Long Bay port was a complete surprise; I’m not sure what was expected but not a newly built resort, highly organised and looking a little like an airport concourse inside. Much building and development is ongoing. Perhaps this was going to be a very slick and commercial affair, but we need not have feared so.

We were warmly welcomed and taken out to the beautiful ship, where a second genuine greeting on board was waiting from the crew. Heading out into Ha Long Bay proved to be magical. Nearly two thousand sandstone islands rise majestically from the water, ranging from single very tiny ones to immense ranges. And it wasn’t just my imagination that saw dragons and lions and all manner of wondrous shapes there in the different rocks.

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Floating village

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The women from the floating village coming to get us

We were taken out to see the floating village and the girls rowed out to collect us in their bamboo boats. Bhaya Cruises has been instrumental in setting up a school for the children and continues to support it.  The village has been there since the people who first founded it, hid from wars and hardship,made their homes there.

Returning to the ship there was a Vietnamese Tea Ceremony by the bar, love the fresh green tea.

The next day I got up early to do Tai Chi – 6.15 in the morning on the top deck of the ship, surrounded by mist and magical islands, it was quite surreal. My instructor was a delightful young man and I say ‘my’ in a very possessive way as I was the only pupil! There were three stages, the warm up, the body and the breathing. It was over in just minutes, seemingly, and then it was time for breakfast.

View Bhaya kayak.jpg in slide showAfter breakfast we sailed to another part of Ha Long Bay and stopped so that we could go kayaking, swimming or just chill on board. Tim and I chose to go kayaking, another first! Fascinating rhythm when you finally get it right, the pic is of us before that point! Great fun and wonderful exercise, so they say! Seriously though, it was another first for me and it was a most excellent adventure.

Lunch on board, as with all the meals, followed the five elements of Fire, Water, Earth, Wood and Metal – and yes, that did mean that lunch and dinner were five course affairs! The chef and his team have to be mentioned here, we all fell in love with the cooking.

Bhaya girls fishingIn the afternoon, we were taken to the village of Cat Ba, which is the only village on the islands. Cat Ba is supported by Bhaya Cruises too. The village has been given the tools and the seeds to grow and harvest organic crops and then the cruise line buys them at market price. I shall write more about this later. Bhaya Water buffaloThe walk to the village was five kilometres from the jetty, great exercise and we saw the girls out fishing, the girls working in the fields, in fact it would appear the female of the species does most of the hard work.

We were privileged to see a local wedding there, between one of the crew and her beau. Quite a few of the crew come from the village; strengthening the ties between the two communities of island and cruise ship. The photo shows the bride & groom with Albert Long (in red top), the Cruise Manager. Bhaya weddingWe were commenting on how very young the couple looked, however, we found out they were 24 and 25.

We enjoyed a fabulous dinner with Steve and Bev Norgate, from the shire of Gloucester; Gil and Sally, also from old Blighty, and Kathy and Mike Gagnon from the United States of America. Much merriment was had.

When we had returned to the ship, we were given a cookery demonstration by the superb head chef. We learnt how to cook Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Nem Ran) and exceedingly good they were too :-)  Later there was also a visit to the bridge and the engine room. For some odd reason, I expected to see a ship’s wheel, not a gps system! To sleep amidst all these fabulous islands was magical.

Day 3, the final day, saw me up to do the Tai Chi again, makes you feel so good. I had company as well, the lovely Kathy was there.

View Bhaya cave me & tim.After a light breakfast, we departed for a visit to Sung Sot Cave, a magnificent place to which we had to climb many steps – some of us were huffing and puffing more than others! The stalactites and stalagmites were incredible – I always say stalagmites have the ‘m’ for mountains which go up from the ground, to remind myself which is which!

This post could become a short story, there was so much to take in, so much to see and do, but most of all there was harmony, happiness and hospitality.  A winning combination. And if you get a chance to visit Ha Long Bay, I would strongly recommend you take a trip with Bhaya Cruises – they’re the best!

The future of tourism #FUTourism

I have so many posts I want to get onto the blog, that it is diffficult to know where to start, so here goes. Recently I spent an evening at The Future of Tourism event, held at The Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, Mayfair in London. The big bonus was that I sat next to Andy Jarosz of 501 Places fame. I have immense respect for Andy, he’s well versed in travel and tourism, writes extremely interesting and informative posts and, to top it all, is a very, very nice man!

“G Adventures invites you to join us at the Future of Tourism, an evening of lively discussion about the future of the travel industry and sustainable travel, with visionaries from across the tourism spectrum.  We’ll be exploring the future of travel and how sustainable tourism plays such a vital role in giving back to the places we visit.

RSVP to join us and enjoy a top line-up of speakers:  Bruce Poon Tip – Founder, G Adventures  :::  Richard Hammond – Chief Executive and Founder, Greentraveller  :::  Gary Arndt – Travel Blogger, Everything Everywhere  ::: Paula Vlamings – Associate Director, Planeterra

While there is no official charge for the event, we are suggesting a donation of £5 which will benefit the Planeterra Foundation. Founded by G Adventures, Planeterra is a non-profit foundation supporting social and environmental solutions in the destinations our travellers visit.
We look forward to seeing you there!   

The team at G Adventures”

The evening was introduced by the delightful Lyn Hughes, co-founder of Wanderlust. Hardly any seats were empty and the audience was in sparkling form.  Behind the presentation podium was a large screen showing the presentations, etc.  Either side of this was a smaller screen with live tweets being shown with the hashtag #futourism, or, as Lyn said, easier to remember if you say FU Tourism!

The tweet screens were well used during the evening and there were some very witty people attending and participating. They were very amusing and chuckles abounded, but sometimes to the detriment of the speakers as they could not see them and when they did look round, the screens were on the next tweet.

Richard Hammond was the first speaker on and, as one of the tweets said, ‘he didn’t mention TopGear once!’. Richard is the Chief Executive and Founder of award-winning website Greentraveller, the travel editor of GREEN magazine (distributed by The Guardian) and writer of the ‘Go Green’ column in National Geographic Traveller magazine.

Richard was an eloquent and very interesting speaker and was not distracted by tweets or chuckles once – a credible feat!  I’d not heard him before and learnt a lot, mainly from the passionate way he was speaking, I was definitely engaged!

Gary Ardnt spoke next. Gary is the creator of one of the most popular travel blogs in the world, everything-everywhere, and one of TIME’s “Top 25 Best Blogs of 2010”. He has been travelling the world since 2007. An amusing speaker, Gary has a wealth of travel experiences and stories to share and spoke about the joys or otherwise of communication whilst travelling. He ended his talk by saying ‘Travel is a right.’

And that is where I disagree entirely; I believe travel to be an absolute privilege. Travel as a right can be destructive- conscious travel, eco travel, local travel, is what we should all be doing.  There are some inspirational pioneers in this field, but that subject is for another post :-)  Suffice to say there is a very small number of countries that is virtually unspoilt. Bhutan is right up there in cherishing its place on our wondrous planet. Bhutan limits its tourist numbers and looks after every living thing.  The gross national happiness that the kingdom measures, is a clear indication that happy people are caring people, lucky country!

The third speaker was Paula Vlamings, Co-Executive Director, Planeterra. Through her work at the environmentally focused Institute at the Golden Gate, Paula became involved in sustainable tourism and the power tourism has as an economic development tool. At Planeterra, Paula works to create lasting benefits in the communities G Adventures travels to.  An admirable organisation, working with the local communities towards sustainable tourism.

The final speaker, and the finale, was the man himself, Bruce Poon Tip. A true pioneer in the travel and tourism industry and a confident & competent presenter. Bruce founded G Adventures in 1990 with the belief that other travellers would share his desire to experience authentic adventures in a responsible and sustainable manner. He was right, it’s grown from a one-man show to a company of over 1350 world wide.

The next event in the series is in Melbourne on the 18th April, it sold out ages ago!  G Adventures is to be applauded for these events and all that it does in the field of sustainable and responsible travel and tourism, long may the company carry on!

A true pioneer who uses lambswool, local hedgerow and gorse!

In 2001, Dr Greg Stephenson decided to renovate a dilapidated part of his own house using earth and thatch, in the traditional way, which he then rented out as a holiday let. Little did he realise where it would lead! Greg is an architectural historian, who has written about, and worked in, building conservation for the past 18 years. Under the Thatch was established in 2001 to find a viable end-use for another cottage that was rescued from collapse and the success of this first project soon led to the next, and the next and, before long, it had snowballed into a substantial social enterprise.

Under the Thatch’s ethos is one of conservation and sustainability ~ profits are used to maintain the historic buildings and to fund the purchase & renovation of new ones. This is where the lambswool comes in!

As Greg says: “We use traditional crafts and materials in our building conservation. This means we use lime instead of cement, limewash instead of acrylic emulsions, local hedgerow timber is used for roof repairs, and gorse cut from the local fields. We endeavour to use environmentally friendly materials in our building work, such as sheepswool insulation rather than fibreglass, limecrete rather than concrete, linseed-oil based paints etc.  We have an exceptionally high occupancy rate that leads from our flexible pricing – working hard to keep properties full, and with community benefit all year round. We employ local people to conserve and maintain our properties, and do not use any outside agencies. We source local tradesmen and women in the restoration of our properties, and prefer to use freelancers who then take their newly-gained conservation skills with them to other jobs.”

Now, how wonderful is that?  When you go on the website for Under the Thatch (UTT), you will be spoilt for choice ~ it really is full of authentic, unique and quirky places to stay.  Fancy staying in a railway carriage? Then have a look at Wendy in Wales.  A gypsy caravan? Then Geaglum Cottage & Gypsy Caravan, in the Irish lakelands of Fermanagh, is for you. (Chosen by the Independent in their ‘Six Best Romantic Rentals’.) Or how about trying one of the new properties, now ready after a 6 year restoration project. Enjoy a truly ancient French medieval townhouse in Bellac – a ‘cite de caractere’ in the beautiful Limousin region of central France. The property dates back to the 15th century and just take a look at the box bed!

Greg is passionate about what he does ~ his 4 Ps are passion, purpose, projects and preservation.  Greg will tell you himself, he is living the dream.  And what a great dream it is ~ what UTT does benefits so many people and safeguards historical premises that are falling into ruin. Without his passion and purpose, none of this would have happened; a trail blazing pioneer if ever there was one. All people who work for UTT are as passionate as Greg, their ethics are strong and they love what they do too.  As Sir Winston Churchill said,

If a man finds a job he loves, he will never work again.

While fewer and fewer of us are travelling abroad for our holidays; the cottages and other accommodation offered by UTT are so unique, it’s a totally new experience to stay in one. That’s a good thing for this wonderful planet of ours ~ we have to become more conscious of the impact our travel makes and we have to leave teeny-weeny footprints where we go, or better still, no footprints at all! But that’s for another post!

Greg and UTT have been showered with many awards, have a look at the About Us page on the site. Each one is well deserved; you’ve got to take your hat off to someone who truly has made a difference; who is being the change we want to see in the world ~ thanks Greg.

The travel industry needs Pioneers!

The travel industry needs Pioneers with a capital P! P for passion and purpose. P for positive and punchy.  Positive people perpetuate passion.

The noun of Pioneer is described thus :  pi·o·neer 

1. One who ventures into unknown or unclaimed territory to settle.
2. One who opens up new areas of thought, research, or development: a pioneer in aviation.
3. A soldier who performs construction and demolition work in the field to facilitate troop movements.
4. Ecology An animal or plant species that establishes itself in a previously barren environment.
~   The adjective of Pioneer means trailblazing, leading the way.   ~   

Bruce Poon Tip and Anna Pollock are outstanding examples of trail-blazing leaders.   Trailblazers who have followed their hearts and dreams ~ who have dared to go out on a limb ~ who have led the way to bring their visions of how the travel and tourism industry could help look after and cherish our wonderful planet, to fruition.  

They’ve both been recognised for their work; Bruce has been awarded, amongst many other honours, the Ethics In Action Award, World Savers Award by Condé Nast Traveler magazine, as well as the Travel and Leisure Global Vision Leadership Award for voluntourism.  

They put everything on the line to follow their passion and risked everything to do what they believe in.  They are what this industry needs, the doers!  There are enough talkers, organisations and associations to drown in ~ we need the Pioneers ~ they are vital to the industry’s future.  Not going on in the same old way, doing the same old things, but bringing passion and purpose to the forefront, getting ‘it’ and doing ‘it’.  It’s called ‘Living the Dream’.  It is anything but easy, people scoff at your ideas and show no support, when you start out.  The Dream requires passion, persistence, purpose and personal belief.  

In 1990, Bruce Poon Tip founded G Adventures in order to deliver authentic experiences to travellers, who also craved adventures beyond all-inclusive resorts. When no bank was willing to provide a loan, he started the company with two credit cards. A true Pioneer! Since then, G Adventures has grown to become a world leader in adventure travel, offering more than 865 small group experiences on all seven continents to more than 100,000 travellers annually.  Until the World Tourism Day, on 27th September 2011, the company was known as Gap Adventures ~ on that day they held The Future of Tourism Conference in Toronto. Gap between G!  G for great, g for genuine and g for get up and go! Have a look at the website and register to watch ~ see Bruce in action, along with other great speakers.  An evening of motivation and purpose ~ no tickets to buy, no affiliation or registration fees, just a donation of whatever you felt appropriate to Planeterra. (Determined to lead his industry in sustainable tourism and community development initiatives, Bruce founded the non-profit Planeterra Foundation in 2003 to make a positive difference in the lives of people around the world.)  Prepare to be inspired!

Anna is a high level strategist with over thirty years’ experience advising tourism destinations, tourism boards and major corporations in Canada, Australasia and Europe. She’s an acknowledged visionary ~ indeed, in 1999, British Columbia, Canada, presented Anna with The Tourism Visionary of the Year award for her perception, vision and knowledge in her services to the tourism industry. She has detected a number of major trends affecting the development of tourism internationally and has developed innovative strategies to exploit emerging opportunities, with the main focus on environmental & social responsibility, climate change and low carbon economies.  Anna, with dual citizenship of Great Britain and Canada, is a true visionary and wrote papers ten years ago about many of the subjects being discussed now.

Anna founded, and is President of, Desticorp, and is founder and Chair of the Advisory Board of The Icarus Foundation, a Canadian-based NGO focused on developing a climate friendly tourism sector in Canada. Anna is currently writing a book and has founded a new organisation called Conscious Travel.  Her vision is that the industrial model that fueled tourism’s growth has now run out of steam and carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. Working together, we must find an alternative, less harmful way of enabling humanity to explore its home, Planet Earth.  Read Anna’s latest post, ‘Good morning Tourism: time for your wake up call’

Exciting times and two very exciting people I am privileged to know. I am always motivated after listening to them. As speakers, they are passionate and powerful. They really do believe what they say, they live it!

And, best of all, they are both absolutely wonderful people :-)