Why do you travel? Some for adventure, some for education, some for food… But there's a kind of people who travel for giving – they give donations to the people in need during their trip. Jill Almond and her husband – Cory Almond, guests of Odyssey Tours, are two of these.
Earlier this year, Jill chose Odyssey Tours to tailor-make a private trip to Sri Lanka . As usual, they planned to spend about 20 days being immersed in the destination and give some donations to the locals when they visit families and schools in need.
Actually, it was not very easy for Mavis, their travel consultant, to find the village in need, because all the factors were needed to be taken into consideration: the itinerary, the transportation, the weather, etc. Finally, she found a village named Thanmlwila for the couple and also invited a most-praised local chauffeur guide to help them with the important visit.
“Our travel agent Mavis has been nothing but amazing. She has been so helpful and accommodating with the changes we have requested. Nothing is too much bother for her and has made changes to the tour promptly after emailing her. Mavis is super friendly and very helpful and if you get her as a travel agent you will not be disappointed.”
-Jill's post on Facebook before traveling
Traveling to Sri Lanka in September is an incredible experience. Along the way, Jill and Cory were charmed with the beautiful scene. Then, they came to the very significant destination – Thanmlwila Village. For many visitors, it is a well-known place where they can observe every aspects of authentic village life.
However, in this country, this kind of place is usually accompanied by poorness.
Before heading for the Village, the guide took Jill to the market for some food donations. (Photo Credit: Jill Almond)
The trunk of their car was filled with donations. (Photo Credit: Jill Almond)
Barely had they arrived at the village, than they found that help was urgently needed. "It's a very basic living," Jill said. According to Jill, this place was extremely poor. People lived in small brick houses and had very limited necessities; sometimes, a family had to share everything. A small amount of food, only a couple of plates and cups, very old bed linen, towels with many holes, washing up done outside in an old bucket, the whole family normally sharing one bed or a mat on the floor… It was hard to believe that these villagers had been lived here for generations.
This broken brick house is "home" for a family. (Photo Credit: Jill Almond)
"Although they have limited items and not much food and work very hard and are very poor they are genuinely happy people."
- Jill Almond
Even in such a tough and harsh situation, Jill still found something more impressive than poverty after visiting some families.
One of the families Jill visited was the poorest one in the village, and she brought them, as well as other 10 families, some food donations. When she sat down in the house, what surprised her was that the owner served Jill and other guests with the warmest hospitality, making cups of tea and some sweets for afternoon tea. "You know they are very poor, but it is such a beautiful gesture to give when you have nothing," Jill said.
The lady from the poorest family was very happy when receiving donations from Jill. (Photo Credit: Jill Almond)
This afternoon tea was simple but delicious for Jill. (Photo Credit: Jill Almond)
There was another family that touched Jill's heart so much. This was a family with 3 children as well as little triplet; they lived with their parents in a very small house. Earning only AU$2000 (about US$1512) per year, obviously, the parents failed to support children with health problems and purchase the formula as much as the babies needed. Learning that, Jill hurried to every chemist in the town and bought many tins of the formula that the babies having.
The family was so grateful for what Jill did for them.
Jill brought many tins of formula to the family. (Photo Credit: Jill Almond)
How many families did Jill and her husband helped in this tour? 22 – covering over 100 people in this place. Apart from visiting families, Jill and her husband also visited schools in need to give them some support.
Jill gave students some stationery and talked with them delightedly. (Photo Credit: Jill Almond)
Smiling students and teachers took photos with Jill. (Photo Credit: Jill Almond)
"Hopefully this will encourage more people to give back to the areas they are visiting rather than just visiting the poor village and then leaving. People can help the local people to improve their lives."
Jill also shared her tips with those who also want to give donations during the trip:
•Go to the local market to purchase the donation before going to the school, orphanage or village, because the cost is much lower than those brought from your country.
•Bargain with the locals (of course, with the help of a local guide's translation), which will enable you to get a better price.
•Choose the items based on the places you're visiting. For example, if you are going to visit a school with little kids, you can bring balloons that are a big hit with the kids.
•Show the proof to the airlines for additional luggage if the donation is overweight. Sometimes airlines may give an extra 10kg per person to cover it.
The tour to Sri Lanka is just a part of the couple's inspiring story, which has never come to an end. In the future, they'll set out again to Africa, or Thailand. Let's look forward to more stories from Jill!
This year, we begin to write stories of our own, launching the corporate social responsibility project "My Odyssey Tours Cares", and hoping more and more travelers can be a part of it. If you're willing to do something for the people in need during your journey, you can contact us to tailor-make you a visit that helps the locals. With more than 10 years of operating experience, we can assure you an unforgettable and meaningful tour.