Below is an article that our friend Thoi Pham from the Bay Area wrote for her local journal. When asked why she was writing this piece, she replied that it was an opportunity to inspire service.
Title: Got Vacation? Raise AIDS Awareness and Volunteer
Subheading: Diverse SoCal group spends winter vacation serving in South Africa
By: Thoi Pham (IPG, DSCO, Commercial Operations)
If you had two weeks and could go anywhere in the world, what would you choose? Many of us might daydream about romantic, leisurely getaways at resort locations. On the other hand, 17 people from Southern California traveled to South Africa to offer hands and hearts in service. Their mission? Raise awareness about the AIDS crisis and poverty South Africa, and reach out to those affected.
These intrepid travelers are volunteers with Be The Cause (BTC), an Irvine-based nonprofit which allows volunteers to â€œbe the causeâ€ of positive change through service activities in their local community and abroad. These contribute to a more peaceful, compassionate worldâ€”where religious, ethnic and cultural diversity is not just accepted but welcomed.
BTC projects are as diverse as its membership (which includes Latino, Indian, Southeast Asian, Buddhist, Christian and Sikh volunteers). Some projects include the Walk For Hope, an annual fundraiser held on the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy; visits to â€œsacred sitesâ€ to gain appreciation for the worldâ€™s spiritual traditions; and an annual trip to a Third-World country to appreciate firsthand the serious challenges the inhabitants face. This South Africa trip is one such â€œservice vacation,â€ and as with all trips, volunteers covered their own expense.
After a long, grueling flight from Los Angeles, BTC volunteers arrived in Cape Town with 34 suitcases of donated items and clothing, not including their own luggage. They were to spend the next two weeks visiting and working with local organizations.
Some highlights of BTCâ€™s service activities include:
–Cleaning rooms, grounds and toilets at Camp Joy, a center for homeless street children in Cape Town.
–Wrapping presents for a Christmas party for children at Agape, an AIDS orphanage in Durban.
–Playing with children of HOKISA, one of the beneficiaries of the annual Walk For Hope.
–Clearing land, painting and erecting fence posts for the site of the new Siyajabula Childrenâ€™s Home.
–Spending time with terminally ill patients at an AIDS hospital and hospice.
–Seeing Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years. Tour led by ex-prisoner.
–Visiting sites of slave markets in Cape Town.
–Swimming with penguins at Boulder Beach.
After two weeks of memorable experiences, most BTC volunteers flew home to the US. Three remained and went on to visit a hospital for women with AIDS in Nairobi, Kenya. They also administered a survey to gather valuable statistics about the disease as well as raise awareness.
One member Jason reflects on his experience: â€œIn the end, I took so much more than I gave from South Africa. The people, hills and smiles will remain with me alwaysâ€¦.along with the hope for a better tomorrow for all people in the world and the desire to want to play a part in the solution.â€
Now, all members are back in the US. BTC will soon give a workshop about their trip, an â€œEvening of Awarenessâ€ to share their South Africa and Kenya experiences with the local community, then mobilize volunteers to raise awareness locally by writing letters media and public officials. A previous Evening of Awareness raised money for organizations addressing the genocide and resultant humanitarian crisis that thousands now face in Sudan.
BTC is already planning their next Service Vacation, a trip to India
For firsthand reports from the travelers themselves, visit BTC blog at
For photographs visit
As we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission
To do the same.
– Nelson Mandela