Linda and Harry Taylor of Palmdale, Calif., stood under a thatched roof in El Cupey, surrounded by smiling Dominicans and their children. They’d just finished helping teach people in this mountain village in the Dominican Republic to speak English—a skill that’s vital to their chances of getting a job in a nation where 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The Taylors are African Americans, and they say the opportunity to offer help to people who look like them was a very moving experience.
“That was something,” Linda Taylor says. “In one of the English travel impacts we did, a lady spotted me out before we were even assigned to our family. I dubbed her my little sister! She was so wonderful and so giving and accepting and open … I wanted to work with people or come visit people like me—people of color—and this cruise came about and we thought it was a good idea.”
“I think it’s empowering,” adds Harry Taylor. “I have a philosophy—it’s better to give than receive and we are our brother’s keeper … I think it gives purpose to our living and our existence when we go out and help.”
The Taylors took one of Carnival Corp.’s new Fathom brand social-impact cruises to the Dominican Republic in mid-June. The company also travels to Cuba for cultural-immersion cruises. The Adonia was the first U.S. cruise ship to land in Havana in nearly 40 years when it docked there in May. Fathom wants to give its passengers the opportunity to “travel deep” and get to know the culture of their destinations by helping with education, economic development and environmental issues, as well as getting involved with the unique cultural elements of both nations.
“We believed there was an opportunity to go and create an entirely different travel experience, an entirely different brand and company and market that was interested in a very different way to travel,” explains Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global-impact lead for Carnival Corp. and PLC. “We really studied and explored that hunger, and we looked at what is this hunger and how can we create a travel experience that allows us to achieve authentic impact.”
In Cuba, the seven-day cruise includes stops in three cities, including Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Passengers visit historic sites, interact with local artists and musicians, sample Cuban cuisine and have the opportunity to speak with residents of the island and learn about their lives.
In the Dominican Republic, the social-impact activities range from helping to teach English to residents and helping to make chocolate and plant seedlings at the women’s cooperative Chocal Cacoa Factory, to helping to plant trees to fight deforestation and helping to make water filters in a country where more than 3 million people don’t have access to piped water.
“You have a lot of tourism down here, but there’s a sharp divide of folks who live day in and day out, and really live on very bad bottled water and just standing water,” says Josh Elliott, international program director at Wine to Water in Higuerito, the Dominican Republic. It’s an artisan community near the city of Santiago, where residents have worked with clay for more than three centuries. The technique used to make the ceramic water filters at the international nonprofit is also being used in Tanzania, and the company is helping to teach it in Uganda, too. Wine to Water is working in five countries right now, including the Dominican Republic and Ethiopia.
“A family of five can be supported by the filter for up to five years,” Elliott says, noting that bad water causes diarrheal diseases that often make children miss school and their parents miss work.
Source: The Root | ALLISON KEYES