When you travel, how often do you think about leaving an impact on your destination and its people? Even if you don’t get to leave your country, did you know that you’re able to impact the world from home? Volunteerism and charity work is a great way to give back to the world that gives you – a traveller – the space and opportunity to live your wanderlust.
At ZafigoX 2019, Suzanna Ling, co-founder of a food catering business called PichaEats, spoke to an audience of some 300 people about travelling the world through PichaEats. Refugee women from war-torn countries around the world like Syria, Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq receive kitchen-control and culinary training to make meals that are then sold commercially or catered to private and corporate events in and around the Klang Valley. These women have had the opportunity to rebuild their lives in a foreign country, while allowing the people in Malaysia to experience their home cultures by way of culinary delights. PichaEats owns 12 operating kitchens managed by these refugee women themselves, and have served over 120,000 meals since 2016. Some of PichaEats’s clients include the World Bank, Allianz, and UNICEF.
Since beginning her work with the refugee community in Malaysia in 2013, Suzanne says she has learnt about various cultures, tried new food, met interesting people, and immersed herself in various new experiences more than ever before. All right from her homeland, Malaysia!
Watch the rest of Suzanne’s take on how we bring the world into our lives when we are willing to open up both our eyes and hearts to people around us.
In a panel discussion moderated by journalist and emcee Freda Liu, volunteering and charity when you travel was the topic at hand. Panellists Deborah Chan from Malaysia, Nila Tanzil from Indonesia, and Yut Chhon from Cambodia discussed the things you should know when wanting to travel for volunteerism and charity, the things to avoid, and how you can do it.
Deborah, who was also a guest on Hello Zafigo Season 2, spent two years building schools, training teachers, and setting up a volunteer programme in Cambodia. She has over 15 years of experience working with marginalised communities in East Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and even the ghettos of New York. Deborah is also the author of Live To Last, a memoir to inspire youth and young adults to make a difference in the world.
Having visited 42 countries to date – and solo at that – Nila Tanzil has combined her love for travel and education to establish Travel Sparks, a social enterprise that provides customised-itinerary trips to Indonesia with profits supporting her other venture, Taman Bacaan Pelangi. Directly translating to ‘Rainbow Reading Gardens’ and established in 2009, this non-profit organisation with over 100 child-friendly libraries across 18 Eastern Indonesian islands works on improving children’s literacy as well as providing children on these islands with access to high-quality books. Nila has also authored Lembar-Lembar Pelangi (2016), The Art of Giving Back (2018), and Teman Baru Epi (2018).
Having been a tour guide (and an award-winning one at that!) for over a decade, Yut specialises in transformative learning journeys on development, and facilitates educational trips for students. This Siem Reap native is a fountain of knowledge on Cambodian history and culture, as well as Buddhist philosophy. Having witnessed first-hand how misguided good intentions in volunteer tourism can lead to negative outcomes – the orphanage tourism and disempowering approaches to aid, for instance – Yut and his team, through Ayana Journeys that he co-founded, work to rethink service-learning and advocate for more responsible alternatives to traditional voluntourism.
Watch the complete panel discussion on volunteerism and charity in travel below.