Money-smart kids / Try a 'purpose vacation' to teach altrusim
Coming off our fun-filled winter break, I thought it might be time to plant the seeds of taking a "purpose vacation" for your family's next vacation break.
I would imagine the last time I endeavored upon this subject you might have left asking yourself, "Do I really want to subject my family to one of these purpose vacations? Early to rise, late to bed, banging boards together all day in the hot sun with the goal of teaching my kids the value of helping others for seven days straight? Isn't there an easier way?"
While some Staples High School student is probably fast at work on discovering a pill that will ingrain a charitable urge in your children without having to lift a finger, they haven't gotten there yet. In the meantime, let me give you a real-life example of a vacation opportunity that can be a good combination of both giving and relaxing. By the way, the tourism industry is smart enough to create plenty of these types of opportunities coupling the relaxing and working in a way that is possibly more palatable for a family looking to dip their toe into the purpose vacation waters. Just ask your travel agent and they're sure to have a few suggestions.
I learned about a wonderful example of such a vacation destination called REACH Grenada. Funded by the Bartholomew J. Lawson Foundation for Children, this charitable organization is an interesting example of the topic in aiming to enhance the well-being and to promote the healing of Grenada's children by providing expertise and resources in the areas of education, health and recreation. REACH Grenada is a travel program which seems to give like-minded families the opportunity to bond during a cultural experience aiding children in need.
Dr. Karen Lawson, co-founder of REACH Grenada and parent of three, commented to us on the importance of enabling children to gain first-hand experience of altruism in action.
"Exposing children to positive volunteering experiences from a young age can help to make them happier by nurturing their sense of personal fulfillment and place in the world," Lawson said. "In addition, it can help sow the seeds of social conscience and hopefully inspire an ongoing interest and participation in giving to others in the future."
Participants in this particular volunteer experience take a five-day trip to Grenada. During their trip, they concentrate on specific projects such as painting, planting vegetables, building libraries, etc. During this time, they begin building new friendships while they are working side-by-side in the beauty and culture of Grenada. Of course, it's not all work and no play, as they take time to do such activities as visiting organic cocoa farms, hiking through Grenada's rainforests and appreciating the island's beautiful beaches.
No one said that vacationing has to be an either-or decision (either you work or you play).
Why can't we find destinations that offer both the beauty and fun of our normal getaway coupled with the opportunity to do a little good during that same week?
If every person in Westport took just one day out of their vacation to make the world a better place in the way I'm suggesting, just one day, think about the collective positive power of that effort throughout the world.
Could it be that in just giving a small amount of time on our vacations that we inspire an attitude of giving that would be contagious when everyone returned? Maybe!
The success of the REACH Grenada program reflects an increase in the number of parents searching for meaningful family holidays and, also, a wider shift towards a growing demand for more socially responsible, eco-oriented travel experiences with opportunities to gain valuable insights into different cultures and volunteer help to local communities.
Give it a try and my gut is that the result could be life altering.
Tom Henske, a Westport resident and partner with Lenox Advisors, a wealth management firm with offices in New York City and Stamford, created the Lenox Money-Smart Kids Program. He can be reached at email@example.com.