We are Anna and Katie, the Travel Team for Children’s HopeChest, and our job is to make traveling with Children’s HopeChest as smooth, efficient, and memorable as possible. We are so grateful to have you join us in this ministry and be the hands and feet of Christ on this wonderful journey.
Traveling to a developing country can be a life-altering experience. Many people return from overseas with new perspectives and personal insight into the lives of children living in the majority world. We would love to help make traveling with HopeChest a memorable and impactful experience for you. To aid in your travels we have created a list of “Five Mission Trip To-Do’s” to aid in your travel experience.
Collectively, we are in the process of planning over 60 summer trips to HopeChest’s five countries that we actively work in, and in 2016 we planned trips for 888 people traveling through HopeChest! Planning numerous trips each month, coupled with our own personal and professional travel experiences, equips us to effectively plan your mission trip! We are excited to walk alongside you as you prepare for your next trip.
- Be Flexible: Remember, flexibility is key! Our mission is to come alongside communities, grow with them, and experience life with them. We do not want you, as travelers, to feel as though you have a structured schedule–because schedules during travel are always subject to change. If your mindset is to “be” rather than “do,” this will help you be flexible and present with the community you are visiting and be able to roll with the punches as they come along. Spontaneity is a great part of travel!
- Curiosity and Dignity: Please ask questions! In order to grow and strengthen your relationships with your community abroad, you will need to ask questions–although keep in mind cultural differences in regards to questions. (In-country staff are great resources here.) We encourage you to take photos to capture your memories and experiences, but be sure to capture each person’s image with their dignity in mind. If you do want to take a photo, be sure to ask first! It is even better yet to put the camera down so there is nothing between you and the person that you are trying to build a relationship with.
- Be Aware of Cultural Norms: When traveling, there will always be new experiences, people, and places, even if this is your 20th trip to a developing country! It’s always great to be on the lookout for cultural norms. Understanding cultural norms can help you build a deeper relationship with the communities that you are visiting. There are many forms of nonverbal communication that may help you to understand the culture better or assist in communicating with the children at your CarePoint, and observing our in-country staff and asking them questions is a great way to learn these norms! For example, when Katie was working in Nicaragua, she learned it is important to first develop a personal relationship before proceeding with business projects, whereas in American culture, this is not a necessity. Understanding this cultural norm helped her to build a stronger relationship with the community.
- Be Present: At times it may be hard to feel a connection to others when there is a language barrier. We, as humans, tend to focus on language as our primary communication method; however, the majority of communication is nonverbal! Children are children, and you will be able to engage and play with them even if you do not have a translator present. On the other hand, please take the moments when the translators are with you to build a deeper relationship with the children and staff. Have a great experience in the community and culture by immersing yourself into the experience. We suggest you jump into the activities and engage with the people around you to get the most out of your time in the country. This engagement will build relationships and transform the lives of children, as well as your own.
- Take Cues from the Staff: The in-country staff have worked hard to help make each trip successful. They have put boundaries in place for travelers and for community safety that should be followed to help the trip go as smoothly as possible. Please honor the staff by following their directions and listening to their suggestions as they are extremely knowledgeable about the community and local customs.
BONUS TIP! Share your Story. We expect that you will come home full of memories and remarkable experiences that you will want to share with your friends and family. We would love to hear them as well! Take a few hours after your trip (or even a day!) to sit and reflect on your experience: what you’ve learned, who you met, how your perspective has changed. Writing is one of the greatest ways to process a new adventure. Writing your thoughts about your trip also allows others to learn through your experience. Consider sharing your experience with HopeChest, we would love to have you tell your story on our blog!
These are just a few important tips we have for you all as you prepare your hearts and teams to travel. Please use the Travel Team and the rest of the HopeChest staff as resources to help your trip be the best that it can be.
–Children’s HopeChest Travel Team
Travel Manager | Guatemala, Swaziland, Uganda
Anna helps HopeChest partners and communities plan their trips to CarePoints. These trips are essential to the HopeChest mission of connecting North American communities to communities all around the globe. She is a University of Northern Colorado graduate with a BA in Business Administration (emphasis in Marketing). An ideal movie day for Anna means watching “The Proposal” or “Forever Strong.” She works out of the Palmer, CO. office and loves exploring and adventuring all around Colorado!
Travel Manager | Ethiopia, Russia, Vision Trips
Planning trips between HopeChest partners and communities at HopeChest’s Ethiopian and Russian CarePoints is part of Katie’s job position as Travel Manager. Katie has a variety of skills from her degrees at Iowa State University (BS in Apparel Merchandising and Design, International Studies) and Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MA in International Education Management). An ideal day to Katie is going hiking with her fiancé and her pup and ending the day at a winery at sunset.