Honored to introduce Amanda, a girl with a heart of gold. She’s following the legacy of her cousin, Tim, to create a lasting impact on the underprivileged children of Arusha, Tanzania. Read about her incredible journey continuing Tim’s mission, providing the most disadvantaged children with quality education and a safe place to live.

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1. What inspired you to volunteer in Africa?

My cousin, Tim, quit his job to live in Africa and help the people there who are suffering. Sadly, last summer he passed away and a school was built in his honor to help underprivileged children in Arusha. I felt a calling to visit, walk in his footsteps, and understand the love he had for this place and it’s people. I knew if I didn’t go now, I might never get to experience it!

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2. Where exactly were you volunteering, and what was the mission?

A primary school in Arusha. Arusha is a city in northern Tanzania beneath Mount Meru. Unga Limited is the name of the slum our children primarily come from. The school continues Tim’s mission by providing the most disadvantaged children with quality education and a safe place to live. Here they learn life skills since many don’t have adult role models in their life. Tim’s “Kaka” and our brother, Yesaya Wilfredy, oversees and manages the school. He posts about the children, often with signs thanking donors and sponsors. 

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3. How long were you there, and what did you accomplish?

I was in Africa for about 2 weeks; my family is funding the building of dorms for the children who are going to the school to keep them from living in the slums. This allows them get to school easier (it took us half an hour to pick up the kids up for school in the morning) and to be in a safe environment. A humbling moment was when my Dad, cousin Jeff, and I got to personally work on the construction of the dorms –with help of the locals of course!

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4. What did your day to day look like?

We actually slept at the dorms in wooden beds with mosquito nets. I would wake around 6:30 to the rooster, brush my teeth with bottled water, the “toilet” was a hole in the floor with a bucket to manually flush (I brought my own toilet paper from the states). We would drive to three locations to pick up the kids for school. When at school, they did warm up exercise and songs before splitting up by class. We would teach numbers, colors, animals, mathematics etc. the kids would sometimes even lead the class. We would have a traditional meal from the school chef and at the end of the day, drive them home and walked them through the slums guided by a governmental peace leader, Amani, to their individual homes.

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5. What was the highlight of your trip?

Taking the kids to see the dorms! All 40 of them- they were running. The children of Arusha are so loving, each of them wanted to hold my hand, which was difficult at times so I let them each hold one of my fingers. That is a memory I will never forget. We built a playground out front and it was happy chaos, they were so happy they were climbing on every inch of the playground equipment and taking turns on the swings. Also, meeting the mothers and grandmother of the children-only one girl had a father figure in her life. Many times grandmothers are primary caretakers. Women in Tanzania don’t have the same rights and only speak when spoken to; only people with education are permitted to voice options. Social customs aside, they were composedly overjoyed to meet us and share stories and hardships.

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6. What was the most difficult moment of your trip?

 Visiting Unga Limited was one of the most difficult moments. Definitely eye opening. Basically everyone is Arusha is in need, but this is where the poorest people “live”… more like survive. It is like nothing I’ve experienced before. I want to put everything in quotations because their “houses” aren’t houses, rather a closet sized room of mud with no light where on average 8 people sleep. They live so differently, no water-dirty or clean- no place to go to the bathroom. One room had some solar power so all the kids were packed in the hut and neighboring children were peering in to watch from the outside slits in the house.

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7. What did you have to do to prepare beforehand?

Primarily, I applied for my Tanzanian visa, and then got malaria pills, a tetanus shot, and Typhoid- luckily I already had the hepatitis A and B vaccinations. I started collecting toilet paper that was halfway gone so it would fit in my bag easier. Deet spray is a must. Baby wipes are your best friend; showers are few and far between so wipes help with hygiene! I had to have buckets of water poured over my hair to wash it. I downloaded an app to learn some Swahili too!

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How you can help:

Yesaya posts pictures almost daily of the children, often with signs thanking donors and sponsors. Visit the Facebook page or make a donation

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Meet Kait, an all American girl who made the leap abroad to get her Masters Degree in London. After living in England for 4 years, she is currently residing in NYC. Kait recently founded Backpacks to Briefcases, a full service career consultancy for students and recent grads. Read about her journey abroad, and the best advice for making the move to a new country.

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1. What was the scariest part of moving abroad by yourself?

For me, it was the unknown! I originally moved to Surrey, England for an exchange program my final semester of college at the University of Central Florida. Studying abroad was the best experience I have ever had, and it opened my eyes to so many new things and opened up so many new opportunities that I never would have had otherwise.

The great thing about my study abroad program was that my school organized everything for me. When I moved abroad for my internship and later began working full time, I had to deal with everything myself; applying for visas, hiring immigration lawyers, enrolling in the National Health Service, registering with the police, etc. All complicated things you would never even think about! I also believe that it’s a common misconception that if a country speaks the same language as your native country, that the culture will be very similar to your home. We know this isn’t true even amongst different states in the US, imagine the difference of being on another continent!

I was very fortunate to always have my mom there for me during my college years, so I was able to feel very independent, but also have her on call to consult about bills, paying rent, car insurance, etc. When I moved abroad, the whole system was different, so I couldn’t rely on family to help, I had to teach myself.

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(Stonehenge)

2. What was the biggest challenge you faced living in England?

My personal biggest challenge was that my stay there always felt temporary, and I wasn’t sure how deep to let myself put down roots. It was an extremely tough decision to choose whether to stay permanently, or to leave. Although I was only supposed to be abroad for 4 months for my exchange program, I ended up staying 4.5 years! These years were filled with many ups and downs (academic, professional, legal, and personal).

It is a massive struggle to find *legal* work while abroad, because you must first obtain sponsorship from your company, and not many companies are not willing to do this, especially with entry-level positions. Sponsorship is generally reserved for hard to place, highly qualified positions in the medical, engineering, and academic fields. That being said, there are internship programs you can enroll in to make this process easier!

Choosing to uproot your life and move abroad is no easy task. Regardless of how long you plan on staying, the process is not for the fainthearted! A good way to gage if you would be well-suited to live abroad for work or school is how much you like traveling, especially abroad. If you like unfamiliar surroundings, learning as you go, and making new friends, it is definitely for you!

3. What did you miss most about home?

Chick-fil-a chicken minis, obvs! On a much more serious note, I missed the feeling of ‘being home.’ Everyone has a different definition of ‘home.’ For some, it is the house they were born in, for others, it’s their home state, still others consider it to be their college town. For me, it’s more of feeling than a physical place. That feeling of safety and acceptance, of familiarity; that’s what I missed most. While I was in the UK, I met so many amazing people, made so many new friends, fell in love, fell out of love, and had 5 different residences, but it never truly felt like home. Everything was just that much harder when abroad. I still think moving abroad was the best decision I ever made, but I can also say that I am so happy to be back in America, and am extra patriotic these days!

4. What was your favorite part of living abroad?

It’s so hard to pick just one…so I won’t! My top favorites were…

  • How easy it was to take short trips to other countries. Just as easy as I would travel from Orlando to Tampa for the weekend, I could fly to France, Italy, Greece, or Spain. For SO cheap!
  • How many different cultures and personalities I was exposed to through travel
  • Pushing myself out of my comfort zone
  • The awesome variety of food!

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(Barcelona, Spain)

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(Amalfi Coast, Italy)

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(Arctic Circle, Sweden)

5. Are British accents on guys as appealing as they seem?

To put it simply, YASSSSSSSSSS. Beware of the charm of the British chaps 😉

6. What tips would you give to people looking to make a big move?

Always remember that nothing in life if permanent. Try new things! Move to new places. The absolute worst possible thing that can happen is that you don’t like it and you go back home. As I always like to say “I’d always prefer an ‘oh well’ to a ‘what if”…

 

Backpack to Briefcases is here to help you find your dream job without breaking the bank. For more tips about studying abroad, working abroad, or tips on getting hired here in the good old U.S. of A., visit Backpack to Briefcases website, Facebook, or send them an email. Best of luck, and remember the world is your oyster!

 

When staying in a hostel, you gain a richer travel experience by meeting like-minded travelers from around the world. Additionally, when traveling on a budget, it’s your best option.  Americans can be a bit hesitant to explore the world of hostels since they aren’t popular (or even an option) in the USA. Have no fear, hostels are safe and a fun way to immerse yourself in a new city.

Be sure to read this essential list before booking your first hostel!

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Choosing a Hostel

Hostelworld.com is the best resource for finding hostels. When you type in your dates and location, it’ll take you to the list of hostels there. Each hostel has a number score, which is the overall ranking of: value for money, security, location, staff, atmosphere, cleanliness and facilities. Read the reviews for some tips and reviews from past travels.

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Rooms

In hostels there are two types of rooms – privates and dorm rooms. Privates are private rooms, which are  basic hotel rooms inside the hostel. Privates are a more expensive option, but offer more privacy. Dorm rooms are filled with bunk beds to house anywhere between 4-40 people. For the dorms, you rent the bed, so you share the room, and obviously privacy is limited. For dorm options, there is typically a co-ed and female only dorm. As a female solo traveler, I feel more comfortable in female only dorms. The higher the amount of bunks in the room, the cheaper the nightly cost will be. You’ll meet more likeminded travelers, but will be sacrificing some privacy.

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Who

A wide range of people stay in hostels. Some hostels have age limits (usually between age 18-34) and others don’t, I have seen families with young kids stay at hostels.

Price

A bed in a hostel will cost anywhere from $6 a night (South East Asia) to $30-40 a night (Western Europe).

Exploring the city

A majority of hostels have organized activities around the city, and if not you’ll meet people who also want to explore the city and see similar sites that you do. The people at the front desk usually have the best idea about what’s going on in the city, so ask them whatever questions you have. A hostel with a good location can make a big impact if it’s convenient to public transportation/grocery stores/sights etc.

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(Bikes for rent at Kinlay Hostel in Cork, Ireland)

 Bathrooms

Imagine communal college dorm room bathrooms, not glamorous by any means. Private rooms will have connected bathrooms (just for you, or shared with another room), while dorm room bathrooms are typically down the hall. This is a good time to have a large Ziplock bag or toiletries bag to bring all essential toiletries(toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etc) with you when you wake up and go to bed.

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(Bathroom from a private room in Wulingyuan, China)

Hostels’ policies

Be sure to read these online before you go, because some hostels only accept cash, some have a curfew (although, I’ve personally never experienced this).  Some receptions are NOT open 24 hours, this is very important if you’re checking in late, and need to make sure beforehand you arrange on how you’ll get in.

Kitchens

A hostel with a nice kitchen is amazing; you can save so much money by cooking your own meals. Even getting meals to-go from the local grocery store is cheaper than a restaurant meal out.

Meals

Many hostels offer free breakfast, but don’t get too excited, it’s usually a slim collection – generic cereal, some breads and jams. I’ve been to some hostels that offer free dinner, or dinner for a small fee. It’s usually family style – so a great way to meet a group of people from all over the world. Also, some hostels have small cafes or sell/make food of some sort.

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(Hostel lunch in Zhangjiajie, China)

Hostel bar

For a hostel with a lively scene, find one with a bar. Drinks are affordable, and it usually leads to a big group going out to some other bars near by. But to forewarn you, hostels with bars can be a bit nosier.

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Internet

Free wifi is becoming a standard for all hostels; most have a few computers and printers as well. Tip: Print your boarding passes here for your next flight here.

Walking Tours

Many hostels offer free walking tours, which usually are 3-4 hours, and start in the morning. These are great for meeting people, and seeing the key sights. Be sure to ask the front desk of any activities the hostel offers. The guides work off tips, so throw them around $10.

Washing Machines

One amenity your hostels may offer is  washing machines where you can wash your clothes yourself, or they’ll have a service to get it done. Usually very inexpensive. If there are no washing machine (dryers aren’t popular in Europe) you can go to a local laundromat as a budget option.

Safety

Be sure to always note the address of where you’re staying. It’s best to take the business card of the hostel to always have the address of the hostel. To remember the location, look for a main monument or store in the area. All hostels will have a place by your bunk to lock up your stuff.

 Tips

Pick the bottom bunk, it’s much easier to get in and out of. As well as better for charging all of your electronic devices.

Pack rubber flip flops, you’ll need them for the showers (last thing you want while you travel is bacteria).

Don’t be shy, strike up a conversation and introduce yourself. Talk about your itinerary for the day and see what sites and activities everyone else is up to.

Map out exactly where you’re going before you arrive to the hostel. Hostels are often hidden, and not clearly marked.

Bring ear plugs and a eye mask with you. People can be in and out of the dorm room at night, so these make sleeping a little more soundly.

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(Leaving Hostel One Sevilla Centro in Seville, Spain)

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Meet Kayla, an incredible soul who has combined her passion of art, travel and putting an end to human trafficking into starting a non-profit, Operation 1:27. This organization is under Florida Abolitionist, and raises funds and awareness for local human trafficking prevention efforts. She’s spent the last two summers in Greece, learning more about the cause, and applying the knowledge to Operation 1:27.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Kayla Orr, I’m 24 years old, currently living in Orlando, Florida. This question’s always hard for me. I enjoy art and writing, love sports – especially spikeball at the moment. You can hear my laugh across the room, it’s sort of obnoxious, and I apologize in advance. I attend the most wonderful church, One Hope. I work full time at 4Rivers and am a proud UCF Alumni. I love business in the nerdiest type of way. Seriously, Shark Tank is my favorite show and I’ll read business and marketing blogs for fun.

Traveling became a passion very quickly. It helps me refocus, and allows me to try some great coffee shops along the way.

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2. Tell us about Operation 1:27

Based off of James 1:27, Operation 1:27 is an annual Silent Art Auction featuring all mediums of local art; from musicians, spoken word, tangible arts/crafts to baked goods. We organize all donations into a fun night of gathering together to learn about human trafficking, and bid on some amazing items. All funds are donated to Florida Abolitionist – Orlando’s local human trafficking taskforce, whose vision is ending human trafficking in all forms in Orlando, and all of the United States.

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3. What inspired you to start Operation 1:27?

My sophomore year of college I attended a conference, Passion. There was an artist on stage who painted to a song, and the message it conveyed was very moving. Being an artist and a new Christian, I had no clue where my gifts fit within the church, and that day I realized my gift of art could be used.

After attending Passion and learning that human trafficking is so prevalent locally, in my own city (and not just abroad), I decided to make this cause the focus of our efforts.

Art is a powerful voice against injustice, and artists were the original story tellers. Most of what we know about history was because an artist captured it on some medium, in their own unique way. Even today, we are still extremely moved by ancient art. I felt inspired to start the first Operation 1:27 event in Jacksonville, to raise money for local orphans and widows who are victimized by human trafficking.

4. What has been the most fulfilling part of this journey?

Seeing other people join the cause, and receiving so much joy from their generosity. Everyone is gifted in such unique, essential ways. For example: I’m a visionary, details drain me. I’ll forget something as simple as pens for the event. From logistics, event planning, communicating, teaching, catering – all hands on deck are needed for this type of event. It’s so amazing and joyful to stand back the day of the event and just watch God’s people – Christian or not – confidently walk in their gifts to make a difference in our community.

 

5. Did you ever feel like you wanted to give up? And how did you work through it?

Honestly, every year there is some thought of ‘why am I doing this again?’ or ‘this won’t happen again after last years event.’ Yet, I always end up doing it anyways. It’s tough planning an event of this magnitude in the midst of everyday life. At some points attending school full time, and working full time. I’ve often been overwhelmed with how large and complex human trafficking really is. Although, every year the Lord sustains me through my awesome friends and community, who really are the heroes in this story. I cannot do this without their selflessness, passion and support. Oh and coffee…tons of coffee.

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6. How does traveling to Greece tie into Operation 1:27?

In 2015, I went to Greece on a limb. My friend Lydia lives there so I decided to finally visit her last summer. I then connected with A21, an anti-human trafficking organization in Thessaloniki, Greece, to meet with them and learn.

In Greece prostitution is legal, as it always has been – even back to the temple days. I was blown away by how complex this issue is overseas. I was extremely curious if American business played a role in human trafficking abroad, since prostitution in itself is a business model of supply and demand. I learned very quickly it does, and what that looks like as a whole. I also learned about the need for companies to employee the rescued women, to help them learn job skills and earn an income.

During the summer of 2016, I went back again and connected with another organization. This time, I was able to visit brothels and see first hand what they look like and learn a different angle of rescuing and locating the victims. I can’t share the stories I heard or where we went, but I will say that to hear women as young as 14 and old as 21 are being held in a room for 12 hour shifts, really broke my heart and fueled my passion even more. It has led me to want to further understand business in the United States, and use art to raise funds to fight against human trafficking locally and overseas.

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(Black Beach, Santorini)

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(The Parthenon, Athens)

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(Black Beach, Santorini)

7. Tell us the highlight of your Greece trips.

Being refueled. Rest is so important, something Americans rarely value. We take pride in being the most prompt, professional and efficient. But to be in such a beautiful country with such joyful people really allows you to breathe and rest and laugh. Oh, and the food and coffee is a bonus.

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(Athens, Greece)

8. What cities and islands in Greece did you go to, and which is your favorite?

I’ve been to Athens, Milos, Hydra, Santorini and Thessaloniki. My favorite is Milos, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The beaches are pristine, the food is fresh, and the people and lifestyle is so simple and joyful.

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(Plaka, Milos)

9. What advice do you have for people looking to start their own non profit ?

In my honest opinion, while being as sensitive to peoples’ passions as I can, my advice is to research and fully think through it. The process is frustrating alone and expensive. Look around first to see if you can join a local group and get on board with what they are already implementing. There are too many small organizations – if like minded people could join together think of the impact and funding available. There is power in numbers.

10. How can readers support Operation 1:27 ?

Our event is once a year, so of course we’ll need help then. We also need help all throughout the year in different ways! Give your time, talent and/or treasure. You give where your heart is.  If you’re in Orlando, sign up to volunteer and learn more at Florida Abolitionist’s website. If you’re not in Orlando, then join your city’s taskforce. If there isn’t one, help get one started. That is how you can help the most.

Check out Operation 1:27 on Facebook

Email Kayla at Operation127@gmail.com

Follow her on IG @kaymarieee0909

 

 

I fought through my fear of heights and braved the scariest walk in the world on the 4,600 foot high cliffside skywalk, in Tianmen Mountain in Hunan’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. It certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted, but the incredibly breathtaking views are rewarding.

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(A beautiful pagoda addition to the walkway – en route to Glass Plank Road)

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(The walkway is known as the Coiling Dragon Cliff skywalk, 328 feet long and 5 feet wide)

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(smiling but scared)

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(Picture courtesy of mashable.com)

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(Had to put these shoe covers on while walking the bridge to ‘not scuff up the glass’)

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(Chinese woman holding on for dear life – I’m with you girl!)

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(a beautifully illustrated map of Tianmen Mountain Park)

 

If you’re looking for adventure and an extreme selfie -Tianmen Mountain is the place!