Sore shoulders for a reason

Courtesy of Operation Groundswell

Attention all Durham College (DC) and UOIT students. Are you a student who loves to travel? Do you enjoy meeting new people and helping others? There is an opportunity that can give you all of these experiences.

Operation Groundswell (OG) is a small non-profit organization that can provide that experience to Durham College and UOIT students. OG runs international volunteering programs focusing on social justice issues and working alongside local activists, organizations, and communities. Their tagline is ‘Backpacking with a Purpose’.

Although the program has been around since 2006, no students from DC or UOIT have enrolled yet, according to OG officials.

Fees for these programs vary depending on where you go. Although, the fees are collected in three parts. The first payment is to secure your place on the program, which is non-refundable. The second payment is the membership fee; it helps support OG for them to organize the program. The last payment covers all the on-the-ground costs; which covers sleeping location and three local meals a day.

Justine Abigail Yu, communications and marketing director at OG, says every program provided is different and depends on what students are interested in and where they want to travel. Their focus is on education, looking into the history of the country and problems that occur in the countries so they can determine what to do for the community while they are there.

OG which started in 2006 and also provides grants for people who can’t afford to go.

Abigail Yu says programs are filling up fast and if students want to participate they complete the application online.

“People choose the program they want to go on, the application form takes about 15-20 minutes” Abigail Yu says, “we review it and we schedule you an interview.”

Emily Robinson, a Dalhousie University student, went on the Guatemala trip over February break in 2016. Robinson says she would most definitely would go back if she was given the chance.

“The whole trip challenged us to consider the lives of those we encountered and to strive to better ourselves in response,” Robinson said. “I am forever humbled, awed and amazed by this trip and everything we learned.”

Robinson added whether you are an experienced traveller or a new at it, this kind of trip is both ideal and challenging.

“A lot of things you see and do can be more difficult than expected, mentally, emotionally and physically,” Robinson says. “But is incredibly worth it.”

Operation Groundswell’s mission is to change the way the world travels.

“Given the chance to go and learn about a foreign country in this way, it’s real and they show you things that are really important,” Robinson said. “It is unforgettable.”