Yesterday morning, in spite of being told they got the day off from conference, approximately 90 travel agents joined TTAND, AMResorts, and TravelBrands for a trip to three schools in La Romana, Dominican Republic.
Prior to coming down to Punta Cana for TTAND's annual conference, agents were informed that they had the opportunity to donate school materials, including pencils, uniforms, and sports equipment to schoolchildren in the Dominican. Stacey Knight from CompassVacations.ca generously donated about a dozen brand new soccer balls. The gesture was part of what Flemming Friisdahl, founder of The Travel Agent Next Door, calls a "corporate responsibility."
"As a very young organization, it's easy to get busy in our business," Friisdahl explained. "I feel that we're responsible to help give back because every time we sell consumers to a destination, inadvertently, we give, but we also take a little bit from that country. We had a ton of things donated generously by the agents, and between TravelBrands, AMResorts, and TTAND, we pooled money together to buy the school certain things."
Friisdahl continued: "These agents made room in their own luggages and are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts."
Throughout the day, travel agents took part in a series of volunteer activities including making arts and crafts, re-painting picnic benches, re-painting the basketball courts, and playing board games with the children. The schools visited included MIR Esperanza (vocational school for children), the MIR Foundation Vocational Technical School (for girls) and MIR Primary School (elementary school). More than 1,800 children are currently involved with Fundacion MIR.
"For every conference we do, I want to give back, and I want to go into the communities that we're sending our customers to do our part," Friisdahl explained. "You can't fix it for everybody, but you can fix it for a few, and that's important. Although our focus is on growth, and making it better for our agents, if you don't give back, then why are you really doing all of this? Money only gives you so much; you earn a lot more by giving back than just by taking."
PAX toured around all three schools, and got to learn more about the work of Fundacion MIR. Founded in 1988, Fundacion MIR is a non-profit organization that works to bring education to children in La Romana who come from impoverished neighbourhoods or families. Fundacion MIR currently works in the three schools PAX visited yesterday morning, and offers practical education through technical trades like woodworking, dental hygiene, chemistry, and even hotel and tourism studies.
After a day full of smiles, laughter, and big hugs all around, the afternoon concluded with a series of beautiful dance presentations from the children.
For more information on Fundacion MIR, visit http://casadecampoliving.com/es/la-fundacion-mir/.