Donating to Experiential Learning Gives AFAR’s Mission ‘Soul’
By Brian Smith
The employees of AFAR Media know how life-changing experiential travel can be — it has inspired their beliefs, outlooks and careers.
But when they started donating to a program that extends travel opportunities to those who wouldn’t otherwise receive it, their sense of purpose, and connection to that idea grew.
“It creates a passion for the brand and gives soul to what we are doing more than having just a website and a magazine would,” said Bryan Kinkade, associate publisher for AFAR Media.
“People really feel like they are part of something more than raising money for the founders. We all believe in the transformative power of travel. Taking it to the extreme and giving it to kids that would otherwise not be touched by those opportunities is very special and one that we can all get behind.”
Since 2009, No Barriers Youth has partnered with the AFAR Foundation to offer the Learning AFAR program, which takes low-income and at risk students to places such as Costa Rica, Cambodia and China.
During the last two holiday seasons, employees of AFAR Media have donated more than $10,000 to the program in addition to what the AFAR Foundation has given, said Jordan Robbins, No Barriers Corporate & Donor Relations Development Officer.
“Learning AFAR is a part of the DNA of the overall AFAR brand. It is inspiring to witness a company that authentically live its values,” Robbins said. “Every department throughout AFAR supports these kids on their transformative journeys.”
The program “got real” for executive editor Jeremy Saum when he had the opportunity to interact with Learning AFAR students and teaching them about the magazine industry, how to craft stories about their experiences and to think critically about travel.
“It came together very vividly about how this was going to change their lives,” he said.
Over the years, as many other employees connected the Learning AFAR program to the AFAR Magazine, on afar.com, or supported it in other ways, the program became part of their corporate identity.
Now, Learning AFAR is the focus of their employee giving program, with some managers making a donations on their employee’s behalves instead of giving material gifts, Saum said.
As AFAR advertising representatives speak with travel industry leaders, their passion for the program comes out, Kinkade said.
That benefit is two-fold — those leaders with a similar “travel bug” can see the value in it and hopefully the value in donating to the cause, and that the company they are considering doing business is authentically invested in what they publicly preach, he said.
Donating to the program also helps employees feel good about their work, and speaks to employees being recruited, Saum said.
“We all think that says something about this place as a place to work,” he said. “It is underlying the good morale.”
All students are funded through the generosity of individual donations and corporate sponsorships. To support Learning AFAR and No Barriers’ other life-changing programs, visit our donation portal.