Thirty-wonderful, Thirty-too-good-to-be-true, Thirty-Free. Free to make changes; in myself & the world. Free to leave behind the empty pining of a Rolex & be thankful for a Timex. Free to give back to others unconditionally & truly feel fortunate. Not only in my Thirtyfortunate year of life, serving 34 service projects around the globe, but for all of my years to come.
My name is Tracy Stayton and I am 34tunate!
See below for the organizations I visited during my year of living 4tunate:
November 2014 We Give Thanks (at the Honda Center)Location: Anaheim, CA, U.S.A.
Project: Served Thanksgiving Dinner
For 30+ years We Give Thanks has been serving those in need in Orange County. Having served with this organization in the past it only seemed fitting to kick off 34tunate with serving 15,000+ people a hot meal. Giving Thanks together and remembering why we are each so very 4tunate. At an early age my grandparents took me to feed the homeless in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On this day of thanks I honored this tradition in the place I now call home, Orange County, California.
November 2014 Pantene Pony Up for a Cause, Ashtin Hair Salon, John Wayne Cancer FoundationLocation: Corona Del Mar, CA, U.S.A.
Project: Hair Donation and MelaNOma Awareness
Working in conjunction with Ashtin Salon and the John Wayne Foundation we hosted a melanoma awareness event on November 30, 2014 from 2-5pm. There women and men donated at least 8” of their unbleached hair to American Cancer Society® to provide free, real-hair wigs to women with cancer. Ashtin Salon kindly donated free haircuts to anyone who donated! This event was in honor of my college friend and sorority sister, Becky, who passed away in 2012 from melanoma. 27 people donated, including those who had heard about it on Social Media, a girl who requested her friends donate their hair in lieu of presents for her birthday, and a man who donated his ponytail for his friend who was about to begin chemotherapy.
November 2014 – November 2015 Steve's Vision / Doc in a Box 360Location: Global
Project: Eye tests and glasses donation
Teaming up with Steve’s Vision, I carried with me an eye chart and was able to outfit people with reading glasses in the different locations in which I traveled and served. Together, we will helped the world see more clearly.
November 2014 – November 2015 5GyresLocation: Global
Project: Beach cleanups & plastic pollution education
Together, with 5Gyres I lived out their mission to globally help understand plastic pollution through exploration, education, and action. Throughout 34tunate I held multiple beach clean-ups and educated local populations about the dangers of plastics in our waterways, while photographing & documenting how much trash was collected, what type of trash was found, and where in the world I was when these items were collected.
November 2014 – November 2015 Global GrinsLocation: Global
Project: Dental Clinics & toothbrush donation
Dedicated to providing toothbrushes to as many impoverished persons around the world as possible, I will be carried Global Grins toothbrushes in my pack and held impromptu oral hygiene clinics demonstrating the proper way to brush. Disclosing tablets were also used to show children and adults alike where they were missing when brushing and the presence of plaque on their teeth. My Mother, a dental hygienist, taught me at an early age the importance of good dental care for overall health. I will be passed along this knowledge in her honor! Thanks Mom!
November 2014 – November 2015 Rotary InternationalLocation: Global
Project: Attend meetings & present about 34tunate, Central America conference in Nicaragua, participated in local projects
December 2014 Best Friends Animal SactuaryLocation: Kanab, UT
Project: Working with Animals
The nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary located in beautiful Angel Canyon in Utah provides refuge for thousands of animals who have been abused, injured, neglected, and abandoned. Together with some four close friends willing to make the trek and make a difference, we cared for and aided in the rehabilitation of some of these animals thus preparing them for adoption or re-introduction into the wild.
December 2014 CP CenterLocation: Green Bay, WI, U.S.A.
Project: Volunteering with the clients
December 2014 myTeam Triumph/CP CenterLocation: Green Bay, WI, U.S.A.
Project: Created/Facilitated Fundraising Event
I teamed up with the CP Center and myTeam Triumph to create an education and athletic event for their Participants. The CP Center and myTeam Triumph enrich the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities by celebrating all abilities and unlocking potential through a variety of athletic, art, and other experiences. I spent time volunteering with at the CP center and helped create, promote, facilitate, and execute a 3.4 hour relay event fundraiser at St. Norbert College indoor track on December 13, 2014 from 8am-1pm.
December 2014 Soles for JesusLocation: Milwaukee, U.S.A.
Project: Shoe collection/donation & sorting
Prior to and during the Triumph Relay for All Abilities (above) we rallied people to donate any type of shoes to Soles for Jesus, a non-profit that then ships the shoes to Sub Saharan Africa (or locally to organizations that can use more dressy shoes). All shoes collected from the Relay were taken to the Soles for Jesus Headquarters where my friends and family will came together to sort the shoes and get them ready for shipping. Friends from grade school, high school, college, summer jobs and more came out to donate, sort and support!
December 2014 Centro Cristiano Internacional Monte AraratLocation: Mexico City, Mexico
Project: Men’s prison and Orphanage, La Bestia
A friend of Saddleback Church, Centro Cristiano International Monte Ararat, welcomed me into their community. Together we spread Christmas cheer and love of Jesus in a local Mexican, all male prison, at a local orphanage, to those immigrants making the dangerous journey on La Bestia (train), as well as within the congregation itself.
December 2014 – January 2015 Long Way HomeLocation: San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala
Project: Building a school out of trash (based on Earthship building techniques)
An organization founded by 2 ex-peace corps workers, my service with this organization consisted of helping to construct sustainably designed self-sufficient schools constructed of up-cycled materials that promote education, employment and environmental stewardship, all of which help to break the cycle of poverty. At my time of service 281,000 tons of trash had been re-purposed. Since returning I have lead a group of women back to this project and continue to be inspired by Long Way Home’s work and dedication to the mission and the community.
January 2015 Comunidad Connect | Farmers to 40Location: Nicaragua (northern)
Project: Fair Trade coffee farming, health clinic, water filters, home/community improvement projects
In conjunction with Comunidad Connect and in homage to my days working as a barista to pay my way through Graduate School, I volunteered with farmers in northern Nicaragua during harvest season and helped to showcase their efforts to bring quality coffee to our homes!
Between learning about the production and consumption of coffee as well as working with the farmers and organization that helps distribute their Fairtrade coffee, I volunteered painting the inside of homes with a lime/water solution to brighten the interior and minimize mosquitos carrying malaria and visited the health clinic and distributed glasses and toothbrushes. In addition, I was educated on the importance of properly ventilated cooking stoves and value of sun/moonlights made of bottles to help brighten interiors of homes.
January – February 2015 One, Two, TreeLocation: Diriamba, Nicaragua
Project: Teaching English
Tackling poverty by a long-term investment in education, I taught English to under-priveledged Central American students so they may be better prepared for future jobs internationally or in the tourist industry. I also taught oral hygiene and organized a beach cleanup.
February 2015 Sindrome do AmorLocation: Ribeirao Preto, Brazil
Project: Planned fundraiser, Worked with families with children with rare genetic disorders
This organization provides support for families of children with rare genetic disorders. This support comes in the form of counseling, providing connections to other families affected by these rare disorders, lodging for families whose children are coming to the area for medical care and more. Their biggest need during my time with them was helping to prepare and plan their annual fundraiser.
March 2015 Habitat: ParaguayLocation: Asuncion, Paraguay
Project: Home Construction
Habitat for Humanity believes that every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live. My grandfather, a carpenter, was a dedicated volunteer who built and repaired houses in and around Milwaukee, WI. To honor him and continue his tradition of serving for this deserving cause, I volunteered to build homes in outside Asuncion, Paraguay. Even more exciting was it was a Women Build in honor of International Women’s Day. The US Ambassador to Paraguay even came out to show her support!
March 2015 The Center for Amazon EcologyLocation: Amazon Region, Peru
Project: Ecological research & translation
After a few projects fell through due to political unrest or challenges within the NGO, I heard about The Center for Amazon Ecology through another traveler who had worked with them in the USA. Not an organization that typically accepts on-site volunteers, it turned out there was a need for me to help administratively and also travel 14 hours into the Amazon to work with a one of their local employees streamlining new research protocols. It turned out the local field expert, although extremely knowledgeable in the plants of the Amazon, was not literate and thus could not understand the new materials nor provide the necessary information. I spent the week translating the forms verbally and through pictures to him and made a lifelong friend in the process.
March – April 2015 Hacienda TranquilaLocation: Galapagos, Ecuador
Project: Invasive species removal/conservation & community improvement projects
Located on one of five islands in the Galapagos that are inhabited, this family-run organization is committed conservancy of the fragile eco-system. Committed to restoring the flora and fauna to its natural state, I worked to remove invasive species, community beautification projects, and on the farm, which provided the volunteers with food and milk.
April 2015 Villa FatimaLocation: Burriana, Spain
Project: Teaching English and Spanish
At the request of a friend and former classmate at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, I traveled to Burriana, Spain and taught classes in English to pre-school through high school students.
May 2015 Bridge of LoveLocation: Barlad, Romania
Project: Working with hospitalized orphans and children
Bridge of Love provides comfort and hope to Romania’s abandoned children by assisting them on a path toward lifelong happiness and success by working to place them with caring foster families in their own country while providing them with ongoing physical, emotional and educational support. While here I volunteered at the local youth center, a local hospital with sick children, and provided oral hygiene instructions (with my Mom who met me in Romania!).
May 2015 Direct Connect to Africa (DCTA)Location: Malawi, Africa
Project: Health clinics, teaching, community outreach, bike ambulance delivery, well inspections, delivering a baby!
A NGO local to Orange County, I connected with Direct Connection to Africa (DCTA) while planning 34tunate and immediately became interested in their work. This organization has no administrative overhead and thus all monies go directly to the people and program. DCTA works hand-in-hand with villages in Malawi to provide them with educational supplies and scholarships, recreational & job development programs, and medical clinics/seminars that will allow them to overcome the abject poverty they were born into and struggle with daily. While volunteering with them in Malawi I assisted in health clinics, bike ambulance delivery, cross-cultural education, community outreach, well inspections and even delivered a baby!
May – June 2015 Nkosi’s HavenLocation: JoBurg, South Africa
Project: Working with women/children with HIV/AIDS
Nkosi’s Haven is a recognized NGO in South Africa that has been in operation since 1999 offering holistic care and support for destitute HIV/AIDS infected mothers, her children, and resulting AIDS orphans (infected or not). Nkosi’s Haven is named after Nkosi Johnson, the young AIDS activist who passed away on International Children’s Day on June 1st 2001, who dearly wanted a facility that would care for the mom and her child. He had been separated from his mom because of the HIV diagnosis and he never wanted that to happen to any other child. He also wanted HIV positive people to be cared for without discrimination or prejudice.
June 2015 Underwater Africa / Nemos PequenosLocation: Tofo, Mozambique
Project: Marine Conservation
Underwater Africa aims to harness the power of volunteer researchers to elicit real and meaningful changes to Mozambique’s incredible ecosystems through pioneering research and conservation. While in the Inhambane Province of Mozambique, I conducted marine surveys, assisted with underwater camera data collection, recorded megafauna sightings, as well as other plankton and marine life data.
Nemos Pequenos, dedicates itself to teach local children how to swim and about the importance of the ocean. With a significant amount of young children in Tofo and the surrounding areas unable to swim, and often scared of the ocean, volunteers teach swimming lesson and ocean education, including marine conservation. While here I taught swim lessons, organized beach cleanups and assisted with a World Oceans Day celebration, and taught marine conservation in a local pre-school. To date, due largely to the efforts of this program, it is estimated that drowning has reduced by over 70% in Tofo!
July 2015 Duma Gives BackLocation: Arusha, Tanzania
Project: Teaching English in a preschool/kindergarden
A philanthropic branch of a local socially responsible tour company, Duma Gives Back works with local schools in Ndatu, a town in the mountainous area outside of Arusha. While here I taught English to both grade school students and their teachers alike. I also connected with a local coffee co-op working to create fair trade opportunities for 27 local organic farms. During my down-time I stopped in at Kahawa (coffee in Swahili) to learn about their processes and connect with the community.
July – August 2015 Good Hope Orphanage & SchoolLocation: Ngusero, Tanzania
Project: Teaching at the orphanage
Dedicated to taking children off the streets and providing them with the basic necessities of life (food, education, and shelter) as well as a whole lot of love, Good Hope Orphange and School is building the future of the children and community. Here I helped teach in the classrooms, tutored the senior students for their National exams, played with the children, cleaned and cooked with the “Mommies” and assisted with general upkeep of the property.
July – August 2015 HIV Education with RobertLocation: Sinoni, Tanzania
Project: Teaching about HIV prevention in schools, working with members of the community who have HIV
AIDS is something I became aware of at an early age when my Uncle was diagnosed with HIV and passed away from AIDS when I was 10 years old. His diagnosis occurred when the disease was relatively new and he would travel to Washington, DC to help scientists learn more about the disease and for experimental treatments. In his honor, I wanted to volunteer to help educate others about this disease and work to stop the spread.
While working with Good Hope Orphanage and School I was introduced to a wonderful local man named Robert who had dedicated his life to the care of those already infected and their families as well as prevention through education. In a place where some still believe that you can contract HIV by touching an infected person and that sleeping with a virgin will cure you of the disease, education is a key component to the eradication of HIV. With Robert as our guide, we ventured to the local areas outside the tourist center of Arusha, and into the local homes and schools. In homes, we met with families to check on their overall health, ensure they were taking their meds and had basic necessities. In schools, we lead educational seminars to 5th-8th graders debunking the myths about HIV/AIDS and educating about how to stop the spread.
Sadly, since my journey to Tanzania, I received word via email from Robert’s daughter that he had passed away. I was honored to learn my contact information was among his belongings and she wished to let me know of his passing. May he rest in peace.
August 2015 Ways of ChangeLocation: Thailand/Mynmar Border
Project: Fair trade jewelry organization - social media, fashion show, photography
Ways of Change is a co-created fashion brand connecting people affected by conflict and migration to a global community. We feature handmade jewelry and accessories by refugee artisans and offers fair wages to refugees so that they may support and empower themselves through entrepreneurship while sustaining and building upon their traditional skills. While volunteering with Ways of Change I worked with co-founder Cari Boccieri to document the daily happenings in photos and did a social media takeover. We traveled to the Ways of Change communities on the Thai/Myanmar border to document their craftsmanship as well as to learn about, and help plan for their future community needs. In addition, I helped plan, facilitate and document a fashion show featuring a local fashion designer’s clothing and Ways of Change jewelry.
August – September 2015 Thanksgiving HomeLocation: Bangkok, Thailand
Project: Orphanage and church outreach
Travel teaches you to be flexible. While my original plans to volunteer in Bangkok were thwarted after a bombing near where I was planning to reside occurred days before my arrival and tourists were advised to stay clear of the area, I was shortly thereafter introduced to Thankgsgiving Home, which is located on the outskirts of Bangkok and away from the area considered dangerous. A home for abandoned children, this place of refuge is privately run by a local pastor and his wife who also hold church services in the home and aid those in the local community. I lived on-site with the children and assisted with homework, music lessons, church services, and community outreach to those parishioners who were not able bodied enough to attend service.
September 2015 Journeys within our community / Ankor Children’s Hospital FundraiserLocation: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Project: Employment education and training
Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) believes everyone should have access to quality education that provides opportunities to improve individuals, families and the community’s standing. One of the ways they do this is by offering free courses from business to sewing and beyond. While volunteering with JWOC I was asked to create and teach a comprehensive course about job hunting and resume writing. In addition, I worked with other JWOC coordinators to check in on local clean water projects and supported local fundraisers for the Angkor Children’s Hospital and a women’s Co-op.
September 2015 Pisilian Eco Working HolidayLocation: Taitung, Taiwan
As a national Taiwanese NGO, Eco-Working Holiday works within local communities to engage more people and to achieve longer term success in environmental protection.
Together with my friend Tracy, we worked to remove invasive species and participated in local community projects. In addition, we learned about the local eco-system, cooking, history, and culture.
September 2015 Syue Tian SchoolLocation: Hualien, Taiwan
Project: Teaching English
Connected to this school through a my grad school friend, “Cute” Jane, who is Taiwanese, my friend Tracy and I taught English, helped with math homework, played with the children, and helped beautify the school.
September – October 2015 Slukat Learning Center / WINS / IDEP GardeningLocation: Keramas, Bali, Indonesia
Project: Teaching English and working with disabled children
Slukat Learning Center provides free after school education for the children in the Gianyar Village in the Keramas region of Bali, Indonesia. Together with volunteers from around the world, this organization offers free English classes to the students in the area. Suffering from extremely low English scores and no where to practice and improve their skills, youth in this area were being shut out from jobs in the tourist industry, where the ability to speak English is a necessity. The founders of Slukat realized the need to create a space where students could come, free of charge, to learn English and enlisted the help of local travelers to volunteer at the site. While here, my main focus was teaching multiple levels of English to students. In addition, I held swim lessons to help improve the confidence and competence of these children who live in such close proximity to the ocean, but have little to no experience in water safety.
Giving unprivileged Balinese children a good start in life by teaching them to be independent and responsible for their own futures through education, vocational/life skills, and knowledge of their culture. On off-times from Slukat, I took my scooter to WINS and volunteered with their disabled students in their art workshop. In addition, I helped with their school dance presentation.
IDEP is a local Indonesian NGO based in Bali - Indonesia, founded in 1999, that develops and delivers training, community programs and media related to sustainable development through Permaculture, and Community-based Disaster Management. Every Friday is Garden Day at IDEP so I would ride my scooter over to the closest IDEP location to Slukat and help out with the permaculture projects.
October 2015 Hands On Tokyo - Special Olympics BasketballLocation: Tokyo, Japan
Project: Basketball and other sports
Hands On Tokyo was founded in December 2006 with a working Board of Directors comprising both Japanese and foreign nationals who are committed to making volunteer activities more accessible and committed to accelerating the growth of volunteerism in the Tokyo area. Hands On Tokyo is the Tokyo affiliate of the Points of Light Foundation and works with many other local organizations to uplift the community and bring people together. While in Tokyo, my friend Julia and I partnered with Hands On Tokyo and the local Special Olympics branch on a basketball clinic and tournament.
November 2015 Salvation ArmyLocation: Honolulu, Hawaii
Project: Serving Thanksgiving Dinner
Each year, The Salvation Army feeds a complete Thanksgiving meal to approximately 2,000 attendees at Blaisdell Center on O‘ahu. To wrap up my 34tunate year, I couldn’t think of a better place or way to give back. Having lived, worked, and attended grad school in Hawaii, these islands captivate my soul. In addition, providing meals to others with my grandparents in Milwaukee, WI is what jump-started my volunteer journey. Finally, serving Thanksgiving dinner in a different location, but with the same Aloha spirit, a year after 34tunate began, could not be more poetic or memorable.