The World Youth Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) is the annual event of WYSE Travel Confederation, within which their annual Global Youth Travel Awards (GYTA) take place. The World Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation is the world’s largest and most powerful network of youth and student travel operators.
In the call for nominations, WYSTC stated, “We are looking for an inspiring example of an organisation giving back to the community. Examples might include efforts in sustainability, business ethics, best practices, development or activities such as sponsorship of a local charity, running a not-for-profit initiative or even a full-scale Corporate and Social Responsibility programme.”
Below is a summary of the nomination and the initiatives that are being recognized through this award, written by Kayla Patterson, a GoAbroad employee and GoAbroad Foundation Advisor.
On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) devastated many areas of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm to make landfall in recorded history and was the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, taking the lives of over 6,300 people (unofficially as many as 9,000 to 17,000 missing or presumed dead).
Haiyan was of particular importance and concern to employees of both GoAbroad.com and the GoAbroad Foundation. GoAbroad.com has offices in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA and Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines. On November 7, 2013 GoAbroad’s US employees watched national news describe the projection of Typhoon Haiyan, with the eye of the storm forecasted to pass straight through Tacloban City. Around 4pm MST on November 7, 2013 or 5am PST on November 8, 2013 in Tacloban, all communication was lost with our friends and colleagues. Our staff was aware that typhoons were common, and that our colleagues were preparing for the storm by leaving the office early the day before, stocking up on necessities, and placing sandbags around buildings and homes. We were unaware of the severity of the storm and that we wouldn’t hear from our colleagues for another three days.
Having lost communication, but knowing the damage would be severe, GoAbroad’s US staff began fundraising efforts through the GoAbroad Foundation on November 8, 2013. Not wanting to lose any time, our first campaign began on a partner website, FundMyTravel.com, that morning. The following days were full of worry and uncertainty as we waited to hear from our friends, colleagues, and family. However, they were also full of gratitude and hope as the donations, thoughts, and messages began to pour in. After two weeks of brave and relentless efforts by our Philippine counterparts, all GoAbroad staff was safe and accounted for, a miracle considering the severity of the storm and the widespread devastation.
In the weeks and months following the storm, GoAbroad.com staff, via the GoAbroad Foundation raised over $150,000 USD (and counting) through various online and offline efforts. All US staff and many staff in the Philippines were involved in a variety of fundraising efforts, including but not limited to: FundMyTravel.com campaign, Causes.com campaigns, Donation Jars dispersed in local businesses in Fort Collins, CO, a fundraising event coined “Bowling for a Better World” in Fort Collins, CO, and several press and speaking engagements.
The majority of the funds raised were allocated to Volunteer for the Visayans, a local non-profit in Tacloban City, founded by Troy Peden, GoAbroad.com’s Founder and CEO. All funds were used, and are still being used to provide food, water, clothing, household items, and rebuilding materials for those impacted by Typhoon Haiyan. In addition, GoAbroad’s Philippine staff were interviewed and asked to assess damage to their homes. Afterward, each GoAbroad staff member in the US sponsored a colleague to help raise the funds necessary to repair or rebuild their homes.
Today the fundraising efforts continue in small ways as GoAbroad staff work to restructure the GoAbroad Foundation to become more active in raising funds for not only the Philippines, but for other projects around the world.
Notable Articles & Press Coverage:
- Philippines Village Celebrate Miracle Storm Shelter
- Small Signs of Life Return to Philippines (USA Today)
- GoAbroad.com Leads Aid Mission in Tacloban (The PIE News)
- A Hero in Our Midst: GoAbroad Profile with Elsa Thomasma
- Interview with Troy Peden: Tacloban Will Rise Again
- Humanitarian Worker Helps Save Town in Philippines (NBC)