Let’s talk service. The importance of a specialized trip can be illustrated in the service component of the trip. I am currently the service learning coordinator at the school where I teach. Many service projects entail showing up for a couple hours then going home without much connection to the project or people the project is attempting to help. The more effective model that we practice is the IPARD (Investigate, Plan, Action, Reflect, and Demonstrate) model. The service is the action part but as you see there are two steps before and after the actual service.

Our trips in general and service component specifically use this method. For example, you have 35 students that would like to take a trip somewhere in the world next summer. We limit the possible trips to Central America. As a group we Investigate where in Central America we might want to go and narrow choices down until as a group we decide on Guatemala. Most people want to do a Spanish language course, service, see a volcano, animals, white water rafting and shop. Then we Plan some of the specifics and decide on going to Antigua for the Spanish classes, service, rafting and volcanoes, Lago de Atitlan for the animals and Chichicastenango for the market and shopping. We plan on type of accommodations and transport and then I deal with the actual specifics and booking. Then the Action component is going on the actual trip. Reflections are done daily especially after the afternoon service time. Demonstration is done after the trip in a variety of ways but is a very important part of our trips. Many travel companies claim a “life changing” 10 day trip but within 10 days of returning, many have forgotten the trip. My goal is for travel not to temporarily change one’s life but to change people’s soul which in a 10 day trip is difficult but much more likely on an individualized trip designed like this as opposed to one where thousands take the same trip.

In addition to authentic travel, it is important have an authentic service project. The book "When Helping Hurts”, focuses on poverty elimination from a Christian perspective but can be applied to different type of missions and the goals of service whether they are based on faith or not. The book details 3 types of service: 1. Relief, 2. Rehabilitation, and 3. Development. An example of relief is after a natural disaster such as hurricane that rips the roof of a building, the people on the service project fix the roof and leave with little interaction between them and those affected. Rehabilitation projects are probably the most standard. They include painting, sorting collected items or working with school children. This model is 80/20, with the people on the service trip doing much of the work and involved in much of the investment with some limited involvement with and from those getting helped. But, those being helped have little say in the process. Development is more 50/50 and designed to help long term, while relief and rehabilitation are more short term in nature. The people on the service project and those helped both are involved in the project and are designed for those helped to learn additional skills. It requires those helped to invest but also takes into account their thoughts on what is needed.

All of these types of projects are needed and should be considered when planning a service trip but with cookie cutter travel agencies, often are not. The traditional rehabilitation service project is the easiest to plan and has merit but has less input from those helped. Development is more time consuming but gives the local population a voice which extremely important for an effective service project.

An example would be recent program that built wells in Uganda that a NGO sponsored. The goal was to build more wells so that there would be clean water nearby for villagers. The projects were done in more of a relief and rehabilitation style with little interaction between locals and the NGO. Although well-intentioned, the project was a failure because it did not take into account local people and instead had only a Western view to solving the problem. We will build you poor Africans a well and thus you will not have to walk an hour for water. What they failed to do was ask the Africans for their input. The women who had to walk an hour to get water continued to walk an hour and go to the old well and refused to pull water from the new one. Why? The hour walk was their only time to socialize with other women. Had this project been done development style it would have been a success. Actually, any of the 3 types of service has to make sense to the local population and needs input from the local population. This requires investigation, time and more unorthodox strategies but this is part of being a Pathinator.

Other advantages of going with Pathinator are depicted on the website, but repeated here. Costs are always a major factor and are another major advantage of traveling with Pathinator. We do not have the overhead other companies have, our marketing costs are low (largely word of mouth) and our profit margin is lower. In talking with the competition, there goal is $1000 profit per person on a trip. This covers additional cost beyond accommodations and food, such as additional guides, advertising, pad and insurance but also a large chunk is profit. Although our company profits from the trip, I am more concerned with experience as opposed to making money.

For example a typical trip is around $2000 for a 8/9 day trip to Costa Rica. With less overhead and profit margin, Pathinator could do it for around $100 per person cheaper. Furthermore, instead of a supervisor student ratio of 1:6, there would be a ratio of 1:9 which would be effective considering the homestay option. Thus on a trip of 35 students instead of 6 supervisors there would be 4. The two less supervisors on a $2000 trip would equate to $4000 less which divided by 35 students would be another savings of $100 per person for a total of $200. So instead of a $2000 trip it costs $1800. This is the promise we can make, that for the same type of trip (accommodations, food, sites), Pathinator’ s cost will be at a minimum the same but most likely cheaper.

Lastly, getting the final sign on. Safety is always brought up and Pathinator takes the same precautions that all travel agencies take; this is one of the few ways we go “cookie cutter” and are similar to other travel companies. Costs will be at a minimum the same as Interact and the proposed Guatemala trip would definitely be cheaper than Costa Rica. Experience, I have lead student trips since 2004 and by next summer Pathinator will have been around for 5 years. Also with the IPARD method, the experience is much more authentic and the service provided could be great marketing your school. For example, I’m working with a school to have students develop solar panels in their science club that can be rolled up in their backpack and delivered by those students to a school in Belize that is currently off the grid. Imagine that story in the local newspaper; it would make your organization look amazing!

There are many reasons to design a service trip with Pathinator. Become a Pathinator!