For many generations, Third World travel has provided an opportunity for adventure and cultural exploration. Tourists who want to make the world a better place are now combining travel to "exotic" destinations with a study of the social and environmental problems faced by the locals.
Some travelers find meaningful ways to help out in the communities they visit.
Writer and filmmaker Peggy Goldwyn is enlisting travelers for a nine-day trip to Kenya in August. They will experience both the natural wonders of East Africa and the humanitarian efforts under way in villages and in the urban slums of Nairobi.
"This is called socially engaged tourism," says Goldwyn, who is a volunteer for Americans for UNFPA, a financial support organization for the United Nations Population Fund, which works to raise the standards of reproductive health and women's rights in developing countries.
Goldwyn, a part-time Sun Valley resident, served on the board of the Los Angeles Planned Parenthood organization and is former president of the Beverly Hills Board of Education. She is the founder of the Family of Woman Film Festival, which has taken place in Ketchum for the past three years.
Goldwyn was formerly married to movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and has written and produced for television and film, and recently completed a novel about the American West.
Trip participants will view wildlife in the Masai Mara National Park, and visit social workers, government officials and medical staff working to fight AIDS. They also work to change cultural practices that subjugate, and even mutilate, women.
Goldwyn is passionate about Americans for UNFPA's efforts to put an end to female circumcision in Kenya, which mutilate the genitals of young women, permanently hindering them from feeling pleasure during sex.
"There is no religious significance to this rite," says Goldwyn.
Travelers will visit safe houses for young girls seeking to avoid the ritual. An alternative coming-of-age ritual is being established in the country to take the place of female genital mutilation.
Participants will also meet with female legislators who have written anti-gender-discrimination bills in Kenya.
"This trip is open to anyone interested in learning more about these issues," she says.
Goldwyn said that even in the slums of Nairobi, it's clear that people are trying to improve their lives.
"People really believe in themselves and their communities," she said. "Everywhere you go, people are forging associations to do things. It's an entrepreneurial spirit that is typically African."
The Americans for UNFPA leadership delegation trip will take place in Nairobi, Kenya, from Aug. 8-16. The trip costs from $5,700 to $6,800, depending on the number of people in each travel group. The more people who sign up, the less it costs.
About $1,200 of the fee for the trip will be donated to support the efforts of Americans for UNFPA workers in Kenya.
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org