I get a lot of emails but my favorites are the ones that I get from Destiny, an 11 year old girl who is part of the National Geographic award winning initiative called The Passport Party Project. Destiny is the youngest Teen Travel Ambassador for Phase 3 of The Passport Party Project and we’ve been emailing each other every week since the beginning of December as she prepares to get the second stamp in her passport as she joins her fellow ambassadors in Toronto this summer.
Destiny reminds me of my own children as she expresses nervousness about her upcoming trip, excitement about being so close to meeting her fundraising goal, concerns about getting her schoolwork done, and love for the activities she does outside of school.
This is my second year as a mentor for The Passport Party Project. As a volunteer, I spend my time mentoring girls like Destiny via email. Though we’ve never met in person, we’re virtual pen pals and my job is to provide encouragement, answer questions, and also jump start her thinking as she becomes a global citizen. My involvement is minimal but the impact of the time spent is huge.
About The Passport Party Project
The Passport Party Project is an initiative that began in 2013 and has evolved to provide first passports, online global awareness training, and first time global travel experiences to underrepresented American girls to help create responsive and responsible global citizens that #travelwithheart.
With less than 40% of Americans holding a U.S. passport and underserved communities not getting their fair share of what the American dream has to offer, Tracey Friley founded The Passport Party Project to provide tweens and teens with a passport and the opportunity to use it on their first international trip. The first phase of the program gifted 100 underrepresented girls with their first passports during an 18 month traveling campaign that took place in 10 cities nationwide.
Last year I jumped on board to serve as a mentor to Gabrielle, the youngest of the six girls who traveled to Toronto during the second phase of the program. The girls received their first passport stamps and brought donations of children’s books to The Planeterra Foundation’s Community Library Project in Egypt, as part of their experience. Now in Phase 3, Destiny, will join this year’s Passport Party Project participants in Toronto this June.
Why I Volunteer for The Passport Party Project
I remember getting my first stamp in my passport at the age of 10 when we took a family trip to China to visit the village where my dad grew up and ever since then I’ve wanted to see more of the world. With that single trip my world became so much bigger. Suddenly there was more to life than the community that I grew up in. With each trip we took visiting countries in Europe, Asia, and Southeast Asia during our summers, my world expanded even more. Thanks to my parents, I had the joy of early travel experiences that I’m now sharing with my own kids (ages 9 and 12) as we explore the world to become citizens of the world.
I was bitten by the travel bug at age 10 and understood the power that a passport can have in the bearer’s hand. It opens doors. It creates new experiences in far flung places where sights, sounds, and smells are nothing like one can ever experience through a website, glossy travel magazine, or Instagram photo. And that’s why I volunteer.
For girls like Destiny and Gabrielle, a passport stamp is just the beginning. It’s the start to developing a new understanding about people in other countries whose culture and language differs from ours but who can also be so similar. It’s sparks a desire to learn more through travel and a world view that turns us into world citizens.
How You Can Get Involved in The Passport Party Project
Providing travel experiences and leadership to a new generation is how we grow global citizens who care about the world around them and have open minds about people, places, and cultures. The Passport Party Project an incredible venture that’s made possible thanks to Tracey Friley’s vision and sponsors like Tourism Toronto, Heys Luggage, National Geographic Maps, Hornblower Niagara Cruises, Porter Airlines, Niagara Parks, Francesco’s Limousine, Inc., and CityPASS who have generously supported this Phase 3 of the program.
I volunteer my time as a mentor for The Passport Party Project. No compensation is received for my involvement or was received for writing this post.