Planning the trip of a lifetime: tips from experienced group leaders

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When it comes to supporting young people in changing the world, educators and group leaders are some of our greatest allies. A ME to WE Trip is just the beginning of a journey of sustainable change for your group, can be an incredibly rewarding experience for you as a leader. Planning to take a group of young people across the world and back is no easy feat, but ME to WE is dedicated to supporting you every step of the way. We sat down with three educators and group leaders who have travelled with us to ask about their experiences planning trips with us.

David Fischer, Director of Student Services, St. Michael’s College School – Toronto, ON

St. Michael’s College School has travelled with ME to WE to India and the Amazon and are planning a trip to Nicaragua for 2016.

What were the highlights of ME to WE Trips for you as a group leader?

The best parts of the trip were when we had time to interact with the children in communities. We visited the school and classes—the kids would share their poems and songs, and there were some soccer games. It was great to see our high school boys interacting with those elementary school children. The joy and camaraderie was wonderful.

What have you and your students taken away from these experiences?

There’s something really powerful about the human interaction and cultural exchange—seeing how people live in a different culture and highlighting those difference, but at the same time seeing that there’s an underlying commonality in terms of our humanity. People want and need pretty much the same things—they want to have clean drinking water and a reliable food source, to send their kids to school. I think it was really helpful for our students to be able to both experience the differences, ad the commonality.

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What was the ME to WE Trip planning process like for you?

The whole process was really easy. We had our work cut out for us in terms of promoting the trip, but ME to WE was marvelous with support, direction and advice. We always had a contact person—we could send them an email or call anytime and they’d call us back right away and answer all of our questions.

Did you have any issues or concerns during the trip planning process? How did ME to WE help you deal with these?

The number one thing for parents is safety, and ME to WE was great in addressing the concerns that they had, not just about travel safety, but food and water safety, what will happen if their sons get sick and how parents would be contacted in case of emergency.

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What advice would you give to a first-time group leader?

I think the first thing is that you want to start promoting the trip early. We always start promoting a trip the year before. Getting information out to both students and parents is also really helpful—we always give out information packages before the summer, and then host an info meeting in September. It really helps to build interest and excitement in the trip, and helps parents to see the value of the trip and have any concerns addressed.


Brenda Lee, Group Leader, Girl Guides of Canada – Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Brenda Lee travelled with a Girl Guides group to Ghana in 2014, and is planning a trip to Ecuador for 2016.

Why do you think it’s important for students to have experiences like this?

They get so caught up in their own little worlds and often don’t see beyond their high school walls. For the girls that we took on this trip, their whole perspective has changed. 

How did ME to WE support you in the planning process?

ME to WE was very helpful with every detail, like getting visas—to actually get physical samples of what was expected and be walked through the process was really helpful.

We had a quick turnaround time to get our paperwork in for Girl Guides, so it was wonderful for us to be able to get information from ME to WE quickly, and get information like emergency response plans. It all worked out very smoothly.

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Did you have any issues or concerns during the trip planning process? How did ME to WE help you deal with these?

The other day, our girls were getting really bogged down with a cookie sale fundraiser for our upcoming trip to Ecuador, and they weren’t seeing the end prize anymore. And Katie, our trip engagement specialist, called us and spent half an hour going through a variety of different things about the trip and building excitement. Now, the talk is back on the trip and how this fundraiser will get us there.

What advice would you give to a first-time group leader?

What I found really helpful is talking to other groups that had travelled with ME to WE. It really reassured us about what would happen and that everything would be taken care of.

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Kristen Crouse, Academic Director, Montessori Academy of London – London, Ontario

The Montessori Academy of London travelled with ME to WE to the Amazon in 2014 and are planning a second trip for 2016.

What were the highlights of ME to WE Trips for you as a group leader?

The whole trip was a highlight—it was just amazing. It was really neat to visit Mondaña and work with the community. One of our students speaks Spanish, so it was neat to hear him speaking with the families there.

On the last night of the trip, we had to write a letter to ourselves, and then ME to WE mailed it to us six months later. It was really neat to get that letter—even I got one. It just brought you back to remembering what it was like, what the purpose of the trip was and what you learned.

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Is there anything you do as a group leader that helps with the planning process?

After our first trip, I created a checklist. ME to WE sends out emails to families, but I also send out emails too, so there are things I need to make sure I take care of on our end. For example, sending out our own list of things families should pack.

How do you generate interest and excitement about the trip at your school?

We do an Ecuadorian potluck where the family of each student coming on the trip makes a dish that’s South American. That way, the parents can all meet each other, and the students can get together as the group that’s going to be travelling.

Did you have any issues or concerns during the trip planning process? How did ME to WE help you deal with these?

We had a parent who was concerned with the overall safety of the group. Myself, this parent and the head of our school did a conference call with ME to WE and they fully reassured us [about the safety precautions they take]. That made the parent feel much better.

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How did ME to WE support you on the ground during the trip?

ME to WE always made sure that the kids drank enough water, had sunscreen on, and were always making sure they were feeling okay. The whole trip was just a great experience.


For access to more trip-planning resources and to start planning a trip for your group, connect with our team today!