We didn’t set out to offer travel services—we started with a mission to change lives and the world. Through WE Charity and its WE Villages sustainable development model, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with local communities in Kenya, Ecuador, India and others for over 20 years to help empower people with the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. Now, those same communities welcome our travelers into their homes and lives. You won’t find tourists or tour buses on our trips—only the open arms and warmth of locals, and the opportunity to connect with them and their families, and share in their stories. It’s the world through a very different and very personal lens. We offer two deeply engaging types of trips: volunteer and experiential. + Read More
Part of what makes ME to WE trips different is the powerful positive impact on travelers, and the communities they visit. UNESCO promotes the education value of sustainable travel. When you travel with us you gain new perspective, learning from our community partners to gain a greater cultural understanding and a deeper personal understanding of global social and environmental issues. You’ll help speed the completion of community projects, boost the local economy and create skilled job opportunities for local workers. In 2017, 90% of the proceeds of ME to WE were donated to support WE Charity’s work in the community. (The balance is reinvested in the social enterprise.) This ensures the long-term sustainability of WE Charity’s work with the community.
How your trip impacts communities
Each ME to WE Trip takes place in a community where our charity partner, WE Charity, puts its 20-year history of holistic, sustainable development to work.
The WE Villages model, which has been praised by eminent experts like the Skoll Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative and Mission Measurement, consists of five core pillars: education, water, food, health and economic opportunity. Tourism is critical to that fifth pillar, delivering income and revenue that makes the other four pillars sustainable. The United Nations recognizes travel and tourism as one of the most effective sources of jobs in developing countries, and it’s a key component of three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. + Read More
That work would not be possible without ME to WE Trips. Over the years, the contributions of ME to WE travelers have directly supported WE Charity in establishing a full-service medical clinic serving 10 communities in Ecuador, two full-service clinics and one hospital in the Narok region of Kenya, the construction of three high schools and one college, with accompanying scholarships, providing education in 24 Maasai Mara communities and 11,500 Kenyan students, and many more projects creating impacts in countries around the world.
ME to WE Trips are also job creators. Community members frequently act as trip facilitators, especially those who are leading WE Charity’s development projects in their communities such as teachers, or heads of local women’s groups. While travelers on volunteer trips perform basic manual labor like hauling bricks, local workers gain higher-level employment and skills training as supervisors and project managers. To support trip operations, ME to WE employs over 350 local staff annually as drivers, cooks, guides and administration staff. Our food and other materials are locally sourced to boost the community’s economy. Through those jobs, ME to WE helps communities build their own capacity to support sustainable tourism. We’re taking that a step further, helping build a College of Hospitality and Tourism in Kenya.
Learn more about the impact from the community members.
How your trip impacts you
More than any other kind of travel, ME to WE Trips have a lifelong impact on those who take part. Children and youth return home empowered to create positive change in their communities and around the world, families are brought closer together by the power of shared giving and businesses become better corporate citizens as their employees are inspired to bring purpose into their workplace. + Read More
An independent study of ME to WE Trip travelers, conducted by the impact assessment organization Mission Measurement, found that, after their experience, 85% of our travelers get involved in volunteering in their communities, 93% intend to play a leadership role in social justice activities in their community and 95% report feeling a strong sense of responsibility for the well-being of people in developing countries when they return home.
After returning from a trip, the WE organization offers trip participants many ways to continue their impact as a part of the WE movement. Our WE Schools programming, WE Charity and other socially responsible products like Rafikis and chocolate allow consumers to continue to do good in the world either through donation, action or purchasing decisions.
WE makes doing good doable for everyone.
A proud history of safe travel
Since 2002, over 40,000 youth and adults have traveled safely with our organization around the world.
The well-being of our travelers is our top priority. From the buses that transport you, to the work safety equipment we provide, to the food you eat produced by our own chefs at our facilities, ME to WE Trips employs extensive and rigorous safety measures and policies. Our in-country teams have established communications protocols and maintain connections with reputable local medical facilities. They know what to do and where to go in an emergency. + Read More
All our trip facilitators receive first aid, child protection and emergency-response training, and are equipped with a thorough understanding of group dynamics and cultural sensitivity to ensure a seamless experience for all travelers.
Read more about safety at metowe.com/safety.
Ensuring the well-being of our communities
Global travel is much like charities. Some charities are very effective, some less so. Some global travel experiences in developing countries are well run and leave only a positive impact on the local communities. Others not.
ME to WE and WE Charity have worked hard to build policies and best practices to ensure the highest level of protection and well-being for the communities we work with. + Read More
We have leveraged the expertise of people like former Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Sean Atleo, to create best practices for cultural respect when working with partner communities. While serving as Grand Chief, Atleo spent a week with us in Kenya, providing advice and guidance to ensure we were engaging with communities in a culturally appropriate and respectful way. We ensure the safety and well-being of minors through our rigorous child and youth protection policy, created in partnership with respected organization Plan to Protect. For example, we never engage in visits or volunteering at orphanages or similar facilities for vulnerable children and youth.
We have a strict photo policy to protect the privacy and dignity of our community partners. We want to ensure that the photos we take are not exploitative, and that we are taking photos of solutions—not problems—to share with friends and family. We ask that photos are only taken of people with whom we have a relationship, with their explicit and informed consent.
Integral to WE Charity’s development model is the idea that we want to give communities a hand up, not a hand out. Our travelers are not permitted to bring gifts from home to give local children or families.
Commitment to Sustainable Tourism
Dr. Jane Goodall, an early advisor to our work, once noted that the only way to ensure environmental protection of sensitive areas is to ensure economic systems are in place to benefit the local community. This idea is at the core of the WE Villages development model and is integral to ME to WE Trips. + Read More
Through initiatives like the College of Hospitality and Tourism in Kenya, and a similar program growing in Ecuador, we ensure tourism jobs benefit communities, reducing problems like poaching and deforestation. We invest heavily in ecological protection, reducing our carbon footprint by growing organic produce in local gardens and engaging in a tree nursery program to support reforestation programs. In locations where we are the operators of the accommodations, they are built to be conducive to the natural habitat and use natural, local resources in their construction. We support the conservation goals of our host countries, for example by contributing to park fees at wildlife reserves in Kenya, Ecuador and Tanzania. Our travel programs are carefully designed to demonstrate cultural respect, understanding and social inclusivity, with the blessing of local community leaders.
ME to WE Trips meets or exceeds the criteria for sustainable travel set forth by the World Bank for sustainable tourism.
Equity & Accessibility
A guiding principle of ME to WE Trips is that they must be equally accessible for everyone, regardless of economic background or physical ability. That’s why we offer a variety of bursaries, scholarships and financial aid options for youth, supported by the generosity of corporate and foundation partners. + Read More
In 2017, ME to WE gave over $850,000 in funding to more than 200 young travelers. We also have a dedicated fundraising program to help youth raise support for their experience. Finally, we make ongoing investments, continually upgrading our accommodations and transportation to ensure they are physically accessible and safe for all our travelers.
Third Party Assessments
ME to WE trips are a different kind of travel, leaving only a positive impact on travelers and host communities alike. But don’t just take our word for it. Over the years, many independent experts and media have explored our work and our travel programs—and praised them. + Read More
Mission Measurement conducted a study of ME to WE trips. This respected organization, which specializes in conducting rigorous third-party assessments of the impact of non-profit organizations, found that:
“ME to WE Trips are a necessary component to fulfilling WE Charity’s sustainable development model that lifts communities out of the cycle of poverty through job creation, skilled-based service, and funds raised by trip participants following their experience for community infrastructure investments.
There is a proven impact on those that participate in a ME to WE Trip through global education empowering participants to become engaged and contributing global citizens as participants leave with a deeper understanding of sustainability, development issues, a new perspective, cross cultural understanding and skills to take action upon their return home.
The ME to WE Trips model minimizes the ecological footprint of the trips while providing an equitable and sustainable social benefit to all beneficiaries.”
– Brett Tollman
In 2012, journalist Scott Pelley, with renowned investigative TV program 60 Minutes, spent months following our organization, speaking to trip participants and even going on a trip to Kenya himself.
“What’s incredible about ME to WE trips is the quality and depth of interaction between travelers and community members. It’s not so much tourism as an educational exchange with mutual learning,” says Brett Tollman, co-founder and advisor of the TreadRight Foundation. Read what else he has to say about traveling with ME to WE.