Beyond Tourism to Making a Difference in the World.

Two years ago at the annual World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) held in Cape Town, South Africa, we came up with an idea.  Why not provide an award to a deserving WYSTC volunteer?  We think the long hours and dedication deserve something. What started as an impromptu idea has since snowballed into an incredible chain of events.

The volunteer award has changed the lives of two award recipients; it’s become an important part of WYSTC; it’s been officially named after an influential leader in the world tourism industry; it’s been recognized as a leading example of excellence within the meeting industry; and it was the impetus to develop a partnership with the Ubuntu Institute.

All of us at Alliance Abroad are stunned, honored and humbled by the results, and we’re even more motivated to come up with other ideas and develop programs that bring about opportunity, education and experiences and that make an important social impact.

The story behind the award and the events that follows can be complicated, so here’s a chronicle of all that’s happened since Cape Town:

  • Thato Khasuli is the first WYSTC outstanding volunteer award winner. Ask him and he’ll tell you it changed his life.  He goes from believing in dreams to living his dreams. As an underprivileged South African youth, the opportunity to intern in the U.S. wasn’t possible without the paid award. Now Thato’s working at a luxury property on Cape Town’s waterfront with a great future in tourism ahead.
  • Thato’s journey is inspiring and, when we see how the award impacts his life, we look for opportunities to do more. Voila! We begin an exclusive partnership with the Ubuntu Institute, bringing underprivileged South African youths and students into the U.S. to train in the hospitality industry. To date, over 300 Ubuntu fellows are receiving the work training that, like Thato, will open doors of opportunity for them when they return home.
  • We think people ought to know about Thato’s incredible journey, so we submit his experience for a WYSTC award. It wins “Extraordinary Experience,” in 2016. It’s an incredible honor for us, fabulous recognition for Thato and inspiration to many more.
  • Vanja Dokic has no idea when he signs up as a WYSTC volunteer in Belgrade, Serbia last year that he’d win the volunteer award. He ends up interning last summer at a posh hotel in Denver, Colorado. He’s now certain that a career in the hospitality industry is what he’s meant to do.  It’s an experience he calls “once in a lifetime.”
  • We’re on a roll, so for the third year, Alliance Abroad plans to present another WYSTC volunteer award at the annual conference held in Montreal, Canada. The good people from the WYSE Travel Confederation, who organize WYSTC, approach us about naming the award in honor of a man who dedicated his life to world tourism. We love the idea!
  • The volunteer award is officially named The “Dr.Taleb Rifai Outstanding Volunteer Award” and becomes an annual part of WYSTC.
  • Alliance Abroad receives the 2017 WYSTC award for “Best Work Experience Provider” for creating innovative programs like the Ubuntu partnership.
  • Alliance Abroad and Taleb Rifai present the volunteer award to Tamirez (Tami) Viera Marques at the Montreal WYSTC in September. Tami’s excited to begin her journey that could take her to Australia.
  • WYSE Travel Confederation gets an award for the outstanding volunteer award! The Incredible Impacts Programme Award goes to them for being a “leading example of excellence” in the meeting industry for making an impact beyond tourism.

Though it’s a bit hard to follow the incredible chain of events, we’re thrilled with all the good that’s come as a result, and the widening ripple effect of good it’s had.

While the awards are fabulous and the recognition is amazing, that’s not the motivation.  We came up with the idea to make a difference, and it has. The awards and new programs we start provide opportunities for other young people to learn, travel, connect and experience the world.

The outstanding volunteer award, and everything that has resulted from it, has inspired us and our industry to make an even bigger impact. That is the best reward.

Stayed tuned as we continue to share the stories of

Thato, Vanje and Tammy and all the good that’s coming from the Ubuntu program!