For Atlanta Journal Constitution. October 2015.
The idea of Go Eat Give came mostly from friends well versed with my love for food and travel. They asked me to share my experiences and help them plan their trips, where they could also have meaningful travel experiences like mine. I founded Go Eat Give as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2011, with a mission to raise awareness of different cultures through food, travel and community service.
Go Eat Give organizes sustainable tours to different countries, including India, Indonesia, Cuba, Italy, Mexico, Belize and Tanzania. Travelers can learn about the culture, taste authentic food, meet people and give back. Expect to stay in a 4-star boutique resort where all the employees live in surrounding areas, take cooking lessons with a native chef, get lessons in Batik painting or salsa dancing from local artists, eat at people’s homes and volunteer with a grassroots local nonprofit. I call it a study abroad program for adults, packed in one week.
Go Eat Give is very different from the Peace Corps and mission trips because it emphasizes “vacationing” as well. We offer our guests a chance to relax and enjoy their time off, but also want them to step out of their comfort zone a little bit.
We like to work with small organizations that often don’t have a voice in their own cities. Some projects we support include sponsoring children to go to school in Bali, fulfilling wishes and providing wigs to kids suffering from cancer in Mexico City, conducting workshops for women at a safe house in India, and farming at an organic cooperative in Cuba.
The impact of these activities is felt long after our short visits; travelers continue to support programs by sharing information and sending donations. Once you have seen the schools and homes of the kids and made memories laughing and playing with them, you are more likely to open your wallets to help with their education.
People who have been on Go Eat Give trips have had life-altering experiences. They have returned with a different outlook on life, and decided to consume less, give back more and be grateful for what they have. You can’t be disappointed about not having that big-screen TV or six-figure income after making friends with those who live without electricity, running water and unlimited supplies of food.
Soon after I started the travel programs, I realized most Americans couldn’t afford an international trip every year because of time and financial restrictions. So we started organizing Destination Dinners, where we bring other countries to Atlanta. Each month, we focus on one country and introduce people to its cuisine, art, music, culture, tourism and current events. Since their inception, we have done 40 such programs, attended by more than 3,000 people.
We have much diversity in Atlanta but don’t always know how to experience it. Even as you and I drive down Buford Highway, we don’t know which Korean or Bangladeshi restaurant is the best, what would we order once we walk in and if the dishes taste like they would back in the country. Through the Destination Dinner program, diners get exposed to ethnic restaurants around the city and can taste practically everything off the menu. Then they hear a presentation from an ambassador, native or community leader, watch live dance or a musical performance, and mingle with other international residents.
Think of it as a dinner out, lecture, show and networking event, all rolled into one evening.
Our vision is simple, yet powerful: To build strong, meaningful relationships between citizens of different nationalities, races, religions and backgrounds. By learning how people live and what they believe in and value, participants are able to create their own opinions and eliminate previous stereotypes and bigotry.