When I was on vacation in Cartagena, a group of travelers caused a buzz among some people I met there. They were ‘the boys of the orange car’, four Dutch friends travelling by car along Latin America to get to Brazil, during the World Cup. One night, I met one of those travelers and he made me realize the trip was much more than fun. Jasper de Lange, 26 years old, engineer and a big optimistic told me one of those good quotes we should always remember, something like: ‘If you really want something, you should stop complaining and believe that, with effort and will, it’s possible to achieve’.
And with effort and will, he and his friends Ab Streppel, Bijn Worms and Egbert Pot arrived to Colombia, in May. They went through cities in Equador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina until they got to Brazil. In all, 13,000 kilometers traveled in 10 weeks with an orange car – and also a motorcycle. The color was a way to support their Dutch team in the World Cup. But the trip was much more than knowing different places and cheering for the Netherlands. Jasper and his friends decided to contribute somehow to improve some places they were going to visit.
‘We wanted to do this all along. It is a good way of making the trip more meaningful, so we contacted NGO’s with a connection to the Netherlands and set up things we could do for them’, told Jasper.
Two NGO’s were chosen: Mi Casa en Ipauratu, Barranquilla, Colombia, and Mama Alice, Ayacucho, Peru. The first NGO promotes activities among underpriviliged children from the Colombian city. For them, they raised money and also helped local carpenters to build cabinets to store the toys. The second NGO helps women left by their husbands. For them, they brought sewing machines to help the mothers to have a fair work.
The trip was born a year before the World Cup, which was the time the group had to organize the car shipping, the financials for the fuel and what they were going to take to the NGO’s. Part of the group already had some experience in big trips by car – Ab travelled from Amsterdam to Gambia and Egbert, from Amsterdam to China. While organizing the trip, the project was named Drive2Develop and became part of a huge initiative, called Orange Trophy, that puts together teams – all in orange cars – to promote the Dutch team, travelling from New York to Rio. With a lower budget, Jasper and his friends chose to travel just trough the South America.
According to him, to add the volunteer work to the trip gave to it a new perspective. Between so many experiences, Jasper could have chosen as the most amazing a beautiful place or the emotion of following the Dutch team going so far on the World Cup. But the choice was different. ‘I think the best experience was with the NGO’s and then especially to the NGO in Peru, Mama Alice. That was the second NGO. We delivered sewing machines so they could provide a fair job to mothers who had been left by their husbands. They also care for street orphans. They help them get off drugs, and offer education so they can become a carpenter or metal worker. For the carpenter education we also brought lots of second hand tools from the Netherlands. To give these things and see how substantially you help these people is a great thing. That was the most impressive’, he tells some months later, already back in The Netherlands.
If you want to do something similar, and mix adventure with volunteer work, this can help you: some organizations offer food and accommodation for free in different countries for people who wants to do some volunteering, like the website Workaway. There you can find hostels that offer a place in exchange for some hours of work and also volunteer programs where you can teach children or help building places for them in return for food and a bed. Of course, it’s also possible to contact directly some NGOs and offer help, just as Jasper and his friends did. It doesn’t matter if your trip will be a long or small one, the least you do is already important. After all, anyway, the most valuable is to help and collaborate for a better world.
Júlia Faria (Photos: Drive2Develop)