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Editor's note: August 19 is World Humanitarian Day, a day both to honor aid workers who have died because of their work and to celebrate the work that continues to be done by impassioned humanitarians the world over. This year's campaign focuses on the question: What does the world need more of? 

I would like to posit that the world needs more eagerness. I'm excited to share this guest blog post from Elyse Gordon, winner of the Garnet Hill-sponsored sweepstakes. I know she and her mother will enjoy their trip to Peru, and I look forward to sharing her reflections upon her return.

I am about to check South America off my list as my final continent to visit (sorry, Australia, for the purposes of The List, you are not a continent today). In February, my mother Carol sent me an email. Garnet Hill was sponsoring a sweepstakes with Heifer International. Aside from a few articles of clothing I had received as gifts, I knew little of Garnet Hill. Through my long-term involvement in the nonprofit world, I was aware of Heifer, though only loosely. But, the chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to Peru to work with Heifer’s field projects around Cusco? Well. We had to apply.

We won.

Heifer Peru participants. Photo by Dave Anderson, courtesy of Heifer International.
Heifer Peru participants. Photo by Dave Anderson, courtesy of Heifer International.

The elation that came with winning this incredible trip deserves some backstory. While the travel bug bit me early (I have traveled and/or lived in France, Senegal, Mali, India, China, Vietnam, Russia, Sweden, Ireland, Puerto Rico, and soon, Peru!), my parents had never really traveled outside of the US. For their 60th birthdays, I organized a trip for the three of us to Ireland. My mother had longed to see the different shades of green. My father had tried to nail down an Irish accent for years. I was just excited to share my love of traveling in a place that felt accessible but still had a feeling of magic. We saw greenery. We heard amazing music. We ate well. We fought. We played Scrabble. While my father certainly enjoyed the experience, my mother was hooked. The travel bug bit her, hard. We returned home and immediately schemed about our next trip.

Despite our best efforts to plan a trip, various obstacles got in our way. I live in Seattle pursuing a PhD in Human Geography. It is an incredibly fun, though demanding program. But as far as disposable income for travel? Well, my advisor put it best when I was considering the University of Washington: “You’ll love it here. But you’ll be living at or near the poverty line for the next 6 years.” Not the most conducive for trips to Europe. My mother, meanwhile, is living in New York where she does amazing work as a grant writer in the arts and nonprofit worlds. Our schedules rarely overlapped. My resources were pinched. Our plans to travel got put on hold.

Elyse Gordon
Elyse Gordon

Until now. I will fly from Seattle to New York and meet my mother. We will fly to Lima and join Garnet Hill CEO, staff and partners. We will venture to Cusco and see the incredible sustainable, community-based projects that Heifer has facilitated in the mountains. We will see greenery and archaeological sights, crafts and cultural artifacts. We will eat well. We will probably fight. We will struggle to communicate in Spanish. We will explore. We will learn.

I am eager to see a new part of the world. I love to travel with a purpose; in Peru, I get to learn while also applying my own experience with international development, responsible tourism and cultural exchange. I am so eager to see Machu Picchu, to explore Lima, and to see the agricultural and livestock operations in and around Cusco. I’m excited to meet the Heifer partners, and the Garnet Hill staff. More than anything, though, I am grateful to embark on this experience with my mother. To travel with a purpose; to share our story; to learn about Heifer; to laugh together; to reflect on life’s unexpected twists and turns that can transform a sweepstakes email from a whim into a gift.

You can participate in the World Humanitarian Day campaign, too.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.