WomensDayQuoteThe following piece is part of our ‘Women Around the World Inspiring Change’ blog series that will run until Mother’s Day 2014. We started with a women’s group in Nogales, Mexico Hogar de Esperanza y Paz/Home of Hope and Peace (HEPAC).

Our next post, titled, Women’s Equality and Food Sovereignty: Solutions Found in Chiapas, Mexico, featured Global Exchange’s 2014 International Human Rights Award honoree, María Estela Barco Huerta, an incredible leader of DESMI (Desarrollo Económico Social de los Mexicanos Indígenas), based in Chiapas, Mexico.

This third post highlights a partnership between the Fair Trade company, Equal Exchange, and women in the 10 primary societies of Gumutindo Coffee Co-op in Uganda.


GX_MomGoMThis Mother’s Day, Global Exchange has teamed up with Equal Exchange with a great box of gifts to show your mom, or any mom, some Fair Trade love. By setting her up with at Global Exchange gift of membership for a year, we’ll also send out:

  • a Putumayo “Women of the World” music CD;
  • a dark chocolate with caramel crunch and sea salt bar from Equal Exchange (3.5 oz);
  • a stylish, handmade tagua seed necklace from a women’s Fair Trade cooperative in Colombia; and
  • a tin of Proud Mama Coffee from Equal Exchange (14 oz.)

And this tin of Proud Mama coffee has a story …

When Beth Ann Caspersen from Equal Exchange explains it, she genuinely sounds like she didn’t know what she was getting in to when she returned from her first trip to Uganda in 2010. Working with Equal Exchange, which supports small farmers around the world by participating in the Fair Trade system, she traveled to Mount Elgon to meet with growers who cultivate for various blends of Equal Exchange coffee, including Proud Mama.


When she returned to the United States, she began to brainstorm about how Equal Exchange could deepen the impact of Fair Trade and support a project that would draw on the existing structures the women were working with, and would be meaningful to family life and sustainable for the community in the long run.

She reflected that while spending time with the women, she noticed:

“[T]hat as the primary caretakers in these villages, the women spend a lot time in the kitchen. As is the tradition in Uganda, the kitchen is an enclosed space that usually lacks light or ventilation. Picture a small fire in the corner of a room that is filled with smoke. It is a difficult place to prepare food for the family; the smoke burns your eyes, fills your lungs and makes it a very unattractive place to work, let alone spend time with your family. Each fire can accommodate only one pot, sometimes two, but to manage both and keep the meal moving is difficult and time consuming.”

img_1481And so began The Stove Project. Starting quickly with the small sum of $4,000 and working with the community and advisors, a small, but focused, project got off the ground to immediately improve health and provide skills training for leaders of the women’s groups, by building energy-efficient stoves in 50 homes in two different communities.

The Stove Project is not just simple one-way charity. In line with Fair Trade principles, the new stoves are more than just a tool for the kitchen. Already, Beth Ann has seen three substantial impacts beyond the hopes of helping women in Mount Elgon.

  • The new stoves have reduced the amount of firewood necessary to cook by 50 percent, meaning household savings have gone up, meaning more support for other needs.
  • The new stoves are a time saver – multiple dishes can be cooked at the same time. For example, women have said that water for tea boils water faster, which means more time to enjoy a break.
  • The new stoves provide a smoke-free and warmer environment that is safer for everyone. With the design addition of a metal pipe that filters the smoke out of the house family members spend more time together in the warm kitchens.


Today we are excited to participate in Blog Action Day, an annual event when bloggers from around the world gather to write and discuss one topic. This year’s topic is “Human Rights.”

Global Exchange Reality Tours has a vision that meaningful, socially responsible travel, can and does, change the world. By offering experiential educational tours, Reality Tours has connected people to issues, issues to movements, and movements to social change. Many of the highlights of our Reality Tours include meetings with local human rights activists who work tirelessly to support their communities.

Below, hear from our in-country coordinator in Uganda Brian Ourien about some of the most pressing human rights issues that face Ugandans today.


Human Rights in Uganda
The Ugandan constitution provides for the protection of every Ugandan’s human rights, with emphasis on providing an enabling environment for all to flourish. The greatest challenge, though, is the poor implementation of these laws, leaving huge gaps that allow abusers to take advantage of vulnerable people, mostly women and children.

Domestic servitude is the most common form of human trafficking. Many children are brought into the city and other urban areas by relatives and friends of relatives with the promise of a better life. Many of these children end up working as domestic servants in the homes of their urban relatives, and are sometimes sold off to work for people who are not even remotely related to them. This means that their dreams of getting a better education and a better life in the city are replaced by despair and some of the most decrepit living conditions.

Sex trafficking is a growing form of injustice in Uganda’s cities and towns. Despite its being illegal, prostitution seems to be growing. There is also a growing number of underage girls (some as young as 10 years old) being roped into illegal brothels, mostly set in the slum areas of the capital Kampala.

Child Soldiery in Uganda
With more than twenty years of conflict in Northern Uganda, children became the prime target for rebel groups, abducting and conscripting them into rebel ranks. The children were trained into mindless soldiers who executed terror with little or no mercy and remorse.

Over the years these children have trickled back into the country – having escaped with the most harrowing tales imaginable, while others were rescued by the Ugandan army and brought back home to eagerly-waiting families. Soon enough the difficult process of reintegration begins.

Often shunned by relatives, some of whom suffered at the hands of the child rebels, the returning children struggle to find identity and acceptance in the communities they once called home. Some of the children spent more than ten years in the jungles of Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic and now return to a ‘normalcy’ they have never experienced. Their violent approach to life and their short tempers find no place in a community already burdened by years of violent abuse at the hands of ruthless rebels.

Fueled by conflict over land long uninhabited and whose boundaries have been washed away by years of abandonment – whose previous owners found their only refuge in displaced people’s camps for more than twenty years, northern Uganda grapples with post-conflict issues.

From unclear farming boundaries and contested homelands to emotional trauma and economic strife, northern Uganda seeks to break free of the past and to build a future in which children will once again be free to grow in a world bursting with possibility and the promise of a bright future.

Brian also shares with us how travel to Uganda can expand Westerners perspectives:
2010.07.21-065Reality Tours is a great opportunity for participants to get immersed in the work of organizations fighting to secure the rights of vulnerable people in Uganda. Reality Tours participants get to hear, first hand, the stories of those who have faced grave injustice and whose life paths have been unfairly changed by selfish people.

Above all, the most memorable and important moments is the connection that grows between the participants and the people in the host organizations. There is always a heart-warming sense of family and unity when travelers visit the many organizations with rescued victims of violent oppression.

Thanks so much to Brian for taking the time to share his thoughts with us!

Take ActionTake Action!

  • Learn more about human trafficking in Uganda and other countries; Read about the socio-political situation in Uganda and Learn about child soldiers;

Malia in Oahu

Update 11/28/12: A few photos of our bon voyage Malia staff lunch are now posted on Facebook.

“If you come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. If you come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” —Lilla Watson

In 1991 as a graduate student of International Relations, I signed up for a Global Exchange Reality Tour to Cuba. I wanted to learn about the impacts of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and understand what the current socioeconomic realities of the Special Period were on the nation. That trip dramatically expanded my understanding of the power of travel.

While I had backpacked to over 30 countries before that Reality Tour, I had never experienced that type of life sharing journey before. I engaged with grandparents, doctors, teachers, artists, musicians and politicians. In effect Reality Tours changed my life.  I experienced connection and insights, and returned to the United States committed to advocate for sane U.S. foreign policy. Once home, I promptly cut out and placed Lilla’s quote (see above) on my fridge. Little did I know that six years later I’d start working at Global Exchange, where Lilla’s quote found a new home on the Global Exchange office wall.

Ethical Traveler Tour to Cuba

Visiting Art and Hope in Cuba, with Ethical Traveler

Today it is my bittersweet honor to announce that after almost 16 vibrant years I am transitioning out of Reality Tours. Being the Director has been a true vocation. I’ve had the unique opportunity to combine my skills as an educator, social justice activist and alternative travel business woman to build up Reality Tours’ travel destinations, themes and reach.

Looking back I sit and smile thinking of all the talented, opinionated and solidarity minded people that ebbed and flowed through the Reality Tours department in San Francisco. And I think of the everyday heroes in the U.S. and all around the world whose  generosity of spirit welcomed us, collaborated with us and compelled us to meet them as brothers and sisters. We learned about their struggles, successes and aspirations which inspired us to seek changes in U.S. foreign and economic policies.

Princeton University in Mostar, Bosnia, 2012

I know the model of socially responsible travel to educate and inspire advocacy works. In fact, I could fill volumes based on my personal experiences and those often brilliant, joyful and incredibly painful moments of learning.

From the jungles of the Amazon and the struggle of the Sarayuku nation, to the healing and rehabilitation efforts in IDP camps of Northern Uganda; from facilitating thousands through migration in Havana and sharing the incredible tenacity of spirit of Cuban’s through the “fruits” of their Revolution and in their models of sustainability post “peak oil” to learning about how poachers become conservationists in Tanzania; from the smiles and solemn survival stories of children saved from the sex tourism industry in Cambodia, Nepal, Peru & Thailand to the important organizing efforts of elders training the next generation of leaders in Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Vietnam… I leave Reality Tours personally and professionally enriched with memories and experiences, and breathtaking vistas.

Malia with Yury, Ecuador Reality Tours program officer

To each of the program officers who so diligently work to take care of every creature comfort, airport transit, hotel reservation, and days and days of program confirmations, thank you for your solidarity!  It is such necessary work, yet it is painstaking and not so glamorous. When Reality Tours runs a 100 departures a year and 98 go off perfectly, nobody knows how much work it takes to make that happen! You are all stars.

Reality Tours would not exist without our members and supporters. Sometimes I’ve called you strangers, then associates and later friends, collaborators, teachers and alumni. I’ve shared some of my deepest human connections beside you, and cultivated some of my closest friendships.

Some of you “serial trippers” know I will miss traveling with you! Again, I could write volumes on what I have seen as humans blossom, when we disconnect from the phones, computers and to-do lists and when we truly spend time to talk, share and push our comfort zones to be and to grow. How many times have I lead a group when each person typically required 1-2 feet around them to have their “zone” of comfort, only by the end of a tour to see everyone touching arms and hugging their new friends good-bye? There are so many surprising rewards on a group travel experience.

Suffolk Univeristy group visiting an orphanage in Busia, Uganda

Suffolk Univeristy group visiting an orphanage in Busia, Uganda

For those of you I giggled with trying to find a bathroom to wash my fingers after blue ink was all over my face in Tehran, or scrambled to find  “relief” in the fields of Nagpur, India or tried out bartering in crafts markets in Amman knowing but a few words in Arabic, I thank you. To those I cried with, flooded by the power of the human spirit hiking through the Cu Chi and the Sarajevo tunnels; trying to get through check points from the Occupied Territories in Palestine into Israel; and being permeated by the horrific human costs of war in the War Remembrance Museum in Ho Chi Minh City and in Pyong Yang, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg… I thank you. To those I just held hands with as we heard the testimonies of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, and walking through the Killing Fields, I thank you. And, for those that I dragged out to teach salsa dancing to over and over, ya tu sabes, gracias.

Kevin and Reede being “Good Sports” as my sons dress up

Words cannot express my deepest appreciation to the Global Exchange founders Kevin Danaher, Kirsten Moller and Medea Benjamin to whom I  have been so blessed to work with. They each are hard working visionaries and phenomenal human beings, yet they are also friends, babysitters and cuddlers, and mentors. How I love and admire each of you!

Global Exchange has been a family to me. To all the members and staff, and especially to those that serve and have served on the Board of Directors, you are brothers and sisters and I thank you for your commitment to make this world a better place. Because of your tenacity and persistence, I know “another world is possible”.  I am who I am because of my years at Global Exchange, and I  look forward to moving forward pa’lante and continuing to using my life in service to humanity and to the planet, because its liberation is bound up with mine!

With Aloha,
Malia Everette

Yesterday I shared with you some of the background on our Reality Tours trips to Uganda. Today in Part 2 of this two-part series, you’ll read my firsthand account of traveling on a Reality Tours trip to Uganda:

Follow along on a Reality Tours trip to Uganda

Arriving into Kampala I recall the delightful heat of the air. I had to wait in line to purchase my visa and was behind a group of missionaries from the US who were eager and complaining about the slow speed of our processing. I felt awkward about one of the gentleman’s statements about bringing God to “these people” and decided not to engage in a discussion about salvation and religion at that moment. Instead, I pondered about what I was about to experience,  and the stereotypes I brought with me.

After arriving at the airport I was met by one of the hotel staff and was whisked away into the night for a long drive to the hotel. There I met up with some fellow trip participants, a group of free spirited students from Suffolk University. We sat and talked about our first day in Uganda. These young women knew the issues and were really excited and nervous to meet with youth from Sister Rosemary’s Girl’s Tailoring project the next day.

Over the course of the next week and a half we met with many individuals and organizations that are committed to rebuilding their communities and lives. We met with folks who work to rehabilitate and provide psychological support services to children who are former “child soldiers” and “bush brides”.

Here are highlights from some a of the many amazing stories that came out of this inspiring trip to Uganda:

Meeting with “Child Mothers”: Picture a large living room shared by about two dozen North Americans and two dozen Ugandans. We had invited two women from some of the groups  working with the child soldiers in Gulu and Lara to travel to Kampala to meet with our group, share their stories and exchange. What a fabulous encounter this was.

First we met with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe who is the Director of the St. Monica’s Girls Tailoring School located next to a refugee camp in Gulu, Uganda. Her school works with ‘child mothers’ -a term Ugandans use to describe women ages 12 to 18 who were abducted child soldiers.

During our visit, the young women shared personal stories of abduction and rape by their captors, their struggles to survive and their hopes for their future and for those with children, their families’ future.

The next day we were joined by Lina Zedriga (who now runs  the Trauma Healing And Reflection Centre-Gulu or THRACE-GULU) and heard similar but unique experiences shared by the youth under her care. Lina is a lawyer and magistrate who has tirelessly advocated for women, peace and security. We all listened silently to story after story told by the courageous young people, each of us connecting to the stories, some of us with tears, some of us with clenched arms, and others feverishly taking notes.

This was quite a moment for many of us, including the children who were able to listen and share with each other their stories of struggle. For many this was their first visit to the capital. As one of Lina’s girls spoke, she had to stop and gather herself to resume her story. Her strength was admirable.

As the exchange ended, we dispersed after hugs and thank you’s, ready to break for a spell before dinner. Some of the youth went off to play soccer. Over dinner our group processed and discussed, but also shared moments of laughter, a choir of voices, all of us mingling, talking, and sharing. I closed my eyes and listened to giggles and heard people talking about music and the best places to dance. Plans were made for groups to go out and enjoy some local night life.

Friendships had been made. I wrote in my journal that night a rhetorical question:

How can one so young, so innocent, see so much brutality, endure so much pain, inflict pain on others still find the internal reserve to live, laugh, heal and dance?”

I left Uganda imprinted with the faces of the children I met, remembering the image of one of them carrying a 25 kilo sack of sugar on her head into the bush, starting off on her hours-long trek. This travel experience left me with an amplified respect for the tenacity of the human spirit and with a broader understanding about our human capacity to endure, feeling compelled to hear truth, unconditionally love and take a stand.

Join Us on an Upcoming Reality Tours Trip to Uganda! Learn more  by joining us in Uganda this year. Visit our website for all you need to know about upcoming trips to Uganda.

Watch this great series! Check out  Bridge the Gap’s Uganda Series, a wonderful web-based TV program that highlights some wonderful transformational stories, including linking Uganda and community development to the importance of Fair Trade (through bees!)  Here’s a spot on Bridge the Gap about Global Exchange:

2011: Global Exchange: join the network for people’s globalization! from Global Exchange on Vimeo.

Prof. Judy Dushku with Ugandan Children, Suffolk University Delegation to Uganda

This is Part 1 in a 2 part series about Global Exchange Reality Tours trips to Uganda. 

History of Global Exchange Reality Tours Trips to Uganda: For decades many of us here at Global Exchange talked about adding more trips to Africa to our list of destinations. Given our  commitment to social justice advocacy, citizen diplomacy and socially responsible tourism surely there are dozens of African countries where folks would want to meet the people, learn the facts, make a difference.

It wasn’t until 2008 when we started seriously considering creating our educational human rights journeys to Uganda, just two years after we began working in partnership with the abolitionist organization Not For Sale.

As a human rights organization, we partner with like-minded organizations to educate groups of individuals who travel abroad to learn about the root causes of human trafficking and to inspire and mobilize participants into the international abolitionist movement.

After organizing delegations to many other countries to explore the issues of smuggling and trafficking of human beings for slave labor and sex slavery, we recognized the importance of examining what has been happening for decades in Uganda with the mass abduction of children into armed conflict.

Learning About Uganda:

Visiting the IDP Camps in Gulu, Uganda 2009.

I started reading about “child soldiers” and about the political struggles in Uganda and what led to the birth of the LRA (the Lord’s Resistance Army). Established in 1987 the LRA engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in what is now one of Africa’s infamous conflicts.

I visited Uganda and got the chance to visit one of the IDP camps (for internally displaced peoples). We drove by one of the old haunting spots of the LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, and I could not help but feel the immediacy of this place and the astonishment and fear that many must hold in their hearts for their leader.

Reality Tours Trips to Uganda Began:

Eventually we decided to develop a reality tour trip that would examine not only the beauty and biodiversity of Uganda, but also investigate the legacy of conflict and the last remaining active rebel group, the LRA.

The LRA is accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate in hostilities and incursions. LRA fighters have achieved a sad notoriety by turning on the Acholis people they claimed to represent, hacking off lips, ears and noses, killing thousands and abducting more than 20,000 civilians, mostly children.

The conflict continues to have devastating effects on the Ugandan people, Museveni’s political legitimacy, and countries in the region that have experienced increased strain due to the flow of irredentist populations. The need for people to learn from the stories of communities in Uganda that have been affected themselves compelled us to offer a series of delegations in the summer of 2009 called Human Trafficking in Africa and Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Trafficked Girls and Boys coerced into being Child Soldiers in Uganda.

That’s it for Part 1 of this 2 part series about our Reality Tours trip to Uganda. Tomorrow in Part 2 on our Reality Tours blog, I’ll share with you some of my memories and pictures of the Reality Tours trip to Uganda that I participated in. 

Join Us on an Upcoming Reality Tours Trip to Uganda! Learn more  by joining us in Uganda this year. Please also check out  Bridge the Gap’s Uganda Series. A wonderful web based tv program that highlights some wonderful transformational stories, including linking Uganda and community development to the importance of Fair Trade.  In fact, check out the Global Exchange spot live today!


This is the final post in an 8-Part “Giving Thanks” series, a Global Exchange exclusive highlighting individuals (chosen by Global Exchange staff members) who are contributing to our social justice work in some way. This series will culminate with a “Giving Thanks” video to be launched right here on Wednesday, November 24th. So please join us in recognizing those special individuals who are helping to make this world a better place.

Reality Tours Director Malia Everette Thanks Actress Eliza Dushku:

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
-Albert Schweitzer

Rick Fox, Malia and Eliza on Reality Tours delegation in Uganda

Today I have the honor of expressing my heartfelt gratitude to a woman who has rekindled and inspired the flame within me and countless others.  I am thankful that I have been fortunate to know Eliza Dushku as a fellow intrepid traveler, as a compassionate advocate for human rights and my favorite Boston diva friend who over the years has proven that one can effectively use their fan base to educate and advocate!

While many people know Eliza’s beauty, her well known role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and countless movies, what I have come to appreciate is her ability to be gracious and fearless in letting the world know what she cares deeply about. While there are a few courageous voices in Hollywood that speak out and use their clout, I often think of what a different world ours would be if those with such fame, access to media outlets and the public used it for social good.

Eliza has traveled with Global Exchange Reality Tours on many occasions and I know through her travel she continues the vibrant legacy of her mother (another strong woman, educator, advocate and mentor that I also have been blessed to know and work with for years customizing educational tours for her classes), and continues to engage in a multitude of ways on her own.

I met Eliza personally years ago on a Citizen Diplomacy delegation in Iran and then we journeyed together on an intensive delegation to Uganda that explored the issues of human trafficking, child soldiers, and sexual exploitation of youth.  Eliza as a participant is consistently engaged, honestly inquisitive and incredibly empathetic with our hosts. Upon returning back home, she shares her experiences with others as a spokesperson for many significant human rights issues.

A few weeks ago, Eliza mentioned coming on another tour soon and “changing the world one Reality Tour at a time” and I felt so pleased because she knows the incredible connective, transformational and educational power of travel.  While I believe that Reality Tours are a source for meaningful experiences that truly benefit not just the traveler but the hosts, it is also our intention that our travelers return home and share their experiences with others.

Eliza, thank you for sharing your experiences with us to your fans, for amplifying the voices of those you hear and for not just talking the words, but for walking the talk!

Who are YOU thankful for? Add your own thank you message in the Comments section to recognize someone you think is doing great social justice work. And if you feel so inspired, Retweet and Share this post to help spread the recognition all of our ‘Thankees’ deserve. Thank YOU.

Where you stand determines what you see…

In May of 2009, Erasmus Community students from the University of San Francisco went on a Customized Reality Tour to Uganda to learn about human trafficking with the Not For Sale Campaign.

During the delegation, the students met with various groups and organizations dealing with human rights, human trafficking, youth groups, met IDP camps, and more. The experiences and meetings were captured on film to originally just document the students’ travels, but then emerged into a documentary called ‘Ugandan Days‘ by Erika Myszynski. A synopsis of the film:

Initially created to document USF’s Erasmus Community students’ travels to Uganda, the trip became more than just an immersion, observation and social analysis of the Ugandan people. In researching child soldiery in war-torn Gulu (northern Uganda), many of us had been surprised to witness a world quite different from what we had read. Instead, we found a peaceful and progressive nation. The documentary reveals a people little scarred by their past struggles and Joseph Kony’s 23-year long war against order. Ugandan Days exposes how the war victims’ underlying pains are transformed into a humbling determination to improve the current situation. A message from Ugandans to Americans: Africa is not such a dark place. It is a place filled with  strength, community, resilience, and joy because of an undying hope to forgive and to survive.

Ugandan Days, a Documentary from Global Exchange on Vimeo.

A few words about the film from director, Erika Myszynski:

My documentary focuses on forgiveness and recovery—thus a major reason why Ugandans are still welcoming of foreigners and open to an understanding of our intentions. Social change or global improvement can only exist if people forgive one another and open their hearts, originating from faith in God and faith in community, which Ugandans embrace unconditionally. Fascinated by the Ugandan perspective on recovery, the video served as an inquiry for me into their faith and religion, both of which I discovered worked as their adhesive to keep their country unified and towards their hope for a better future. The Ugandans whom I met entrusted me with their stories and belief that I will share their truths as a plea to all Americans.

Watch the video and see and hear the stories of the people of Uganda through their own words.

Learn more about our Reality Tours delegations to Uganda or find out about our Customized Tours.