Veteran Advancing Life volunteer and expeditioner Paul Taira has joined every expedition since the opportunity first arose. When he started his ASEA business, Advancing Life’s charitable efforts were already in his plans. He had heard before of other companies pledging service through nonprofit organizations, but it wasn’t until he joined ASEA that he witnessed a company service foundation follow through on every single promise it made.
The foundation’s motto to “break the cycles of poverty, suffering, and abuse” resonated with Paul because he saw that it meant more for Advancing Life than just handing out money, but also ensuring that all proceeds are used to help recipients in a sustainable way so that their success continues and their lives improve long after the volunteers have gone home.
Costa Rice, Mexico, & Ecuador
During the first Advancing Life event he attended in Costa Rica at ASEA Diamond Summit, the company contributed to replace desks and a roof for a school and install road signs to prevent tourists from making wrong turns into wildlife areas. On his first expedition to Mexico, he and the team helped build water cisterns, ovens, and stoves, and also helped repair chicken coops, for families whose main earner worked out of town five or six days a week and didn’t have time to maintain these resources at home.
“We were told the work we did in one week as volunteers would have taken each of these families a year to complete on their own,” says Paul. “Seeing how hard everyone was willing to work together, from young to old, was very heartwarming. The conditions weren’t optimal but everyone gave 100%. It was very labor-intensive but I was happy. The food was memorable, especially the homemade tortillas with each meal. Eating tacos late at night with friends in Tequisquiapan is a great memory.”
During his three separate volunteer trips to Ecuador with the foundation, he took on duties of digging ditches for perimeter fence walls, hauling and stacking bricks, cutting rebar, moving and fetching rocks, digging foundation footing holes, getting loads of materials for concrete, and helping put up roof paneling.
“I became good friends with some of the In-Country and CHOICE staff members and was able to borrow one of their trucks to take a group back and forth to the main building each morning and night,” says Paul. “Seeing the end result of the school getting ready to take on students and being there when they hooked up the electricity and turned on the lights for the first time was amazing.”
Making New Friends in Cambodia
In Cambodia, Paul helped hang wicker walls and paint the school as well as assemble new-mother kits and deliver them to local hospitals. He also helped bring school supplies to the local school.
“We were with a group of young children who were filling up water cans in a little pond. The water was dirty from animal feces and runoff from a car wash above, amongst other things, but this was their main water supply,” says Paul. “We helped them fill up some of their containers and couldn’t believe these young kids could lift them by themselves. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. This is a common feeling on the expeditions and gives you an appreciation for what we have back home, as well as an appreciation for the happiness that they’re able to have in their environment after we’ve helped make their lives a little easier.”
Connecting Community For a Lifetime
Paul feels like the Advancing Life expeditions have given him a deeper appreciation of his privileges because he has been able to connect with and help others in need. He appreciates being able to experience local culture in each place where he has served and enjoy eating their food and learning about their local history.
“I would encourage those who are considering joining the next expedition to look into the experiences of those who’ve been participating and talk with a supporter, if possible,” says Paul, “It’s important for people to know that so many others care about their well-being. It’s powerful to see someone else with whom you have no connection that is willing to come to your community and work alongside you to provide much-needed assistance. I think it is a demonstration of hope for humanity.”