Traveler intern Daniel Bortz talks with his cousin, who returned last month from volunteering in Swaziland and Southeast Asia, combing through photographs from his journey.
Jordan Weitzman, a 25-year-old lifelong Baltimorean, left his Charm City roots behind in January to embark on a four-month adventure. A first-time global traveler, Weitzman ventured to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, journeying through remote towns and villages in Southeast Asia on a volunteer program planned by Pacific Discovery that’s part community service and part cultural immersion. In Asia, he joined a group of 15 Americans and Canadians who helped build houses and toilets for underprivileged families in Cambodia, took orphans to a day at the water park, and taught English to monks in Thailand.
Then he flew to Swaziland in March for the Sports Development Project, a program designed by All Out Africa that aims to use sport as a vehicle for change. There, the group met a number of young orphans — children typically abandoned due to HIV/AIDS — keeping the kids stimulated, fit, and healthy by coaching them in sports like soccer and volleyball.
Here, Weitzman shares photos from his time volunteering in Asia and South Africa.
Follow the jump for more photos.
A boy in Lobamba, a small town in the Ezulwini Valley in Swaziland, tries on a pair of Weitzman’s sunglasses. Swaziland schools and orphanages operate in a region with one of Africa’s highest HIV/AIDS rates, where unemployment rates threaten future prospects for children.
A morning trek up Fansipan Mountain in Sapa, Vietnam leads to the highest vantage point in Indochina at 3,143 meters above sea level. Weitzman said that the view was beautiful but he enjoyed getting to know the town and interacting with locals more, like joining the Hmong in songs about life in Sapa, once a popular getaway for French colonialists escaping Hanoi’s summer heat.
The group stands proud at the start of the lazy river on a day trip to the water park. Volunteers for the program spent time with children from the local orphanage in Cambodia, joining them in the wave pool and on water rides for the day — a break from the summer heat that most of the kids can’t afford on their own.
Three children in Laos were among the youth who met the volunteer group and helped them build homes. “We got to teach English phrases to families at home-stays in Laos, which was nice because many of the kids had never read or spoken the language before,” Weitzman said.
Kids, age four to 12, embrace Weitzman outside their orphanage in Swaziland. Weitzman and nine others on the trip served as volunteers, assisting local teachers with classes in English, math, science, and geography. “I came from a pretty coveted childhood, so seeing kids so happy even though they had so little was really humbling for me,” Weitzman said.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
To volunteer for projects in South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana or Mozambique, visit All Out Africa, and to learn more about programs in Southeast Asia, visit Pacific Discovery.
Photos: Courtesy of Jordan Weitzman