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Bid for Good: Give Back by Traveling

201007-b-bodhi-logojpgThere’s no denying that over at T+L lately, we’ve been flushed with auction fever. First came Vacationist (a new private hotel sale site brought to you by T+L and online auction veteran Luxury Link), then last week it was Mystery Auctions. Who doesn’t love a good deal—especially if it’s for a great cause?

Which brings us to today’s auction announcement: The Bodhi Tree Foundation, a terrific first-of-its-kind nonprofit founded by heavy-hitters in the travel industry to fund worthwhile projects around the world (schools in Haiti, libraries in Mexico, tiger conservation in India, more), is auctioning off some amazing travel experiences.

Items range from city stays at NYC’s perennially chic 60 Thompson Hotel to bucolic getaways at the Four Seasons Resort Provence at Terre Blanche on the French Riviera. And the values are tremendous (as is the feeling you get from contributing to this visionary organization and important causes), but hurry—you have just another three days to bid!

Image courtesy of The Bodhi Tree Foundation

Oil and Water: How to Help Louisiana's Fishermen

john-beshjpg Let's put it this way: oil and water don't mix. Especially when it impacts the livelihood of fishermen still struggling to make a comeback after Hurricane Katrina devastated the fragile wetlands of Southeast Louisiana. Oil from the BP rig explosion has started to wash ashore in the Mississippi Delta, leaving the men and women of St. Bernard Parish high-and-dry. These are the hard-working people who traditionally harvest the crab, shrimp, oysters and redfish that land on the plate at New Orleans restaurants such as August, owned by chef John Besh (pictured). "Life in the extreme Southeast revolves around the water," says the Louisiana native. "This culture dates back 300 years. When I saw the oil rig collapse, it just crushed me. I can always source seafood elsewhere but it's the local shrimpers and fishermen who are affected most by this spill."

Along with 90210 actress AnnaLynne McCord, Besh donates to the St. Bernard Project, which supports fishermen and their families in the greater New Orleans community.

Here's how you can help too. Donate to www.stbernardproject.org.

Shane Mitchell is a special correspondent for Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Shane Mitchell.

Ultimate Challenge: Paddleboarding

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I gave up all hope of being a decent surfer long ago, but think I might regain some “Endless Summer”-cred on the paddleboard: apparently, if you can stand up, you can do it (even three-year-olds give it a go). But for professionals Jenny Kalmbach and Morgan Hoesterey, it’s not just fun and games—it's a mission.

Starting this month, Kalmbach and Hoesterey are boarding-their-way across Hawaii’s nine legendary open-ocean channels (some 250 miles) to raise funds for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, a Long Beach–based nonprofit. They’ll be trailed by two boats as a safety measure, but the journey won’t be easy: Kalmbach and Hoesterey will pass through the Alalakeiki Channel (a.k.a. the “Screaming Child”) and even end their trip with a moonlit crossing of the 85-mile-wide Kaieiewaho Channel (a leg that could take up to 20 grueling hours to finish).

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Alp-n-Rock: Global Apparel that Gives Back

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I recently discovered a designer whose attire I find irresistible—as I suspect it is (or will be) for many an active, trendy, and socially conscious traveler. Alp-n-Rock’s tees are chic, original, and eco-friendly (made in California from organic cotton and recycled materials); more importantly, they directly contribute to a wonderful philanthropic effort.

By purchasing an Alp-n-Rock shirt (which range from $85-$260), you’re helping to send a child to school. The apparel company donates 10% of its profits to Room to Read, an organization that finances education for girls in developing countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Zambia). Room to Read has already sent 4 million children to school and built 10,000 libraries; Alp-n-Rock founder Susanne Reich’s personal ambition is to give 1,000 girls an education using her brand’s proceeds.

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T+L Special Event: The Green Classroom

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I had the pleasure of visiting Sayulita, Mexico while helping out on a fashion shoot for T+L back in June 2007 with the amazing photographer Anne Menke, who has been living in the laid-back hippie town for five years now with her three sons and husband. (Anne recently shot the cover of our Family insert in the current March issue using one of her three sons and local kids, cover below.)

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Anne also founded the first green school in Mexico in Sayulita and will be holding a fundraiser for it March 1st at Splashlight Studios (75 Varick St., New York). There will be silent auctions on photographs from top photographers (including many of our own T+L shooters), hotel stays, fashion items, beauty products and more!

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Industry Leader Defends Cruise Calls in Haiti

The cruise industry’s largest trade organization let loose on critics of Royal Caribbean International today, saying that the cruise line is bringing relief aid to Haiti despite the ridicule and disdain that has been heaped on the company in the press and online message boards. Richard Sasso, chairman of the marketing committee of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), told a press conference this morning that RCI should be praised for its efforts, not criticized.

The controversy began soon after last week’s earthquake in Haiti, when the cruise line announced that it would continue visits to the undamaged port of Labadee and its private resort on the north side of Haiti, about 60 miles from the ruins of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The port calls have been characterized by some in the press and in the blogosphere as an out-of-touch decision to allow sunbathers and umbrella-drink aficionados to lollygag in the tropical sun while the number of dead and dying increased daily on the other side of the country. In fact, according to Sasso, the decision was driven by the need to deliver food, water, and other supplies at a time when the country’s main port has been nearly destroyed and its airport hampered by having only one working runway.

“They didn’t have to go back to Labadee,” said Sasso, his voice rising in outrage as he addressed a crowd of reporters at the annual CLIA media update in New York City. “Not now, not next year, or in three years. They put themselves out there despite all the criticism.”

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From an Expert: Haiti Donation Advice

Aid and relief agencies are rushing to assist the people of Haiti after yesterday's devastating earthquake. But they can't do it without you or, more accurately, without your money. Although it's really easy to donate your dollars, it is unimaginably difficult to actually help people. The best fund raisers in the business are not the best relief workers in the business.

If I learned one thing during nearly 18 years as an aid worker and journalist in Africa it is this: Nothing is simple. Helping people is much more complicated than just delivering food and medical supplies. To accomplish these tasks with even moderate success requires tact, skills, knowledge, and political savvy that can't be learned from books and newspapers.

So take a minute. And take some responsibility. As a donor, you are responsible for what is done with your money. And the wide range of organizations who need your money aren't going to do the same things with it. And how do you know what your favorite charity is planning to do in Haiti? Ask them. Demand that they put the information on their websites and in their PR material. It's not enough that they slap pictures of suffering Haitians online.

What do you need to know? First and foremost, is your favorite charity already working in Haiti? Have they had personnel there for years, with contacts in affected areas? Do the really know the country and the local leaders who will help deliver aid quickly and equitably to those who need it most?

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5 Ways to Help Haiti’s Earthquake Victims

If you’ve watched the news, been online, or spoken to anyone today, you probably know that a 7.0 magnitude quake hit last night 10 miles outside of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince—the strongest earthquake in Haiti in over 200 years.

The city's destruction is staggering: thousands of buildings have been leveled, including the Haitian National Palace, but more importantly, there are countless people missing and trapped in the rubble. Officials say that some three million residents, or one-third of the island nation's residents, have been directly affected by the disaster.

It’s no secret that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western world, and it needs our help now more than ever. Consider making a donation at one of these active, on-the-ground charities:

Red Cross: Text “HAITI” to “90999” to give $10 (your cell phone bill will be charged); donate online; or call 800-RED-CROSS

Haitian Musician Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Foundation: Text “YELE” to 501501 to donate $5

Doctors Without Borders: Donate online; email donations@doctorswithoutborders.org; or call (212) 763-5779

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Give Back: Four Seasons Launches Holiday Charity "Bedkit" Program

Beginning today through December 10, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts will be teaming up with Sleeping Children Around the World, a charity that donates "bedkits" to children in more than 33 countries around the world. For each gift card sold during this time period, the hotel chain will donate the cost of one bedkit to the organization.

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