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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:42 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 18, 2005 12:19 pm
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Location: Carolina Conference, Southern Union Conference, NAD
What exactly is involved with going on an overseas mission trip with Pathfinders. I know about the travel documents, etc. However, I don't know how to get something like this started and properly planned. Can anyone help me with this?

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:35 pm 
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Location: Central New Hampshire
That's not an easy thing to do. We had the goal of going overseas, but after seeing how much it would cost and how long it would take us to raise that kind of money, we chose to go on a domestic mission trip instead (Holbrook Indian School, aka HIS). It's not quite the same as international travel, but the need there was very real, and the cost was much more reasonable. I would imagine the logistics to be similar, but on a lesser scale.

Our first step was to get the church board's approval. For that I needed a rough plan, which was that we would raise money until we had enough (or close to it). That took 2.5 years, which is pretty good, because that's also how long it takes us to raise money for Oshkosh. I guess it's sort of our five year plan now (2.5 years of fundraising for Oshkosh, followed by 2.5 years of fundraising for a mission trip).

Then we had to chose a destination. For that, the first thing I did was get buy-in from the PF staff. If they didn't want to go, there was no point in trying to force it. I could not have done it without their support. The second step was to get approval from the church board (again, but this time with specifics). The third step was to commit to HIS and let them know we had a green light. From that point on I was in regular contact with HIS to find out their policies, what they needed, to tell them our flight plans, etc.

Then more fundraising. To get cheap plane tickets, we needed to buy them online and get the non-refundable variety. This caused me a bit of a quandary. I have had people commit to something on a lesser scale, then the club pays the fee, and then they back out because "that weekend is my aunt's birthday" or something like that. It was important to me to prevent that, so I insisted that everyone who wanted to go needed to raise $100 themselves, and that $100 was NOT refundable.

I set a deadline for that $100. I also provided a way for those less fortunate in the club to raise the money via hard work. I bought Pizza Hut value cards. We got them for $1.00 each. I loaned any kid who needed it $1.00. They bought a card from the club. Then they sold it to me for $8.00. Then they paid me back my $1.00. Then they bought seven more cards and sold those to someone else. As they raised more money, they could buy more cards from the club.

But even with that, some kids were not able to raise the $100. I had church members approach me wanting to pay part of that for a kid. Which sounds good until Aunt Betty's birthday comes up again. So I asked them if they would be willing instead to donate money to have the church's carpets cleaned. If those kids wanted to go, the church would hire them to clean the carpets. I had six kids show up on carpet cleaning night, and enough donors to pay them enough for doing that to make up their lack. In other words, they WORKED for it. If they weren't willing to work for the trip, they would not be willing to work ON the trip either.

Once I had their "earnest" money, we bought tickets. That was in the first week of November for a trip at the end of February. The tickets were more than $100, but since the club had been raising money for two years, we had enough for that.

We made up a budget. We raised more money. When we had enough to go, we continued to raise money so that we could make a nice donation to HIS. The budget included one night at a hotel, car rental, airport parking, food, gas, incidentals, and material needed for our projects. The rest of the money went to HIS as a donation.

I made up medical release forms and got those out to the parents. When I got them back, I made photocopies so that every adult on the trip had a sealed copy of every kid's release. I had a meeting with the parents and told them how to help their kids pack so the TSA would let them fly. We had a packing drill a few days before the trip, and the staff went through all their luggage. You'd e surprised how many kids packed a 32oz bottle of lotion after I told them nothing more than 4oz.

I wrote letters to the school principals. They were unanimous in their excitement about a SERVICE trip.

Then I arranged for people to get us to the airport. On the day we left, I assigned kids to adults. Each adult had to keep constant tabs on two kids. That was way less stressful than me trying to count all of them every ten minutes.

The day before we left I found out that one of my adults did not have a passport or a driver's license. She is a refugee from Africa, so I was so confident she'd have a passport that I didn't even check. She DID have a state ID though, so that was a dodged bullet. You basically can't fly in the US without an ID if you're over 18.

One thing I would do next time is to tell the kids to keep their luggage/coats with them AT ALL TIMES. We had two different kids lose a coat or a bag - one was recovered at security and the other at a gate.

We landed in Albuquerque at 9:30pm and checked into a hotel. In the morning two other adults and myself went back to the airport to rent some minivans while the rest of the adults shepherded the kids through breakfast. All of that took about two hours more than it should have making us late when we arrived at HIS. We drove from NM to AZ, and then got to work just in time for Sabbath to arrive. Then we took a weekend vacation (of sorts). We were responsible for the church service on Sabbath, went for a hike in the afternoon, and then went to the Grand Canyon on Sunday. On Monday we got back to work again.

It was a LOT of work getting that bunch out to AZ and back, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Or however long it took to raise the necessary funds! We could not have done it without support from our church, a dedicated staff, and a great group of kids.

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The sooner you get behind, the more time you have to catch up.


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