“The Pied Piper of Passports”
That’s what Tracey Friley, founder of the grassroots global awareness initiative, The Passport Party Project, has been called by those who know of her work and passion. Since 2013 Friley has made it her mission to put a passport in the hands of as many 11 to 15-year-old underrepresented girls as possible.
The Passport Party Project has evolved through several phases. In Phase 1, Friley was able to successfully gift 100 girls with their first passport, traveled and educated new passport recipients about global citizenship, and then took six of those girls on a trip to Belize. In Phase 2, the six girls who were chosen to go on the culminating trip to Toronto were paired with travel mentors and completed six weeks of online global awareness training. Phase 3 continued with a similar model, concluding with 15 girls also traveling to Toronto, Canada. Currently, in Phase 4, Friley set a goal to put passports in the hands of 365 underrepresented youths, including 100 boys. Still staying true to the original mission, if there is a sponsored trip during any phase, it is for girls only. Those who go on the trips are required to pay a small financial supplement towards the adventure. As the pursuit to reach the goal of 365 passports in Phase 4 continues, 12 girls are getting ready to start their journey abroad on a 9-day trip to Costa Rica this July 2018, partially sponsored by G Adventures.
Friley serves as a conduit for interested participants and a resource for their parents by helping them through the process of obtaining a passport. Those who can complete the process are in turn “gifted” their passport through the reimbursement of the cost to obtain the document. “I just wanted to be of service,” says Friley. “I am clear about the value of a passport. It is a rite of passage. It is a ‘Global Permission Slip.’”
Though there are several criteria for qualifying for a passport scholarship, including good grades and a demonstrated ability to answer the questions on the application using their critical thinking skills, the thing Friley looks for the most from an applicant is that they answer each question from their heart. Candidates are asked to describe what it means to them to have a passport and to name three dream international locations they would love to visit. Candidates express interests in destinations worldwide.
After successfully completing the process and receiving their first passports, Friley begins the shift in the mindset of the young would-be travelers. With the possession of their new passports comes the responsibility of being seen by their peers as “ambassadors,” serving as examples for those who are interested in the program and spreading the message about the power of a passport.
Traveling abroad, and exposure to different cultures offers several teachable moments for Friley to impart key principles and takeaways for each ambassador, including:
- Being curious
- Learn something interesting before you go
- Attempt the language
- Meet the people
- Eat the food
- Learn the history
- Be culturally interested
- Learn to Read a Map and Not Just an App
- Understand what a global citizen is
They also learn that this journey makes them family. They learn about sisterhood, and how to look out for one another. With an emphasis on being fully immersed in the experience, it is also a policy that the ambassadors may not use their communication devices during the trip.
In order to be considered for this year’s trip, the ambassadors had to complete a 30-minute online course created by G Adventures which includes ways to “Travel Better” by learning about the significance of sustainable travel and then seeing how G Adventures’ sustainable travel model actually plays out first hand while in Costa Rica. Giving back has always been a key part of the experience on all of her trips, as participants have donated books to Libraries Without Borders, volunteered at a children’s orphanage in Belize, and a food bank in Toronto.
Through G Adventures, “Costa Rica Quest” has an itinerary packed with sights including the Arenal Volcano, Monteverde Cloud Forest wildlife adventure, a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park to watch the sunset over the Pacific Rim, and excursions such as ziplining, they will also allow the ambassadors to see sustainable travel in action on a visit to Mi Cafecito, a local community cooperative where the local people grow and sell coffee, which helps 200 farmers and their families.
Though Friley has stated that she doesn’t do this work for the awards, this trip definitely comes with a prize. On each trip, Friley has staff to assist with making the trip memorable and educational for each participant. This time she is joined by two young ladies who have been personally impacted by The Passport Party Project. Staffer Moriah was a recipient of a passport from the program at 13 and credits The PPP with being the first to encourage world travel & study abroad and contacted Friley to return the favor. Staffer Kendal traveled with Friley when she was 12 years old on a group trip to St. John USVI, before The Passport Party Project got its wings. They will be sharing how The Passport Party Project has influenced their lives, and Kendal will be helping the ambassadors with cultural immersion by facilitating daily lessons on the Spanish language.
Once the ambassadors arrive home, Friley expects that their experience will have a positive impact on their lives going forward. “I will not take credit for a child’s growth, but I like being a part of a village. I like being a part of planting seeds,” says Friley, who makes it clear that these trips are not to be seen as a vacation. Instead, this experience is a learning opportunity for the ambassadors to understand the importance of feeding their curiosity abroad and at home and in their own communities while becoming well-rounded humans.
Learn more about the Passport Party Project at www.passportpartyproject.org
Follow their mission and adventures through their hashtags: #PowerofthePassport #PassportPartyProject