Social media and the power of networking can transform travel and open opportunities to discover not only new things, but also to develop understanding of things that already interest us.

A couple of days ago, I arrived in Oaxaca. I then received a message from a Twitter follower, @DoGoodAsYouGo, of the Muskoka Foundation. Aware of my interest in photography, would I like to run a photography workshop for children at the Centro de Esperanza Infantil? And in any case, did I know there was a British guy, Marc, in Oaxaca who is also on an overland journey? Maybe we’d like to meet up?

So I contacted Marc and we met for a drink; exchanging stories as travellers do. He suggested I come on down to the centre, where he is volunteering for a short time. Well, why not. If I don’t have time to run a workshop, why not find out more about what they do there.

Centro de Esperanza Infantil A.C.

Today, I walked to the centre, situated just a few blocks from the zocalo. And although many tourists come to Oaxaca, and a lot will walk past this centre’s doors, few will know of this organisation and fewer still will go through the doors to find out more or help.

Started in 1996, it now helps over 600 children from low income families get an education. A good start in life. By donating $250 (US), this will cover all the costs needed for a child to go to school, including uniform, books and equipment. For families who live on less than a $1 a day, education for the children may be otherwise unattainable.

Since the funding only covers direct educational costs, the children may still be found working on the Oaxaca streets in te evenings, selling sweets and cigarettes. It’s a tough life. But here is where the centre comes in. Open doors, the children can come in at any time of the day. For a meal at lunchtime. For play, and help with their homework after school. Additional activities and workshops are run by volunteers. The idea is to instill the importance of a good education and help provide it.

The centre was quite busy when I visited, with small groups of children engaged enthusiastically in various activities, from reading, art and games. Lots of happy faces and smart uniforms.

The Muskoka Foundation

The Muskoka Foundation is an organisation aimed at helping travellers who want to do some good on their way by using what they know, by making contact with organisations and providing the necessary resources to enable the travellers to work effectively.

Since my interest is in photography, I could run a workshop at one of the joint organisations, such as the centre in Oaxaca. The syllabus, cameras and other resources are already in place. It is flexible enough to run for a long as you have time for, whether just a couple of days or longer.

Other areas, besides photography, include business, marketing, music, education. So whatever you interest or expertise, there is some way to get involved.

If you would like to sponsor a child to get an education, see the Oaxaca Street Children grassroots website.

If you are travelling or making plans for a trip and would like to do some good as you go, the see the Muskoka Foundation website