Global Work & Travel Vancouver, with offices around the world, connects people with volunteer opportunities working with vetted animal welfare sanctuaries worldwide. And profits get reinvested into saving even more animals in Canada and around the globe.
There was a time when a business had one goal: profit. Many businesses now operate with different motives. Socially responsible businesses recognize the importance of improving the world.
RAPS is fortunate to have the support of a number of British Columbia’s most forward-thinking businesses. One of the most impactful is Global Work & Travel, an agency that has animal wellness at its core.
“One of our core values is animal welfare,” says Thorsten Himmelmann, employee of the family business. “All of the family have had animals our entire lives. We very much support animals and animal charities in as many different ways as we possibly can.”
Global leverages the business to provide the most benefit to the most animals – all while helping people make a contribution to improving the lives of animals.
“We have volunteer trips all over the world,” he said. The company seeks out opportunities around the world for people to participate in. All partner agencies are thoroughly vetted to ensure they are not exploiting animals but only helping. Then the company organizes everything associated with the volunteer’s trip – with a chunk of the costs going directly to help the animal organization.
Trips include African wildlife conservation, sea turtle and sloth conservation in Costa Rica, dog and elephant rescues in Thailand, conservation efforts in the Galapagos, jungle animals in the Amazon, and many more.
There are superb animal sanctuaries and non-profits all over the world doing excellent work, says Himmelmann, but they are rightly focused on the work that is their area of expertise, and it is often the case that people are unaware of their work. A company like Global is able to promote them internationally to people who are committed to animal welfare, and make more people aware that they could spend their holiday immersed in a foreign culture while giving back to local communities and making a difference at the same time.
“We help people learn about the different initiatives and how they can get involved, arrange the visas, flights, and insurance to get them there, and then organize all aspects of the trip with our ground teams to ensure it’s an easy and enjoyable experience” he says.
“One of the charities that is really near and dear to our heart is called Rescue P.A.W.S. Thailand,” he says. The organization was co-founded in 2014 by Caryl Himmelmann of Global Work & Travel and Michael Volpe of XploreAsia. Thailand has a widespread street dog and stray dog population. Not only does Global fund Rescue P.A.W.S. to feed stray dog packs and trap the dogs so they can spay/neuter them and treat health conditions like heartworm and mange. They also send volunteers that get to help the cause while living on a beautiful Thai beach, help fund sanctuaries for dogs and even organize international dog adoptions for the lucky rescued dogs that meet adoption criteria. The company is always on the lookout for “flight volunteers” and adopters, and flight volunteers are given 2 free night accommodation at Rescue Paws and another free night in Bangkok. (Find out more here: https://rescuepawsthailand.org/flight-volunteers/)
“We have a lot of dogs in Nepal, Mexico and especially in Thailand that are adopted or can be adopted and are in our shelters,” he says. “With COVID and the lack of flights going internationally, one of the biggest challenges we face is getting the dogs over here to their forever homes. Usually select airlines allow one person to take up to five dogs with them. We are trying to reach out to anyone travelling from Thailand to ask if they want to be a flight volunteer.” Global then organizes the entire thing.
“All the flight volunteer needs is to say yes, we’ll then organize all the paperwork for them, drop off and check-in the dogs at the airport, and then we organize for the adopters to pick them up at the airport on the other side” he says.
Sometimes Himmelmann hears people say that we shouldn’t be bringing dogs from other countries because we have homeless dogs here in Canada.
“Dogs don’t have international borders,” he says. “They’re not Thai dogs or Mexican dogs, or Canadian dogs. Only humans put up these arbitrary borders. They are just loving, grateful, beautiful dogs that need a home.”
This philosophy dovetails ideally with RAPS’ values. We believe that where an animal lives should not determine whether an animal lives.
Additionally, Himmelmann points out, Canada has a comparatively short supply of rescue dogs seeking forever homes. This is a good thing, because it means that we have reduced the prevalence of stray, abandoned and homeless dogs, and demonstrates Canadians caring attitude towards animals. But for families who want to adopt rather than buy a dog, it means there are sometimes limited options depending on location and timing.
On top of all this, Global representatives also go into schools to help educate young people in Thailand about treating dogs and other animals humanely, as cultural differences don’t always allow for the education of treatment of animals.
In 2019, Global Work & Travel launched the Global Animal Welfare Fund. While directly funding organizations that support animal welfare, the fund also educates the public worldwide. They encourage people to travel ethically, avoid riding elephants or having their pictures taken with exotic animals because these often support exploitative practices. Being conscious of what one eats – avoiding regional specialties like shark fin soup or buying civet coffee, for instance – helps avoid financial support for inhumane practices.
“A lot of people don’t realize that in order to ride an elephant, you have to ‘break its spirit’, which is one of the cruelest acts you can possibly do, it involves physically torturing the animal until it effectively gives up on life” says Himmelmann. “Don’t take selfies with tigers or monkeys because they are usually highly drugged for the photo to take place, or severely abused, and then neglected and further abused once tourists are out of sight”.
They go further, promoting cruelty-free lifestyles and plant-based diets. The company’s offices only supply a range of plant-based milk rather than traditional dairy milk, and all company events are vegetarian because, says Himmelmann, factory farming is among the greatest contributor to environmental damage, including a main source of water depletion, carbon emission, and deforestation, noting that ~80% of the deforestation in the Amazon is for cattle-raising.
“On average over 30% of a person’s carbon footprint comes from the meat they consume,” he says.
Himmelmann’s family first connected with RAPS when they adopted a miniature schnauzer in 2009. They chose a very troubled little dog named ‘Guess’. She had been abused and because of her challenges had been returned to the Shelter by successive would-be adopters three times.
“So we took that little nightmare on and she definitely was a nightmare for the first year or so,” Himmelmann laughs. “But she became the most remarkable, loving, beautiful little creature I’ve ever met in my entire life.”
At the time, the family told RAPS they would like to adopt another dog. It was a few years later that they got a call saying another miniature schnauzer was available. They adopted Kenzo and he and Guess were best friends until Guess passed away a little over a year ago. Kenzo now has a new little brother, a 115 pound German Sheppard Mix from Nepal.
The Himmelmann family do not exchange gifts on Christmas or birthdays. They make donations to animal charities, including RAPS, and provide donation receipts in the recipient’s name. When RAPS opened the RAPS Animal Hospital, with the adjacent new administrative operations centre, Global donated superb quality office furniture that adds to the professionalism of the new RAPS admin offices. The company also donates frequently to RAPS’ programs.
The Global Work & Travel philosophy reflects a dramatic twist on more conventional approaches to a business’s bottom line.
“Yes, it is a business and businesses need to make money to survive, but for me it is important to ensure that any business provides as much benefit to the community as possible,” he says. “In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, once you have certain needs taken care of, what do you strive for in life? Once your basic needs are met, you climb the hierarchy to self actualization which then puts into perspective what is actually important in life. Giving back to local communities and striving to provide a better quality of life for others can provide much greater satisfaction than buying the newest iPhone”
The bottom line for Global Work & Travel?
“Animals provide so much beauty and so much benefit to our lives. It is on all of us to give back to them as much as they give to us” he says.