Turning on a Solar Powered Light in Tanzania

Solar Power in Tanzania: Why is it important?

Solar Power in Tanzania: Why is it important?

Installing Solar Panels in Tanzania

By Margo Brookfield

What do you think of when you turn on a light in your home? Have you ever stopped to think about how fortunate you are to have electricity, the ability to watch TV at any hour of the day, charge your electronics, have a light to read by? Most of us have probably never given it a second thought. But the unfortunate reality is that approximately 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity. That is roughly 17% of the global population. Meanwhile, another 2.9 billion people burn wood or other biomass fuels for light, to cook food and to heat their homes. This results in harmful indoor air pollution that causes millions of deaths each year. Electricity is such a privilege, and one which many people in the world do not have access to.

The downside to not having electricity in Tanzania

In Tanzania, there are many benefits for a family to have electricity in their home, and a lot of negative side effects for the entire family if they do not. In Tanzania, only 15% of the population has access to electricity. That is far, far below the average for the rest of the world. When families in Tanzania do not have electricity, their children are unable to continue their studies after daylight. Since Tanzania is very close to the equator, the sun rises and sets at around 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day, respectively. Without light, families are confined to the hours of daylight to do what they need to do.

Many families utilize kerosene lanterns for light. Though this does allow families to have light after sunset, kerosene is expensive, often costing nearly 1 dollar per liter. For families living in poverty, often on less than 1 dollar per day, this is quite a bit of money out of their daily budget. Kerosene is not only expensive, but the emissions from kerosene lanterns can be very harmful to the health of the family. And if it is not kerosene, it is wood burning stoves or the burning of other fuels for lighting, heating, and cooking that have shown to have incredibly harmful health hazards, causing over 4 million deaths annually from indoor air pollution.

Benefits to Electricity

For a local family the benefits to having solar power in Tanzania are abundant. There are immense health and monetary benefits to electricity, including the elimination of indoor air pollution from kerosene lanterns or burning wood, and money saved from not having to purchase these sources of fuel. When given light, children are able to study after the sun has set and finish their homework for the following day in school. Furthermore, many women make beautiful beaded jewelry and trinkets to be sold in the market. This is a valuable source of their income, and if they cannot work beyond 6 pm this significantly cuts down on their profits and the number of bracelets or necklaces they are able to create and sell.

One of the most important reasons that electricity is important in East Africa is a thing called M-Pesa. M-Pesa is a mobile phone-based money transfer system, where essentially all transactions are done via cell phone. Nearly everyone in Tanzania uses M-Pesa, as you can make deposits, withdrawals, transfers, or even pay for goods and services with a simple text to someone else’s mobile device. Mobile phones are such a crucial part of life in Tanzania, and nearly everyone has one. The problem is, when someone has nowhere to charge their mobile phone then they are unable to access their money, or pay for their food at the market. Often people will walk for miles to a “pay-to-charge” station, which not only is costly but also takes a lot of time out of someone’s day to walk to and from this charging station. With electricity in the home, they can charge their mobile devices and have access to their money at any time.

But how to get electricity to remote Tanzanian villages? Answer: solar power

Solar power is energy harnessed from the sun. It is not only a wonderful source of sustainable and renewable energy, but it is a relatively low maintenance way of lighting your home. As long as the sun is still shining, humans can utilize this resource. This is important because in much of Tanzania, there is not a power grid for families to use. Therefore they need a source of energy that is independent of any power grid, and ideally one that is free of cost. Solar power covers both of these bases. With these solar systems, families are provided with two or three light bulbs (usually one indoor and one outdoor), a charging station for their phones, and the capability to hook up a television if they so desire. The battery for this system can last for 8-10 years if they are well maintained, giving families a phenomenal opportunity and a sustainable solution to their lack of light.

How can you make a difference?: ARCC Tanzania summer trip!

On the ARCC Tanzania: Safari and Solar trip, you could have the opportunity to provide this much needed solar power in Tanzania by helping install systems for families in need. Working with ARCC’s wonderful partners, you have the opportunity to learn more about solar energy. Students learn how to build the solar batteries, complete the wiring for the systems, and actually go install them in the home of someone who has never had electricity before. ARCC’s partner does a day-long workshop with the students to teach them about how solar works, how the batteries work, how to go about constructing and wiring all of these parts, and even has every member of the group calculate how much energy their household uses at home in order for them to gain perspective. Not only will you gain valuable skills in learning how to use power tools, and wire the light bulbs into a home, but you can have the opportunity to change someone’s life forever by giving them light.

Tanzania Solar Project 1

And if you are interested in learning more about ARCC’s Tanzania summer trip? Check out the Tanzania: Safari and Solar summer program for more information on how to get involved


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 years. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.

Sunset on Safari in Tanzania

Traveling in the Footsteps of ARCC’s Africa Service Programs

Traveling in the Footsteps of ARCC’s Africa Service Programs

Sunset on Safari in Tanzania

By Scott von Eschen, ARCC Programs President 

My family and I just returned from two weeks exploring Tanzania and Kenya. While this wasn’t an official ARCC scouting trip, we met and stayed with ARCC’s local Africa partners, traveled by overland truck crossing international borders much as we do in our Africa service programs for teens.

Witnessing The Impact of ARCC’s Africa Service Programs
It was an amazing journey. We first visited communities where ARCC’s Africa service programs, Tanzania: Safari & Solar & Africa Gap semester, have built and installed solar lighting into homes over the past 10 years and will continue to do so for years to come.

It was particularly moving to witness firsthand the impact ARCC students have made through these simple–solar panel and several bulb–solar power installations. By providing power to homes in this remote section of the world, our students have accomplished something few ever do, they have changed the day-to-day quality of life for an entire family. ARCC students have given people access to light in their homes. No longer do they use expensive and dangerous kerosene lanterns. Importantly, families can now also charge cell phones in their homes instead of walking miles to a central charging station. Cell phones in Africa are critical tools not just for communication, but also for conducting financial/banking transactions and for doing homework. We came away so proud of a decade of hard work put in by countless ARCC groups and excited for future groups to continue this impactful project.

Seeing the Great Migration First-Hand
The most anticipated section for our family was our safari in Tanzania’s Serengeti. Even though I’d been through this area before, my family had never visited Africa. Not unlike the students on our Africa service programs, the excitement was palpable as we set out the first day in search of wildlife.

There is nothing quite like seeing your first zebra in the wild. It’s hard to describe it, but when you round a corner to find a zebra standing alongside the road it is a special moment. There are lots of giggles and pointing, the cameras all come out at once and start clicking away. Then, just when seeing zebras becomes routine, you spot a giraffe casually grabbing a meal of acacia tree leaves a few feet from your vehicle. Or you spy a dozen plodding elephantine beasts on the horizon becoming larger and larger as they lumber in your direction and cross the road a few feet from your safari vehicle.

Little did we know that over the course of the next three days we would see tens of thousands of zebras, and countless other animals participating in the “Great Migration” as millions of animals circle the Serengeti in search of green grass and fresh water.

And then there are the lions. Disney’s The Lion King had it right. Nobody messes with the lions. Seeing these powerful creatures up close for the first time is exhilarating, and a little frightening. If they wished, they could easily leap into the opening in the roof of our vehicle. But apparently, we are not as tasty as the ‘brown jumpy things’ that populate the savannah so we are pretty much ignored.

For me, the Serengeti is a step back into a different era; it’s almost prehistoric. An endless sea of waving grasses, rugged rocky bluffs and oddly shaped animals reminiscent of dinosaurs–rhinos, hippos, ostriches, giraffes, and elephants–can be seen in almost every direction. Other than the dirt road on which we travel, no sign of man is apparent from horizon to horizon. Each species, including the homo sapiens in the safari vehicle, is acutely aware of their own status in the food chain, and we all behave accordingly, wary of some, and in pursuit of others.


ARCC Summer Service Programs and Gap Semester Programs offer opportunities for teens and high school graduates to live, work & volunteer in some of the most interesting areas of the world. Learn more about our Tanzania service program by calling a regional director at 415-332-5075 or email info@adventurescrosscountry.com.

10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year

10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year After High School

10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year After High School

10 Reasons to Take a Gap Year

It’s no coincidence that more and more American students are taking a gap year before heading off to college. Every year, more high schools, colleges, counselors, parents and students are embracing this opportunity to take a break from the traditional classroom and explore the world in which we live. There are so many reasons to take a gap year too! Beyond the fact that this is a natural time to take a break and apply classroom learnings to real life situations, there are proven benefits both in the short and long term to students who take gap years. Here are a few of our favorite reasons to take a gap year.


Gap Year students show a clear pattern of having higher GPAs than would otherwise have been predicted, and the positive effect lasts over all four years.1

88 percent of Gap Year graduates report that their Gap Year has significantly added to their employability.1

The highest rated outcome of Gap Years is that of gaining “a better sense of who I am as a person and what is important to me.”1

Gap Year students are perceived to be ‘more mature, more self-reliant and independent’ than non-Gap Year students.1

Many teenagers in other countries wait a year after high school before heading to college. In Norway, Denmark and Turkey, for instance, more than 50 percent of students take a year off before college.1

Taking a Gap Year helps students discover what they are passionate about through real world situations and helps inform education and career choices down the road. This leads to higher satisfaction with school and employment over time.

In an increasingly competitive educational arena it has become difficult to set oneself apart from peers. An intentional and productive gap year can do just that by offering students the opportunity to gain practical life skills, take on leadership opportunities, and develop skills needed to stand out from those coming straight out of high school.

Gap Year students often make some of their closest friends during their Gap Year. Shared interests, the desire to experience the world outside of the classroom, and the willingness to stretch beyond one’s comfort zone foster a dynamic space for life-long friendships to form.

Gap Year students have proven to be more engaged in leadership opportunities and extracurricular activities on college campuses.

Ask five people older than you if they wish they’d taken a Gap Year before college… The answers will speak for themselves. We’ve never heard any one regret taking a Gap Year, in fact, almost unanimously people have stated that they wish they’d taken a Gap Year!

Armed with these reasons to take a gap year it shouldn’t be hard to see the long term benefit this formative break from the classroom can have. It’s no surprise that more colleges are not only supportive of students who want to take a gap year, but actually encourage it. Even Ivy League schools are saying it’s a great idea to take a gap year.


ARCC Programs has offered summer service programs and gap year programs for teens for over 30 years. With programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a Gap Year program on our website or request a catalog today.

1American Gap Association (n.d), Data & Gap Year Benefits, Retrieved from http://www.americangap.org/data-benefits.php

ARCC Alumni In Focus: Willa Imhoff

ARCC Alumni In Focus: Willa Imhoff

Meet ARCC Gap and Summer alumnus Willa! Willa first came to ARCC in 2014 as a student on our Tanzania: Safari and Solar service program. She had such a positive experience with ARCC in East Africa that she decided to take a Gap Semester in Latin America with ARCC  in the Fall of 2015. She hails from Healdsburg, California and is currently attending Colorado College (as a winter start)!

Q: Why did you decide to take a Gap Year?
A: I decided to take a gap semester because I am very passionate about traveling, and I was young for my grade. I was in no rush to start college, and knew that having a semester to see the world and experience different cultures, regions, and people could only benefit me and put me in a better place to start school.

Q: What’s your favorite memory from your Gap Semester?
A: My favorite ARCC memory was our three day in a homestay in a rural community of The Amazon in Ecuador. It was a huge culture shock and I saw a way of life that I had never encountered before. I got to see what regular day life is like for a cocoa farmer and learned a lot about their culture. There was so much to experience here: we helped plant yucca, cut back brush with machetes, canoed down the Amazon in a rustic canoe, played with children, bathed in the river, ate beetle larvae, fished for piraña, and learned how to prepare chocolate. Of course, there were challenges during those three days, but the experience was out of this world and I learned so much.

Q: How your ARCC Gap Semester experience inspired you?
A: My ARCC experience inspired me to travel more and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.

Q: What advice would you give to students considering a Gap Year?
A: My advice to future students would be to travel with an open mind, adventurous spirit, and to not be afraid to try new things. The world is filled with so many amazing opportunities, and if you are lucky enough to be on an ARCC trip, you will learn so much about the world and yourself.

Q: Why did you choose to take your gap semester with ARCC?
A: I chose ARCC because I had gone on a Summer trip with them the year before, and had loved every second of the trip. I knew that ARCC had decades of experience and did an amazing job with itineraries, activities, focus of studies, and choosing leaders as well as students.

Q: How did your instructors inspire you?
My instructors inspired me to do what I love and to always have a good attitude in life. To be kind to everyone and to not be afraid to apply myself in the world.


Are you an ARCC Summer or Gap Alumni who wants to share your story? Let us know by emailing us at info@adventurescrosscountry.com. Discover all of our Gap Programs and Summer Trips by visiting our website at www.adventurescrosscountry.com

What to Ask When Choosing Summer Travel Programs

What to Ask When Choosing Summer Travel Programs

Choosing the right summer travel programs for high school students can be an overwhelming experience for many parents. After all, you are putting your trust in the hands of new people in places that are often far off the beaten path in distant corners of the world. Asking the right questions can help alleviate many of these concerns and allow your teenager to embark on a life changing experience and leave parents with peace of mind at the same time. Here are some questions that you should ask and know the answer to before you send your child overseas or even across the country.

What kind of projects will my child be participating in? Will they be pulling weeds, cleaning up trash, helping patients in a clinic, teaching local children or all of these? Knowing who benefits from the volunteer work can not only help determine what kind of impact is being made on the local community but also what kind of impact it will have on the camper.

Has the company worked with the scheduled project(s) before? Is there a service curriculum? Are the students briefed, facilitated and debriefed as to the service project? Being immersed in a new culture can be overwhelming, it’s important that campers learn about local customs and the challenges local communities are facing before they start their project so that they can fully absorb the benefit of their work and the impact they are making.

How big is the group? Who is in charge of the students? Are they used to dealing with teenagers? Are they comfortable with teenagers in a community service work setting? Group dynamics are a vital part of creating the positive experience. Group leaders that are used to working with and have training mentoring teens are essential. Look for leader to student ratios of no more than 1:9 so that each camper gets the attention and experience they deserve.

Will students stay in the same location on the same project the entire time, getting to know villagers in this “home away from home”? Or will they be moving around? While many people want to be able to take in a whole country or region during their time at camp, you don’t want your camper to be spending all of their time getting from place to place. Make sure that there is plenty of time spent on the ground and there is opportunity for them to immerse themselves in places and people they are visiting during their summer travel program.

What are the safety protocols? What happens if a camper gets injured? How do you make sure that the places you are visiting are safe? Make sure that the summer travel program is focused on safety is of primary importance. Check that each day is thoroughly planned out well in advance of departure and ask questions about areas and locations that concern you. Leaders should have some level of first aid training so that they are able to respond to any needs as they arise. There can be vast differences between different first aid certifications (WFA or WFR for example) and the training and the requirements to obtain them so make sure to know or ask about the differences.

Service travel is an incredible impactful way to spend a summer. Campers form incredible bonds with their peers in places they have only seen in pictures, gain broad new perspective and make a difference in the world at the same time. By being armed with the right questions, you can ensure the best possible service travel experience for your teenager and a bit of piece of mind for yourself while they are abroad.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 years. With programs on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.

Sumatra & Bali: Scouting ARCC Indonesia Volunteer Projects

Sumatra and Bali: Scouting Indonesia Volunteer Projects

Hello from the village of Halaban, on the island of Sumatra, in the country of Indonesia. We are scouting out indonesia volunteer projects for our newest program, a summer program for high schoolers in Sumatra & Bali. We are about 4 hours north of Perth, Australia and about 2 hours east of Thailand. I mention this as many people aren’t aware exactly where Indonesia is located. This island nation is a fascinating blend of cultures with over 50 languages spoken here.

The people are “Thai friendly” and incredibly welcoming. They are genuinely curious about Americans and are quick to smile and start up a conversation testing whatever English they know.

I’m writing this in a tiny rural village on the fringe of some of the most pristine rainforest on the planet… the famed Sumatran rainforest, home to some of the most the endangered species in the world, including the Sumatran Orangutan. We are here with representatives of the Orangutan Information Centre who have been our guides for the last few days as we finalize our program to understand the plight of the Sumatran Orangutan.

I am sitting with a laptop at an outdoor table at what is the village’s only “store”—actually a home with goods for sale street side. Everybody that walks or rolls by on their “moto” gives me a quick hello and a shy smile. It is a Sunday night. The kids have all bathed in a nearby stream and people are relaxing in that post Sunday dinner lull familiar to families worldwide. The local male twenty-somethings are gathered a few feet away chatting as our guide, Febroni, is strumming his guitar and humming American pop favorites. Their counterparts, the twenty-something women, wander around in their PJs visiting neighbors. The sound of thunder and distant flashes are a reminder that we will probably be in for another huge rainstorm tonight as it is the rainy season here.

Our hunt for information about the Orangutan has lead us on a fascinating journey. We have visited an Orangutan hospital and rehabilitation center, met with world experts on the plight of the orangutan and trekked with National Park Rangers in search of (and finding!) orangutan in the wild.

Our visit to the Orangutan hospital was both heartwarming and alarming. We witnessed the amazing work being done by a mixed team of foreigners and Indonesians providing care to over 50 orangutans. Some are severely injured (you can see the air gun pellets embedded in them with x-rays) and some are simply treated for minor issues before being released back into the wild. Seeing orphaned orangutan babies is heart wrenching, but they quickly get you laughing with their hilarious antics and facial expressions. They are the definition of “cute”.

Witnessing the orangutans up close, you realize what magnificent — and eerily humanlike — creatures they are. Despite being endangered, they are hunted, trapped and starved out of existence. Our hope is that ARCC’s Sumatra and Bali: Operation Orangutan program will give our students a glimpse at the challenges facing the orangutan and those working tirelessly to save them.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 years. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.

Discovering Cuba: Leading Our First Teen Service Program in Cuba

Discovering Cuba: Leading Our First Teen Service Program in Cuba

On our first day in Cuba, someone told me that Cuba “no tiene sentido ni razón” (has no sense or reason) and with each passing moment in Cuba, this becomes more apparent.

As a leader, this is my seventh ARCC trip — I am used to being flexible and rolling with the punches, but leading a teen service program in Cuba takes this to a whole new level.

It’s a special time here. We are the first to run volunteer trips in Cuba, and while our plan was originally to build a porch for a boy with cerebral palsy, right now there are no cement blocks in this part of Cuba. Our partners have been trying to locate blocks for some time; when they go to government and private stores, they are met with the same response: a shrug and a simple “no hay” (there are none).

Taking a Trip To Cuba with ARCC
I’ve realized that we are not taking a trip in Cuba, but that Cuba is taking us on a trip and we are all enjoying the ride. The work is incredibly rewarding. The widowed grandmother taking care of her disabled grandson smiles and thanks us profusely. We gain some perspective on our lack of blocks when we are told that the stores don’t even carry water, or that this grandmother has been asking the government for a new bed for years.

Meeting Cubans Face-to-Face
The locals taking care of us share openly their thoughts of the government, and we sit in awe imagining the lives of Cubans in this moment in time. Still, there is something amidst all of this that pulls us in: Our Cuban friends, the cars, the horse-drawn carriages, the delicious pork, the crowded buses that appear to be straight out of the USSR. We are practicing our Spanish and interacting with a lot of Cubans in a way few Americans have.

This is a service program, but we decompress in the heat of the Cuban afternoons and talk about our experiences; we splash at the beach and debrief our days. We play riddles at dinner for hours, and chant, sing, and dance at evening circle. The group is bonding quickly, and we have an amazing group of kids who play along with our games and enjoy being ridiculous with us. Cuba may not have sense or reason, but it is rubbing off on us…and I’m beginning to wonder if sense and reason are overrated.

Written By ARCC Leader Shannon T.


ARCC Programs has offered summer service & travel programs for teens for over 30 years. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.

Capping Off An Unbelievable Summer Program in Peru

Capping Off An Unbelievable Summer Program in Peru

June 11, 2015
Clear blue skies, intense sun rays, and a cool breeze greet us as we emerge from our communal sleeping quarters in Patabamba, Cusco, Peru. Slight solemn smiles are smeared across our faces. The reality that we were leaving our homey village was combatted by the excitement for our river adventure. Our stay at Patabamba was something we didn’t expect. Upon arrival, we were worried that we would be uncomfortably dirty, painfully underfed, and unable to sleep. But to our surprise, our stomachs were always full, the dirt and grime brought us joy and the mega beds kept us well rested.

Our final meal of pancakes, sweet bread, and Nescafe is groggily eaten. We load our bus to the Urubamba river and our cheeky river guide Eduardo introduces us to hispanic pop music as we weave our way down the mountain. Our chest fill with oxygen as we embrace the lower altitude.

Our bus ride concludes at a put-in spot on the side of the road where we get out and down our many layers of gear to protect us from the frigid water of the river. The communal feeling of embarrassment led to giggles and huge smiles. We stare at the flowing river and feel a bit underwhelmed knowing class 3 rapids are our biggest challenge. Still, the tall Andes mountains tower over us and the snow capped peaks watch us from a distance as we float down the river.

Time spent in flat water is filled with splash bottles, loud cheers, and other games which keep us entertained. The sacred river’s shore is lined with ruins and farm animals. The authenticity is overwhelming. These are the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo, they are hundreds of years old, yet the engineering feats keep our mouths wide open today.

The rapids are exciting. Cold water splashes our faces and fills our boats. Some people ride at the front of the raft, to make the most minor moments substantially more exciting. Screams of shock and joy screech over the roaring waters. We attribute most of it to the 10 degree (Celsius) water though.

Our arrival at the end of the journey is incredibly satisfying. Fried chicken, rice, and avocado salad accompanied by cake and Oreos end our final adventure perfectly. We could taste home in the food but the mountains and people keep our hearts in Peru.

The bus ride to Cusco after the river is “hype”. We fuel up on American snacks, and climb back up the mountain. Our leaders show us their interesting taste in music and we dance and sing along to Backstreet Boys, Rihanna, Shaggy and other artists who created the jams of our grade school days. The bus rolls into Cusco, our final destination. We can’t believe we were back and the trip is almost over! The warm showers wash the negative thoughts away. Four days of grime definitely wilts our energy but after refreshing our mind and body, we sing louder than ever and run about the hostel. The scene is juvenile but we don’t care. Besides, evening circle is almost here and by the time it’s over, we’ll almost be asleep.

The following day was sad to start. The thought of leaving brought us down but adventure always prevails. We explore Cusco, eat Peruvian McDonald’s and drink delicious coffee. Lunch is inhaled, but naps follow appropriately.

Once rested we disembark on our market excursion, stopping to buy gifts for all the people we miss back home. We now prepare for our final feast with excitement to look handsome and pretty though our hearts are heavy as we bring this amazing journey to a close.

On Day 1, we wore the masks that hid some of the most beautiful perks of who we are. As days went by and conversations got deeper, we began to reveal our faces. We began to embrace each other for our similarities and for our differences. It will be hard to go home knowing we might not ever see each other again. It will be hard to re-assimilate to the fast-paced, stress filled lives that we live in the States. We have these memories to hold on to. When we lay in bed, worried about God-knows-what, we can think back to the smiles, the laughter and the tears. We can be comforted by the memories, knowing simplicity and genuine happiness do exist and we were the lucky ones to experience it.

Favorite Memories from our trip:

Jennifer G.: A favorite memory of mine from the trip was the second day we were at the school. When we arrived there 4 or 5 little girls ran over to me and gave me a huge hug because they were so excited to see me again.

Adair S.: Something that I will never be able to forget from this amazing trip is hiking up and all around Machu Picchu at sun rise and the very long hike down to our hostel.

Carson C.: My favorite memory of this trip to Peru was standing above the city of Machu Picchu and watching the sun rise over the looming mountains to the east.

Noah C.: My favorite memory was when the 14 year old school boy hugged me and gave me 2 bracelets after two days of playing soccer with him despite his obvious nervousness.

Jacob Z.: One of my favorite memories from the trip is helping out at the primary school. There, the kids at the school and I worked together to learn English and Quechua, and we developed powerful friendships. We were also able to share our mutual interest in playing soccer, which is the same game halfway across the globe.

Paul E.: Whitewater rafting because of the exercise and meal after.

George W.: One of my favorite memories on this trip was staying at Patabamba and staying as a group. I thought that was one of the best bonding times both as a whole group and “bro-time”.

Olivia L.: I have many favorite memories from our trip it’s so hard to decide. One memory that really stuck out to me was the last day and the school we were working at. We got to sit with the little kids and just spend time with them all day. I loved how they were constantly giving us hugs and holding our hands. Another favorite memory of mine was our bus ride to Pisac. We were all singing and enjoying each others company as we saw mountains out the window. That hour was filled with so much joy and laughter and really described an ARCC trip to me.

Raquel R.: One of my favorite things that has happened over the trip is bonding time with everyone. Every night all of us kids would gather in one room and just talk for hours. Because we don’t have our phones with us, we were basically forced to talk to each other. Thankfully, that has brought us all closer over this short time. We have learned so much about each other, and still have lots more to discover. We are all going to stay in touch and hopefully all meet together again.

Caleb G.: It is nearly impossible to pin point my favorite memory of the trip. Everyday was as incredible as the next. I could say something simple like the sunrise at Machu Picchu or white water rafting. I could say experiencing the culture at Patabamba or working with the students. But those do not trump the simple moments. Specifically, in Patabamba, the entire group was laying in the girls room. It was after dinner, everyone was freezing and everyone was craving warmth. We piled into the “mega ed” and conversations erupted. Happy memories and sad memories were told, jokes were cracked, and memories were made. In that moment, we solidified our bond and became a family.

Ben B.: My favorite memory of the trip was when we were leaving the school on the first day. As I waved goodbye to the children in my class, I started to walk out of the classroom, and realized I was wearing child ankle weights. Waddling a few steps with my new little amigos, leaving with a permanent smile.

G. Gray: Seeing the ocelots and Andean deer in the animal sanctuary because they were really cute and I’ve never been able to pet a deer before.

Michael G.: I had the most fun when we were all together in one room fighting over the hacky sack, because it was when everyone was acting like their true selves and bonding and laughing.

Caroline R.: I had multiple favorite memories from our last 2 weeks from mega-bed, to hiking Machu Picchu, to co-ed bonding time, but overall my absolute favorite memory was meeting all of our amazing group. I love you all!

Maggie B.: My favorite memory was getting to know all of the other campers. I liked this because we didn’t need technology to keep us entertained. We could talk about anything without anyone judging us.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 year. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.

Scouting the ARCC Cuba Summer Program

Exploring Cuba in Search of an ARCC Summer Program

Hola de Cuba, I am already enchanted by this wonderful nation filled with contrast: a spirited, vibrant population, mired in an infrastructure circa 1959, but extremely proud of their people, their country and their traditions, and always looking forward. Driving through the cities and small towns and seeing street after street of crumbling facades of once magnificent colonial buildings, you can’t help but wonder “what might have been?”.

But while “El Revolution” has been tough on the architecture, almost 60 years of isolation has also produced a strong and self assured people tempered by decades of shortages and neglect. There is a hint of an “us against the world” attitude, and yet the people are intensely curious about the United States and are delighted by the thawing relations. Some are frustrated by their government and the tough bureaucracy, but they will be the first to praise Cuba’s universal healthcare, education and food distribution programs. Neighbors take care of neighbors, understanding that the government sometimes falls short, and they cannot fathom how homelessness can exist elsewhere in the world. It is truly a fascinating social experiment that we have the opportunity to witness firsthand.

Here are some of my observations from Cuba so far:

-The airport checkin line for the Miami-Cuba flight had the same feeling as a flight bound for Las Vegas…lots of laughter and energy. The flight was mostly a mix of Cubans living in Miami and Cubans returning from a visit to the U.S..

-People checking in in Miami had huge bundles filled with hard to get items, all tightly wrapped up in blue saran wrap type plastic. I even saw several bicycles “saran wrapped”.

-You pay $2 for every pound your combined bags weigh over 44 lbs. I’m told excess baggage fees bring in more than ticket revenues. Based on the number of giant packages bound for Cuba, I’m not surprised.

-People were fascinated, and shocked, to see an American standing in line heading for Cuba. I had a crowd around me excitedly asking (in Spanish) “are you sure you can go?”. One guy even called his friend right there to tell him an American was going to Cuba.

-All Miami airport announcements re. the flight to Cuba were only in Spanish.

-The flight time to Cuba was just 38 minutes.

-I met with 3 different immigration officers upon arrival. All were extremely pleasant, but very, very curious about what I was going to be doing in Cuba. Once I told them I was “kind of like a teacher that was going to be bringing students to Cuba”, they relaxed and let me in.

-The waters off the beautiful white sand beaches are stunningly blue and turquoise. It is easy to forget that Cuba is a Caribbean island until you get here.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 year. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Discover Cuba on our History Making Program!  Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.

Discovering India: An ARCC Scouting Trip

Discovering India: An ARCC Scouting Trip

It’s 6:55am and Sophia Weeks and I are in ‘Chair Class’ on a 5-hour train bound for Delhi. Chair Class means for $9 we are in a well-worn car with reserved seats…which were miraculously empty when we boarded in Haridwar.   Chair Class is not as nice as luxury class where they serve rose-flavored yoghurt lassis (a taste reminiscent of sipping Glad bathroom spray) but certainly a step up from the standing room only crowd packed in further back. For nourishment we have a bag of fresh warm roti (thick savory pancakes) wrapped in newspaper that we purchased from a beckoning street vendor outside the station gates.

The sweet tea salesman has just passed down the train aisle with his avian call of “chai chai chai” offering glasses of this delicious concoction for a few pennies. Outside we get 40mph voyeuristic glimpses of pre-dawn bucket baths as trackside tent cities come to life in the morning’s golden hues. It is hard to tell yet if it is foggy, or if our windows just need an aggressive wash. Probably a lot of both.

-Sophia and I are in the midst of scouting out ARCC’s new India programs for summer and for Gap. Sophia has previously spent some quality time in India, but for me it is my first visit in spite of living in Asia for 4 years. We are just a few days into our journey and already the country has cast its spell on me. The people, the food, the opportunities and the history make for a perfect ARCC destination. Some of my observations so far:

-To get here we flew over Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. For decades, those countries have seemed as if they were in a distant galaxy and yet they are only a few hours outbound from San Francisco. I couldn’t help but think of how insignificant our task is compared the struggles of those 50,000 feet beneath us.

-Arriving at the airport in Delhi, we had to fill out Ebola documentation and get photographed and the appropriate papers stamped by mask wearing clerks.

-They took our pictures “for our records” checking into our Delhi hotel at 4:00am.

-Tuk Tuks are the transportation of choice in Delhi. Imagine a mini van shrunk to the size of a mini cooper. The city is swarming with these green and yellow crazed tools of transport that will get you almost anywhere for a few Rupees.

– In Old Delhi we observed a pigeon calling competition. Apparently it is a hobby for old men to demonstrate their control of trained flocks of pigeons. We watched in amazement as men shouted commands and waved flags from a rooftop perch and an entire flock of birds would immediately shift left or right upon command. It was remarkable, but I couldn’t help but wonder how do you train the new pigeons? Don’t they just fly away?

-Lest you think India is behind the times, our seatmate just showed the conductor his train ticket on his iPhone.

-So far we have traveled by plane, train, car, tuk tuk, bicycle, subway, jeep, and rickshaw.

-In most communities we pass by train, plate sized disks of baked cow dung are geometrically displayed along the tracks, beautifully laid out for sale. Small domed “kilns” made of bound straw are always nearby. We assume the cow dung is used for heating and cooking much the same way our own Native American Indians used buffalo dung for the same purposes.

-Corn flakes are served with hot milk. If you are like me and you don’t like soggy cereal, you better eat quickly.

-Because so many Indians are Hindus and practicing vegetarians, meals come labeled as “veg” and “non-veg.”

-Speaking of cows, they are everywhere and can go and do whatever they please. If you are a cow, you need to make your way to India.

-So far on our train, vendors have come by separately offering chai, coffee, tea, curry, roti, water, juice, cookies, mystery sandwiches, potato chips, tomato soup and omelets. Indians like to eat!

-Potato chip flavors are an interesting reflection of national tastes. Japan has wasabi flavored potato chips and Vietnam has fish flavored chips. You can buy Masala flavored chips in India.

-In our first 48 hours, Sophia and I amazingly only saw 2 other western tourists.

-We went on a 4 hour wild tiger and elephant safari in a national park. We were in an open air jeep and spent 3 ½ hours driving through the park hoping to see tigers but instead stopped to see deer and tiny birds. It had the feeling of “scam” until our stopped jeep was suddenly charged by a very angry female elephant that came sprinting out of the jungle, splintering trees in her way and trumpeting as she charged us. Fortunately she changed course just in time and ran right past us into the jungle on the other side of the track. The smell of pissed off elephant was overpowering. It was definitely one of those: “Can you believe that just happened?” moments.

-I was surprised by our first exposure to the famed and sacred Ganges (or Ganga) River. I expected a slow moving and dirty river, like what you might expect to find in many developing countries. Instead, at least where we are, the Ganges is cold, clean and fast flowing, tinted an impossibly beautiful blue/green and originates from a glacier less than 200 miles upstream in the rugged mountains of the Himalaya.

-Monkeys are all over, but the really smart ones stay near the tourist attractions. If you look closely, you will invariably see one or two monkeys just out of reach in a tree or on a rooftop calmly eating someone’s stolen curry or naan. As westerners we love seeing them, and photographing them, but the way the Indian people look at us when we point and shoot, it is as if we are taking pictures of squirrels.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for teens for over 30 year. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.