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Clare volunteers urged to apply for Travel Awards

EIL Intercultural Learning has launched its ‘Travel Awards’ scheme for 2014, and the organisation is encouraging people across Clare to apply.

Numerous Clare people have volunteered internationally with EIL in recent years including The Clare Champion’s Nicola Corless, Ballyea primary school teacher Emily Price and Killaloe’s Niamh Foley.

EIL is Ireland’s oldest intercultural learning organisation, and is part of the worldwide non-profit Experiment in International Living (EIL) network. Since it was established in Ireland in 1964,  38,000 people have participated in EIL programmes, including study abroad, volunteering, language training and cultural immersion activities, as well as the annual Travel Awards.

The Travel Awards scheme offers fully and partially funded opportunities to explore other cultures in different parts of the world.
The 2014 Awards are now open for entries, and the closing date for applications is March 5.

Clare people are encouraged to apply across a range of different categories, including special categories for 16-18 year-olds; access students; mature students (age 23+); and the ‘active retired’ (age 60+).

Successful applicants will get to travel to countries including Japan, Ecuador, Thailand, Mexico, Hong Kong, Germany and South Africa during summer 2014.

Last June Ennis resident Nicola Corless travelled to Guatemala with EIL as one of the organisation’s Global Awareness Programme (GAP) award recipients.
“My trip to Guatemala was a really rewarding experience. While volunteering in a forest park, myself and another GAP volunteer, Elaine Doyle from Cork, built a small rain-water harvesting unit. We also volunteered in a giant sea turtle protection project. When we had free time we travelled extensively around the country learning about its history, politics, culture and environment. I would really encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering abroad and learning about another culture to apply. As well as experiencing life in Guatemala I also made life-long friends,” Nicola said.

This year marks EIL’s 50th anniversary in Ireland and, as a result, two new Travel Awards have been introduced. The Martin Luther King Commemorative Award is targeted at young people who have demonstrated leadership in promoting civil rights, and the successful applicant will spend two weeks at the Governor’s Institute in Vermont, USA, joining other young leaders to participate in youth activism and global citizenship workshops.

A new ‘Host Family’ Travel Award is also on offer: this is targeted at members of the 300-plus families that host international students participating in EIL ‘study abroad’ programmes.

Launching the 2014 Travel Awards, EIL Director Kevin Hickey said: “In an increasingly globalised world, it’s essential we all have an understanding of and respect for other cultures.  Participants in our Travel Awards develop a range of skills that are highly useful for both their personal development and their professional careers.

“Research we have conducted shows participating in programmes like this helps people to improve their communication, teamwork, leadership and language skills, as well as deepening their understanding of interculturalism.  Furthermore, the Travel Awards offer people a fantastic opportunity to see new parts of the world, make new friends and immerse themselves in new experiences. I would strongly encourage people throughout Clare to apply.”

In addition to the Travel Awards, EIL is running a range of activities and events throughout 2014 to mark its 50th anniversary.  The organisation here is holding a general assembly of the international EIL network, which will take place this April in Cork, and will be attended by over 80 delegates from 25 EIL offices worldwide. It will also include a celebration for ‘host families’, aimed at honouring families that host students who travel to Ireland to participate in EIL study abroad programmes.  A panel discussion on language learning and the importance of promoting foreign language skills will be part of the programme along with a reunion for people who participated in EIL’s Travel Awards scheme over the past 20 years.

The organisation will also launch its academic research documenting how the Travel Awards impact on the career paths and study options of participants.

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