En Route

We knew exactly where to begin this journey of growth– with our longest serving Greenheart: Claudia Curran, Projects and Personnel Director, has been with Greenheart for over 20 years. Her story is a reminder that you never know where your journey will lead.

I remember keeping tally marks on a chart in my room to measure my height as a child. When there was a big gap between measurements, my family would proclaim I’d had a “growth spurt.” Well, at Greenheart, there have been quite a few big growth spurts marked in our rooms.

In the early years of Greenheart, less than a handful of people worked in a charming lower level walkout of a rural house in Saint Charles, IL. Weekly check-ins with remote staff were done via fax; we would rush to the fax machine when we heard it fire up to see who was checking in. In those few cozy rooms, we worked tirelessly to build global friendships.

I look back on one big growth spurt: when we acquired more staff, added more departments, and moved to a three story house in town. Check-ins with remote staff and each other became easier with computers and reliable internet. The energy and enthusiasm could be felt throughout the rooms as we expanded to build more and more global friendships.

If we combine a few tally marks from the past ten years at Greenheart, we see our biggest growth spurt yet. Currently, there are so many rooms in our urban Chicago campus that we now give out campus maps to all new hires. Each room is abuzz with the vibrant, passionate energy of our Greenheart family, working to create global leaders and living out the Culture of Greenheart.

Who knows where our next growth spurt will take us, but the dynamic energy throughout our rooms and staff will be championing the Culture of Greenheart for years to come.” – Claudia Curran

It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

When Nino returned to her home country of Georgia after spending the 2011 school year in Nampa, Idaho as a Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) participant, she found herself changed:

“During my exchange year in America, as part of my volunteer service, I was involved with Nampa Mayor’s Teen Council and a member of the Adoption Committee, where we helped hundreds of orphans to start life from scratch and put them in families. These families were responsible for their safety and successful future. The project has been going for 6 years and has been very successful,” Nino explained. “Families who adopted orphans helped them to find jobs, offered opportunities, and this friendly, warm environment helped them to become part of our society. I am inspired by the experience I had in America and ready to make a contribution and help Georgian orphans to rationally plan for their futures.”

Nino is currently studying social work at Tbilisi State University. In December 2015, she was awarded a $1,000 Greenheart Service Grant for a service project that focused on helping orphaned youth in Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi. Nino recognized that youth living in orphanages experience low self-confidence and lack of awareness about opportunities for their futures, which prevents them from succeeding in life. She cites that 85% of teenagers who spend their whole life living in an orphanage will remain unemployed. Her project, “Seeds of the Future”, gave 20 orphans from 4 orphanages in Tbilisi a chance to discover new opportunities to help them plan for their future careers. Nino organized a two-day workshop focused on academic and professional development, improvement of personal skills, and civic education.

Project participants created portfolios with a list of various education and career opportunities, and designed their own resumes. One of the most powerful components was the mentor program that Nino initiated where each participant received a mentor who will continue to check in with the participant as they grow and develop. In Nino’s words, “[The mentorship program] is intended to be a stable network where we share and help each other”.

When travel meets volunteering, your priorities can shift as much your worldview. Nino’s experience inspired her to get to work on helping to build up the youth of her home country; she brought the gifts of growth she received during her time abroad back to Georgia and put what she learned into practice. We were honored to support her through a Greenheart Grant.  

From picnicking in the gardens of Central Park to trekking the Himalayas, these fair trade, sustainably-sourced goodies from the Greenheart Shop will take you on the trip of a lifetime. Wanderlust has never looked – or felt – so good. See the full fall collection here.

1. Bright Endeavors Candle: A wonderful way to freshen up from hostel to hotel, these long-burning soy wax candles burn evenly. Chicago-based Bright Endeavors helps at-risk young women learn business skills.

2. Panda Sunglasses: Nearly indestructible, these bamboo sunglasses are made from one of the world’s most sustainable materials. Shades aren’t just for the summer – protect your peepers from rays all year long.

3. PACT Socks: Stay warm this fall with cozy, ethically produced socks. Made with non-GMO, pesticide-free organic cotton, in factories powered by renewable energy sources and water-recycling systems.

4. Passport Cover by Matr Boomie: As you roam the globe, keep your passport handy in a sustainably-sourced leather holder. Crafted in small Indian villages, proceeds are reinvested into community development projects.

5. Luggage Tag by Jenny Krauss: Handmade in Peru, each luggage tag is artfully embroidered with bright colors, making your suitcase easy to spot.

6. Marquet Scarf: Handwoven by artists in Thailand and Vietnam, this lightweight linen and silk scarf is a lovely way to stay warm in the fall. Tie it onto your tote and get ready to explore through fall gusts or lingering sunny days.

7. Meyelo Canvass Tote: Your new favorite carry-all in soft, durable waxed canvas. Unroll to add extra storage height – perfect when packing for a weekend getaway or picnic. Meyelo ensures their artisans are educated on global markets and not only provides fair wages for artists, but nourishes their communities with access to education, water, farming co-ops, empowerment, and medical needs.

8. Sobremesa Blanket: With a soft throw in your bag, you’re always ready for campfires and cozy evenings under the stars. Loom woven from 100% cotton, each blanket is made in Peru with the fair trade organization Wayra, focused on sustainability and local artisan training.

“This is why I travel. This is why I breathe. I live for such moments, these life scenes, these connections and forming these bonds.” – Chase Chisholm

During his time adventuring around Southeast Asia through Greenheart Travel’s Teach Abroad programs, Chase was moved by the impact that travel had on his life.  We sat down to interview him and learn about about how experiencing new places changes us, down to the very core.

Greenheart: You have taught English in both South Korea and Myanmar through Greenheart Travel. How would you say these teaching experiences impacted you the most, personally and professionally?

Chase: I spent the past five years teaching English abroad thanks to Greenheart Travel programs. The impact of these intense experiences I’ve had overseas likely won’t fully unravel for years to come, but as I prepare to return to the United States, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how I’ve grown personally and professionally.

Personally, I’ve gained a much better understanding of my role as a global citizen, as an ambassador of my home country, and as an educator. I’ve acquired and put into practice invaluable cross-cultural immersion skills, as well as become somewhat of an expert on places I never imagined myself living.

Professionally, I went from not even knowing how to plan a basic English lesson to being able to come up with active and engaging activities on the spot—as well as training others on how to put together effective ESL lessons.

Greenheart: How have your students been positively impacted by your English lessons?

Chase: One of the main purposes for having a native English speaker in an ESL classroom is to help students bring the English language to life. In both Korea and Myanmar, students learn English from a very early age. Students tend to have a good understanding of grammar and sentence structure, but lack practice when it comes to actually communicating in English.

As a long-term teacher, I was able to observe a huge change in how my students used the English language. It was particularly noticeable in their level of comfort. Many of my students tended to be very quiet at first. However, by the end of my time in Korea, and after nearly three years in Myanmar, I could hardly get my students to stop talking!

Greenheart: What age group are your students and how many classes do you teach in Yangon each week?

Chase: I’ve taught English to all ages in Yangon. For two years I worked full-time as a Foreign English Instructor at a college where students ranged in age from 16 to 25. After completing my contract with the college, I worked part-time at two elementary schools for eight months. My youngest students were five.

My schedule was always quite full in Myanmar, as outside of school hours I often privately tutored adults interested in expanding their business English skills. On average I instructed around 30-35 hours per week, and fulfilled other teacher duties such as lesson planning and grading for about 10-15 hours a week.

Greenheart: As an alumni teacher, how have your travels and teaching experiences shaped your career and perspective today?

Chase: A passion for teaching English will always be a part of me—no matter what I end up doing at any given point in my life. I will always seek a teaching outlet, the opportunity to facilitate learning, the chance to help an individual or two– or a thousand– in such a tangible, useful way.

It’s true, what they say: “Travel ruins you.” It breaks barriers and alters perspectives. There’s no turning back once you’ve stepped foot on foreign ground. All newness my eyes gaze upon from here on out will be seen differently, as I’ll never see anything as I once saw it before.

Greenheart: Why do you think it is important to have a cultural exchange experience?

Chase: I’m convinced that being part of a cultural exchange transforms you into your best self; a worldlier individual aware of what surrounds you. I find that I feel closer to my own cultural upbringing, and gain a better understanding of my roots, where I come from – who I am – the farther away I venture. It seems the more outwardly we focus, the more inwardly we thrive.”

This year Camp Greenheart partnered with Swissôtel Chicago to send 45 kids to summer camp in the woods of Illinois. Learn more about how Swissôtel Chicago is impacting the community through their wellness programs and opportunities for children in foster care programs.

Brigette Schuenemann, Assistant Director, Human Resources, Swissotel Chicago:

Swissôtel Chicago is a luxury hotel in the heart of downtown Chicago. Inspired by our brand pillar, Vitality, our staff is united by a common vision to re-engage, re-inspire and revitalize our commitment to delivering quality service, building quality relationships and living quality lives.

We quickly recognized how valuable a partnership between Swissôtel Chicago & Greenheart could be, specifically through Camp Greenheart and the Greenheart Work & Travel Program. This is our first year working with Greenheart and we have hired 6 participants, from Serbia, Romania, and Poland through this summer!

Camp Greenheart, which provides full scholarships for Chicago youth to go to summer camp, directly aligns with our commitment to SOS Children’s Villages and their foster care system. This year we were able to send 5 SOS children to Camp Greenheart for an unforgettable week of developing lifelong skills, learning social skills and making lifelong friends, and growing more independent.

Swissôtel Chicago shares the values of global cultural awareness and community involvement with Greenheart. Our company is proud of our community involvement we have built with SOS Children’s Village of Illinois with Camp Greenheart. We recognize the importance of the influence we have in lives of children, through our support of fundraising and also providing experiences, especially for children of less fortunate circumstances.

Growth makes survival possible. As a species, if we had not adapted and developed to best exist within changing conditions, the human story could be a vastly different narrative. It is within the nature of all things to evolve and transform as necessary to reach the embodiment of highest potential. As we move through the many stages of our personal and collective evolution, what we tend to find is that our efforts are amplified and strengthened by community and collaboration toward a shared purpose. In alliance with like-minded individuals and organizations, we begin to see how linked we truly are: as a species and as interconnected elements of this limitless universe.

Throughout my life’s journey, I have seen this to be true time and again: The remarkable accomplishments of Greenheart participants never fail to inspire me; the bright faces that emerge from summers at Camp Greenheart and lives indelibly touched by volunteer initiatives speak to the power of service and learning to transform our world for the better. A few years ago, with the aim of expanding this impact to a broader reach, the Global Purpose Movement was initiated. Through mindful gatherings such as Synergy Forum, most recently held in Loveland, Colorado, we have built a network of change-makers, teachers, visionaries, activists and innovators from all walks of life dedicated to a common goal: creating a world that works for everyone.

As my work with the Global Purpose Movement has shown me, growing pains are eased greatly by the sharing of resources, openness to synergy, and the genuine desire to contribute to the good of the whole. It is a beautiful thing to witness, when we choose to work together, what transformation is possible. – Emanuel Kuntzelman, Co-Founder and President, Greenheart