Passports with Purpose: Raising Money to Build Schools in Mali

It’s not often that I attend a fundraising event and end up teary-eyed. But that is exactly what happened last May when I volunteered at a buildOn breakfast fundraiser featuring the organization’s founder, Jim Ziolkowski. Jim’s story was moving and the effect that buildOn is having on at-risk youth in Chicago and impoverished youths in developing countries around the world. Not only do they involve local teens in community service projects, they give them the opportunity to go overseas and help build schools in places like Nepal, Nicaragua and Mali – a country in Africa. The more I learned about buildOn, the more I was impressed.


Likewise, the more I have become involved with Passports with Purpose, the travel blogging community’s annual fundraiser, the more excited I get each year. Not only have I secured a cool prize again this year from Context Travel, but I am more involved with PwP than ever. I started working with them as a volunteer last spring, assisting with the charity application process, reviewing sponsorship contracts and ultimately serving as a liaison between PwP and buildOn and planning a launch party in Chicago. It has been a great way to give back using my professional experience in law, fundraising and event planning.

If you aren’t familiar with Passports with Purpose, here’s the scoop.

Organized by a group of travel bloggers, PwP partners with a different charity or nonprofit each year to raise money for a specific project. Last year we raised $112,000 to help build 5 water wells in Haiti and the previous year, it was Room to Read building libraries in Zambia. The fundraiser itself is entirely online – travel bloggers secure prizes ranging from cameras to Kindles to tour packages and then for every $10 someone donates, they get 1 entry into the sweepstakes for a particular prize. For example, last year I donated $30 and got 1 entry for a resort stay in Mexico, 1 entry for an Amazon cruise and 1 entry for a photography trek in Nepal. If you’re a regular reader, you know I ended up winning the Nepal trek!

This year, PwP is partnering with buildOn to build 3 schools and operate 2 adult literacy programs in the Sikasso region of southern Mali in Africa.

The goal is to raise $115,000 – considering we raised $112,000 last year, this is completely do-able, especially with the help of great sponsors like Expedia, DK Eyewitness Travel, Rough Guides, Collette Vacations, TBEX and Eating London Food Tours.

As I mentioned, there are some great prizes available each year and I’m pretty excited about the one that I secured – 2 spots on any 2 walking tours offered by Context Travel.


I took tours with Context when I was in Barcelona last year, as well as in Istanbul. They are all small group tours led by well-educated and knowledgeable guides. As the name of the company suggests, their tours tend to put things in context for you. I took an Ottoman architecture tour in Istanbul that not only covered very aspects of architecture but explained to us why architectural styles evolved and how they correlated to societal changes. I left with a much better understanding of the Ottoman Empire and appreciation for the architecture throughout Istanbul.

Donate just $10 to Passports with Purpose and buildOn and you could win 2 spots on any 2 walking tours offered by Context Travel – or any of a number of other great prizes!

Check out the full list of prizes and donate today!

In Chicago? Join me Tuesday, November 26, 6-8 p.m. at Benchmark in Old Town to meet reps from buildOn and hear more about the work they do! RSVP here.

The fundraiser ends on December 9 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.

Passports with Purpose

6 thoughts on “Passports with Purpose: Raising Money to Build Schools in Mali”

  1. I won the Context Travel walking tour prize in the PWP fundraiser last year and we used it for a family tour of the National Gallery in London this past summer. This was the second time that we had used Context Travel as we had previously toured the Vatican Museums with them. Both tours were very informative and the guides did an excellent job of engaging my children in the material – I highly recommend the Context Family Program!

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top