After several years of working as an international school educator, Simon Armstrong founded CAS in 2013 to challenge the status quo of educational travel. By combining the three tenets of the International Baccalaureate program: Creativity, Activity, and Service, the acronym CAS was born and has emboldened impactful and sustainable experiences ever since. Over the years, the organization has successfully transformed student travel into a holistic learning experience, synonymous with experiential education that leaves a lasting imprint on students and the communities. In December 2023 CAS Trips introduced Community-Led Service (CLS) Trips aiming to foster genuine connections and positive global impact.
Serving eight communities with CLS trips
CLS Trips operate in eight destinations carefully selected for their cultural richness and community needs. CLS Trips are different from traditional "voluntourism" models (often involving unqualified participants on short-term placements abroad) and put a strong emphasis on establishing long-lasting relationships and delivering genuine impact. Simon Armstrong, Director of CAS Trips, underscores the significance, stating, "Our CLS Trips create enduring connections between students and host communities, providing the opportunity to make a real difference and shaping students into lifelong changemakers."
Central to achieving this end is the fact that CAS Trips has cultivated meaningful partnerships in every destination, employing transparent communication processes to give opportunity for all stakeholders to have a voice at the table. Their approach helps students engage before, during, and after their CLS Trips with tangible goals and project timelines addressing specific UN SDGs. The methodology, developed over five years in collaboration with industry experts, emphasizes transparency, sustainable development, authentic needs, and community involvement.
Pre-trip engagement is a foundational aspect that sets CLS Trips apart. In pre-trip meetings, students and teachers receive detailed demographic and cultural information, engage in research, and integrate personal goals. This interactive approach enhances communication, empathy, and a broader understanding of the journey's purpose, reflecting on the who, what, and why of their service contributions.
Examples from Three Destinations
1. Bhutan: Strengthening Farming Communities
In Bhutan, where 70 percent of farmers report crop damage by wildlife, the project supported by CAS Trips travelers aims to deter human-wildlife conflict and strengthen farmers' livelihoods. Farmers spend about two months guarding crops at night in temporary shacks away from their homes, facing incidents of crop raiding, property damage, and even human casualties. The CLS project in Bhutan addresses these challenges, with students also adhering to the country's carbon negativity policies by staying in a rural farmstay community.
2. Vietnam: Infrastructure Support
In Vietnam, groups support infrastructure projects, including paving a road connecting the village and fields. This critical infrastructure supports community connections, making it easier for locals to transport produce and products, particularly during the challenging rainy season. CAS Trips collaborates with local partners to ensure that these projects align with the community's long-term development goals, promoting sustainable improvements and fostering a sense of shared progress.
3. Mexico: Preserving Biodiveristy
In Mexico, students are have the opportunity to engage in the protection of sea turtles and jungles, helping to preserve vital ecosystems. They work closely to support local environmental organizations, ensuring that the service projects align with sustainable initiatives and contribute meaningfully to the conservation efforts along the Oaxacan coast.
Other ways CAS Trips make a difference
While CLS Trips take the spotlight, CAS Trips offers a diverse array of products empowering students and educators to make a positive impact globally. From annual Global Student Conferences and the CAS Project Challenge to incorporating meaningful service opportunities into every destination they travel to — the focus is always on building a reciprocal relationship between students and the communities they engage with.
As a recent student traveler, Adriana, explained following her experience in Lisbon working with “Avó came to work” — an imaginative project dedicated to deconstructing the stigma that the role of people over 65 is irrelevant from a creative and social point of view,
“Learning crafting skills from the grandmothers felt incredibly important, as we need to preserve these traditions and hobbies that are being lost to time. I realized these women must have spent a lot of time and effort achieving such dexterity, and it was a revelation to me when I saw myself struggling to stay motivated. I feel like I now have a responsibility to keep this spark alive.”
Proud partners for the future
Tomorrow's Air is very proud to have CAS Trips, a leader ethical and impactful travel, a partner. Since joining forces at the beginning of 2023, CAS Trips has collaborated with Tomorrow's Air on carbon dioxide removal, aligning with its commitment to sustainability. Whether you're a student explorer or a travel company dedicated to unlocking the educational potential of your journeys, CAS Trips is your gateway to transformative experiences.
Learn more about service learning and student travel at www.castrips.org.