April 5, 2013
Congratulations to the March WomensNet.net Amber Grant winner, Kristina Harutoonian! Kristina is the founder of Compassion Travel Worldwide.
Kristina is truly a one-of-a-kind entrepreneur. Combining her knowledge of the tourism industry with her passion for humanitarian work, Kristina formed Compassion Travel Worldwide. Through her business, she offers the unique ability to let others take unforgettable travels to foreign countries. During this time, teams will find leisure and recreation activity, but also have the opportunity to do some good in the destination city.
We caught up with Kristina to find out more about Compassion Travel Worldwide.
WN: Kristina, congratulations on winning the March Amber Grant Award.
KH: That is so exciting! Thank you very much!
WN: How has the customer response been to your business?
KH: There has been a lot of support and interest in traveling with CTW, and I have been overwhelmed by the positive response. I think people are excited to experience a trip where they will have the opportunity to serve the communities and feel a sense of connection and fulfillment, but also be able to enjoy the adventure, culture and beauty of foreign countries.
WN: Can you tell our readers about a memorable experience of a person you met in your travels that have inspired you to move forward with Compassion Travel?
KH: We have just returned from our trip to Brazil, where one of the things we did was offer our help and support to the charity Esther’s Children. We met numerous young girls, many of whom had been saved from the trafficking industry. Their stories of perseverance, gratefulness, and hope were incredibly moving and challenged me to not ignore the problem of human trafficking, but rather be willing to face that sometimes we do not have the answers. But that does not mean there is no hope. One of the teenage girls named Veronica had grown up in a very abusive household, and though she had had a very hard life dealing with much injustice, she was extremely confident, joyful, and dedicated to studying so that she could graduate and pursue her professional dreams. I think it would have been easy for her to give up and probably no one would have blamed her. Nevertheless, she clearly had no desire to do so and that really impacted me. The founders of the Esther’s Children, Emily & Jenn Sutherland, witness these kinds of stories daily and though it is mentally and emotionally challenging, they refuse to give up on these girls. It is truly amazing to see how the empowerment of women can transform communities and bring healing to the broken.
WN: So you don’t necessarily dislike leisure travel. You just don’t think people should focus singularly on leisure when they travel. Is that a fair assessment of your attitude toward travel?
KH: I have always been a fan of leisure travel and have had the pleasure of working in the hospitality industry for a number of years. I have loved visiting other countries since I was a small child, and I believe spending money in foreign nations can support local businesses and job creation. However, I have also always felt that I wanted to do more with my travels and I noticed that everywhere I went there was a need that stirred my heart to compassion. In an effort to bridge together these two desires, I created Compassion Travel Worldwide so that people could start submerging themselves into international communities but also enjoy leisure travel. I think that humility, integrity, and balance are key and the most important factors in creating this business successfully.
WN: Tell us where you hope Compassion Travel is in 5 years
KH: I hope that in 5 years CTW has a strong network of charities and personal relationships where people can feel connected to one another with a common passion to travel and serve. I would love to host conferences where individuals, groups and families who have traveled on our trips or support the causes come together and share the impact on their own lives. Lastly, I would love to attend a UN conference as a travel ambassador…but that could take longer than 5 years 🙂