In Crystal Adventures, Crystal Cruises®

CRYSTAL ADVENTURES: Giving Back through Voluntourism

Volunteers at The Mustard Seed food bank in Victoria, B.C.

By Mimi Kmet

On a crisp, sunny day in May, nine travelers disembarked a shuttle bus on a quiet side street in Victoria, B.C., away from the historic city’s main tourist area. I was among this group, the participants of which had opted to use this port call of our luxury Pacific Coast voyage to volunteer at The Mustard Seed, Vancouver Island’s largest food bank.

Victoria is an ideal destination for decidedly elegant experiences: having high tea at the grand Fairmont Empress hotel and strolling through the glorious Butchart Gardens just north of the city. But our group relished the opportunity to give something back to the community we were visiting — something above and beyond contributing to its tourism economy by shopping, dining and visiting its attractions. Our excursion was among Crystal’s You Care, We Care” collection of philanthropic Crystal Adventures — which are offered complimentary for guests, and even crew, who wish to volunteer.

Victoria, B.C.'s Mustard Seed food bank
The Mustard Seed food bank, Victoria, B.C.
(Photo by Mimi Kmet)

Jackie Cox-Ziegler, The Mustard Seed’s director of administration, met us and told us a little about the non-profit organization, which refers to the people it helps as its guests. It’s more than just a food bank. With the goals of breaking the cycle of poverty in Greater Victoria and offering guests a hand-up, according to Cox-Ziegler, it also has a chapel and a clothing bank and offers services like hair cutting, counseling, and addiction recovery.

There were several areas within the facility where we could help. Two of us helped guests take their groceries to their cars. They ranged from a young family with three children under age 5 to a woman driving a mobility scooter.

Others from our group greeted guests at the reception desk, helped with administrative tasks, and worked in the warehouse, sorting and storing items and getting them ready to be packaged for guests. We worked alongside staff members and volunteers from the community and enjoyed having a more personal experience with the destination and its locals in an atmosphere of dignity and grace.

The Mustard Seed food bank opportunity is one of many “You Care, We Care” voluntourism options offered by Crystal Cruises, providing ways for Crystal guests and crew members to get intimately involved with serving the needs of the destinations to which they travel.  Such excursions are offered on most itineraries throughout the year.

A Mustard Seed food bank volunteer (Photo courtesy of The Mustard Seed)
A food bank volunteer from the community. Crystal’s “You Care, We Care” program allows guests and crew members to give back while bolstering cross-cultural understanding and local economies. (Photo courtesy of The Mustard Seed)

Among the upcoming “You Care, We Care” opportunities in 2015 are planting trees in Iceland, visiting residents of a home for the elderly in Croatia, participating in a rescue drill of a dolphin or other sea animal in Barcelona, and visiting with children and decorating for Christmas at a home for displaced, abandoned and abused children on Tobago.

While we still had time after our excursion to explore Victoria on our own, our experience at The Mustard Seed was grounding. In the midst of having the privilege of receiving excellent service during a luxury cruise, I discovered that being in service to others is the greatest privilege of all.

Discover how you can give back on any of many upcoming Crystal Cruises voyages, including Voyage 5311, “Adriatic Adventure” (Istanbul to Venice), and Voyage 5214, “Trans-Atlantic Treasures” (New York to London), both departing June 12.

 (Featured image: Volunteers at The Mustard Seed food bank. Photo courtesy of The Mustard Seed)

Share Tweet Pin It +1

You may also like

Crystal Snapshot: Romancing Venice

Posted on April 16, 2015

Previous PostCRYSTAL MOMENTS: Snapshots of the Pacific Coast Cruise
Next PostCRYSTAL CUISINE: Silk Road Sushi Sojourn with Chef Naka

2 Comments

  1. Jeannine Speier
    3 years ago

    We have done 3 Crystal volunteer outings including picking fruit for a food shelf in Santa Barbara, working at a food shelf in Halifax and serving meals in Halifax. Mimi has articulated so well the joy of serving others and celebrating the dignity and courage in all of us. One of our fellow cruisers in Santa Barbara spoke only Japanese but every time we saw each other subsequently there was a seed of friendship and understanding that had been sowed. We will continue to do volunteer outings with Crystal, a company that understands service and can model it for us.

    Reply
  2. Helen Petropoulos
    3 years ago

    Good for you, Crystal! I was on a Panama Canal cruise on Crystal Symphony last year and we spent the day at an Orohanage in Costa Rica… It was a wonderful experience for us, for the children and the nuns who ran the orphanage…. It made our trip complete and reminded us of how blessed we are and how important it is to see beyond ourselves and find ways to give back!! We are booked for two more Crystal cruises in the future…. please plan more of these!!! Thanks!

    Reply

Leave a Reply