Trips+ Justin Pagotto

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Justin Pagotto is one of the founders of Trips+, a social enterprise tour company providing “holidays with purpose” to the Philippines. Having arrived back from a trip to the Philippines earlier this year, Justin describes the lasting impression helping those less fortunate has made in his life. And, there’s another trip planned for January 2019, which will assist Filipino people in hurricane ravaged Leyte …

Hi Justin. What are the aims of Trips+?

Trips+ is a social enterprise tour company providing holidays with purpose to the Philippines. Tours are generally 10 – 14 days and have three main aims:

  1. Deliver authentic cultural immersion that can’t be Googled.
  2. Use the power of travel to combat poverty in innovative ways.
  3. Participate in shared charity projects that make a tangible difference.

What’s your association with Trips+ … and how long have you been involved?

I am one of the founders of Trips+ and like a lot of things in life, it happened by accident – perhaps by divine accident! I said yes to going on one trip to the Philippines in April 2016 and had a great time empowering young Filipinos in the provinces with leadership skills.

Whilst we were there, we noticed that the young graduates were forced to leave their home town to go to Manila, or even worse, to go overseas. This leads to a fracturing of families, with approx. 11 million Filipino overseas workers, some of them away from their family for years at a time. My heart broke at this and I thought, why can’t we use the power of business to employ young graduates in their home towns? And Trips+ Holidays with Purpose is the vehicle that allows us to achieve that goal. 

You recently completed a trip, the aim of which was to help build a lifelong bond with teenagers. Where did you travel to, and how long were you away?

Yes, 14 years ago I did a Good to Great Fathering Course, where they stressed the most powerful thing you can do to love your kids is take them out one on one. I also read that parents and teenagers spend less than 10 minutes a day talking to each other, and we know that it can be a difficult time. So, I dreamed of taking fathers/mothers and their teenage kids on one on one trips to the Philippines, and the Build A LifeLong Bond tours were born. 

This Trips+ was 12 days in duration, and we travelled to four Filipino regions.

What were the living conditions like on this trip? 

Absolutely authentic! The beauty of a Trips+ Holiday with Purpose is you get to go places due to the strength of our relationships with trusted partners. For example, we work with MZCF, who have been going into slums for many years, so our travellers got to do a feeding program with kids and teach them Aussie life – including a rugby scrum! The kids were fascinated! 

We also checked out amazing Gawad Kalinga social entrepreneurship program – these guys are in 3,000 communities and have a goal to lift five million Filipinos out of poverty by 2024! Part of that was our Heroes HomeBuild, where 31 of us dug foundations of houses with shovels and picks and created cement without any machines. And the houses that are built are so colourful! 

We stayed with local hosts in traditional Filipino islands. And at the end of the experience, we had a few days snorkelling at amazing Palawan Island, including seeing the Underground River Cave – one of UNESCO’s New Seven Wonders of the World.

What did you take away from the experience … would you do it again? 

My 13 year old son, Noah, said, “Thanks Dad – that was a great trip!” This is a great compliment from a teenager! 

If you check out our YouTube channel, TripsPlus, there are 3:26 and 11:30 LifeLong Bond highlight videos where the other parents and teenagers are raving about how they built a lifetime of memories with their children. Seeing how joyful Filipinos were, despite having far less than we have, really left a mark on me.

Would we do it again – absolutely! Our aim is to run many more, and my aim is to take my entire family in June 2019.

The success of the LifeLong Bond tour also spurned excitement – what if we could develop the next generation of leaders through exposing them to innovative ways to combat poverty? So since we came back in July, there has been incredible interest from schools and also three top universities in Sydney about going on social entrepreneurship immersion tours to the Philippines.

There’s an upcoming journey planned to Leyte, in the Philippines. When is this set to take place?  

January 19 to 28th, 2019.

What are you hoping to achieve on your visit to Leyte? 

As a social enterprise, our WHY always motivates us. We built relationships with Operation Blessing (OB), who have an incredible 20 year history. We asked one of OB’s doctors, “What is your dream?” and she said, “To do medical clinics in the hurricane ravaged region of Leyte”.

I mean, 14 million people were made homeless by Super Typhoon Yolanda in Nov 2013. That’s Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth combined! So, we have mobilised doctors, dentists and nurses, and we are going into three areas that have never had medical treatment since the hurricane. Such rewarding work, to give to people who can never repay you.

I am also taking the opportunity in January 19 to take social entrepreneurs to check out Mindanao Noble Endeavours/Ethical Harvest project. Started by Bonny Hills resident Ian McKay, it is an incredible story of community transformation. I am helping them raise $300,000AUD capital to scale up their milk goats to make Mindanao’s first gelato. Amazing stuff, and whilst I am there, I always check out the stunning islands and go snorkelling – and sample delicious food, although it is making me taba (Tagalog for fat!) In fact, I love the country so much, I am learning Tagalog.

Where can we find out more info about Trips+? 

Via Tripsplus.org you can access our FREE REPORTS, access tours and get the links to our FB, Insta and YouTube accounts. Or, interested people can call me on 0428 389 392.

Thanks Justin.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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