We had the good fortune of connecting with Charmaine Pruitt and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Charmaine, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Adventure Minded People Exploring Diversity Abroad (AMPED Abroad) benefits communities–and our world. When people sign up for an AMPED Abroad volunteer placement or internship assignment they’re taking a bold step to embark upon an immersive experience that will (1) challenge them to expand their cultural understanding and empathy; (2) allow them to share their knowledge and experience to help advance community development abroad; and (3) learn different approaches to addressing issues and problem solving that they can apply to their personal and professional life and pass on to others in their home country. 

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
AMPED Abroad organizes culturally immersive learning experiences through volunteer placements and internship assignments in Africa, Central and South America, and Europe (Some day we’ll have Asia on the program roster.) The purpose is for participants to expand their cultural knowledge and understanding. They are able to achieve that by living with a host family and working shoulder to shoulder with the local people at a community-based project.While the participants choose their host country and project, another part of the beauty of it all is that it is the local communities that determine which projects are important to them and for their development. Not only the participants benefit, so do the host countries.

Projects run the gamut: healthcare/medicine, conservation, construction, orphanage/childcare, organic farming, eco-tourism, teaching English, cultural anthropology, animal care, human rights, elderly care…You name it and we’ve got it or we can usually help you find something close to what you’re looking for. The participant program fee helps stimulate the local economy, as some of their fee goes toward the services participants receive before they depart and while they’re in-country: project set up arrangements, airport transfers, orientation, accommodations, meals, and 24/7 emergency support. And in many cases a portion of the fee is also donated to the project.

There are a few things that sets me/AMPED Abroad apart; I believe. I earned a degree in Political Science, with an emphasis on International Relations, and a graduate degree in Public Administration. I began my career liaising with non-profit social organizations and add to that the work I did with refugees and later work as the Latin America Program Manager for another company, I would say my education, coupled with my experience, uniquely qualifies me to do what I do. It’s the fact that care too–I care equally about the communities we partner with and the participants we serve. With that said, our participants can be assured that AMPED Abroad and its carefully vetted in-country partners will be there when needed from the time they submit their inquiry until their last day with our program.

Here we are in 2020 and all of its unfathomable, and AMPED Abroad is still here. You have to understand that I started AMPED Abroad in 2009, after being laid off at the height of the Great Recession. Hardly anyone was traveling. Fast forward to now.  Most of the world is at a standstill due to a global pandemic that is wreaking havoc on travel and our day to day. That’s really concerning. In the meantime, I try to find the silver lining.

This can be a time for building and expanding, and AMPED Abroad is looking forward to possibly making a few big announcements in the future (smirk and a wink), in preparation for when we return to some semblance of normalcy. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy getting here. You’ve probably heard the Kobi Yamadaln quote: “She took the leap and built her wings on the way down.” That’s me. Nor has it been easy to continue standing.

Over the years, I’ve learned that owning your own business is not for the faint of heart. There are sacrifices that must be made and success doesn’t always come as quickly as you might think. That’s when you need to ask yourself some thoughtful questions. Do I really want to do this? If the answer is “yes”, when times are tough you then must ask: Why do I do this? If it was about the money, AMPED Abroad would’ve been dissolved a long time ago. All I can say is that there is a force bigger than me that won’t let me give it up. Every time I’ve thought about it, there has been just the right word spoken, at just the right time that lets me know I need to keep going. And there is a feeling of overwhelming purpose that says I can’t quit. I look around at our current social climate, especially in the US, and I know the world needs what AMPED Abroad has to offer. We need to communicate and spend time with people who don’t look like us, talk like us, or think like us. I’ve got work to do, and it’s well cut out for me. That-is-my-why.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, that’s tough. My best friend lives here in Texas. Texas is where AMPED Abroad is headquartered. Fort Worth to be exact, 30 minutes from Dallas. Imagine that… Sorry, that was a little snarky. It’s just that you wouldn’t imagine a company like AMPED Abroad being based somewhere like Texas. Let me focus. I’m gonna pretend you’re my BFF.

If I was going to show you around town we’d start around Fort Worth and build up to Dallas. In Fort Worth, we’d go to the #1 ranked zoo in the nation, the Fort Worth Zoo. We can feed the giraffes and pet stingrays. We also have a beautiful botanic garden, which features a tranquil Japanese garden. Maybe we’d grab a bite to eat and take it to the garden with us! There’s a thought. That is, if it isn’t too hot. BBQ or Tex Mex, or do you have a more sophisticated palette? No worries. I got you. We can walk it off while touring the garden grounds.
If you’re into live theater, we can go to the Jubilee Theater, an African American theater company that attracts a diverse audience. They always put on show stopping performances. Bass Performance Hall is another option. The bigger shows perform there. Afterward, we can grab a bite to eat and stroll Downtown Fort Worth. Night time is the best because the architecture, fountains, and the Fort Worth Water Gardens are all beautifully accented with dancing lights. If there’s time, we might head out to Airfield Falls during a weekday when the jets are sure to be roaring overhead. I recently discovered that gem. It’s a bike trail that boasts of a butterfly garden and Fort Worth’s largest waterfall. It’s not a waterfall, like Iguazu Falls in Argentina. It’s scenic, nonetheless. For some nightlife, I think we better go to Dallas for that. Since I’m not really a drinker and don’t really fancy bars or clubs, I might have to ask around for suggestions. My initial thought is that Trinity Groves might be a good balance. It’s a retail, restaurant, and entertainment area near downtown Dallas. There’s even salsa dancing on one of the restaurant patios. Speaking of dancing, make sure your stay includes a first or third Monday night. That’s when you’ll meet some cool peeps. I connect with my Monday Night Kizomba and MPK dance families. We dance an unbelievably addictive dance that originated in Angola and made its way to the states. As the dance swept its way through different parts of the world, it morphed into different variations. UrbanKiz is my jam of choice, along with Tarraxo. There’s no point in me planning anything else. Trust me, you’ll want to hang out and dance the rest of the time. It’s that addictive.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Is there enough time? Seriously, there are so many who are deserving of recognition. As it relates specifically to AMPED Abroad, it was definitely a God thing; he ordered the steps. In 2002, I took a daring leap of faith and resigned from my position as a city grant administrator. Little did I understand how much of a whirlwind journey was in store. One of the many stops along the way involved teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) and other subjects to refugee students at International Newcomer Academy in Fort Worth, an experience that still remains to be my most rewarding to date. I can honestly say that I learned as much from those students as they did from me. It was during that time that I realized my passion for working with other cultures. That was also when I realized my Spanish was merely lying dormant after 10 years of not applying it. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my family and friends, especially my cousin, Vanessa, for her support and encouragement. Shoutout to my mother, Cathy, for tolerating me, and lending a creative eye when needed.

Website: www.ampedabroad.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ampedabroad/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AMPED_Abroad
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ampedabroad
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC92Oo6DamCa2oLRsKScf3Cg

Image Credits
Photography: McArlain Morilus, LK Supreme Media (black and white and color shots outdoors in the gold kimono, with the travel journal and pink and green skirt only. All other photos are amateur shots from my travels.) Hair: Vita Hair Studios, Mansfield, Texas

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