A Better Use for Our Travel Dollars

International Rescue Committee

We just put our money where our mouth is. We’re hoping to inspire others to follow suit.

Last week we laid out the reasons why we won’t travel to North Korea. Today, we’re putting to good use some of the money we’re saving by not paying the North Korean government for a tour package. 

To get right to the point, we’re initiating a fundraising campaign for the refugee aid organization International Rescue Committee (“IRC”). We hope to raise at least $2,000 over the next three months. To show our commitment, and to get the ball rolling, we’ve kicked off the campaign by making a $500 contribution of our own.  (Click here to jump right in and donate, or keep reading to learn more). 

Help people displaced by war, disaster and persecution

Originally, we intended to donate to and raise money for a charity that specifically aids the North Korean people. Unfortunately, those charities are shockingly rare. Most aid organizations do not operate in North Korea for the very same reasons we will not travel there – because their aid (like our tourism dollars) is co-opted for government purposes.

For example, Doctors without Borders (also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres or “MFS”) withdrew from North Korea many years ago saying it was “convinced that its assistance was not reaching the most vulnerable people, and was, on the contrary, helping to feed the regime oppressing them.”

EverywhereHelps Fund Raising for IRC

Even most organizations that aid refugees do not operate openly in the region, although it’s possible some may participate quietly in the “underground railroad” that helps North Korean defectors get to safety. For that reason we investigated IRC to see if it would be a worthy home for our North Korean travel dollars.

International Rescue Committee is an outstanding charity

And indeed it is. The IRC “offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster.” It also “advocates on behalf of refugees fleeing repressive regimes throughout the world, including North Korea.”

Last year they provided health services to 14 million conflict-affected people, gave clean drinking water to 1.4 million more, vaccinated over 292,000 children, and helped countless others in myriad ways. As a charity it earns top ratings from watchdog groups (A+ rating from Charity Watch, 4 of 4 stars from Charity Navigator, etc) and spends more than 90% of its donations on programs and services that directly benefit refugees and communities affected by war or disaster.

IRC is providing desperately needed aid to Syrian refugees

It is also the kind of charity perfectly suited to help alleviate the growing suffering in places like Syria. If you’re as disturbed as we are by the daily images of hardship coming out of that war-ravaged country, donating to the IRC is a great way you can help.

And we’re here to make donating easier than ever by announcing EverywhereHelps, a fundraising campaign to raise $2,000 for the IRC (roughly the price of one North Korean tour package). This morning we got the ball rolling with a $500 contribution of our own. We’re encouraging our readers to fund the balance.  

Donate Now

All you have to do to participate is click over to the EverywhereHelps page at the International Rescue Committee site and make whatever contribution you feel is appropriate. 

To be clear we get nothing in return for any of these contributions, other than good karma and a happy conscience (we even declined the free T-shirt offered by IRC for starting the campaign).

And even if you can’t support IRC with your dollars, please support this good cause by spreading the word. Use the “share buttons” below liberally. They’re costless to you but could make a big difference to someone in need.

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11 Comments on “A Better Use for Our Travel Dollars”

  1. Maxim Sense September 9, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    I shared this on facebook; my small way of promoting this good cause.


  2. greenblade September 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Thanks for doing the research on this. It was interesting to also hear about the aid organizations in North Korea, sad but not surprising I guess.

    I put in $50 for the IRC fundraiser. Hopefully your following will go beyond the $2000 goal!



    • Brian September 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Thanks so much for contributing and for joining our humble little blog community.

      We’re off to a good start on our fundraising and I too hope we can blow past our $2,000 target.


  3. vagabondurges September 9, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Great idea, I hope you get there, here’s my 50 votes.


    • Brian September 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

      With great supporters like you, it’s only a matter of time. Thanks for your contribution!


  4. Stuart M.tuart M. September 12, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    I contributed too. I hope the credit card charge goes through. Although the donation page allowed me to say Japan for country and then cancelled the state field, it insisted I put a six digit number in for my zip code. Japan has seven digit zip codes. I just dropped the first number of my Japanese zip code and it went through, but I wonder what my credit card bank will think. I already complained to the Webmaster of the IRC webpage, so don’t bother.


    • Brian September 12, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      We’re sorry the system gave you difficulties. Thanks for your contribution.



  1. Why we won’t travel to North Korea | Everywhere Once - September 9, 2013

    […] Click here to discover a better way to spend our travel dollars. […]


  2. You All Rock! | Everywhere Once - September 10, 2013

    […] had an outstanding first day in our fundraising campaign for the refugee aid organization International Rescue Committee. In just 24 hours we raised $950, […]


  3. How to Make (and Keep) a Traveler’s Hippocratic Oath | Everywhere Once - November 28, 2014

    […] We’ve seen so many instances where travelers’ good intentions are twisted by conmen that we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s often (although certainly not always) better to keep travel and charity separate. Instead of giving to child beggars, we give to organizations like Heifer International. Instead of visiting places like North Korea, we give to the International Rescue Committee. […]


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