Every so often, our family turns our holiday into a “social mission trip“. Inspired by my incredible ex-colleague, Angie (at Apple), we recognize our blessings with gratitude, and seek to turn a vacation into an opportunity to: 1) engage with local communities, experiencing how others live; 2) give back to those communities and leave them better than we found them.

This summer, my daughter asked if we could invest in the “animal community”, engaging hands-on with abused and neglected animals. See, in Shanghai, she had become accustomed to rolling up her sleeves and helping rescue dogs with everything from baths to physical therapy. But the U.S. has much more stringent rules for kids <13yrs. So our family booked a trip to Utila (small island off the coast of Honduras).

Emily Chang | blog | Utila | Laini | Jaspers Animal Rescue

We went to Utila.

Every day, we spent hours at Jasper’s Animal Rescue with the amazing Allison (she invested all her own funds to build this space, creating a sanctuary for stray/neglected animals, while making the island a safer place for all). Sure, we walked away with the occasional scratch, bite, or puppy poo stain. But we also walked away with a deep sense of fulfillment – not only because we served these little guys who need so much, but also because we enjoy serving together as a family. And with super-cool people like Allison, Jen and crew.

Emily Chang | blog | Utila | family | Jaspers team
Ollie’s send-off

Then, my daughter asked the question: “Can we serve as flight volunteers for a puppy?” For those unfamiliar, this entails transporting an animal from one place to another – a few hundred dollars, a bunch of paperwork, and an investment in time (read: extra customs lines and processes). While I’m happy to volunteer on an island, it’s another thing to mess with my down-to-a-science international travel routine!

The “social mission” part wasn’t over…

But I realized, we need to do what we say. If we’re “investing in the animal community” and we’re blessed with the resources to help one puppy while delighting a new puppy-owner in Seattle, is the added inconvenience in our travel process a real reason to say, “no”?

Of course not. So we chartered a flight, carefully packed up the paperwork, and prepared ourselves for extra customs lines. And little Ollie with the perpetual smile on his face, is now enjoying a fabulous life in Seattle with an amazing forever home.

Emily Chang | blog | Utila | Turtle Beach

Note; you can find Jaspers here: https://www.facebook.com/JaspersUtilaAnimalShelter/ and the amazingly gorgeous bungalows we stayed at (for just $149!) here: https://www.facebook.com/turtlebeachutila/