Growing up in small-town Kansas, one of the Christian rites of passage was a missions trip. You’d raise money from local church members, travel to some third-world country, and talk to the impoverished locals about Jesus. While there, you’d do some manual labor to help build a church, or work with a local missions group to feed the poor. When you got back, you’d get up in front of the church and tell everyone how blessed you were to work in such conditions.
But finding humanist volunteer trips isn’t as easy. There are phenomenal groups to volunteer with that don’t have a religious bent (like the Peace Corps), but few have an expressly humanist purpose. Enter, the Pathfinders. The Pathfinders Project is “a yearlong international service trip sponsored by Foundation Beyond Belief, a non-profit organization created to focus, encourage, and demonstrate the generosity and compassion of secular humanists.” During their fascinating and informative FtBCon panel, they talked about some of the projects they’d be involved in:
Pathfinders will be travelling to places like Cambodia, and visiting a humanist school there called Bridge of Life School! They’ll also be visiting Mustard Seed School, Isaac Newton High School, Kasese Humanist Primary School, three humanist schools in Uganda. They’ll be partnering with the James Randi foundation and teaching critical thinking skills. From there, they’ll be visiting Ghana and working with two more groups: Leo Igwe Research Project and the Alliance for African Women’s Initiative
As you might imagine, this kind of endeavor isn’t cheap. While Foundation Beyond Belief fronts the money, the Pathfinders themselves need to come up with $10,000 in order to participate. That’s no small sum of money for a group of young adults – many of whom are fresh graduates or still in school! Because of this, some of them are coming up with very creative ways to raise money. That’s where you come in!
Ben Blanchard is a biomedical major at St. Cloud State University and one of the Pathfinders. He also helped organize Skeptech, is a beloved speaker on the secular circuit, and has done work with the Secular Student Alliance. So he has copious amounts of free time left to start saving the world with Pathfinders – but he still needs your help!
If you know Ben personally, you probably know him as “Ben Sweatervest Blanchard” and are familiar with his penchant for sweatervests (it’s his middle name, for goodness sake!). I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve never seen him sans-sweatervest. So when he started an IndieGogo account to help fund his Pathfinders expedition, I was ecstatic to find that the perks for donating are pure Sweatervest perfection:
- For just a $1 donation, I will say your name wistfully as I stare into the ether
- With a $15 donation, I will send you a video of me saying your name wistfully as I stare into the ether
- At the $25 donation level, I will send you a certificate of my e-marriage with you. I am e-married to more people than I can count, and with the donation, you will have proof of our e-union
- For a $45 donation, I will send you a postcard from one of our service locations, explaining how much your support meant to me
- For a $65 donation, I will handwrite you a letter and send it from one of our locations, telling you how much your donation meant to me.
- With a $100 donation, I will send you a specially designed BenSweaterVest Pathfinders T-Shirt
- With a $200 donation, I will send you a SweaterVest. You will recieve one of my own sweatervests (or a sweatervest selected for you in your size), with official BenSweaterVest-ness added.
- For a $300 donation, I will send you a letter from each of our service locations describing the kind of work that you are supporting.
Some of the items your money will help support? Books, teaching supplies, construction supplies, water purification systems – all items that are going to help the Pathfinders with their projects along the way. This is an extraordinary project to get behind, but if you have any questions or concerns you can email Ben directly at [email protected]. Can’t donate? No problem! There are others ways to get involved. Bring awareness to your friends and colleagues, show some Pathfinders love on your social media, or spread the word on your own blog or podcast.