“Operation Change” is a show that marries travel and do-gooding in the most touching series since Extreme Home makeover–seriously get your tissues ready! The series follows the Starkey Hearing Foundation co-founders, Bill and Tani Austin and their son, Steven Sawalich as they team up with other organizations to work on sustainable projects that affect the communities they visit. Each week, Bill Austin, his family, volunteers and a different celebrity/philanthropist will partner with local organizations that are working to empower their community. Throughout the show, they work together to complete a sustainable project that will help enhance the lives of people in need. The family immerses themselves in local cultures and experiences firsthand what life is like for people in that region–places like Haiti, Ethiopia, South Africa, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia (and more). The show reveals the untold stories of some of the world’s seemingly insurmountable challenges, as well as the unsung heroes.
I saw a screening of the first episode and was blown away. As a travel enthusiast it’s so powerful getting an insider’s look into places that wouldn’t necessarily be safe for tourists traveling without a security detail. The goal of the show isn’t to preach about how many problems there are in the world is and how you should be grateful for what you have (although I can tell you that is exactly how I felt after watching), instead the goal is simply to showcase the wonderful work going on in the world to help others and to show people that we’re not all so different from one another. Mission accomplished.
The “Operation Change” team collaborates with several celebrities who are already out there working with wonderful programs. Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Sir Elton John, Donna Karan, Harry Connick Jr. and even Sir Richard Branson all make cameos during the show’s first season. In addition to teaming up with celebrity foundations, the Starkey foundation works with many local organizations to make miracles happen.
But the show is special because it’s not just about charitable giving–it’s about teaching people the tools they need to sustain their communities.
Then–one of the coolest things is that each episode they’re going to be giving away 4 trips where you could come with the crew and help them on one of their missions–the gift that truly keeps on giving. That’s what “Operation Change” is all about–getting people engaged and involved and making a difference. Each week, a code will be included in the show when it airs as well as online at OperationChange.com. Viewers can visit the web platform and use the code to enter to win a trip to join the Operation Change team on a future humanitarian adventure! How cool is that!?!
I was lucky enough to meet Steven Sawalich, who you’ll see featured on the show. When asked whether every episode will make you cry, he responded yes–but for every tear you give, you’ll get an inspirational moment. Well, him and his family are truly an inspiration and Steven was so down to earth. When asked about his safety on some of his journeys, we asked whether he’s had any scary moments. He unsurprisingly responded yes–as someone who spends much of his time working in __ neighborhoods in over 90 countries you have to assume he’s had some dicey times. But where he said was his most dangerous experience? In downtown LA! haha. Just thought that was funny.
You can tell that Operation Change is a project of passion and I guarantee it will move you.
The 10-week long series launches this Monday June 23, 2014 on the Oprah Winfrey OWN Network.
FYI I have no affiliation with this program so my opinions are completely unbiased. I went to a screening but it was in an office and I didn’t have so much as a bottle of water. As always my opinions herein are my own