Thinking about traveling with a group? Group travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to see the world and visit popular destination sites; not only is the vacation care free, but you can make lifelong friends on the way! If you are planning on experiencing group travel for the first time soon, here are some traveling tips to help you have the best group vacation experience.

Have Group Will Travel

Did you know that many group travel companies love it when you already have an established group to travel with? If your church society, school class, hobby club, social group, or extended family and friends want to take a vacation to an exciting destination together, tour operators are happy to handle all the details so your group can travel simultaneously without the hassle of planning the vacation, gathering payments or handling travel documents. This is one of the best ways to travel with a group since you already know the members of the organization, share a common interest and nobody in the group has to handle the tedious details!

Finding the Best Group Travel Services for You

The best group vacation company is the one that meets your needs and provides you with the vacation experience you were looking for! There are all types of tour operators such as adventure travel services, group travel for singles, and senior group travel companies. First, pick a travel company that is specialized in the type of travel you want (unless you already have a group of people to travel with). Then make sure the tour operator is respected and well established in providing escorted vacations. Just because a company claims they have led groups before does not mean they are an established tour operator! Just think, you are leaving all the details and traveling plans up to someone else; that is a lot of responsibility and your happiness is on the line! Make sure you pick a respected, established travel company that is specialized in the type of travel you are looking for and has built relationships with its travel partners from years of doing business together.

International Traveling Tips

If it is your first time traveling overseas then learning about the country you are going to visit is important even when traveling in a group! Simple things like charging your phone might be challenging if you are traveling overseas. Escorted travel companies will try and alert you about native customs and give you international traveling tips, but you might also want to learn the basic “hello” and “goodbye” greetings as well as how to say “yes,” “no” and “thank you” in the native language of the countries you will visit. Don’t forget to pack your passport and any additional documentation you might need for medical purposes; it is good to bring the phone numbers of your home physician in case your medical history needs to be accessed while on vacation.

Unfortunately, going on vacation is a treat that most people only get to do once a year! Group travel can be very rewarding and allow you the comfort of experiencing a foreign land without the feeling of being alone. Tour operators also make sure you have the best travel experience possible so that your escorted vacation becomes your dream vacation.

Before we discuss obesity and fast foods, let us have some definitions first.

o Obesity: A person is termed obese when his or her Body Mass Index exceeds 30
o Body Mass Index (BMI): A unit of measurement used to define the state of a person’s body weight. It is derived by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of his or her height in meters.

Underweight BMI = less than 20
Normal BMI = 20 to 24.9
Overweight BMI = 25 to 30
Obese BMI = greater than 30

o Fast food: there is no standard definition for it, but generally taken to mean foods that are prepared in very large quantities using standard kitchen utensils, following standardized recipes and repetitive preparation procedures and served rapidly in standard designed restaurants known as fast food restaurants. They usually advertise their services through electronic and print media and generally target children and young people. The rapid spread of such restaurants is usually made possible through the franchising system.

The key to good health through eating nutritious foods needs no explanation. As the saying “we are what we eat” goes, our physical well being is largely dependent on the type of foods we take. Cases of diet related diseases are well documented. They include the likes of diabetes, overweight, obesity, hypertension, heart diseases and certain types of cancer.

The link between obesity and fast foods has been well documented. It has been recognized that excessive consumption of fast foods is a leading cause of obesity due to the high content of fat, sugar and salt in fast foods. They are typically low in complex carbohydrates.

Another area of concern is that advertisements of fast foods are generally targeted towards children. Children, particularly the younger ones, are generally unable to discern through food and nutrition information. It is no coincidence that there are increasing incidences of the rise in obesity in the younger people.

Countries around the world are getting more and more alarmed at the rate of increase in obesity particularly in the younger people; they are well aware of the link between obesity and fast foods.

However, it is unfair to put the entire blame squarely on fast foods. Kids nowadays spent more time on computer games and television than their parents’ generation; they are less likely to part take in robust physical games.

Seeing the need to address the danger of the link between obesity and fast food, many countries around the world are taking action to enforce tighter control on television and print media advertisements, because the younger people are usually the targets of fast food companies.

Of particular concern is television advertising, an extremely influential and effect medium of advertisement for children. Among some of the restrictions adopted are:

o Prohibition of TV advertisements of fast foods during the airing of children’s programs
o Prohibition of TV sponsorship by fast food companies for children’s programs
o Prevention of misleading food information which may confuse consumers
o Fast food companies are prohibited from any form of advertisements that encourages excessive consumption
o Fast food companies are prohibited from promoting fast foods as healthy substitutes for a complete or balanced meal

The link between fast foods and obesity has prompted many governments to take affirmative action to prevent excessive consumption particularly by the younger people. It is a step in the right direction to reduce the overall burden of health care costs provided by governments around the world.

Why the sudden surge in interest for the travel industry? Here are a few facts to consider when looking at a travel career as a career option.

Here are the facts:

  1. Travel is a $7 Trillion dollar industry expected to double to $14 Trillion within the next decade.
  2. This lucrative industry is currently growing 23% faster than the global economy.
  3. A key factor in this growth phenomenon is the stream of baby boomers that are retiring, or getting ready to retire.
  4. Baby boomers are retiring at a rate of 1 every 8 seconds.
  5. Travel was rated the number one thing these baby boomers intend to do when they do retire.

When considering a career in the travel industry, there are several options available for those looking to work from home.

There is an increased demand for qualified travel agents, due to the explosive growth of the industry as a whole. To become a certified travel agent, your options are not limited to the traditional brick and mortar setting. Many reputable travel agencies now offer options for the individual looking for a legitimate home based business.

While doing your due diligence in researching whether this industry is a fit for you, consider that there are excellent income opportunities available to work from home.

If your goal is to work as an independent travel agent from the comfort of your own home, consider working as an online travel agent.

Here are some companies that you can research, that offer excellent training. Some of the companies will hire you as an employee, while others offer the freedom of being your own boss, and setting your own hours.

Do your due diligence!

  1. Research each company carefully, and make it a priority to understand the compensation plan.
  2. Know what training is available, and whether the company will offer you the opportunity to become certified.
  3. Does the company have IATA, IATAN, ARC and CLIA affiliations?
  4. What is the initial investment? Are there additional costs associated for licensing, or becoming certified?
  5. If you are considering a work at home position, what kind of support is offered?

Are you a right fit for the travel industry?

Lets break down the qualifications that will determine whether you are suited for this challenging, but rewarding career.

Travel agents should have a minimum of a high school diploma.

Travel agents should have a love for travel. Enthusiasm and a love for working with people are crucial elements for success in this industry.

Travel agents should possess excellent multi-tasking and organization skills.

Great communication skills, as well as computer skills are essential.

Travel agents should possess a professional, courteous demeanor when working with suppliers, and the general public.

Attention to detail and accuracy are very important. Some sales ability is very helpful as well.

Now, the benefits of becoming a travel agent

The benefits of becoming a travel agent are many. I have listed the top three.

Travel agents save up to 80% on travel to many of the worlds exclusive resorts and destinations. These discounts include, but are not limited to:

Complimentary upgrades Hotel room upgrades and discounts

Car rental discounts and upgrades

Cruises

Theme park discounts

Vacation Packages

FAM trips, also known as familiarization trips. Suppliers want travel agents to have first hand knowledge of their facilities, so that the travel agent can make a recommendation based on personal knowledge and first hand experience.

The supplier will offer discounts and other perks, and roll out the red carpet to ensure the travel professional has an outstanding time.

Tax Benefits for individuals who chose to do this profession as an independent travel agent. Consult your CPA or tax professional for more information regarding this benefit.

Summary: How Do I become a travel agent?

In summary, becoming a travel agent can be a lucrative and rewarding career. Should you decide that you possess the skills and abilities needed for success, you can look forward to a promising career.

Get Started: Do a search online using the keywords: become a travel agent, how do I become a travel agent, or online travel agents.

Here we are in the midst of another cold Massachusetts winter and like every winter here in New England many property owners will have major issues with ice dams causing roof leaks and shingle damage.

Although it may seem as though ice dams are an unstoppable force of nature, they are actually quite preventable. Attics and cathedral or vaulted ceiling areas that have been correctly incorporated into the overall building envelope don’t have problems with ice dams and icicles in the cold seasons. Through the use of proper insulation and ventilation techniques ice dams can be stopped cold (pun intended).

Here a typical scenario for the formation of ice dams:

  1. A house has a build up of snow on the roof.
  2. The temperature outside is below freezing.
  3. The temperature inside the attic is above freezing, thus raising the temperature of the roof itself to above freezing.
  4. Because of the warm roof, the snow on top of it begins to melt from the bottom up.
  5. This melted snow water tries to run down and off the roof.
  6. As soon as the water reaches the edge of the roof it gets exposed to the freezing air.
  7. The water refreezes as ice instead of snow in the gutters, if present, and along the edges of the roof.
  8. As more and more melted snow water continues to run down the roof it just keeps freezing behind and on top of the previously frozen run off, forming a bigger and bigger ice dam.

So How Do Ice Dams Cause Roof Leaks? 

The melted snow water doesn’t immediately freeze anymore after the ice dam has begun to take shape. Once the ice dam has built up a bit it literally creates a dam that traps the rest of the water trying to run off the roof behind it. While this trapped water will eventually freeze, it may take a while and during that time a portion of the shingles on this roof, behind the ice dam, are basically submerged in water.

Now of course your roof shingles are obviously suppose to protect your home from the weather i.e. rain and snow. However, most roofing materials are not meant to have a pond or river on top of them.

So What Can You Do To Prevent Ice Dams?

First and foremost you must recognize that proper insulation and ventilation is the key(see image on right). If we are talk about an attic area then typically this means that the insulation needs to run up the walls of your house then over the attic floor joists forming an ideal insulation envelope. In the attic scenario only the floor of the attic should be insulated, not the underside of the roof!

Proper ventilation is also required. Outside air needs to be able to enter the attic so that the attic temperature is the same as the temperature outside. You achieve this ventilation through the use of gable vents, soffit vents and a roof ridge vent.

In roof systems with attic areas below them it is fairly straight forward to have a contractor that knows what they are doing to correct any problems as far as proper insulation and ventilation. However, roof systems with a cathedral ceiling below them that have these issues are much more of a project to correct, but they can be corrected.

In order to have a properly ventilated and insulated cathedral ceiling the contractor must install baffles within each rafter bay before installing the insulation. These baffles allow air to flow between the soffit vents and the ridge vent which keeps the underside of the roof the same temperature as outside. If these baffles ore not installed in your cathedral ceiling then the contractor will need to remove the existing sheetrock and insulation from your ceiling in order to properly ventilate the area. This type of project will be more expensive than an attic project.

In addition to the ice dam issue, if your attic is warmer than the outside temperature you are also wasting lots of money heating that space. So basically you are paying extra money on your heating bill for the privilege of growing nice big ice dams and icicles that cause roof leaks and destroy your roof. Kind of makes it even worse when you think of it that way doesn’t it?

What Can You Do About Existing Ice Dams?

If it’s the middle of the winter and you have ice dams or through past experience you think they will be forming soon there are some measures you can take. First of all, if you don’t have experience climbing on a roof in the winter, especially with snow on it, don’t do it! Call a pro. What you can do is go to your local hardware store and buy a snow rake that has an extendable handle designed to pull snow off of the first few feet of the roof and attempt to pull some of that snow off, from the ground, before it has a chance to melt and refreeze along the roof edges. You can also do this once the ice dam has formed and keep it from getting any bigger and give it a chance to melt, hopefully.

Also, many roofing contractors, us included, work through the winter and often provide roof snow removal services in addition to their typical roofing services. This is a service we are happy to provide for our customers here in Massachusetts, for example. Again, please don’t try and do this yourself. Between icy ladders and slippery roof surfaces it is a recipe for disaster for the inexperienced.

There are also some products on the market that can assist in preventing ice dams before they form and melting them if they have already formed. You should be able to find a home improvement store in your area that sells a product that is basically a coated, heated wire that you fasten along the edges of the roof and then plug in when the conditions are right for the ice dams to form (see picture on right). These actually work pretty good, however, they aren’t solving the real problem which, of course, is ventilation and insulation issues. They may be right for some homes in some circumstances though.

Most home improvement and hardware stores also sell pellets or tablets that are designed to be thrown up onto the roof from the ground. These tablets then supposedly will melt the ice from the roof as they dissolve into the water that is running down the roof into the ice dam. I have no experience with these products so I can’t say for certain if they work as designed or not. However, some people say they have worked for their ice dam problems. A couple of things I would be worried about as a roofing contractor is potential damage to the shingles from the chemicals these tablets are made of (salt is no good for asphalt shingles), as well as possibly staining the roof with those same chemicals. And even in a base case situation this product is still just a band-aid for a greater problem.

Proper Roofing Techniques For Cold Climates

In addition to making sure that the roof has proper ventilation and attic insulation there is an additional level of security against ice dam issues and roof leaks that all responsible and ethical roofing contractors should be taking in cold weather climates with regards to pitched, asphalt shingled roofs. When a new roof is installed, these days, an extra layer of protection called ice and water membrane should be installed from the edge to at least 3 feet up the roof.

This added layer of protection will help prevent leaks if ice dams do develop along the roof edges. Ice and water membrane will not prevent ice dams it simply is added security to help protect the plywood sheathing beneath the asphalt shingles and prevent leaks should an ice dam form.

Introduction

Developing countries are characterized in one way by shrinking economies. Sierra Leone is one such country that despite government and donor support, education has been a major challenge. The situation has been worsened, due to the fact that libraries have been neglected. According to the African Development Bank (ADB) Sierra Leone Country Office (2011), the total funds provided for education by the ADB/ADF finances up to 2010, was about US$ 22 million. The project supported the construction of Ninety Eight (98) primary schools, Fifty Four (54) Junior Secondary Schools (JSS), Eight (8) Vocational Skills Training Centres and Twelve (12) duplex housing blocks for teachers. The project also provided training for Four Thousand and Fifty (4,050) teachers. Teacher manuals were also made available. However, nothing was ever made available for library development. This neglect of libraries, means that libraries in Sierra Leone with limited resources, have to work together in order to meet the information needs of their users. One library may not be able to effectively and suitably meet the information needs of all its users. Library cooperation is therefore, urgently needed.

Library Scene in Sierra Leone

The country has all the different types of libraries; they range from public, academic, special to school libraries. In addition to these are information and resource or documentation centres that provide library and information services. Furthermore, there are museums, such as the National and the Peace Museums, and the National Archive which also provide information services.

However, the Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) which was established by an Act of Parliament in 1959 serves as the domain of the provision of library and information services in the country. It functions as both the National and a Public library. To date it has a Central library and headquarters located in Freetown, Regional branches in Provincial headquarter towns, and branches in all District towns, totaling twenty one (21) libraries [One (1) central and headquarter library, three (3) regional libraries, sixteen (16) branch libraries, and two (2) sub-branches].

Libraries in Sierra Leone are therefore, institutions for the storage and dissemination of information; are for users; they provide users with guides and other finding lists; they provide adequate access to the documents or records users may wish to consult; they have subject arrangement; and they are cost-effective.

Library Cooperation

The term cooperation describes the joint action of two or more parties for mutual benefit. Library cooperation means exchanging cataloguing records, building complementary collections, exchanging library materials by inter-library loan and document delivery service, joint purchasing of library materials or automated system, providing services to each others’ users. Library cooperation is also described as an agreement, combination, or group of libraries formed to undertake an enterprise beyond the resources of any one member.

There are different types of cooperative activities and some of the most popular activities are reciprocal borrowing, union catalogues or lists, photocopying services, cooperative reference service, delivery services, cooperative acquisition arrangements, subject specialization in collection development, centralized cataloguing and card production, as well as central storage of materials.

Burgett, Harr and Phillips (2004) asserted that there is evidence that cooperation among libraries to share resources goes back to a long way, at least to the first half of the 13th century, when monasteries developed what we would today recognize as union catalogs of manuscripts to aid in their scholarly activities. Musana (1991) indicated that information resource sharing has been in existence as long as libraries and other types of information services. The existence of a library is itself a form of cooperation. Many libraries came into existence because a group of individuals with a common desire and aspiration wanted to put a collection of materials together for use by the group members. Historically, the driving force behind the evolution of resource sharing concept was the desire to satisfy the felt needs of the user population. Earlier, each library was an entity, serving or trying to serve the needs of its own users and purchasing materials to meet their primary needs.

Beenham and Harrison (1990) however noted that a combination of circumstances made it increasingly difficult for an individual library to be self-sufficient. These circumstances include:

a tremendous increase in knowledge and a corresponding growth in publishing;

the spread of education from primary to university level which lead to greater and more diverse demands on the public library services by a much more literate public;

the advance of technology with its effect on industry and commerce and the necessity for employers and employees to develop new skills and techniques; and

increased opportunities for travel and international economic cooperation, which demand up-to-date information about foreign countries.

Existing Library Cooperation in Sierra Leone

There has been increased pressure for libraries in Sierra Leone to cooperate, including plans to create networks thereby making way for resources to be available to users. As such what has obtained is as follows:

Lending of materials – libraries lend materials to each other officially and unofficially to help their users;

Donations – large libraries donate to smaller libraries materials mostly books for their users;

Photocopying – these are available in most libraries. The lending library will copy the needed material and send a copy to the requesting library without having to send the original;

Exchange of cataloguing data – cataloguing data is given to other libraries. The Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) provides its data to school libraries that cannot do this technical work properly.

There have been some benefits with these kinds of cooperation existing in the country:

Availability and access to information – there has been significant reach to information by users, since other libraries’ resources can be tapped from;

Lower cost – funds are saved due mainly to the fact that some expensive materials are not purchased as long as they are accessed in another library;

Experience sharing – the exchanging of staff and information provides a platform for learning from each other, especially with cataloguing data; and

Collection development – each library tends to build its collection to the maximum point, narrowing the focus, and at the end building a strong collection.

Notwithstanding, the real benefits that such cooperation should bring about have not been fully realized. Thus, there are certain steps that libraries should take to make this workable.

Building the Infrastructure of Cooperation

The following are essential steps to be taken into account for an efficient cooperation between libraries in Sierra Leone if significant achievements are to be made.

Ensure common understanding and trust. There must be an established better working relationship among and between libraries where common understanding and trust are built up. A continued interaction and exposure of one another resources must be maintained. This can be done by sharing of expertise and experience, signing of Memoranda of Understanding, dialogue to allay fears, and to respect what each party can offer. Exchange of staff if necessary must be done.

Learn from advanced libraries. Furthermore, lessons can be learn from how other national and international cooperation is being conducted. Cooperation is not a day event but something that must be encouraged and built upon. There must be room for trial and error as well as correction of past mistakes.

Management must provide the leadership. Each library management must take upon itself to lead the process successfully. There must be the political will and the willingness to share resources, as well as prioritizing the move towards cooperation. Management must be willing to make positive compromises to reach the desired goal.

Networking and collaboration. The move towards cooperation should not be a one man show. Cooperation can consist of voluntary agreement among libraries, or it can be imposed on libraries by Library Laws or by responsible ministries that fund libraries. It is essential that the participant libraries be willing to work together towards common goals.

Provision of funds. One of the benefits of cooperation is to save cost. However, every library must provide funds for the processes involved. This is particularly so for processing and technical services functions. These must be taken care by individual libraries. As such funding should be provided.

State intervention. In the context of the developing countries state intervention would be called for to enable coordination of a nation’s total library and information resources and ensure adequate funding. This is particularly important given that on the whole libraries in Sierra Leone do not have large enough capital base of their own to invest in such equipment as computer hardware and software, and telecommunications. However, state control must not be allowed to exceed co-ordination as this may to some extent have an effect on the zeal, initiative and the goodwill of participating libraries, institutions and the individual professionals.

The Challenges in Building the Infrastructure of Cooperation

In spite of the benefits accrued in cooperation, there are real and perceived challenges, which, unless properly dealt with, could minimize the chances of even the best conceived scheme taking off. In Sierra Leone, these are:

Overcoming the culture of hoarding – the culture of greed and selfishness that has eaten up the very fabric of society. This has affected even library practice. Libraries are to amass information for the general good of the society.

Limited collections – where participating libraries have not built up their collection to a minimum standard to allow for exchange, they are to grow their collections to some measurable status to ensure fair participation.

ICTs infrastructure – the marked lack of sufficient Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is a worrisome issue for cooperation in this 21st century.
Purchasing and installation of ICTs is very crucial, as well as the education and training of staffs for use.

Staffing – some of the participating libraries have untrained and unqualified staff as a major obstacle. Also, most staff are concerned about their status, efficiency, job security, salaries, and autonomy or independence, and this has affected the synergy. If the fears of staff are to be dispelled through proper sensitization and education, capacity building also must be undertaken.

Management – management must take decisive steps towards cooperation.

In conclusion, information to libraries is as money to banks; it is an indispensable input in the development process of the nation. However, to be effective it has to be optimally available and accessible from every corner if possible. Library cooperation if properly planned and executed offers a solution to a lot of problems faced by libraries, librarians and other information professionals in developing countries as Sierra Leone. Valls (1983) has provided the last words, “cooperation between information centres and the co-ordination of efforts needed to efficiently share resources implies the existence of an infrastructure linking the centres to one another.” This library infrastructure must be built up as it would assist in fostering self-help, exchange information, change society, improve productivity and work life, and share resources.