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A specialized travel service based in Sellwood assists nonprofit organizations, too, in excursions

RITA A. LEONARD - Sellwood couple Donovan Pacholl and Carrie OCallaghan organize and guide exotic treks around the world, often to benefit nonprofit organizations. "Embark Exploration Co" is the name Donovan Pacholl and Carrie O'Callaghan have given their new Sellwood-based "adventure travel" service. They offer organized trips for small groups, foundations, and businesses.

The couple met in Oregon, but moved to Tanzania in 2002, where they each had previously spent some time. The couple started a nonprofit porter assistance program there, and ran a guest house 6,000 feet up the side of Mt. Kilimanjaro for several years.

Since then, Embark has organized hundreds of 2 to 3-week treks to Africa, the Himalayas, Patagonia, and other countries around the world. Lately they have focused on fund-raising treks under the auspices of such foundations as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. These foundations have raised over $3 million through fundraising treks to Africa and Asia. Pacholl adds, "We have also worked with many Oregon-based Universities, such as Willamette University and Portland Community College.

"Each 6 to 20-person group typically has a special itinerary, and picks their dates of travel. We always work toward developing trips that are both active and culturally interesting, with a focus on interacting with local communities and breaking down cultural barriers. We organize unique itineraries along 'roads less traveled', designing adventures that allow our trekkers to be pioneers, and really learn about unique environments."

Six years ago, the couple moved to Sellwood, where Pacholl's mother grew up. Their two kids attend local schools, and the business operates out of a suite at 1327 S.E. Tacoma Street (telephone 503/922-1050). "We connect with western guides in Oregon, and trained in-country guides at 'trek' locations," explains Donovan. "We employ about two hundred porters and nine guides on Kilimanjaro, where we average guiding about two hundred 'trekkers' each year. Other popular trips are to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, and Torres del Paine in Patagonia."

The company reports that it invests back into foreign communities by offering above-average wages for in-country employees. "We also support the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Program, a Sewing School in Katmandu, and an orphanage in Nepal," remarks Pacholl. "We believe that travel changes people – and the world – for the better."

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