Over the last few months, as we have experienced the global effects of COVID-19, I have noticed that many people have had the opportunity to spend time reflecting, most often on their own lives and how they can improve them.
The way so many of us led this surreal, frenetic life has given us cause to pause and think. People appear softer, gentler, more considered and with that, comes a degree of altruism.
So with this in mind, how can you make a real difference to lives and conservation in the places that need it most? Whether you wish to donate to a cause which you visit while you travel, or you would like to donate without travelling, The Explorations Company and their philanthropic arm Explorations Plus are perfectly placed to help you find a project or charity that you connect with.
The USA-based foundation for Explorations Plus was created in 2019, and a UK charity has been created this year, allowing you to make your donations in complete confidence and make them as efficient as possible.
It is possible for you and your family to have the most marvellous experiences whilst travelling on your next holiday, and whilst doing so, make a real and lasting impact of the lives of local people and the local environment and ecosystem by including philanthropic elements in your holiday or safari.
With The Explorations Company’s experience and contacts, the most exciting and impactful experiences can be arranged for you which will transform your experience from the ordinary to the extraordinary! We have formed partnerships with charitable projects in most of the countries that we operate, including the Galápagos Islands.
Some of my top recommendations for extraordinary philanthropic experiences, (and which I have arranged for clients in the past), include:
Being part of building a school or a vital building such as a clinic, carefully selected through in-country partners and experts to pinpoint the most in-need locations. This could be done either for a couple of people or more often than not, for a family and would typically take around five days of a holiday. This creates a legacy that continues and the family feels that they have directly contributed. When I arranged this, the parents really wanted their children to earn part of their holiday whilst making a difference and learning about another culture at the same time.
Building a well (or a sand dam!) in a region where clean water is scarce. I arranged this for a family who wanted to become involved with a project and wanted this to be a learning experience for their children. It was also an incredible bonding experience and brought a tremendous sense of achievement and meaning.
You might like to become involved with a collaring for conservation purposes (a lion, a cheetah or perhaps an elephant), or a rhino notching and horn implant as part of a conservation exercise in which you donate the collar and the veterinary time.
In the local communities you could support and become involved with a school, conservation club or a medical clinic. Many communities also have micro-financing projects and women’s self-help groups which empower women and support them in setting up a small business to allow them to become financially independent.
In India, two fabulous charities come to mind. Firstly, SEWA (the Self Employed Women’s Association) was founded by Chinmay’s aunt and supports women across India in their own small business ventures. These women, mostly from outer lying, marginalised villages, gain benefits such as learning a skill, micro-financing, and other ways to support them to earn an income. One could visit a business which has benefited from SEWA or even sponsor a business that you feel an affinity with.
The second is Salaam Baalak Trust which works in Delhi to holistically support street children. They provide shelter, assist them with getting an education, and provide them with nutrition and medical care. They support them with literacy and vocational training and help them gain work with placements. It really is the most fantastic charity and really moving to see they are making to children’s lives.
Another project incredibly close to my heart is the tiffin program I set up with the Shree Kumrung Baraha School in Nepal. A few years ago we were trekking in the Himalayas when we chanced across a rural school in the mountains. We stopped to see a class and noticed there was only one girl eating her tiffin (packed lunchbox). The rest of the children sat on the other side and watched her eat.
When I questioned why, I was told that the rest of the children couldn’t afford to bring food to school. I was appalled; they would leave home early in the morning to walk several miles to school, study for a day and then return home again without any sustenance all day!
We immediately set up a lunch scheme in partnership with the headmaster, where we fund food to be purchased from the parents’ farms, (ensuring a livelihood for them), and the parents work together on a rota to cook the food fresh each day for the children.
That was four years ago and we continue to pay for the school’s lunch tiffin each day. A small amount goes a long way! Anyone interested in visiting this school can do so, or we could find another school to set up a similar partnership with if you would like to fund something similar!
These are just a few of my top tips but there are so many philanthropic experiences one could have as part of your safari or holiday to Africa, Asia or Latin America, which will provide a wonderful memory of your vacation and create a positive impact on the region that you have visited – sustainable and responsible travel at its best!
The Explorations Company have been supporting and promoting philanthropic-inspired holidays to Africa and Asia for the last 30 years and I am pleased to say that we truly do practise what we preach!
As well as supporting the school’s tiffin lunches in Nepal, we contribute in various other ways. We are a stakeholder of the Lion Recovery Fund which supports Lion conservation across Africa. One of the projects that I personally am very passionate about is Desert Lion Conservation in Namibia, which seeks to conserve the population of desert-adapted lions of the Namib Desert lion. They have a critically low population and are under great pressure from human-wildlife conflict.
Several of our charitable partners suffered greatly due to reduced tourism donations early in 2020 as countries closed their borders during the pandemic. We sent out a plea and with the generous contributions from The Explorations Company’s clients, we have been able to make significant donations to several charities that were at high risk:
We are working with another organisation to develop rucksacks for children which contain a solar light. This is charged as they walk to school and they can use it both for their safety if walking on a road at night, but also to assist with completing their homework in the evening.
I am especially proud of our new brochure which features all of the charities that we support. A year in the making, it was a collaboration between The Explorations Company and some of the world’s best artists, wildlife photographers and photojournalists. Each project details what their goals are, what they have achieved to date, and what your donation can achieve.
We are extremely proud to be leaders in this field and were awarded the accolade of being featured as one of National Geographic’s “Travel’s New Philanthropists” – the only tour operator in the award! We were also thrilled to be featured by Robb Report as one of their five eco-warriors who are trying to save the planet. But we need your help to achieve this!
As all our regular travellers know, a proportion of each of your holidays will go to a conservation or humanitarian-inspired project. When you travel you will have the opportunity to visit in person. It gives you, the traveller, a true sense of ownership, involvement and participation, and the rewards, we have seen, are immense.
On the philanthropic side, The Explorations Company have also been made a partner of some major corporations in the US, to advise on various philanthropic projects for their clients’ consideration. We also assist family foundations.
If you are interested in about inspiring, truly life-changing philanthropic travel, or indeed would just like to make a donation for now, I would be delighted to give you more information. Please do contact me directly or at The Explorations Company for more information. Otherwise if you would just like to dream for now, you can do so at our Video Library.
Images and video by kind courtesy of:
Videos: Morukuru Madikwe Reserve and Excellent Development. Images: SEWA, African Bush Camps Foundation, Local Ocean Conservation, Jeremy Goss, Edward Selfe, Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust, Nick Dyer, Reality Gives, Shree Kumrung Baraha School Nepal.