As you will already know, we are driven by our mission to ‘give back’ to the places where we operate. With this in mind, I would like to share the good news of the funds that we have raised through our clients who have travelled with us in 2021.
The Explorations Company is the only travel company in the UK that is proactive in supporting philanthropic projects in the countries that we operate. Each trip we plan and arrange on behalf of our clients includes a donation, as well as most trips including visits and donations to conservation, humanitarian, community or entrepreneurial philanthropic entities.
Third world continents have suffered terribly through lack of tourism, as this is their main form of revenue. As I explained in a recent interview with American Express Centurion Magazine, one person in Africa supports an outer chain of around 9 other family members. Losing a job therefore affects on average, ten people. No tourism means no jobs. A stark reality with countries that offer no safety net, and many of their people are already on an economic precipice.
This year we have continued our support for home-grown projects that we think are incredibly worthwhile. The first is starting the only school on Lake Turkana in Kenya. This is a dry, desolate area, too remote for the government to send aid or teachers. The children are eager to learn, yet have no books, writing implements or indeed anything at all and were resorting to writing answers in the sand.
The second is a solar cooker project to install in villages alongside National Parks. These stoves mean that food can be prepared in a zero-carbon method and will stop deforestation for firewood. It will also reduce human-wildlife conflict as humans will not need to venture into National Parks to collect wood from forests. There will also be a reduction in lung disease from smoke inhalation, and the need for charcoal will be eliminated.
Furthermore, with the help of our wonderful clients, we have raised around $200,000 over the last year alone for our charitable partners in Africa and Asia. This is in addition to how, in 2020, we managed to keep several charities operating, paying for their costs, if only for three months, buying them time to fundraise further.
I have included some of the charities that have benefitted below. Please do have a look at the amazing differences they make, and feel free to get in touch if you would like to help them, too!
Chipembele teaches children and communities in Zambia the value of their wildlife and the environment that they live in. This helps them to become ambassadors for their own wild spaces and conserve them for the future.
From a wonderful educational centre in the South Luangwa, Anna and Steve Tolan run conservation classes for six schools and provide an outreach program for 17 further local schools in the wider area. The children benefit from regular field trips into the National Park, something which for many children is surprisingly out of reach even though they live on the very borders!
Chipembele also give training in IT skills, run in tree-planting schemes for the children, and deliver a Gender Awareness Programme that empowers the girls and women in the community. They have a sponsorship scheme to fund orphaned or vulnerable children from primary through to tertiary level of education, and support medical treatment for a number of sick children.
This charity makes a tangible difference both to the conservation of the wildlife in South Luangwa, but also to the lives of the children in the communities surrounding it. Please do support them if you can.
The team is comprised of a group of local experts, conservation scientists, and reformed local lion hunters that actively protect lions and intercede in potential conflict situations. KopeLion’s overarching vision is to create long-lasting co-existence between people and lions in Northern Tanzania where lions can thrive alongside human communities.
They have on-the-ground teams to prevent lion killings, assist in protecting livestock from lions by reinforcing bomas and providing early warning of lion presence near livestock so herders can protect their herds. The team is comprised of mostly local people, meaning that communities can see an economic benefit to lion survival.
In addition, they research lion movement and behaviour, studying when and why they attack livestock, and use this to report their research with the wider community to expand understanding of lion conservation. Please do help them if you can – they are helping to ensure the survival of lions in one of the most iconic wildlife regions of Africa.
Reality Gives supports vulnerable children and young adults in Mumbai’s and New Delhi’s slums by providing high quality education. These are in part funded by running educational slum tours for visitors, which challenge misconceptions and give you an insight into the lives of the residents and the challenges they face.
Throughout the lockdowns in 2020, Reality Gives continued to support their young people by rapidly redesigning their school program to deliver it online and over telephone for children who had access to their parents’ phones.
They managed to deliver over 12,000 hours of teaching to 290 children and 182 teenagers this way. They also encouraged parents to keep their children enrolled in school and to return to face-to-face education when lockdown ended.
Education is one of the most effective ways to empower young people to achieve their full potential, and every penny donated is well spent. Please do learn more about them in our extended blog and contact me to find out how to help.
Foxes Community and Wildlife Conservation Trust is funded by Orphans in the Wild in the UK and exists to support the community of Mufindi in Tanzania, which has been devastated by AIDS. The rate of infection here was eight times over the national average and nearly half of children in the district have lost a parent to AIDS.
The normal community support systems have broken down and many children were left without care or homes. Foxes started by setting up an orphanage where children can be cared for in a ‘village’ environment by loving ‘House Mamas’. This quickly progressed to helping to support the entire community in a holistic way.
Through community outreach, medical support, assistance with getting tested for HIV and collecting medication, child feeding programmes, financial empowerment schemes and, of course, the Igoda Children’s Village that started it all, Foxes is making a real and tangible difference here. You can read in more detail about the multitude of methods that they are using to help in my recent blog. Please do consider visiting on your own safari to Tanzania; you will find it incredibly moving and worthwhile!
A few years ago I was walking with my guide Shanta in the Annapurna in Nepal and came across a school high up in the terraces. The school has 60 children, many of whom walk for two hours in each direction to reach school every day. Their parents are all subsistence farmers and very poor, and most cannot afford to send their children with food to eat during the day.
Together with the headmaster we designed a tiffin program, where for a relatively low sum, The Explorations Company funds a scheme that ensures that every child at the school will eat at lunchtime and can concentrate throughout the school day.
The school uses our donation to purchase ingredients from the parents’ farms. Some have now grouped together in an enterprise to grow additional crops to sell, and therefore make additional income. The parents will come to the school in rotation to prepare lunchtime tiffin for the children.
This plan has been very effective and well received and we would love to expand this to other schools in Nepal, so please do talk to us if you feel you can help.
Painted Dog Conservation operates in critical wildlife areas in Zimbabwe through conservation education bush camps, community outreach, and anti-poaching activities. In 2020 poaching increased rapidly as lockdowns meant communities already living at subsistence level could not work or earn income from tourism.
The anti-poaching activities were stepped up to help compensate for this and increased community units were funded which both helped conservation efforts and boosted income into the communities.
Painted Dog Conservation also do wonderful education work with young people in the regions that they operate, running a Children’s Bush Camp Program which teaches children about the wildlife of the National Parks and wildlife areas, and allows them to spend time on camping trips together in the bush as part of the scheme.
The organization needs a steady stream of funding to maintain their vital work and would greatly benefit from any donation you could make.
The Chimpanzee Trust and their Sanctuary at Ngamba Island are pivotal in chimpanzee conservation and research. They take care of 49 chimpanzees on their small island in Uganda's Lake Victoria, who otherwise would have perished or been sold in the illegal wildlife trade.
I highly recommend that anyone travelling on a safari to Uganda considers visiting Ngamba Island to witness first-hand how the Chimpanzee Sanctuary operates on a daily basis. This is an incredible and close-up experience with these creatures who are so similar to ourselves.
Visitor revenue helps to fund the Sanctuary. It costs an average of $270,000 USD a year to maintain Ngamba and look after all the chimps’ needs. This includes food and veterinary care for the chimps, as well as operations and facility maintenance. Please do help if you can.
The Toy Bank helps underprivileged children in India to have access to educational and recreational toys, games and storybooks. Play is such an important part of holistic development and empowers children to imagine and learn, and as such, the Right to Play forms a fundamental part of the UN Convention on Human Rights.
The Toy Bank creates toy libraries that can be shared with schools and communities where children do not have access to toys and games. Unbelievably, as many as 1 in 4 children do not have access to these in India. Since inception, more than 500,000 children in 15 years have been given the opportunity to play, including marginalised children in all corners of India.
Please do read more about the Toy Bank and contact us if you are able to support them in any way.
Earlier this year I had the absolute privilege to spend a few days with Dr Ludwig Siefert of the Uganda Carnivore Program in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Dr Siefert has protected the big carnivores of the QENP for most of his working life. Sadly lions are under great threat in most of Africa due to human pressures such as poisonings and revenge killings, poaching and loss of habitat due to expansion of agriculture and ungulate grazing.
Dr Siefert tirelessly works, supported by a single research assistant, to protect lions here. He has built good relationships with the local communities and works with them to reduce lion killings by tagging lions and tracking them. He is a veterinarian and will operate in extremis in the field on lions and other species that have been found poisoned or injured.
He also carries out many other duties and tasks, all in the name of protecting Uganda’s carnivores – you can find out more in my report from my visit this year. Please do support the UCP if you can, Dr Siefert’s work is extremely important for conservation in Uganda.
The Mara Elephant Project protects the thriving elephant population in the Masai Mara, carrying out anti-poaching activities, human-wildlife conflict mitigation, and research on elephant movements via tracking collars.
This charity is managed by just a handful of the most dedicated conservationists and scientists who work tirelessly year-round to protect elephants in Kenya. Their costs are high due to the extensive work required to cover such a large area, so they are always in need of vital funds.
You can also see their work for yourself on your own safari to Kenya, by spending a morning at their Visitors Centre and taking the opportunity to see their base of operations and talk to the conservationists and rangers in person. On the way back to camp you might be able to track a collared elephant that they are monitoring, too.
I would ask you all, in the true Christmas spirit, to consider supporting one of our entirely worthwhile projects. If you would like to find out more about all of the charities supported by The Explorations Company or to make a donation, please do feel free to get in touch with me. Alternatively you can keep learning about our philanthropic partners in our Video Library.
Images by kind courtesy of Foxes Trust and Aimi Duong Gallego, Chimpanzee Trust, Nick Dyer, Chipembele, Uganda Carnivore Project, Mara Elephant Project, Reality Gives.