Responsible Travel: Projects in Action
Our specialists don't just return from research trips bringing news of the best routes, hotels and eateries; they also report back on the worthwhile charities and causes that need our help. Here, our specialists pick out a few that have captured their hearts.
Back in 2008, we changed the way we support charities. We gave each team the chance to choose one or more local initiatives to support with an annual donation. On top of this, teams can fund raise further to add to this amount, which is why our offices are often abuzz with cake sales, car washes, barbecues and other events. Here our specialists share their passion and experiences of the charities we support.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphans Project, Nairobi, Kenya
Mark Gillies, Africa Safari Specialist
We heard them first: squeals and trumpets cutting the heavy, wet air one afternoon in Nairobi. The rain had brought the young elephants rushing in from the bush early, their keepers concerned about the effect of the falling temperatures, the youngsters eager to get at the milk formula awaiting them.
We were met by Edwin, the head keeper, resplendent in his soaked mackintosh and waterproof hat. He introduced us to the work of the orphanage, which has resulted in over 150 orphan elephants being raised and reintroduced into the wild in the past 30 years. Baby elephants who have lost their mothers (due to poaching or having been separated because of human activity) are rescued from across Kenya, flown to Nairobi and then looked after with the greatest of care until they are of an age to move to the transition centres in Tsavo National Park; here, of their own volition, the animals will reintegrate into the wild elephant population.
I was visiting Lemoyian, the 'Audley elephant', rescued from a well on the borders of Amboseli National Park. Greeting Edwin after his talk, I asked if Lemoyian had any particular traits. He rolled his eyes theatrically. "Lemoyian? Oh, he is big trouble. He's always been a confident one, but now he's trying to push his keepers around. I think he needs Tsavo quicker than the rest."
Later, watching Lemoyian in the gloom of his stall doing his very best to grind down the wooden walls with his newly emerged tusks, all I could do was smile. The orphanage has saved a life that will grow to magnificence, continuing a blood line that stretches back to prehistory. It felt good to have played a small part in the process, and to know that, one day, far from the city, we may meet again.
- If you would like to include a visit to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphans Project as part of a trip to Kenya, please contact our Kenya specialists for more information.
Casa Mantay, Peru
Fiona Cameron, Latin America Specialist
I have been involved with Casa Mantay for about 14 years. When I first met them they were in an old rented house. Now they have their own purpose-built accommodation ideal for the fantastic work and support they provide to the local community.
The charity was originally created to help young mothers, some as young as 12 years old, to bring up their children, while also being educated about childcare. The house has the capacity for 20 mothers and 20 children, and is partly sustained through its workshop, which makes excellent suede and leather bags.
My visit this year was to personally hand over our donation. This will contribute toward the cost of a nurse, who will visit each day to teach the young mothers pre and post-partum skills. I also wanted to see how they're getting on in their new shop in Cuzco town centre, within the walls of the Hotel Libertador.
It's always nice popping in for a visit to see some of the past residents, who are now employed in the workshop. It's great to see the new babies too — although they were all napping when I was there. My favourite moment was seeing the newest baby, one-month-old William, asleep in his cot.
The house is always being fixed in one way or another — you can't have 40 children running around without needing to repair things. But with the limited resources they have, they do an amazing job to keep it clean and safe.
- If you would like to include a visit to the Casa Mantay shop as part of a trip to Cuzco, please contact our Peru specialists.
Raja Foundation, India
Joe Crowton, India Specialist
I came across the Raja Foundation on my personal travels in India. Little did I know that a chat with a complete stranger on a beach in Goa would result in me spending a month volunteering at the orphanage run by the charity. Set up in a remote area of Andhra Pradesh and run by a local priest, Father Raja, the organisation helps up to 200 orphans, while also providing shelter to the elderly, victims of AIDS and those suffering from mental health issues too.
During my time at the orphanage — referred to as 'Daddy's Home' by the children, after Father Raja — I would help serve the food at meal times and assist some of the younger children that weren't quite old enough to feed themselves. I even had a go at cooking, though the local women took a lot of pleasure from my failed attempts at trying to keep up with their expert culinary skills, and particularly enjoyed putting me to work chopping up mountains of vegetables.
Some of the most memorable days were spent playing in the pool. Not only was it great fun but also a way for everyone to cool off — water piggy backs were a favourite with the younger children. One of the toughest jobs was putting them to bed in the evening. Although I spoke no Telugu and they spoke little English, we managed to develop an understanding of each other for most things, yet it's funny how communicating bed time always seemed to get lost in translation.
I met some real characters, and my interactions with them remain some of my most unforgettable travel memories. I particularly remember Makhala, a five-year-old girl who was always smiling. Clumsy but strong, while most of the other children would cry after falling over, she would get up, laugh and carry on running as if nothing had happened. Ajid was a really funny boy who would always manage to get his own way through cuteness, coolness and tactical crying or laughing. It was brilliant to see them so happy and full of joy in the comfort and loving care of the orphanage.
These wonderful experiences are the reason I put the charity forward to support when I joined Audley.
- Visit the Raja Foundation website to learn more about its work.
- Contact our India specialists to find out more about a tailor-made trip to India.
Christina Noble Children's Foundation, Mongolia
Joanne Brown, Regional Sales Manager
Delgerbat is an ambitious 15-year-old boy who we have been supporting through the Christina Noble Children's Foundation child sponsorship programme for five years. We donate an annual amount to the foundation each year, which goes toward ensuring that he is able to attend school and provides the funds for his family to purchase the supplies he needs.
Delgerbat is from a single-parent family. When we started to sponsor him, he, his mother and sister were surviving on less than US$100 a month and living in a run-down rented ger on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. The sponsorship helped ensure that he continued to attend school; as a result he has flourished, learning Chinese and Russian, and taking pleasure in reading, becoming the class librarian.
He has always had high hopes. When we first met him, through the foundation's annual reports, he just wanted to be the boss. Now he hopes to be an economist, an ambition that we hope he realises.
Letter from Delgerbat
We three are doing well and I am studying. Studying is very interesting and sometimes I participate in contests and still earning fourth place. My graduation celebration converged with my birthday this year and I celebrated it beautifully. Spring is coming and getting warmer. During the summer vacation I am thinking to take a course and work. I am growing tall, so I am thinking to help my mother more.
I am a librarian in class. I like reading books and I read a lot and for it I was awarded the Golden Key medal. In my class there are 50 books and I know all very well and responsible for them. There are novels, dictionaries, Secrets of Mongols and other many books. My teacher told me, that reading expands knowledge.
I thank you very much and good-bye for now. I will write later and I wish you happiness and all the best.
With best regards,
- Learn more about the Christina Noble Children's Foundation.
- Contact our North Asia & Russia specialists to find out about a tailor-made trip to this region.
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