Alanna Wallace

Virtual Tour of magdas HOTEL

HOTEL THAT EMPOWERS MIGRANTS, REFUGEES AND NEWCOMERS

Take a virtual tour of magdas HOTEL, a social enterprise hotel in Vienna, Austria that empowers migrants, refugees, and newcomers to the country through their training and employment program. At one time, this eclectic hotel was an elderly residence, but with crowdfunding and a grant from a local non-profit, Caritas, the building has been transformed into an accommodation well worth visiting.

magdas is the first social business hotel in Austria, and employs 10 professionals in tourism, who work alongside 10 refugees. This job-shadowing and mentorship between refugees and professionals in the industry an important part of the program, alongside initiatives like language lessons and other services. The idea here is that refugees will later be hired by other hotels in tourist-heavy Vienna, allowing a steady stream of refugees to learn hospitality skills at magdas.

Along with an internationally-themed breakfast buffet (serving things like baba ganoush and other dishes from the refugees’ home countries), magdas has been entirely decorated with up-cycled, donated, or recycled materials. Old doors have become mirrors, repurposed lockers have become serving bays for the buffet breakfast. Rooms were decorated thanks to the Academy of Arts, which resides next-door, and other sustainable initiatives such as a honey-making business that keeps beehives on the rooftop are displayed in the hotel’s lobby.

Click the video below to enjoy the full virtual tour, and see for yourself!

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Celebrating Women’s Day in Zimbabwe

When Zimbabwe experienced the world’s worst case of inflation in 2008, many of the country’s inhabitants struggled to meet the basic needs of their families. However, there is a growing movement to form cooperatives to create thriving businesses. Despite a traditional gender disparity, many Zimbabwean women are forming cooperative groups to provide services like tailoring, catering, and animal husbandry. These groups are taking matters into their own hands – creating income for their families and communities while empowering other women to build and launch their own businesses.

One such cooperative is the Lusumpuko Project (Lusumpuko means “progress” in Tonga), which was formed by 20 women from the Chinotimba township on the outskirts of Victoria Falls who found themselves without the means to support their families.

“If everyone had something to do or had an income at the end of the day, then people would be able to take their children to school, they’d be able to get healthcare, they would be able to get shelter over their heads,” explains Merlyn Mpofu, the Secretary of the group.

Taking a turn most cooperatives do not, Lusumpuko decided to partner with Planeterra, in order to harness the tourism industry and launch a catering business for visiting foreigners.

Planeterra has been working with this group since July 2017, with the help of Evie Ndhlovu, who has been assisting the ladies on behalf of Planeterra with training in hospitality, marketing, and more. Lusumpuko is one of 13 Planeterra partners who directly benefit women’s empowerment, and the newest project to launch in 2018. The Lusumpuko Project, originally a chicken-rearing endeavour, has expanded to a catering business – with G Adventures travellers to Victoria Falls as their main customer base and Planeterra providing a kick-starter grant to get their business off the ground.

“If tourism grows, the opportunity of employment will grow, too,” noticed Linda Makarutse, the President of Lusumpuko. “The problem now is some of our age group and youth, they are not educated enough to get a job in the tourism industry. There is a need for hospitality training classes, and opportunities for women and youth here in Victoria Falls.”

Despite the gap in ability for many in Victoria Falls to benefit from the tourism industry, both Merlyn and Linda, along with the rest of the Lusumpuko members, believe they can have a hand in helping the next generation.

“We’re feeling very positive for the future,” says Merlyn. “Also, looking forward to, as we grow, maybe also changing the community, teaching others, helping others invest in their own thing and maybe our Lusumpuko company also having a sister company.” To this, Linda nodded her approval: “It’s our dream to help more women in our community,” she concluded.

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Empowering the Women of Moshi

The town of Moshi bustles with tourists who have just come off the mountain, but in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, there’s a school that’s empowering women to harness the power of the tourism industry in the town, start their own businesses, and change their lives.

It’s graduation day for the Give a Heart to Africa (GHTA) school, who became a Planeterra partner in March 2014. The school’s graduates have been providing travellers in Moshi with handicrafts from their cooperative, Moshi Mamas, and spa treatments from their day spa, Lala Salama, ever since.

A female-only school, founded by a Czech-Canadian in 2009, GHTA provides classes in business, entrepreneurship, English, and more. It is run solely on donations and the fees paid for by international volunteers. Graduates from the school have gone on to be successful entrepreneurs in Moshi and beyond – and three businesses related to tourism are thriving thanks to the free classes the school offers for successful applicants.

“It has helped us a lot,” says GHTA graduate Beatrice, who works at the Moshi Mamas Cooperative. “We didn’t know how to plan or design the things, and now we know. The school helped us to be independent, as well to feel how important we are in our family and how we can contribute, as women, to our families.”

On this rainy December day, 34 women are graduating from the GHTA school after a year in the program. One graduate happens to be the daughter of Beatrice, who is one of the handful of ladies running the Moshi Mamas Cooperative.

“I am glad. I feel very happy that my daughter has managed to graduate from this program,” says Beatrice. “I feel like it’s going to help her and improve her life. She passed the examination very well! She’s also doing the massage.”

Beatrice, however, will not be in the crowd at the graduation. The cooperative is hosting travellers for a bead-making tour, and the shop is open as it’s the weekend and travellers are milling about and looking for a reprieve from the weather.

“This kind of business that we’re doing… travellers are so interested and they support us,” Beatrice explains why she’s staying at the cooperative that day. “They create income for us, so we are very thankful.”

It’s not just a monumental day for the graduates, as GHTA manager Rhiannon Chainey announces a new graduate program that’s being launched, to cheers from the crowd. Rhiannon and the GHTA board have realized the need for a graduate program to support those who move on from the school as they start their own businesses. To ensure they are successful, sections of the week’s curriculum will be dedicated to helping GHTA graduates to continue using the skills they learned at the school, thus ensuring their success as small business entrepreneurs. 

It’s a monumental day for the women who are graduating, and the smiles on their faces never flicker – though they listen intently to Rhiannon as she closes off her speech on a profound note that resonates to all.

“Today we are celebrating the people you are. You are intelligent, kind, caring and capable women. You are beautiful, smart and hardworking. You are full of strength and power. You are role models to your children, your husbands, your friends and your communities. You are particularly impressive role models for our school and the women that will come after you at GHTA.  You are our inspiration,” she says.

The crowd erupts – laughter, clapping, whistling, and singing, into their new lives as empowered, emboldened female entrepreneurs in Moshi.

 

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Planeterra’s gifts with purpose

Need some last-minute holiday gift ideas? Planeterra partners have got you covered!

It’s holiday season, and what better way to celebrate than with meaningful gifts that give back? Many of our Planeterra partners host online stores, where you can buy locally-made merchandise that supports women, youth, and disadvantaged communities all over the world.

Still looking for a last-minute holiday gift idea? We’ve got you covered:

Penduka

One of our newest partnerships, Penduka is a women-owned and run business that employs local women that are living with disabilities, or have suffered from illnesses such as HIV.  

Support this enterprise by buying some of their beautiful textiles, jewellery, and more:

http://www.penduka.com/en/for-you/webshop/

UbuntuMade

Located just outside of Nairobi, Kenya, are our partners at Café Ubuntu, part of the businesses of UbuntuMade, a socially-conscious social enterprise that provides support to women and children living with disabilities.

Many of UbuntuMade’s products are sold in the United States, and their online store hosts tons of great buys, including tote bags, traditional beaded bracelets, and even something for our four-legged friends!

https://www.ubuntumade.com/collections/all

Nyamirambo Women's Centre

The Nyamirambo Women’s Centre in Kigali, Rwanda not only hosts travellers for tours and lunches, employing women in the tourism sector, but also hosts community classes for literacy, computer skills, and handicraft making.

Support the women of Nyamirambo by shopping clothing, bags, and other crafts at their online store:

http://www.nwc-umutima.org/products.html

Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, located in Whistler, Canada is home to a training program that empowers indigenous youth to conduct tours of the centre’s museum and grounds. The space is a celebration of the two indigenous communities of the region, and teaches local and international visitors about the region’s history.

Choose from clothing and other items depicting traditional indigenous art, handicrafts and music on their online store.

https://shop.slcc.ca/

Salaam Baalak Trust

Planeterra is working with Salaam Baalak Trust, an organization that provides safe housing, counselling, education, and support to over 5,000 children in New Delhi, as well as managing five safe homes across the city.

You can shop their online store and support their efforts through the purchase of tea, calendars and t-shirts.

http://www.salaambaalaktrust.com/shop.html

We’re excited to bring Sthree, our holiday campaign partner, into our social enterprise fold next year. We hope you’ll see some of their handicraft products soon!

Until then, you can support our campaign to launch their craft shop and cafe here

 

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Celebrating International Day of Cooperatives

It is International Day of Cooperatives today, and we have taken the opportunity to highlight just some of the ways we work with co-ops around the world – from Tanzania to Costa Rica! Take a look at five of our partnerships around the world:

San Antonio Pottery Co-op

San Ignacio, Belize

The San Antonio Women’s Group of nine Mayan women in Cayo, Belize, established a pottery cooperative as a means to earn an income, learn new and interesting skills, and share their traditional knowledge not only with visitors, but with the younger generation. Each woman working at the co-op cares for an average of 5-10 children. Planeterra was able to raise funds to support the co-op, allowing them to build an indoor workshop space to host more visitors and start a training program for unemployed youth.

Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op

Sacred Valley, Peru

A small group of women from the village of Ccaccaccollo, Peru, partnered with Planeterra in 2005 in an attempt to investigate how they could benefit from tourism in the Sacred Valley. Starting with three women, Planeterra developed a cooperative and funded training programs to help bring back traditional weaving practices that had been lost over previous generations.

The women who have been with the project since its inception report that all of their children are now studying at university. Not only that, but these women of the co-op have been able to contribute greatly to their families’ income, and their children are the first generation to be completely literate.

çöp(m)adam

Ayvalik, Turkey

çöp(m)adam offers regular work to around 40 women in Ayvalik, with all members working in a healthy environment and being paid a fair wage. With guaranteed regular employment, members of this social enterprise are able to make significant contributions when it comes to providing sustainability for their families and communities. Planeterra worked with çöp(m)adam to connect them to the tourism market, helping to expand the co-op’s customer base and benefit more women in Turkey.

Moshi Mamas

Moshi, Tanzania

Planeterra works with a free, adult business school called “Give a Heart to Africa” in Moshi, Tanzania, which provides a year-long curriculum in Business Management, Accounting, and English to local women. From this school has emerged a cooperative businesses within the tourism industry, including a handicraft maker’s studio as well as a shop and spa, all supported by Planeterra. In total, 30 women annually access the cooperative and school, benefitting greatly from the programs and business opportunity.

Mi Cafecito

Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

In 2011, the main coffee cooperative in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica established the Mi Cafecito Coffee Tour to try to find ways for their member coffee producers to earn additional income, particularly after a devastating earthquake two years earlier had wiped out the local economy and coffee prices had fallen. While it was a good idea in theory, they did not receive enough visitors to sustain the business, and were at the point of shutting down when Planeterra began working with them to develop a sustainable enterprise.

Coopesarapiquí brings together more than 240 small farmers that produce fair trade coffee from the four regions in the area. In addition to the coffee tour they farm fish for fresh lunches for their visitors. With training and the reliable customer base, the cooperative was able to triple revenues in the first year of reopening.

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Tyson Travel visits the Clean Cookstoves Project

During his 14-day Tanzanian trip with G Adventures, Australian travel blogger Tyson Mayr visited the Maasai Clean Cookstoves Project in Monduli. This project partnered with Planeterra in 2014, and together we’ve seen more than 250 stoves installed across various Maasai communities. The project has trained more than 75 women to create stoves that reduce harmful air pollution in rural homes, and recently expanded to include the installation of solar panels.

Hear from Tyson himself about his experience 

“I was very lucky to have spent time with a Maasai Tribe earlier this year as I learnt about The Cookstove Project that Planeterra Foundation supports. Travelling the world has opened my eyes to a lot of different things, especially around the way we all live our lives. But the one common trait I always seem to find, is a simple smile spreads quicker amongst people, then any hate ever will!”

Watch Tyson’s video below

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Learning about the spirit of Ubuntu in Kenya

From the moment I stepped foot in Café Ubuntu, it was clear I was in a place filled with meaningful connections and change-makers, but nothing could prepare me for the magnitude of difference being made by the organization’s members.

Ubuntu is an African word used across the continent to describe a feeling of togetherness, and the widely accepted definition is simply: “I am because we are.” It is the word that celebrates human connectedness, and Ubuntu’s vision for the community espouses this ethos to perfection.

Café Ubuntu makes an immediate impression on its visitors. From the painted murals on the walls to the well-kept grounds located about an hour’s drive outside Nairobi, the entire visit is a feast for the senses. Smells from lunches being cooked in the open kitchen waft into the large room where handicrafts made on-site are laid out. Meat sizzles in pans, the pizza oven hums and the coffee machine steams as the entire café gives the impression of being a living, breathing entity.

Upon our arrival, Assistant Director Ruby Ruth gave us the grand tour of the kitchen and café itself, and let us taste our first course – a delicious zucchini soup. We followed in the footsteps of G Adventures’ travellers as we received a tour of the grounds and headed up towards the Ubuntu Made Workshop, where about 20 women, most with children with disabilities, hand-make crafts to be sold locally and around the world.

That’s the really special part about Ubuntu: the women who work there. Next on our itinerary was a discussion with three of them; Josephine, Beatrice, and Esther. All three have worked at Ubuntu for at least six years, and their families have benefitted from the school for children with disabilities that is funded by Ubuntu. A true social enterprise, the funds raised through the café and handicrafts go not only towards the women, but also towards a school in their community that employs a special needs teacher and an occupational therapist.

From our chat with the ladies, it was easy to see just how much of an impact both the school and their employment at Ubuntu have had on their lives.

“I have so many blessings through Ubuntu,” says Josephine to our group during the discussion. “After some time in the Ubuntu school they did an assessment on my daughter and found she could attend regular school. Thanks to Ubuntu, my job allows me to pay for school fees.”

Esther, who has also worked at the cooperative since 2008, chimed in to say that Ubuntu’s training helped her when she was displaced during election violence in Kenya. “I earn a living and I’m able to be with the family,” Esther explains. “I was able to buy a piece of land and I constructed my house there.”

It was an incredible hour chatting to the centre’s employees and receiving our tour, and as I sat down afterwards to enjoy a locally-made meal, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed to have had such a meaningful discussion with just some of the cooperative’s members. This visit to Ubuntu was my first field visit as a new member of the Planeterra team, having just started as a coordinator in January. Although I have spent many years living in Africa, the experience with these ladies, the café and workshop is one I won’t ever forget.

Alanna Wallace
Coordinator, Planeterra

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