Crystal Browne

MIGRANTOUR: INTERCULTURAL WALKS TO DISCOVER MULTI-ETHNIC NAPLES

 

After several months of pause, Migrantour, the intercultural walks to discover multiethnic Naples, started again on September 14. Migrantour is an initiative born in Turin that arrived in Naples in 2015 and provides guided tours of the city with intercultural guides of foreign origin. 

Migrantour Naples provides 4 routes organized by Casba Social Cooperative, a Planeterra partner since 2018. In this interview, meet its President, Jomahe Solis, to learn more about Migrantour and the work done by Casba.

*This is an extract of the interview originally published in italian on the website of Impact Campania, a project which aims to promote the integration of foreign citizens in the region of Campania, Italy.

Hi Jomahe, can you tell us how the Migrantour initiative in Naples was born?

We officially started with the Migrantour Naples project in 2015 even if we did it informally in 2013. The Migrantour concept was born in Turin in 2010 thanks to Viaggi Solidali; we came into contact with them and proposed to bring it to Naples. We obtained their accreditation to be part of the network after verifying that most of the members of our Cooperative are foreigners. This is the idea, we are not tour guides, but intercultural guides. 

In 2015 we obtained funding from the Waldensian Church and entered the official Migrantour circuit which provides 200 hours of training for the intercultural guides. Nowadays, Migrantour has become an international network because, two years ago, we participated in a European funded project called “New Roots”, which extended the network to several European cities.

What are the characteristics that distinguish Migrantour?

The Migrantour is not the usual city tour, because we are not tour guides, we are intercultural companions. We bring people to the discovery of popular neighbourhoods, to see the ferment of migrant communities. Casba Social Cooperative has been working with the integration of migrants for over twenty years and we know the communities and areas of the city very well. We like to call it “a visit to the world at zero kilometres”, since we go to a place and we can imagine being abroad, encountering colours, noises, smells and flavours of other cultures. This brings an extra sensitivity to the presence of migrants in our cities.

In some way can we say that Migrantour represents a counter-narrative of migration?

In recent years there has been a negative narrative, focused on boat landings and the phobia of the foreigner who comes to take everything. Contrary, we see other realities, such as the entrepreneur who works and makes others work, perhaps Neapolitans. This type of migration narrative is the message we want to spread through the Migrantour. 

How many types of routes are there?

We currently have four routes: that of Piazza Garibaldi which is called “A thousand worlds at the station”; “In the belly of Naples” which starts from Piazza Mercato; then we have “All the faces of the exchange” which is in the area of the Courts, this path was created recently and intends to be a story about old and new slavery; finally, the last is “Next stop: Piazza Cavour” which represents a crossroads of worlds and cultures.

Now we are working on a new route, trying to establish a dialogue between different places of worship. After the lockdown, together with Viaggi Solidali, we tried to invent something new and decided to create a one-week tourist package, conceived by our Casba Cooperative which includes the historic center of Naples, as well as Pompeii, Procida and of course the Migrantour.

Who usually takes part in your tours?

To tell the truth, the public is very mixed, which is why we also try to personalize them with special stages and tastings of typical cuisine or drinks. For example, when we go to the market run by the Bengalis, we taste the mango juice and the delicious Sri Lankan biscuits created to accompany the tea, because having had the English domination they made this tradition theirs. On the other hand, when we travel with foreigners, we explain the tradition of “caffè sospeso” (leaving a coffee paid for someone that cannot afford it) and sfogliatella (typical Neapolitan pastry). However, the routes are mainly designed for Neapolitans and school children, since the idea is precisely that it is the local population who can realize with whom they share the city. It is a matter of open-mindedness that allows you to have a different look. 

The Migrantour of Naples and that of Rome have attracted the interest of the international tour operator G-Adventures, who brings groups to take part in the tours. Often those arriving from abroad have a more open vision and already know things such as multi-ethnic markets, so for them we take the itinerary “In the belly of Naples”, which is more focused on interreligious exchange and Neapolitan habits. In this walk, we visit both the mosque and the Carmine church and we try to explain the link between the different religions. In that area, there is the Black Madonna as well, to which many Neapolitans are devoted. 

Why is it important to know this multi-ethnic face of Naples?

It is important not to stop at the news that mass media transmit, both in terms of foreign communities and the city of Naples. We must go and see, get to know the positive things, things that later on we might be interested in. It is also a way to enrich your life, your culture and why not your table too! As an example, ginger, which is now so fashionable and is put all over the place, has always existed, here in Italy too. So how did this fashion come about? It was born from the knowledge of the other, the customs and habits of the other, it is always an enrichment. If during the walk you find something you like, maybe you come back, or if there is a shop where you used to pass and you didn’t even notice it, now you know it and maybe you go inside.

We must favour intercultural exchange because there is no fixed identity, we will understand that we can only get richer, becoming less vulnerable.

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PLANETERRA LAUNCHES VIRTUAL TREK CHALLENGE TO HELP REBUILD COMMUNITY TOURISM

Founder Bruce Poon Tip invites industry to join him virtually trekking to Everest Base Camp

Planeterra Foundation, the non-profit partner of G Adventures and G Touring, today launched its first annual ‘Planeterra Trek Challenge’ and is inviting the travel industry to join a virtual trek to Everest Base Camp to help rebuild community tourism around the world following the devastating impact of COVID-19.

This year’s trek places a spotlight on the work of Planeterra’s partners in South Asia, including Nepal, with the challenge being for participants to walk the 65 kilometres (85,000 steps) it takes to climb to Everest Base Camp. The challenge takes place from September 21-27, with participants ‘reaching the top’ on World Tourism Day, September 27, 2020.

Planeterra’s founder, Bruce Poon Tip, who also founded small-group adventure tour operator G Adventures and is the owner of G Touring, has already built his own team, and pledged to match donations from participating teams, and donors, up to $19,000 USD.

“The Planeterra Trek Challenge is an opportunity for us to come together virtually and create a sense of connection at a time where people are feeling distanced, not just from travel but from other countries and cultures. Most of us are missing travelling and many are looking for a way to give back to the people and communities who have given us life-changing travel experiences in the past. I’m excited to invite our agency partners, suppliers and the wider tourism industry to join us in raising some much-needed funds.

“We also want to spotlight this iconic region for travel that is currently void of tourists. These communities need our help, so let’s get away from our home offices for a bit, maybe tackle a personal fitness challenge at the same time, and do what we can to make a difference,” says Poon Tip.

Planeterra’s network of 85 community projects around the world was left without any source of income when global travel was suspended as a result of the current pandemic. Local people and their communities need funds fast in order to rebuild and recover, and the Planeterra Foundation is encouraging travel agency partners, along with their friends and family, to join them in raising awareness and much-needed money.

“We are preparing a series of unique content and stories online that will celebrate and highlight community tourism. This includes interviews with travellers who have summited Everest, interviews with community tourism leaders and cooking demonstrations. Anyone who loves travel is going to want to get involved,” adds Alanna Wallace, Planeterra’s program and communications manager.

Donations collected will provide kickstarter funding for communities around the world that need to invest in new health and safety measures, contribute to training for safe reopening, and help to ensure communities remain resilient and safe for years to come.

To join the Planeterra Trek Challenge please visit this link to register your team. 

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About Planeterra

Planeterra is committed to turning travel into impact by helping local communities earn an income from tourism. It is a non-profit organization created in 2003 by G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip and was started with the purpose of connecting underserved communities to opportunities in the travel industry. Planeterra helps local organizations and communities use tourism as a catalyst to improve people’s lives, protect their natural environments, and celebrate their culture. For more information please visit www.planeterra.org

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PLANETERRA LAUNCHES ONLINE RESOURCE TO STRENGTHEN COMMUNITY TOURISM BUSINESSES

Planeterra partners receive webinar kick-off training in wake of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, halting the global tourism industry, local communities who rely on tourism for income are being severely impacted. Working with some of the most impoverished communities in the world, Planeterra Foundation is releasing emergency grants to those most in need across their 85 projects, which supports the livelihoods of 65,000 individuals globally.

The COVID-19 pandemic shocked the world and threw the global tourism industry into a tailspin. With flights grounded and airports empty, community tourism businesses around the world who rely on international travellers for revenue, are struggling to survive.

Planeterra launched the Turn Travel Into Impact from Home emergency fundraising campaign at the end of March, when it became clear the pandemic was going to negatively impact projects around the world who were going to see a drastic reduction in business for the foreseeable future. At the same time, the team sent out a needs assessment survey, which asked all 85 projects to describe the challenges they were facing. Part of this survey also asked businesses what kind of assistance they needed in terms of coaching and training.

“We saw through responses to our needs assessment survey, that our partners really wanted business planning support,” explains Planeterra Program Manager Rhea Simms, who led the Planeterra Learning Hub project. “They were all thinking, at a time without travellers, about how they could diversify their business, perfect their current experiences, and maybe prepare new ones for when travel returns.”

With these training needs in mind, the Planeterra Learning Hub was built around a series of training modules meant to assist Planeterra’s projects around the world. Seventeen years of community tourism experience was systematically collected and published in a privately accessible site accessible to the employees of local businesses across six continents. The purpose of the site is to allow Planeterra’s partners to improve their tourism experiences, explore new areas of potential income, better market their organizations, and improve their financial and human resource management, all leading to their ability to scale their impact in the future.

The site was launched with much anticipation on June 25th, filled with approximately 30 different topics and about 50 worksheets, templates, and videos in two languages. The launch was made official by the participation of about 38 Planeterra project partners in two webinars – in English and in Spanish – conducted by the Planeterra team.

“We see it so often – the challenges our community partners experience in rural India are often not that different than what we see in beautiful Zimbabwe. It was time to bring these stories to light and allow for more cross learning from our diverse partners,” says Simms.

The launch was overwhelmingly successful, with testimonials from projects already rolling in. “I am sure this will be very helpful in many ways for our project,” commented Jose Vargas from Life Monteverde in Costa Rica. “I really liked that Planeterra is always innovating and supporting the projects,” added Ofelia from Mi Cafecito.

As the weeks go on, the Planeterra team will continue to host webinars on various topics in both English and Spanish for their partners, with the goal to translate the resources into even more languages. The Community Development Specialist team, who work regionally to support Planeterra’s projects, will also assist partners and guide them through the Learning Hub.

“Our global team will be following up with projects to make sure they’re getting the most out of the Planeterra Learning Hub,” says Simms. “It’ll ensure our partners come back even stronger when travel starts again, and will make them more resilient in the future.”

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About Planeterra

Planeterra is committed to turning travel into impact by helping local communities earn an income from tourism. It is a non-profit organization created in 2003 by G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip and was started with the purpose of connecting underserved communities to opportunities in the travel industry. Planeterra helps local organizations and communities use tourism as a catalyst to improve people’s lives, protect their natural environments, and celebrate their culture. For more information please visit www.planeterra.org

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PLANETERRA SUPPORTS COMMUNITIES MOST IN NEED AS PROJECTS PIVOT TO HELP TACKLE COVID-19 CRISIS

Non-profit launches ‘Turn Travel into Impact from Home’ campaign

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, halting the global tourism industry, local communities who rely on tourism for income are being severely impacted. Working with some of the most impoverished communities in the world, Planeterra Foundation is releasing emergency grants to those most in need across their 85 projects, which supports the livelihoods of 65,000 individuals globally.

Calling on travellers and organizations around the world to offer their support, Planeterra has launched the ‘Turn Travel into Impact from Home’ campaign, with the goal of raising CAD$50,000 to help communities in immediate need. The campaign has already raised $15,000 in the past two weeks, allowing the non-profit to transfer grants to six of their partners to help support basic community needs, including food and medicine.

Among the first to receive funding is the AidChild Leadership Institute (ALI) in Uganda, which sees 50% of their operating budgets generated by their tourism initiatives, including a cafe and guesthouse rooms. The grant was allocated immediately to provide food for the 67  HIV-positive orphans in their care.

“We are still able to continue to feed and support the children and students in our care, thanks to this invaluable, adaptable, and compassionate partnership with Planeterra,” explains ALI founder, Dr. Nathaniel Dunigan.

Despite facing hardship, many communities are demonstrating kindness and resilience, with project members utilising their skills to offer support and services to others during the crisis. In China, the Jia Community Restaurant, which supports rural women and children by providing meaningful job opportunities, has transformed into a delivery and distribution centre for masks and thermometers for nearby villages, while in Zambia the team at Tribal Textiles, which supports local artisans outside South Luangwa National Park, are using their workshop to sew 1,500 masks for local healthcare workers.

President of Planeterra Jamie Sweeting, says that fragile communities need the support now more than ever to ensure they are protected and can continue to offer life-changing experiences when travellers return in the future.

“Our global team is working overtime to support our projects, with grants to purchase food and medicine already going out to communities in Morocco, Belize, and Botswana. We’re encouraged by projects that are helping one another and their communities, and we hope this fund will provide some relief and help to ensure jobs and organizations remain intact for when travellers inevitably return,” Sweeting continues.

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About Planeterra

Planeterra is committed to turning travel into impact by helping local communities earn an income from tourism. It is a non-profit organization created in 2003 by G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip and was started with the purpose of connecting underserved communities to opportunities in the travel industry. Planeterra helps local organizations and communities use tourism as a catalyst to improve people’s lives, protect their natural environments, and celebrate their culture. For more information please visit www.planeterra.org

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REEF ECOLOGIC- AN EXPERIENTIAL GREAT BARRIER REEF ADVENTURE

WRITTEN BY NATHAN COOK, MARINE SCIENTIST, REEF ECOLOGIC

As a marine scientist specializing in active reef restoration techniques, the Whitsundays is an ideal location to try to implement my craft. In March 2017 ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie devastated a number of coral reefs in the Whitsundays region of the Great Barrier Reef. In 2019 Reef Ecologic partnered with Planeterra Foundation who provided critical funds to support the continuation of reef restoration activities in the region.

In December Reef Ecologic’s Nathan Cook and associate, Tracey Cook joined Explore Whitsundays in hosting 20 G Adventures travellers in the magnificent Whitsundays region of the reef. Nathan and Tracey went along to introduce travellers directly to the reef restoration project.

We departed Airlie Beach on a beautiful sunny morning heading for our first destination at Blue Pearl Bay on the shores of Hayman Island. The seas were calm and we were all keen to dive into those azure waters common in the Great Barrier Reef.

Some areas of the Great Barrier Reef have been heavily degraded by multiple impacts over the past few years. One of the reef restoration techniques we specialize in is called coral gardening. It’s nothing new; it’s been going on around the world for over 20 years. We take fragments from donor corals, or we might find them loose around the reef, and we transplant them to areas that have been degraded and attach them to the reef using cement. Once they’ve got that stable base, they can grow in that new location and help regenerate that degraded reef. The coral colonies we plant cover small areas in the overall Great Barrier Reef, but if we all contribute our little bit, it’s that whole economies of scale that’s going to make a difference to our global community and impact these ecosystems.

I gave a briefing to all travellers on the restoration project, how it works and what they would see once in the water. Showing the travellers the corals growing on the coral nursery was a real pleasure. It was fulfilling to close the loop and show them the corals growing on the reef that their travels had made possible. Many were amazed that you could actually grow coral this way.

We collected a few loose coral fragments and returned to the boat where we ‘planted’ them in new bases. In this way the corals could grow for 6-12 months before they would be planted out on the reef.

Involving people in the process is an important part of the restoration projects that Reef Ecologic are involved with. When we go out and do reef restoration projects and coral gardening activities—meaning we take corals from healthy reefs and use these to replenish or restore degraded reefs—we get travellers or people from the community who have an interest in the marine park or the marine environment. They want to be involved in the solutions, but they don’t necessarily have that knowledge, training or background. We facilitate their involvement and engagement in these activities. It really gives them a sense of achievement, accomplishment and feeling like they’ve been a part of that solution.

Before we departed Blue Pearl Bay I was accompanied by deckhand Thomas Stedman back to the coral nurseries where we placed the newly propagated corals back onto the frames, “it is super cool to be involved in such a positive project” Tom remarked upon surfacing.

We pulled up the anchor and sailed on to our next destination, leaving our little corals growing on the reef to continue to assist the recovery of these important locations.

“Thanks to the Planeterra Foundation, an important partner providing critical funds to support our work. Partnerships like these help assist the recovery of coral reefs supporting the socio-economic values of reef communities in the Great Barrier Reef and around the world. The reef restoration work in the Whitsundays has thus far been an amazing journey of discovery, learning and regeneration.”

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New year, New Travellers, More Impact!

2020 is the year that Planeterra is working to complete Project 100, by having 100 Planeterra Projects on travel itineraries by the end of the year.

For some of our project partners, it is their first time working with international travellers, the first time some of the project’s employees have ever had a job outside of their home, the first time they are able to have a job in the community in which they live so they don’t have to move to the bigger cities to earn an income. It’s at this moment that turning travel into impact comes to fruition!

Here is a rundown of the projects that received their very first travellers this month and how these initiatives are already making a huge impact on the community, the traveller or the project partner.

Domari Culture and Craft Experience, Israel

 

The Dom (Gypsy) community face regular discrimination as a marginalized group in Israel, and the Domari Society was created to tackle this issue and empower the community.  At the Domari Culture and Craft Experience, travellers will get to enjoy traditional Domari food as well as learn about the culture and shop at the local shop. 

“[I was] touched by her story and wish the host all the best in fulfilling her dreams of helping her community.” – Traveller

Mesilou Atamis Homestay, Malaysia

 

Mesilou Atamis Homestay (MAH), known as the “Highest and Coldest Homestay in Malaysia” also had their first travellers visit this month. This is the first time the Mesilou community is welcoming international tourists to their community, and the tourism enterprise is benefitting over 23 families.

The first group visited this project this month and thoroughly enjoyed their stay. Many of the travellers decided to add on an optional activity and did the Maragang Hill trek led by the MAH members, spreading even more income into the community.

 

Together We Earn, India

Together We Earn works to create opportunities for women in India. Ten women are employed and for many of them, it is the first time they have held a job outside of the home, and the first time they have earned their own money. Travellers will get the opportunity to eat traditional Alapphuza cuisine and get immersed in the local culture. 

Travellers visited TWE earlier this month and the travellers reported perfect (5/5) scores for their experience!

 

Libaran Island Community Tourism, Malaysia

Being a remote island, there is little economic opportunity for those who live on Libaran Island. Additionally, this community is home to the nesting site of endangered sea turtles in which the local people take great pride. It is important for the community to have the ability to earn sustainable livelihoods so they can stay on the island and steward this fragile environment.   

Visitors to Libaran Island Community Tourism have the opportunity to learn about the knowledge and culture of the island through activities such as pandanous (plant fibre) weaving, making of local snacks, demonstration of traditional fishing nets and upcycling of plastic bottles into souvenirs. 

 

Baracoa Community Tour, Cuba

 

Planeterra began working together with several family-owned micro-enterprises in the area to create Baracoa Community Tour for travellers as a way to bring economic opportunities to a rural area! 

Travellers have the opportunity to learn from local guides, participate in local living experiences and make some traditional delicacies. The day also includes a visit to a cacao farm, trying local food by women in the community, learning about a project working to preserve some of Cuba’s unique species, and having the chance to purchase unique handicrafts, all supporting women, men and youth of this community.

Lusumpuko Women’s Club, Zimbabwe

 

Lusumpuko Women’s Club was in tours last year, but because of the success of their cooking demonstration and meal with travellers, G Adventures added Lusumpuko Women’s Club to additional travel itineraries, more than doubling the number of customers for their club.  With the increase in customers, the cooperative has hired ten new members who will now receive income from the tourism industry in Victoria Falls. Travellers have enjoyed this local experience for more than a year and we can’t wait for more travellers to experience it!

Planeterra couldn’t be more excited to see travellers enjoying all of the new projects. The count down is on until Project 100 is completed and we cannot do it without you, let’s keep turning travel into impact!

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Visiting Solheimar Ecovillage in Iceland

By Amy Freyder- Epic Away Travel 

 

In November I braved the winter cold to spend a full week and then some in Iceland.  It was completely worth it.  One of the comforts of going with G Adventures is the warm and friendly people I met throughout my tour.  A highlight of my trip was going to Solheimar Ecovillage, a Planeterra Foundation partner project.  Talk about warming your heart.

When we arrived, we were asked to remove our shoes before stepping into the main hall. Personally, I really love that they had us do that.  We met two of the Solheimar staff who gave us an introduction to the ecovillage and then showed us a video about the history and mission of Solheimar.  This inspiring, self-sustaining community is a place for disabled and non-disabled people to support each other and live together in harmony and mutual benefit.  It sounds like a very simple concept, but in 1930 when a woman named Sesselja founded this village, people did not believe that the mentally disabled should live among the non-disabled. Society has come a long way from thinking that mental disorders are contagious. 

Some of the opportunities available to residents include candle making, forestry, ceramics, greenhouse gardening, running a guesthouse, bakery and a café.  Their original hilltop café was quickly becoming inaccessible to residents as they grew older, so they recently built a new café.  It was around this time that Planeterra reached out to inquire about a partnership with Solheimar.  The ecovillage’s beautiful new café is furnished with tables and chairs provided by Planeterra Foundation.  The people here are so grateful for the helping hand from Planeterra.  And they are so appreciative of the ongoing support from G Adventures, in the form of tourists who come to Solheimar to listen, to learn, to eat and to shop.

While we were at Solheimar, we got to eat a delicious homemade lunch while sitting in the beautiful new café furniture that brightens up the room.  They made us a delicious bowl of soup, two kinds of fresh baked bread, several yummy spreads for the bread.  The vegetables for the soup are organically grown by residents in their onsite greenhouses.  Every coffee drinker on our tour said that the coffee here was the best they’d had in Iceland.  They roast their own coffee on site.  No wonder it tastes so good.

The main impression I took away from here is that this is a simple place where needs are met. Happiness, comfort, feeling needed, having purpose and living off natural resources, are some of the benefits of being here.  It’s so nice to be reminded of the simple things in life.

Amy was selected as a 2019-2020 G Adventures Ambassador of Change and she says it’s been a privilege to spread the word about the amazing good they are doing in the world. Sharing that her family and tries to live a little more sustainably every day.  Small steps turn into big steps and collectively we can all make a huge difference!

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Guest Spotlight: Thirdeyemom- San Antonio Women’s Co-op

“The San Antonio Women’s Cooperative was founded in 2001 to help promote and conserve Maya heritage, culture and tradition within the community and provide women with an alternative, sustainable income outside of farming.” – Thirdeyemom

I woke up to the singsong sound of birds as the sun burst through the drapes, casting a zigzag of light across my room. After two carefree days at the Black Orchid Resort near the tiny village of Burrell Boom in Belize, I’d finally been brought back to life with a newfound energy that had long disappeared. I jumped out of bed, excited for the day ahead as we were heading to San Ignacio, the heart and soul of the Cayo District in Western Belize where we’d be swallowed into a world of thick, lush jungle, mysterious caves and extraordinary Maya ruins. But first, we were making a stop in the village of San Antonio, home of the largest Maya community in all of Belize.  In San Antonio, we would learn about an exciting initiative helping to empower local Maya women called the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative supported by our tour company G Adventures and their nonprofit partner Planeterra.

As our group gathered into the van, I sat up front next to the driver so I could learn more about the four different ethnic groups in Belize. Our driver Carlos was Mestizo(a mix of Spanish and Indigenous decent) which is the largest ethnic group in Belize making up approximately 34% of the population. After Mestizo, the next largest group is Creole followed by Maya and Garifuna. The Creole and Garifuna population both are descendants of African Slaves whereas the Maya population is centered within the tropical lowlands of Central America. Over time, the Maya spread out into parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize. The Maya make up about 11% of the population in Belize and there are three different linguistic groups: The Yucatec Maya who came from Mexico and live in the north, the Mopan Maya who live in the Southern Toledo district, and the Kekchi Maya who live in Western Belize.

Nestled in a verdant valley, about a 20-minute drive from the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena in the heart of the Cayo District of Belize lies the village of San Antonio. Populated by primarily Yucatec Mayas, the village is known for its beauty and art, and has a strong farming and agricultural heritage. When we arrived at the co-op, the first thing I noticed was the beauty and lushness of San Antonio. We were surrounded by tropical trees and flowering shrubs. It was no surprise that the Yucatec Mayas chose to settle in San Antonio for its fertile land. Agriculture is king in San Antonio yet it has its downfalls especially for the women who have large families and don’t have the means to earn an income outside of farming.

The San Antonio Women’s Cooperative was founded in 2001 to help promote and conserve Maya heritage, culture and tradition within the community and provide women with an alternative, sustainable income outside of farming.  Since most Maya families have on average seven children and education is not free in Belize, girls are often the ones left behind and have few options besides raising a family. Poverty is a big issue and finding employment (especially without an education) in a small village is challenging. The San Antonio Women’s Co-op offers education in traditional pottery making, embroidery, cooking and serving guests through sustainable tourism as a means to preserve their culture and make a living. Today, there are 25 women in the co-op and they are working to encourage youth to participate as well.

One of the highlights of our visit was the hands-on demonstration of traditional corn tortilla making. Each one of us got to test out our skills at rolling and flattening the corn into our very own tortilla. Then it was cooked on a wood-burning stove inside a traditional open-air Maya kitchen. Afterwards, we got to enjoy our tortilla with a mug of sweet corn porridge.

 

We also got to experience a pottery demonstration by one of the local teachers at the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative. Classes are offered on a regular basis for the local women and girls within the community as a way for them to bring back their traditional art of pottery. The pottery is created by hand from locally sourced clay and mineral pigments. The polychrome painting on the pottery uses terra sigillata (a refined paint that produces a wax-like surface and sheen on the pottery) and is inspired by ancient Maya ceramics unearthed by archaeologists in the surrounding region.

 

After the pottery demonstration, we were served a home cooked meal of corn tamales with a locally grown green salad and chips and salsa, all prepared by the woman at the co-op. We also had time to stop inside the shop where you can buy pottery, embroidery and other handicrafts. All sales and tourism visits help support the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative and ensure that their ancient traditions and culture can be preserved for future generations to come.

As we boarded the van to head off to our next destination – the town of San Ignacio – I felt grateful that we got to witness the work being done on the ground to simultaneously promote sustainable, local tourism and women’s empowerment. In 2018, over 98,000 travellers visited one of Planeterra’s projects around the world and G Adventures has integrated the project visits into most of their tours. In my opinion, it is an excellent way to travel and do good.

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Thank you to Thirdeyemom for writing our first guest post! If you want to write a blog about your experience at one of our projects submit them here. 

All photos and content belongs to © thirdeyemom.

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AFER homlunch- Moroccan Aubergine Salad Recipe

AFER homlunch works to empower rural women in Meknes, Morocco by helping women gain access to the formal job market. Planeterra provided the seed funding for the first hospitality program run by local partner AFER (Association Des Femmes et Enfants Ruraux). Planeterra helped AFER develop the training program, provided funding for kitchen and dining renovations as well as funding to outfit the administrative space.

More than 3,000 travellers visit the rural village of M’Haya for the AFER homlunch, and receive a warm welcome from a group of five women who serve up a delicious traditional lunch. They were graciouos to share the recipe for their delicious Zaalouk, a moroccan aubergine salad!

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Two Years Later: More Women being Empowered through Planeterra’s Partnership in Belize

THE SAN ANTONIO WOMEN’S COOPERATIVE

A small pottery cooperative, run by local resident President Timotea, who was dreaming of how to capture the volume of travellers coming to Belize. The cooperative was preserving traditional pottery, even working with archaeologists to rediscover paint colours for decorating pottery that was used centuries ago. The cooperative was a prime spot for tourists to stop, but they were ill-equipped to host groups, and struggled to get passers-by to stop. Then, along came Planeterra.

Women make up over half of the tourism workforce. Because of societal norms in many countries, women have become well-suited to make money in the tourism industry because of the many skills they have honed growing up can be used in this field. From traditional handicraft creation to cooking and maintaining a household, women around the world make wonderful entertainers for handicraft demonstrations, chefs for traditional meals, and community guesthouse hosts. Despite being employed more than men, and having developed the various skillsets for the industry, women are often underpaid.
Planeterra works to break this cycle, which is why in 2016, they partnered with the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative in a rural area outside of San Ignacio. The community has its roots in Mayan traditions and currently practices subsistence agriculture. Like many rural areas around the world, they are more likely to struggle to access government services.

The Cooperative Expands after Planeterra Helped to Build the Workshop and New Space

A small pottery cooperative, run by local resident President Timotea, who was dreaming of how to capture the volume of travellers coming to Belize. The cooperative was preserving traditional pottery, even working with archaeologists to rediscover paint colours for decorating pottery that was used centuries ago. The cooperative was a prime spot for tourists to stop, but they were ill-equipped to host groups, and struggled to get passers-by to stop. Then, along came Planeterra.

“We were all squished in a little place,” explains Timotea, “before Planeterra helped to build the workshop and space we have now.” With an introduction to G Adventures and an upgrade to their space, the small cooperative was ready to launch their tourism business in earnest.

Despite only having a primary school education, like many of the cooperative’s members, Timotea led the cooperative to a successful 2016 season, and in 2018 G Adventures increased their trips visiting the cooperative, and more revenue started to flow in. “Now, even the tourism board of Belize has taken an interest, and we have groups booking from nearby hotels,” says Timotea.

Perhaps the most remarkable part about the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative’s growth in the tourism industry is the number of people they now employ. In the beginning, they started as just nine members working at the centre. Now, 25 people work here as chefs, servers, hosts for the travellers, and to help run the tourism program along with the pottery workshop. Employees are not the only ones benefitting from the burgeoning business. The cooperative sponsors the high school fees of two female students from the local community. G Adventures’ revenue also helped them to make a small extension for an outdoor workshop.

When Planterra met Timotea, she said her dream was always to help women in her community – now, through employment and empowerment of girls in their community, they are achieving this dream.

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