Crystal Browne

5 years, 50 new global projects: A reflection

INITIAL GOAL EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

Director of Global Programs Kelly Galaski reflects on her ten years at Planeterra, and the accomplishment of the 50 in 5 initiative, launched in 2016 and achieved last month with the addition of Planeterra’s 75th project. 

One cold winter week of 2015, the small but mighty Planeterra team of the time huddled in a basement meeting room in Toronto, and the idea for our 50 in 5 campaign was conceived. The team wanted to do something bold, yet strategic, and had been overwhelmed by the success of the community tourism projects developed over the course of the previous few years, realizing that this work was having the greatest impact at breaking the cycle of poverty, out of all the different causes the organization had supported over the first 12 years. The women artisans of the Ccaccaccollo village in the Sacred Valley of Peru were sending their children to university, even though they themselves had experienced oppression and lack of access to education beyond primary school. There was evidence that the gender gap was closing in Nicaragua at the Puesta del Sol homestay where women had traditionally been excluded from economic opportunities. New literacy classes were being launched in rural Morocco, enabling a whole new sector of society to start to reach their potential. All of this because of the funds generated by their grassroots tourism businesses.

We felt like we were on to something. We could see that lives were being changed by our projects; in fact, we were helping to change entire communities. The feeling in the room was that we wanted to do more.

Our Ambitious Goal Was Going to Be Met, and Met Early

We also knew that when people visit and connect with these local people, their lives change too. We counted up how many destinations we would need to add to our portfolio to reach over 90% of our founding partner G Adventures’ annual 150,000 travellers and launched an ambitious plan to add 50 new projects over the next five years. This would ensure a customer base and sustainable income source for our community partners. We went to work that September, launching our 50 in 5 campaign to the public with the Ignite the Night fundraising event, and began to see support unlike anything we had envisioned. We quickly grew our team and our project count: 11 in the first year, then 15 in the next. By late 2017 it was becoming clear that our ambitious goal was going to be met, and met early.

Another 17 projects launched the following year, and the team once again reconvened to talk about the impact we were having around the globe. By now, we were launching projects nearly every month, and this momentum led us to a total of 69 projects by mid-2018. These new enterprises hosted nearly 100,000 travellers that year – driving needed income to essential non-profit programs and into communities that had never before seen the benefits of tourism.

Our partners were reporting back to us about achieving their dreams. People with disabilities were gaining new skills and jobs in communities where they had once been shunned. Women were taking control of their families’ incomes by becoming the sole or main breadwinner, investing in nutritious food and education opportunities for their children, and putting money back into their businesses and cooperatives to drive even more income. Communities were building computer labs for students, undertaking water and sanitation projects, starting community gardens and launching recycling programs. Indigenous communities were telling us that tourism was their hope for the future, for generations proud of their cultures and with livelihood opportunities close to home. The ripple effects were limitless.

Looking back on the last three and a half years, and my ten years at Planeterra, there are too many highlights to put into words. Someone asked me this week what motivates me, what makes me stay. Every time I answer this question tears come to my eyes. Even writing this now. When a woman tells you she was so oppressed and overlooked because of her race and gender and finally feels that she has control over her destiny, has freedom to make the choices she needs to make, and the respect she deserves, all because of an opportunity to earn her own income and share her culture, I know our work is the most important work I could be a part of. When an Indigenous youth tells me he feels it’s the only hope for children in his community to believe they have something powerful and special to share, I know our work is what I want to be a part of. Our team of dedicated professionals, generous supporters, and our partners around the world have enabled us to finish 50 in 5 a full year and a half earlier than anticipated. We have seen tens of thousands of lives changed – entire communities transformed – as a result.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the people who helped along the way. Thank you to those who visited our projects, in 43 countries around the world. Thank you to anyone who supported our work – whether with $1 or $1,000 – it all went directly to our global programs and allowed us to change lives. Finally, thank you to the staff and leadership of G Adventures, our largest partner, who have helped us in immeasurable ways to make this impact.

To all our generous supporters, we hope you continue this journey with us, because we’ve only just begun.

Read more

Empowering newcomers to Europe through tourism

MIGRANTS ARRIVE WITH LITTLE TO NO PROSPECTS FOR JOBS

Planeterra launched its very first project in Europe in 2016, and since then, the refugee and migrant community on the continent has been an important beneficiary of our work. Europe currently faces its greatest migrant challenge since the end of the Second World War, with a large number of people seeking refuge from war, poverty and political instability in nearby regions.

Planeterra works with communities that are in need of support, whether to preserve an ancient culture, create revenue for community infrastructure and healthcare, or to provide employment to a community with high unemployment. As we have grown and expanded through our 50 in 5 campaign, we have undertaken projects that not only support Indigenous and rural communities, but also at-risk communities like people living with disabilities, migrants and refugees.
Planeterra launched its very first project in Europe in 2016, and since then, the refugee and migrant community on the continent has been an important beneficiary of our work. Europe currently faces its greatest migrant challenge since the end of the Second World War, with a large number of people seeking refuge from war, poverty and political instability in nearby regions. According to UN Refugees, at the end of 2016, nearly 5.2 million refugees and migrants reached Europe, and in 2017 alone more than 170,000 risked their lives trying to reach the continent by sea. Migrants arrive to the continent with little to no prospects for jobs, and that’s where Planeterra fits in.
Although Planeterra has a number of projects around the world that benefit migrants or newcomers to a country, this World Refugee Day we are highlighting three of our projects dedicated exclusively to helping newcomers integrate into society and benefit from the European tourism industry.

magdas HOTEL - Austria

Magdas‘ HOTEL is a social enterprise hotel – the first of its kind in Austria – with a mission to empower and educate refugees and migrants in the hospitality and tourism industry. The hotel, located in a heavily frequented area in Vienna, provides ten newcomers to Austria with placements at the hotel, allowing them to shadow ten industry professionals. This job-shadowing and mentorship between refugees and professionals in the industry is an important part of the program, alongside magdas HOTEL works their non-profit Caritas, which has 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 gain hospitality skills at magdas.

Migrantour Rome - Italy

Planeterra provided Migrantour Rome with a link to small group travel operator G Adventures, who bring around 500 travellers to take part in this alternative tour of Rome. The Migrantour shows the multiculturalism, and hidden gems of Rome that make the city unique and diverse. Guests participate in a tour led by a newcomer or a migrant to the city, who leads the group to various shops, associations, and places of worship. This intercultural experience that is rarely seen by tourists also benefits the traveller as they learn about the migrant crisis and how they can help while visiting Italy. It also benefits the guides by providing an income, and building their skills in storytelling, public speaking and English.

Migrantour Naples with Casba - Italy

The Casba Social Cooperative runs tours led by migrants to Naples, with a main goal of trying to improve the lives of migrants by educating local Napolitans about migrants to the city. Tours are created for local Italians to get to know newcomers, and through tour guides who are migrants themselves, local Italians are exposed to the beauty created by a melting pot of cultures, languages, and religions living together harmoniously in Naples.

Casba also has tours for newcomers to the city which educates refugees and migrants about what it’s like living in Naples – everything from how to use the metro, to the layout of the city and what markets they can visit to find familiar food for cooking traditional meals. These two types of tours are incredibly important, and Casba is continuously working to support incoming refugees and support the community in an effort to create a more cohesive, accepting society. Planeterra partnered with Casba to provide training to their guides, by hiring a local tourism professional to conduct lessons and training in guiding and storytelling. Now, G Adventures has 750 travellers who take a migrantour of Naples – injecting money directly into Casba’s programs.

Next month, representatives from Planeterra are returning to Europe to forge partnerships with potential organizations assisting those affected by the migrant and refugee crisis, among other at-risk groups on the continent. You can support this work by donating via our website, with the knowledge that 100% of your donation goes directly to our global programs, where it’s needed most.
Read more