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Planeterra’s Virtual Everest Base Camp Trek A Resounding Success

Over 550 people on 62 teams joined to support community tourism around the world rebuild and recover post-COVID

The Planeterra Trek Challenge culminated on World Tourism Day last Sunday, and a celebration was in order as the non-profit raised over US$78,000 to help community tourism organizations worldwide who are suffering from a lack of travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge was for individuals and teams to trek 85,000 steps, approximately the distance to Everest Base Camp, celebrating tourism to the region and also community tourism’s ability to reduce poverty and empower communities.

The virtual event featured a number of travel agent teams, as well as staff from travel brands G Adventures, TruTravels, Travelsphere and JustYou, and Planeterra founder Bruce Poon Tip created his own team, leading the fundraising efforts with over US$13,000 raised. Poon Tip also matched donations up to US$19,000.

A number of well-known bloggers also participated including Uncornered Market, Divergent Travellers, and Nomads Giving Back. Truly a global event, participants hailed from over 30 different counties, with many opting into taking on the step challenge associated with the event.

“What we witnessed is an incredible show of support from Planeterra’s global community, which grew over the weeks before, and during the Planeterra Trek Challenge,” says Planeterra President Jamie Sweeting. “Travellers love authentic experiences that give back to the communities they visit, and by raising these funds they demonstrated that they want our partners to be there when we’re all able to travel again.”

Participants hiked to raise awareness of the power of community tourism to change lives and uplift communities. Donations will provide kickstarter funding for communities worldwide that need to invest in new health and safety measures, provide training for safely reopening, and ensure communities remain resilient and safe for years to come.

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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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Alanna Wallace
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The ‘Six Stars’ at Amba Estate

THE “SIX STARS” AT AMBA ESTATE, BANDARAWALA, SRI LANKA

We have just returned from Sri Lanka after meeting yet another group of inspiring women being supported by Planeterra Foundation! The “Six Stars” as they befittingly call themselves, are women who work a the AMBA Tea Estate and with Planeterra support have established a successful chutney cooperative after getting training and necessary equipment, further supplementing their income.

AMBA Estate is a community-based sustainable tourism project in the Ambadandegama valley in the Uva Highlands of Sri Lanka. Ambadandegama Chutney Cooperative is the first entirely community-owned venture to be supported by the Estate. Planeterra provided a grant for equipment and training so that the women of AMBA could start producing a range of chutneys, pickles and other preserves to be sold to visitors, utilizing the multitude of fruits and vegetables that grow in the valley. The group received guidance on how to make different types of chutney and about health and safety standards, like how to sterilize the bottles. The whole process is carried out with utmost precision. Anyone witnessing the entire process can feel the meditative approach of the cooking, as going step by step requires a lot of patience. But in the end, you are rewarded well with the aromas of all the lovely ingredients slowly filling the room.

The Happy Team at Work

The six members of the cooperative were selected by AMBA because they are the most experienced tea pickers. In Sri Lanka, it is mandatory that tea pluckers retire from the plantations at the age of 55, so the chutney cooperative adds financial stability as these women move into retirement. The “Six Stars” are all able to work from the comfort of their own homes which also provides them the opportunity to get help from their family members. As a result, the cooperative can churn out an order of 10-15 bottles in a single day. Guests at AMBA Guest House are able to taste the delicious chutneys ranging from mango, papaya, tomato, jackfruit, and lime, and can also take some back home.

The Six Stars remark on the impact AMBA has had on them, including being able to support their families.

“I have two daughters and one son,” Renuka says, “This money has really helped me a lot as I build my house. With the profits, I bought wiring for the house.”

“I worked before in the estate and now I do this,” Ramayalatha reflects, “I am saving money for my daughter’s wedding.”

All of the women’s stories are truly inspiring, but Renuka’s story stands out. after facing a lot of setbacks early in life, in 2008, she joined AMBA as a tea-plucker. Step-by-step she learned a whole range of new skills, from organic vegetable and tea growing to fine-plucking, tea-rolling and jam-making. Like all of AMBA’s team, she participates in the farm’s revenue-share and she is now responsible for all aspects of tea production, from plucking the leaves to rolling and overseeing the oxidization and drying. She is also a founding member of AMBA’s chutney cooperative, which are then sold in the AMBA farm shop. Thanks to Renuka’s perseverance and hard work, she has been able to give her children an excellent education – her oldest daughter graduated and is now a teacher, her son is a security officer at a school, and her youngest daughter is taking her O Level. Renuka says that her life is getting much better, thanks to AMBA and Planeterra.

It’s not just the members of AMBA Chutney Cooperative who are set to benefit from this enterprise. The community is also seeing ripple effects from this business, as Rs. 10 from each bottle of chutney sold is added to the cooperative’s fund which goes towards their equipment, and eventually, towards purchasing a start-up kit for more women to join the cooperative.

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