Communities

CFLI Project in Sri Lanka comes to a successful close

Planeterra & Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives

In June of 2020, Planeterra was awarded a grant from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), for a project focussed on increasing domestic demand for Sthree’s handicraft and cafe has come to a close! The CFLI is a program designed to support small-scale, high-impact projects in developing countries, which align with Global Affairs Canada’s thematic priority areas for engagement.

This month marks the end of Planeterra’s project with the Candian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI). We began working with CFLI in June with our partners at the Women’s Development Centre (WDC) in Sri Lanka. The goal of this project was to empower women entrepreneurs dependent on international tourism for their income, to better access the domestic markets in order to reduce the volatility of their household income to changes in the tourism market.

We are excited to share that this project has equipped 110 women entrepreneurs and 23 employees from the WDC in Sri Lanka with increased knowledge of business management, improved handicraft skills, and a better understanding of domestic market channels and trends. 

These trainings have renewed a sense of confidence within the entrepreneurs to capture new markets with the right products, and a new confidence in the WDC team to lead the entrepreneurs to success and better tap into online markets to support the sale of their products,” says Rhea Simms, Senior Programs Manager of Planeterra.

Handicraft quality training was conducted on shoe making, batik dying, candle making, crocheting, soft toy making, saree blouse making, artisanal soap making, packaging and food dehydration. All skills training activities were identified through market assessments conducted to better understand local purchasing trends. Some entrepreneurs went on to receive mentorship which allowed them to put their new skills into action and develop their very first business plans. Marketing and social media training played a large role as well, as the world becomes increasingly online. 

While COVID-19 impacted some of the sessions, the local trainers and entrepreneurs were quick to improvise using Whatsapp to communicate and participate in lessons remotely. Recordings of training sessions were completed to keep the program moving along effectively and ensure that the learnings could continue beyond the project period.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the project was a success with over 160 people benefiting from the project, 149 of those being women. While it is still early to know the full impact of this project, six women entrepreneurs have developed brand new products for the domestic market – two of them related to food dehydration. Four partnerships were developed to increase sales and skills for women entrepreneurs. Lastly, three entrepreneurs were able to secure large orders through effective marketing both direct and through social media, with differentiated products based on project learnings. 

 

We are proud to have been a part of such an impactful initiative and we know that it will continue to make a difference for women entrepreneurs across Sri Lanka. 

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

Media Enquiries

For media enquiries, please reach out to:

Alanna Wallace
Program & Communications Manager

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An Interview with Amoun, Founder of Domari Society

An Interview with Domari Society Founder, Amoun

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL- Community centre in Jerusalem supporting marginalized Domari women and children, earning income through a meal and handicraft experience for travellers.

While women represent the majority of workers, they are often in lower-level positions and are earning 14.7% less than their male counterparts. A lack of education or formal training jeopardizes women’s active participation in tourism. At Planeterra we are working to close this gap.

Meet Amoun Sleem, she founded Domari Society at the age of 16 and since then has committed her life to serve her community. For International Women’s Day we at Planeterra wanted to highlight the amazing women we work with all around the world who are continually making an impact.

We had the opportunity to interview Amoun that you can read below.  

Why did you start your organization?

The Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem was established in 1999, I opened the doors of my house as a shelter and a center for my community. I wanted the Dom community, especially women and children to find a space of tolerance, acceptance, and most importantly a place where they can develop new skills, get support in continuing their education, and gain empowerment tools for a better life. 

The society was a response to the loss of cultural pride, lack of education, unemployment and poverty within the community. Our Dom history begins with us migrating from India to the Middle East. We adopted the local language (Arabic) and religion (Islam) but kept our traditions. The Dom community are seen as “different” by their Arab neighbours, but as Palestinians, they face the same unequal treatment from the Israeli state. Our mission is to improve the circumstances of the Dom community. We focus on educational development, economic empowerment, and cultural preservation.  

What impacts have you seen in your community?

Our work is focused on educational development, economic empowerment, and cultural preservation. To meet these goals, we create programs especially for women and children. Firstly, we have an after-school tutoring program for Dom children. Our goal is to raise Dom children’s educational level,  to encourage parents and children to continue with education, and give Dom children better opportunities and choices of future work. 

Before COVID-19 the center had become an integral part of their everyday life. They felt safe and motivated to go to school every day, and their grades were getting better and their involvement with school activities increased. We believe that our tutoring support is helping children to stop dropping-out of school, as they get more confident with their abilities and aspirations for the future. We are happy to say that we have students who are entering high-school now. However, it has been a challenge to keep such progress with continuous lock-downs and limitations. We are focusing on helping Dom students at home to take part in the shift to online-learning; we are contacting donors and applying for grants to acquire tablets or laptops for Dom children. a few of the Dom children are using their parents’ smartphones to access their classes and the remaining have no alternatives for the physical school classrooms. 

Secondly, we are dedicated to providing Humanitarian Aid, especially during COVID-19. A lot of Dom parents have lost their jobs and their only source of income. We are focusing on maintaining our community’s will-power and continue to give the children assurance and hope during the pandemic. The Domari Society supports the Dom family with vital and necessary supplies; food packages, blankets, school supplies, and children gifts to uplift their spirits. 

Thirdly, we have a tourism program with Planeterra. Our goal is to inform people around the world about Domari history and culture, create work opportunities for Domari women and increase their independence, and receive income outside of grants. The project before COVID-19 was a great opportunity for our community, as they were able to use their skills and communicate with different people from different cultures. We believe that our mission is giving a voice to our community.

Fourthly, we offer a space for the community to meet, exchange and live out their traditions. This is essential for preserving the Domari culture, which is at risk of marginalization. One of our projects is the Domari Language Preservation. We invite elderly members of the community and record Domari language. It provides an opportunity for the children to forge a connection with their cultural, linguistic heritage in hopes that it will not disappear. Before the pandemic, the community center held a variety of activities to keep the Dom traditions alive; traditional Gypsy food dinners, live music and dance. Additionally, the Domari Society has compiled a cookbook of Gypsy recipes and a book about Domari history entitled The Dom of Jerusalem.

What impacts has your organization had on women in your community, and why is that so important?

Dom women are the pillars of our community, they are the pillars of change and achieving economic empowerment. I believe in order to build a strong independent society that has a clear future, I must provide the Dom women with the tools and skills to function independently in their communities and later transfer these mindsets and work ethics to their children, who are the future.

 One of the courses we provide is a small Business Course, in which women can learn skills necessary for starting and running an independent business. The course was geared towards individuals already working in the service industry and includes accounting, operations management, marketing, and technical expertise. We also provide catering and hairdressing courses with practical and theoretical sessions, which include psycho-social workshops, business follow-ups, income statements, and marketing sessions. We aim to increase the possibilities of Dom women finding employment or opening their own businesses, and as a result, improve the status of Dom women within their families and societies.

Dom women are always eager to participate in new learning opportunities that we provide, as they receive official certificates and real skills. Consequently, we recognized that Dom women became more confident, and the Dom community especially men are becoming more open-minded to the women’s various roles and abilities in the society. When our women find employment through the skills developed in courses, both the economy of the community and families as a whole experience positive effects. 

We also offer the center as space for Domari women to showcase their handicraft work, which is their only source of income, our goal as well is to celebrate the Dom people culture and cultivate cultural pride and self-confidence.

What actions do you take to ensure women in your workplace have equal opportunities?

At the Domari center, I make sure to give every Dom woman the chance and opportunities to develop new skills, gain experience, and find her path in life. I believe that it’s important to hear every woman’s struggle and find a program that suits her best. I always strive to be a mentor and provide guidance whether for work or for personal matters. Of course, the work environment revolves around building confidence between employees and volunteers, and where trust and cooperation are essential for progression. Therefore, we address our employees’ personal life pressures and duties, especially because I work with women. Most Dom women feel that they can’t reach their goals and mainly in their careers, because they lack childcare support, but at my center children are welcomed and we provide games and a space for them.

What are your dreams for your organization?

I have many dreams for my organization, one is to make the Domari Society Center a model for all gypsies around the world; to become an international focal point for connecting all gypsies together, and I aspire to make it a model for all gypsies -especially in the Middle-East-  where from it they can derive pride in our culture and ethnic roots. Such a dream is a journey where we have many bus-stops; end discrimination, and obtain economic, legal, and social equality. I strive to reach leaders who will advocate for our rights, promote justice, and give voice to the voiceless.

You can learn more about our work the Domari Society here. 

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Panama commits to bringing travel back better with launch of PACT – Panama Alliance for Community Tourism

New initiative designed to improve well-being of residents, visitors and the environment

This week the Panama Government, in partnership with the Panamanian Foundation for Sustainable Tourism (APTSO), Fundación Natura, and non-profit Planeterra, the global leader in community tourism enterprise development, announced a joint venture to work with communities across Panama to build community tourism experiences that improve the well-being of residents, visitors, and the environment, celebrating the natural beauty and must-have cultural experiences the country offers. 

The new partnership aims to reposition Panama as a destination focused on incredible cultural immersion experiences for travellers that leave a positive footprint on the country in terms of supporting local people and businesses, and ensures traveller dollars stay in-destination. 

“The launch of the Panama Alliance for Community Tourism (PACT) is a major break-through in the implementation of Panama’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan”, explained Ivan Eskildsen, the Panamanian Minister of Tourism. 

“In our Master Plan, we have prioritized the development of tourism experiences focused on the ‘discerning traveler’, a global trend that is demanding more and more authentic experiences that benefit local communities, and their surrounding environment. We are excited that PACT will accelerate the implementation of this strategy, with local and global partners that will help Panama consolidate world-class community tourism experiences, that showcase the extraordinary wealth of our natural and cultural heritage.”

The partners involved in the PACT initiative plan to work closely with at least 10 communities and their tourism enterprises in order to assist them with income diversification, product development, and customer service. Long-term sustainability will be a focus for the initiative’s pilot projects, which will include training local counterparts in Planeterra’s highly successful community-led tourism development methodology and local communities in all aspects of the tourism value chain, including business planning, regenerative agriculture and resiliency building in order to ensure each community is set up for success.  

“Planeterra is excited to work with APTSO, Fundación Natura and the Ministry of Tourism to launch this groundbreaking community tourism initiative,” says Jamie Sweeting, president of Planeterra. 

“We look forward to bringing Planeterra’s proven approach to empowering community-led tourism to Panama and, in the process, strengthening local partners to lead this initiative forward.”

“The PACT partners share a vision for using proven solutions to put host communities at the heart of tourism in Panama,” explained Annie Young, president of the Panamanian Foundation for Sustainable Tourism (APTSO). “Through close collaboration, we can achieve the goals of  the Tourism Vision 2025 of the Panama  Sustainable Tourism Master Plan and become globally recognized as a world-class sustainable tourism destination while supporting the wellbeing of our communities.”

For more information, please visit www.planeterra.org  and www.aptso.org.

ends

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

Media Enquiries

For media enquiries, please reach out to:

Alanna Wallace
Program & Communications Manager

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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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HOW YOU CAN CELEBRATE THE WAY OF THE SAN

HOW YOU CAN CELEBRATE THE WAY OF THE SAN

Across Southern Africa, there are tourism experiences that promise to educate and inspire visitors about the Indigenous San – the original inhabitants of Southern Africa, and truly the original inhabitants of Planet Earth. A fascinating culture, the San are the earliest hunter-gatherers, having once lived across large areas of South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, and beyond.

As is true with most Indigenous people, their way of life, their knowledge, languages and culture have all been threatened first by colonialism, and nowadays by the legacy that colonialism has left behind – a lack of economic empowerment and opportunity, which leaves the San isolated.

Having lived in South Africa, and returning regularly in my capacity as Program Manager for Planeterra, I was well acquainted with tourism experiences – from lodges to museums – that attempted to celebrate the San.

But few have the power of Dqae Qare San Lodge. Owned freehold by the Indigenous community of D’Kar through the Kuru Development Trust, this wildlife reserve, campsite and lodge is a special and unique place. It provides full-time employment for 12 members of the D’Kar community and part-time work for over 40 more. With many in the community living on about 30 cents a day, these jobs are truly changing lives. One Dqae Qare employee is able to support a family of ten back in D’Kar.

Visiting Dqae Qare

The authenticity and power of the lodge hits visitors almost immediately. As I arrived on my first visit in February of 2018, I stepped out of my truck to find San community members bustling about the property. An employee drives past in a work vehicle filled with other employees on their way to a maintenance job near the campsite, a young San woman is setting the table under a thatched roof for dinner, and another greets me and checks me in at the lodge’s reception. I book the activities I want to partake in with her, and she happily leads me to my room. There’s a sense of purpose and passion behind every employee, and the feeling is palpable.

Later that day, I’m greeted by Dinah and Xgaiga, who take me out on a bushwalk to show me how the San have hunted, gathered food, and used the sometimes harsh Kalahari environment to their benefit. The San employees at Dqae Qare can identify more than 80 plants and their medicinal uses – it seems like every five steps we take, Xgaiga halts to point out a tree or a bush that has a practical use – this one protects you from snakes as you sleep, the bark of this tree can be boiled in water to cure colds and its leaves can be eaten to relieve a stomach ache.

In the evening, there is a storytelling and dance. Community members from nearby flood to the big bonfire in front of the lodge, and Xgaiga begins a story, told entirely in Naro. Everyone listens intently, the travellers around me lean in when Dinah starts her translation, in anticipation but also to warm ourselves by the fire. The story is about how the dog became man’s friend, while the jackal remains wild. Dancing ensues, and community members and travellers alike join in a circle around the flames.

It dawns on me how profound it is to experience the San practicing their culture, on land that they own outright themselves. Indigenous people around the world struggle to regain lands taken from them and to practice traditions that were even made illegal. It’s so important that places such as the Dqae Qare San Lodge are preserved, and helping it grow is a task Planeterra has been dedicated to since this first visit.

The prosperity of the lodge has a direct correlation with the development of the D’Kar community and the employment of its people. The more Planeterra can invest in the infrastructure of the lodge, the more profit Dqae Qare can invest straight into the community projects they’re dedicated to providing – like support for the area’s schools, churches, and even a clean water project taken on by the Kuru Development Trust. This GivingTuesday, we’re asking for support to help with upgrades to the lodge so Dqae Qare can continue to grow, employ more community members from D’Kar, and so many more travellers can enjoy learning and celebrating the way of the San.

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PUESTA DEL SOL IS BACK

PUESTA DEL SOL IS BACK

We are very excited to announce that operations are restarting at Puesta del Sol, our Planeterra project in Nicaragua in November of this year. In March 2018, G Adventures cancelled operations due to the political crisis in the country.

The Puesta del Sol Community Association was founded in 2005 by 17 families, largely influenced by the women in the community. The mission of the organization is to improve the quality of life for their families and the area.

They are located in Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua, which is a beautiful island in the Nicaraguan Lake that has 2 mindblowing volcanoes. The main economic activities in this area are tourism and farming. Through the association, they have created different touristic initiatives. These new opportunities are resulting in families being able to stay together. In the past, due to the lack of jobs some members of the family had to leave to bring or send money home.

Tourism has become a meaningful source of economic development in Nicaragua, but because of the political crisis and social instability, this source of income was heavily affected. Puesta del Sol itself was impacted, they stopped receiving visitors, resulting  in job loss. Many had to leave for either safety or to be able to provide for their families.

Odalis the President of the Association, (her family founded the association) has been involved in every step of the development of the organization and is extremely proud. During my visit to Puesta del Sol in September, I stayed at her house or “homestay”, she showed me around and told me all of the exciting stories about her family and the association.  She is so happy to see how the country is recovering from the crisis, tourists are coming back and she is so thankful and happy to be welcoming G Adventures travellers into their houses.

G Adventures and Planeterra have been working with Puesta del Sol since 2012. Planeterra provided funds for the development of the tourism initiative and the related training. Travellers enjoy living the “Isleno” life for a couple of days through the homestay experience offered by Puesta del Sol, the families in the community are very welcoming, and they really make you feel at home!

The community is eager to welcome back all G Adventures groups!

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Boosting a craft workshop in Kyrgyzstan

Meet Mekenbek

Mekenbek is a passionate artist that has spent his life producing traditional Kyrgyz crafts. Mekenbek started a workshop in Barksoon village that primarily produces yurts and yurt decorations. Ak Orgo’s purpose is to preserve traditional Kyrgyz handicrafts while providing employment opportunities for the town of Barskoon, a community suffering with 80% unemployment.

The Ak Orgo Workshop

Planeterra works with community organizations and nonprofits all over the world, using tourism as a catalyst for empowerment and sustainable development.

Here is one example of how we brought on our newest partner, Ak Orgo, in the small town of Barskoon in Kyrgyzstan.

Finding Ak Orgo
The Ak Orgo workshop has actually been featured in Lonely Planet, and was found by a G Adventures’ CEO in Central Asia. G Adventures’ groups started visiting Ak Orgo in 2018, but it was clear that some additional training and infrastructure development was needed to see this workshop achieve its social enterprise goals through tourism.

Infrastructure Needs Assessment

The basic structure for the workshop at Ak Orgo was already standing, but the toilet was not at a good standard, the kitchen was barely functional, and they dreamed of having a showroom where the artists could actually display their crafts for visitors.

Infrastructure Grant

A grant was provided to Ak Orgo to fully construct a building outside the workshop that would house the kitchen, handicraft display room and the bathrooms. The community pitched in to complete the construction project in time for the tourism season to begin. This new building allows Ak Orgo to greatly improve the quality of experience they can provide in their workshop.

Organizational Needs Assessment

Ak Orgo had no online presence, and struggled to find a way to capture the tourists driving by Barskoon. With the existing craft orders and partnerships the workshop was surviving, but not yet thriving or reaching its social enterprise goals of providing more employment opportunities in Barskoon. Ak Orgo looked to tourism as a launching pad that could help their workshop grow.

Capacity Building Program & Launching in Tours

To address organizational needs, a training program was developed with the Association of Social Entrepreneurs Kyrgyzstan. The training program went over a period of six months, with trainings in three key categories – social entrepreneurship, tourism & guest management, and managing their online presence. Through this process Ak Orgo was able to develop their Social Enterprise Business Plan to continue tracking business and social targets for the future.

As Planeterra works with our local partners, we also ensure that the experience is represented into the travel itineraries of G Adventures. Their first group of the 2019 season visited Ak Orgo on May 21, 2019. The group enjoyed a yurt building demonstration, a tour of the workshop and a traditional Kyrgyz lunch. The income earned through this partnership with G Adventures allows Ak Orgo to continue doing what they love, producing Kyrgyz crafts.

Constant Innovation

Mekenbek doesn’t stop at craft production in the workshop. He is an innovator and creator at heart, and is constantly building new equipment that will allow their crafts to be produced in a less labour-intensive manner than traditionally taught. These innovations mean that more people can continue to produce the items and the culture can be better passed down to the next generation.

Impact

Ak Orgo currently employs 9 community members and hopes to continue providing employment opportunities as their tourism program grows.

Planeterra couldn’t be more excited to see travellers start visiting Ak Orgo. It is our hope that tourism will allow them to continue to grow their workshop, hire more community members, and spread their unique crafts on to the next generation of artisans. Ak Orgo is a special place, and we highly encourage you to visit on your next trip to Kyrgyzstan!

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Updates from Colombia

Planeterra has been working with Wiwa Tours in Colombia to set up a social enterprises owned and operated by the Wiwa community of Gotsezhy along the Lost City Trek. A series of enterprises along the trek have opened up new income generation opportunities for the community, including a training kitchen, meal and handicraft experiences. In the last months before launching the experience for G Adventures’ travellers, the community members are putting final touches on the experience. This project works to provide income opportunities for 100 community members. An investment from Planeterra and Live Out There, along with the support of G Adventures, has created a unique new opportunity for the Gotsezhy community to thrive in tourism. Check out some of the latest photos of their progress:

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Making Tourism Benefits Accessible for All

Finding a job in tourism can be difficult for anyone. Finding a job in tourism when you are living with a long-term disability — seemingly impossible. The ability to get to a tourist destination opens a world of possibility. When accessibility is an issue, the only way to engage in tourism may be if a traveller comes directly to where you are.

Not all societies prioritize accessibility. This means that anyone living with long-term disabilities face immediate barriers whenever they leave their home. Simple things like accessing public transportation may mean that a person has to forgo economic opportunity all together. Other societies have certain stigmas attached to disability. This leaves community members isolated from their peers and without adequate opportunities to become independent adults.

This is where Planeterra comes in. Planeterra works with unique partners across the world that are creating accessible futures and meaningful opportunities for the communities they serve. Our partners help serve communities living with disabilities to access education, mobility devices and unique health care. The integration of tourism into these programs allows for increased income to support meaningful work, and hands-on job experience for community members to learn new skills and earn an income.

Get to know five amazing organizations that are bringing accessibility to the tourism industry with Planeterra:

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Senang Hati Foundation

Beyond everyday limitations experienced by people living with disabilities, this community in Indonesia are also faced with culturally ingrained stigmatization. It is believed that those living with disabilities have bad karma, leaving them isolated and marginalized within their communities, often without education or medical care. Senang Hati Foundation is one nonprofit that is working to provide opportunities to these community members in Bali to help individual gain independence and increase mobility. The organization hosts a community lunch for travellers, where Planeterra has helped outfit their dream kitchen equipped with accessible appliances and counters. Senang Hati is a place for community members to gain confidence as they learn new skills.

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Nem Adom Fel

Almost 1 million Hungarians are living with a physical or mental disability. There are also great disparities in employment rates and education levels between able-bodied Hungarians and Hungarians living with a disability. Although recent government legislation and programs have attempted to tackle these issues (and others such as accessibility), with varying degrees of success, there exists a need to empower and employ people living with disabilities in Hungary. Nem Adom Fel Foundation (meaning ‘I never give up’) was founded in 2005 with the mission to fulfill this need with the belief that everyone has something to offer. Not only does the Foundation employ differently-abled individuals to run their cafe, which doubles as a community space for cultural programming, but they use the revenue to invest in social support for students, creating a daycare, providing accessible housing, and other community initiatives. So far 180 people living with disabilities or from Roma communities have been employed by the foundation and as time goes on even more will become empowered through the work of Nem Adom Fel.

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Penduka

Located in the Katatura Township just outside of Windhoek, Namibia, Penduka is a women-owned and run business which houses numerous handicraft workshops for textiles, beading and pottery, as well as a restaurant, guesthouse, and small income-generating agriculture projects. One of the co-founders of Penduka suffers from physical disabilities and set out to assist other women in her community who often do not receive enough government assistance and are considered unemployable. Penduka hires local, at-risk women with no schooling background and no access to secure jobs, with the majority suffering from chronic illness or disabilities. Through direct employment at Penduka and a handicraft cooperative which contracts the services of rural artisans, more than 300 women from around the country are benefitting from this socially-minded business.
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Sthree Craft Shop and Cafe

The Women’s Development Centre in Kandy have been serving women for over 30 years. Women with children with disabilities have a unique need, as without adequate care for the children they will be unable to work and support the family. Financial responsibility for children with disabilities often falls on the woman to support in Sri Lanka. The Women’s Development Centre helps to meet this need by providing a daycare centre for children with disabilities, as well as a vocational training program to continue learning opportunities for these youth beyond formal education. Youth from the vocational training centre will be serving up hot tea and snacks to G Adventures travellers in Kandy as of 2018, along with women entrepreneurs at the Sthree Craft Shop and Cafe. This provides the students with additional opportunities to learn new skills, build their confidence, and interact with people from all over the world.
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Cafe Ubuntu

When their children’s school for disabilities was chronically underfunded, the ladies of Ubuntu Team came together to create a social enterprise that would provide more resources to children living with physical and psychological limitations in their community. Not only do more than 20 women now work at Ubuntu Made, which creates beautiful handicrafts that are sold around the world, the women also operate Cafe Ubuntu, which hosts travellers as they commute from Nairobi to nearby safari reserves. The funds raised through the cafe and handicrafts go not only towards the women’s livelihoods, but also to funding the community school for children with disabilities, which is now able to employ a special needs teacher and occupational therapist.
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The impact of tourism in Panauti, Nepal

Although it’s hard not to enjoy staying in a beautiful, luxurious hotel while travelling, the reality is that most budget hotels—and some mid-range ones, too—simply end up being a place to rest your head. For travellers who want much more from their accommodation, the Community Homestay project in Nepal offers just that. As well as providing guests an opportunity to experience authentic Nepali life, get to know small-town locals and participate in non-touristy activities, there is a serious social benefit to the host communities.

The Community Homestay project, run by Kathmandu-based Royal Mountain Travel, has been operating their flagship collection of homestays in Panauti since 2013. The Panauti Community Homestay project has recently partnered with Planeterra as one of the new projects for the 50 in 5 Campaign. Initially, 13 homes were involved. Now, 26 beds in 17 homes are open to visitors in Panauti.

The aim of the homestays from the beginning was to help empower the women of the community, in the understanding that by strengthening women, whole communities are strengthened. In traditional Nepali society—which still dominates everywhere but the most privileged enclaves of the major cities—women are typically dependent on men, first their fathers and then their husbands. They are usually under- or uneducated, too, so don’t get many opportunities to earn their own money or contribute to the household in any way other than with their household chores. The Community Homestays aimed to change all that in their communities.

The good news is, they’ve been really successful, especially in Panauti, where they began. Panauti is not completely rural but not urban, either. It’s a small town about forty kilometres from Kathmandu, traditionally inhabited by Newari people, an ethnic group largely found in and around the Kathmandu Valley. The town is surrounded by rice fields and hills, which are bright green just after the monsoon, and the architecture in the centre of the town is typically Newari, with ornately carved wooden doorways and windows. The main historical attraction of the town is the Indreshwar Temple, a tall pagoda structure beside the river that is the oldest temple in Nepal, dating from 1294. A sightseeing tour around Panauti with the host family is sure to interest travellers with various tastes.

The women of Panauti have been able to generate extra income for their households through hosting guests, and have some control over their own money. They have joined English classes so they can communicate better with their guests, which have given them greater confidence and social skills. They have worked together and made new friends and colleagues, and are no longer as house-bound as they once were. As one homestay host, Sabita KC, commented: “As I am, now, able to help with the household expenses, we can save money for the future of our children. I am glad that I am part of the homestay project.”

Operating the homestays has also had community-wide effects, beyond just the households directly involved. In order to be able to host guests, homes must meet a good standard of hygiene in all respects, including food preparation and waste disposal. As the hosting women became better educated about safe practices, the whole town caught on. As tourists to Nepal tend to enjoy clean, green natural environments free of garbage, the hosts became better aware of keeping their town in good shape. While Nepal isn’t short of stunning natural landscapes, unfortunately many settlements tend to be litter-strewn, with poor water quality in the rivers and ponds. But, as Panauti host Parvati Sainju commented: “We are more aware of sanitation and hygiene now. The entire community is more concerned about moving away from plastics and non-decaying products.”

The community has benefited in monetary ways, too. The thirty-four homestay women contribute 20% of their total income towards the development of community. So far, these funds have been put towards scholarships for underprivileged students. This sharing of some of the profits is a requirement of inclusion in the programme, and ensures that the ‘community’ aspect of Community Homestay stays strong.

These days, around 1800 guests stay at the Panauti Community Homestay annually. With such tangible achievements evident from just its first four years of operation, there are high hopes for what the project could continue to do for Panauti, as well as for other communities around Nepal.

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Author: Elen Turner is a freelance travel writer and editor based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Find her at www.elenturner.com

Royal Mountain Travel is connecting a network of homestays in Nepal through CommunityHomestay.com. Be sure to check out some of the other amazing homestays they have supported, including Planeterra’s partners at Barauli Community Homestay.  G Adventures’ Local Living Nepal tour brings you to Panauti village to spend four nights with your community hosts!

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