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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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.


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

Royal Mountain Travel is connecting a network of homestays in Nepal through 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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The Ripple Effects of Tourism at Parwa in Peru

At Planeterra Foundation, we believe that the economic empowerment of one small business can uplift an entire community. We’ve seen it time and time again since we began assisting individuals, families and businesses to join the tourism supply chain. By empowering a business and helping it to thrive, an entire community can be transformed.

There is perhaps no better example of what we call “the ripple effect” than the community-owned Parwa Restaurant in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Since it opened in March of 2014, profits from the restaurant have been distributed to various initiatives which have benefitted the community as a whole, and often the neediest groups.

Not surprisingly, the community association decided early in its first year to invest in the youth of the village, through a scholarship program and building of an internet-connected computer center. 

The elderly in the community have also seen the ripple effect caused by the restaurant’s creation, as a social security program was created for their benefit. Income in 2016 went towards installation of water tanks in 45 families’ homes, to ensure all residents in the village have access to running water.  

Those running the restaurant have also not forgotten to invest back into their own business. New restrooms, kitchen upgrades, and an organic garden to grow vegetables for the restaurant (that acts as an educational component on local foods including quinoa and indigenous potatoes for visitors) were all completed in 2016.

The success of the Parwa Restaurant is a testament not only to the infrastructure investment and capacity building contributed by  Planeterra Foundation and its partners, but to the commitment of the whole community to improve their families’ lives. This true social enterprise has lifted an entire community up, and we will continue to watch as their ripple effect continues to reach those most in need.  


Joel Callañaupa is Planeterra’s Field Manager in South America. He works closely with indigenous communities in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. He has specialized in community tourism since 2007 when he began his career with Peru’s national rural community tourism development program.

Help Planeterra continue to harness the travel industry for good

Read Planeterra’s 2016 Annual Report

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Celebrating International Day of Cooperatives

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

San Antonio Pottery Co-op

San Ignacio, Belize

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

Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op

Sacred Valley, Peru

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

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


Ayvalik, Turkey

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

Moshi Mamas

Moshi, Tanzania

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

Mi Cafecito

Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

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

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

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Tyson Travel visits the Clean Cookstoves Project

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

Hear from Tyson himself about his experience 

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

Watch Tyson’s video below

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A sweet welcome to Barauli

It was a sweet welcome when I entered Barauli village, located on the west side of Chitwan National Park in Nepal. Not just because of the smiling faces and the delicious welcome drink, but because you could tell that this was a group of people that are sincerely so happy for you to be there.

After you go through a traditional Tharu welcome ceremony you are greeted by Jeevan Kumari with your (I cannot emphasize this enough) delicious welcome drink. Jeevan is a quiet yet confident woman with a graceful air about her. She mans the bar in the community restaurant and does so with pride.

The Barauli community has been running the homestay program for the last three years. With the support of Royal Mountain Travel, the community was able to construct individual room guest houses – much like a typical home – for travellers to stay. Jeevan had been completing her studies and was married just one year ago. After marriage she knew she needed to find something to do beyond her household chores. Encouraged by the tourists that visited her village almost every day, Jeevan decided to apply for a job in the restaurant. Now she works every day that there are guests and goes to spend time with her family on her days off.

Jeevan has noticed a lot of changes in her village since the homestay project began. “The tourists are helping us to keep our village clean”, she said. “When the tourists came, people noticed that they weren’t throwing plastic on the ground. Now everyone encourages each other to keep the community clean.” She goes on, “before we didn’t use soap – now we use it for our clothes and our dishes.” These small yet meaningful changes have led to an overall reduction in sickness in the village she reported, and now if someone does get sick, they know to call the doctor. Even child birth has improved since the community’s exposure into the tourism industry, with women choosing to call the doctor instead of the witch doctor when a woman goes into labour. The women also noted that before the homestay program was developed, they would have to bring all their vegetables to the market for sale, which was an extremely time consuming and difficult process. Today the homestay program purchases all their vegetables, meaning travellers get to enjoy local produce and women no longer have to make that difficult journey.

There’s been a lot of progress, but Jeevan is keen to keep moving forward. “Most people here are uneducated so I want to give them knowledge” she said. She hopes that someday she can be a teacher. Right now she is saving her money from her job to pay for her future plans, and to set more education programs in action for the youth of the village.

Changes in the community don’t stop there. With the assistance of Planeterra following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the community was able to install a solar energy grid, solar lights, western toilets, water tanks, and air conditioners to better improve the experience of their travellers. The street lights have improved the overall safety of students who leave Barauli early in the morning to travel to the college in the next village. Jeevan noted that other communities were noticing these improvements and starting to make plans of their own to introduce street lights.

Jeevan reflects that before the homestay program, girls often only went to school up until class 10. Today girls go on to further education and even take jobs in the city. Everyone is happy with these changes — including the men. Jeevan glowed as she stated how proud her husband was to share with other men that his wife was working at the homestay program. I would be proud too – the Barauli community has put together an amazing experience for travellers that come visit.

When you visit the Barauli Community Homestay in Nepal you are not only getting an authentic Tharu village experience, you are creating a better future for the children of the village. While Jeevan is not quite ready to have children of her own (she says she has far too much to accomplish before she can think about this) she is so proud to see that the children are now learning things she was never taught in college. Things are changing rapidly for Barauli, and it won’t be slowing down any time soon if Jeevan has anything to do with it.

After going on a jungle safari (sighting 8 rhinos!), seeing a traditional Tharu cultural dance and enjoying a delicious meal of Nepali curries, I retreated to my quaint room — basking in the peace and quiet that can only be found in such a remote setting.

The Barauli Community Homestay is proudly supported by Royal Mountain Travel and G Adventures. Rhea is the Asia Coordinator for Planeterra and was able to visit Baruali for the first time in April, 2017.

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Barefoot for India raises $1456

Stirling Weir, a previous G Adventures CEO (Chief Experience Officer), who is now a Operations CEO specialisit decided to use his vacation time for good. A simple pledge to walk barefoot for one day while travelling in India ended up raising $1,456 for Planeterra. From Planeterra we just wanted to say a huge thank you to Stirling for his generosity and his creativity!

Here’s what Stirling proposed through his GoFundMe page:

“As many of you know I’m currently traveling through India, a country known equally for its abundance of cultural beauty, as well as its visibly crippling poverty. Instead of remaining passive towards the thousands of people affected by poverty that I come across on this trip, I have decided to try and fight for them. On February 3rd – in an attempt to raise personal awareness, public awareness, and money for a good cause – I plan to spend the entire day barefoot while I tour around the city of Varkala in Southern India. I ask your help in raising money for Planeterra, a non-profit whose goal is to sponsor Social Enterprises (i.e., locally owned businesses) that will bring disaffected communities into the tourism industry all around the world. I believe in Planeterra’s mission because it provides lasting support to people in need by creating jobs, while improving the experiences of travelers from all backgrounds (If you want to learn more about Planeterra, you can visit them at their website,

I’m also pledging to cover GoFundMe’s 8% service charge, so that all money donated goes straight to Planeterra. So if you donate $100, GoFundMe will give me $92, but I will still donate all $100 to Planeterra. If you’d like to donate directly to Planeterra, just let me know how much you donated and I’ll add it to the campaign.On behalf of the billions of people living in poverty around the world, I thank you all for your support. And be sure to follow me on Instagram (@stirls101) or Facebook on the 3rd to watch my experience going barefoot. I have no doubt that I’ll accidentally step in something strange and disgusting, hopefully to your squeamish joy.
Help spread the word!”
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Planeterra named finalist for WTTC Award

We’re thrilled to report that Planeterra and our partners at G Adventures are finalists in the “Community” category of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, hosted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)! As Community Award Finalists, Planeterra’s work has been recognized as a leader of sustainable tourism in local community development, empowerment and cultural heritage.

Please read the press release from WTTC to learn more.

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11 New Projects Launch

Last year at this time, the Planeterra Foundation launched the ambitious 50 in 5 Campaign, to raise $5 million CAD to develop 50 new social enterprise projects by 2020. Since that time, we have been working hard to set the pace for the next five years, and we are pleased to share with you some of our results.

Since September 2015, the Planeterra Foundation has raised an astounding $1.1 million dollars. Our founding partner G Adventures’ continues to provide a generous annual donation to support our operating costs. This means that 100% of public and corporate donations are directed towards our projects. At our launch, we were also fortunate to receive multi-year funding from Live Out There and Deloitte to kick start news projects each year throughout the campaign.

With these donations, Planeterra has been able to launch 11 new social development projects in nine countries. That translates to 34,475 new community members whose lives are being changed by our work since the launch of 50 in 5.

Click through to read more about each of the projects launched through Planeterra’s 50 in 5 Campaign:

  1. Ubuntu Community Lunch (Kenya)
  2. Bike with Purpose (Belize)
  3. Cafe Chloe Training Restaurant (Australia)
  4. Barauli Community Homestay (Nepal)
  5. The Castaway (Oceans)
  6. Turkey Almond Park (Turkey)
  7. Belize Women’s Pottery Project (Belize)
  8. Tengger Community Homestay (Indonesia)
  9. Bali Community Lunch (Indonesia)
  10. El Hongo Community Restaurant (Mexico)
  11. Magdas Refugee Employment Hotel (Austria)

Stay up to date on to learn about all the latest project launches across the globe!

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