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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.”

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

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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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Kayaking for Planeterra

TURN KAYAKING INTO IMPACT

In April 2018, G Adventures CEO (Chief Experience Officer, or tour leader) Matt Ziegler embarked on an epic journey to kayak the length of the United States’ Mississippi River, from his home in Wisconsin all the way to New Orleans. Matt Ziegler raised $4,300 for Planeterra along the way. 

Matt’s kayaking journey took a total of 39-days totalling 1,600 mi (2,574 km) and passed through major U.S cities including St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. Matt braved winter storms, pounding rain, blistering sun, and a broken kayak. He camped along the banks of the Mississippi the entire way. He documented his journey via social media and ended up raising more than $4,300 for Planeterra – and when he was done? He headed straight to Alaska to start leading G Adventures trips!

“I not only did this for myself but also for a good cause. I raised money for Planeterra, which is a non-profit organization which focuses on sustainable tourism, where their projects impact some of the most disadvantaged populations in the world. With the help from Planeterra, they gain jobs but also redefine their identity and role in society.”

– Matt Ziegler.

His generosity and commitment to Planeterra is astounding and is appreciated by the Planeterra team as well as our partners all over the globe. We knew you could turn travel into impact, but now we also know you can turn kayaking into impact!

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TWO MIYATA BICYCLES ON A MISSION

PLANETERRA'S 50 IN 5 PROJECT BIKE WITH PURPOSE

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.

Udai Kapila and Omar Khan are two young men who met in high school in Dubai. Udai is now a software developer with G Adventures. As new Canadian’s with a desire to explore the country and meet amazing people, they came up with the unlikely idea to cycle across the entire country. They wanted not only to cycle but to raise money for a meaningful cause in the process.

When selecting a charity to support in their cross-Canada journey, Planeterra was a no-brainer for them. Planeterra’s model of empowerment through sustainable tourism aligned with their interests, careers and the journey they were about to embark on.

They started cycling in Vancouver on May 9, 2016 and ended in St. John’s, Newfoundland, over 7,000km later, on July 14th, 2016. Along the way, they met some amazing people- those who hosted them and filled their bags with chocolate, others who whipped past them on their bikes (despite being over 30 years their senior) and others that joined their mission and generously gave to Planeterra.

Through this journey, Omar and Udai raised $6,500 for Planeterra. What started with just two Miyata bicycles eventually enabled Planeterra to purchase bicycles for students in Caye Caulker, Belize, for Planeterra’s 50 in 5 project Bike with Purpose.

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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.

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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.
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From the Field – The Lusumpuko Women’s Club

HOPE AND INSPIRATION FOR OTHERS

The 20 women of the Lusumpuko Women’s Club chose this name with the hope that they would be able to lift themselves and their communities out of the harsh realities brought on by the economic situation in Zimbabwe. The ladies founded the chicken rearing co-operative as a way to create income for their households, and to help and inspire other, younger ladies to do the same.

How It Started

“It’s our dream to help more women in our community,”

says Lusumpuko president Linda Makarutse, and Merlyn Mpofu, Lusumpuko’s secretary, chimes in:

“The problem now is some of our age group and youth, they are not educated enough to get a job in the tourism industry. There is a need for hospitality training classes, and opportunities for women and youth here in Victoria Falls.”

With this in mind, Planeterra began supporting the co-operative in 2018, and the ladies of Lusumpuko got to receive basic business training. The co-operative also received a grant to help kick-start a meal service in the tourist town of Victoria Falls. This investment helped them purchase much-needed catering equipment, such as pots, a gas cooker, and serving utensils. They also got the chance to empower a different women’s co-operative by purchasing uniforms made from locally sourced chitenge fabric. The launch of their new catering business helped Lusumpuko increase their combined income of about $600 USD to more than four times as much per month, thus significantly improving their quality of life and enabling them to provide for their children while supporting other members of the community.

The meal service is a hearty buffet of traditional Zimbabwean food, as well as an enjoyable experience observing the preparation by the co-operative members. Travellers going through Victoria Falls have the opportunity to enjoy an array of home-cooked Zimbabwean delicacies. This has not only been financially beneficial for the ladies, but emotionally fulfilling for them as well. Most of the ladies will admit to finding a sense of purpose and validation as they can now depend on themselves to take care of their households.

Members of the co-operative used to do odd jobs in the community, like selling floor polish, providing cleaning services, or selling crafts across the border into Zambia or Botswana. Now, they have weekly work using their skills, practicing English, and interacting with international travellers, while many have dreams to one day expand the co-operative to provide other tourism services, like transport.

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First G Adventures travellers visit Native Grill

“NAVAJO SOUL FOOD”

It’s hard to miss the flags and signs of the Native Grill, a family-owned business along Route 89, nestled on Navajo Nation’s western side. It’s lunchtime on a Tuesday and the food truck, with the caption “Navajo Soul Food,” is busy with customers wanting to taste the authentic Navajo cuisine of frybread taco, dumpling stew and grilled local lamb. The kitchen is busy, as the family’s grandmother cooks frybreads for the pending G Adventures group of 12 who are about to arrive.

Her daughter Alfreida, who’s from the area, started the family food truck in 2013 by attending the Tuba City Fair, and operated in that town until a Burger King opened and forced them out some time later. Undeterred, Alfreida and her family carried on.

“There were days where we made no sales, but we stuck it out,” says Alfreida. “I’d be up prepping at 4:30 in the morning, but as time went along I figured things out.” Eventually, she gained her business license in 2016 and set up just south of the town of Cameron.

This area of Navajo Nation is in particular need of entrepreneurs like Alfreida, as it was under the Bennett Freeze between 1966 and 2009, which outlawed any infrastructure development. This meant houses couldn’t be built, water and gas lines couldn’t be laid, and roads couldn’t be mended, to name just a few of the ways the area’s development was stifled. Still today, it’s estimated that almost 60% of houses in the area do not have electricity, and the majority do not have potable water.

Improvements To The Native Grill

Planeterra partnered with Indigenous business incubator DineHozho, who have helped oversee a grant earmarked for improvements to the Native Grill. Today’s visitors are enjoying new picnic tables, a hand-washing station, and a brand new shade structure which will be especially handy during the hot desert summers. Native Grill’s operations have also been assisted by upgrades to their solar and generator systems.

As the group of G Adventures travellers arrive, they line up at the window to confirm their order for Navajo Tacos, and decide which toppings they’d like on their frybread, as three generations of Alfreida’s family work together in unison in the kitchen.

It may be these four running the Native Grill this afternoon, but to them, the entire community is considered family, and they assist as many people as they can.

“We do what we can at a local level to help the elderly, and during Christmas and Thanksgiving we do turkey baskets and deliver it to people that live off the main road like 15-20 miles away, all the way at the base of the mountain,” explains Alfreida.

With more income from regular G Adventures groups (somewhere between 15-24 customers will be visiting twice a week during the summer months), Native Grill will be able to assist the community even more, not to mention grow the business. Although the food is delicious and the group enjoys their meal under the shade, the highlight of the afternoon is the family coming out to introduce themselves to the travellers, who eagerly ask questions in an effort to learn more about what it’s like to live on Navajo Nation. In the end, this is so much more of a meal stop – it’s an opportunity to learn about the resilience and entrepreneurship of the Diné (more commonly known as the Navajo) and how travellers should make an effort to stop at the small businesses that dot the roadsides if they’d like to learn more and give back to this community.

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Beit Khayrat Souf is Changing Lives

COOKING CLASS IN JERASH, JORDAN

Tucked in the hills of Jerash, Jordan is a place called Beit Khayrat Souf. Inside this old home is a cafe run completely by women. The cafe was opened three years ago by a local women’s association aiming to empower women in the community with livelihood opportunities. The cafe serves up delicious Jordanian food and provides cooking classes to travellers. G Adventures travellers on the National Geographic Journey through Jordan get to enjoy a cooking class at Beit Khayrat Souf as of 2019, supporting more employment opportunities for women.

More than a cafe, Beith Khayrat Souf was built on the belief that women have the right to be equal in society. Jameel, a founding member of the association, says “Every woman should have this confidence to go out and start working, and to share the workplace equally with men.” She continues, “It’s wrong to think that a woman should stay at home, because it’s not just about them, it’s about their children too. In order to build a better future for the next generation, we need women to be successful. Half our community is women, without them, the future will not be good.”

The cafe employs 10 women, but they engage women who are unable to work outside the home with pickling and jamming activities as well. Jameel plays a key role in training other women. “In the last few years I have gone out to women around Jordan to show them how I make the pickles and teach them about the project. I have trained many women. In Souf alone there are 11 women making pickles from home everyday.” Jameel is proud that her trainings allow women to earn an income, but even more, it is changing their lives.

As the cafe and cooking class continues to grow, Jameel hopes to see more women engaged in the project and benefitting from the livelihood opportunities it brings. “It’s not just about this place,” says Jameel, recognizing the economic benefit that this cafe has on local farmers, drivers, and other community members connected to their enterprise.

Reflecting on her time at the cafe, Jameel say “lots of good things happened after joining Beit Khayrat Souf. I am a better, stronger person. Before this, I was not confident enough to go teach others. Now I have different contacts even outside of Jordan. This has made me a more confident person.” Jameel sees herself as “an ambassador for Jordan”. She wants to show travellers a positive side of their culture, and especially to change the perception that travellers have about women in the Middle East. “I see many women whose lives are totally changed. We’re happy to see women participate by smiling as they start working to create a better life,” says Jameel.

Besma, who was sitting across the table, is a perfect example of the impact that this project is having on the community. “Before Beit Khayrat Souf I never went outside my home,” Besma reveals. “I would have never sat at a table with a man, talking, like I am now. These women have changed my life.”

Jameel concludes, “Before Beith Khayrat Souf this village was not known for anything. Today the local women manage this successful enterprise that is known internationally. We did this by ourselves.”

Planeterra and G Adventures proudly support Beit Khayrat Souf by sending more travellers to their cafe.

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Chandni Yadav’s Inspirational Story

WOMEN ON WHEELS

Planeterra asked Women on Wheels what our partnership meant to them, and how tourism was impacting the lives of the women that they work with. They felt that individual stories best showcased the impact of how the women they work with are changing the lives of their families, and becoming strong role models in their communities. Here is the story of one of the Women on Wheels drivers, Chandni Yadav:

The Career Change

“I have always wanted to continue with my studies. I have never thought that I would have to leave my studies but when I reached to the age of adolescence, I realized my family situations does not allow me to continue my studies further. I have 3 brothers but there was no financial support from them and my parents were struggling financially. I had to leave my studies and started working in a hotel. I have never liked the job in the hotel. One day I learnt from a neighbour about Azad Foundation and its “Women on Wheels” programme. I discussed about joining the programme with my parents, but they asked me:

‘Why do you want to leave your current job which is a big financial support to family for a 6 months training of WOW?’

But I decided to become a driver, which had cause many issues. Once I started the training, I faced difficulties at home, my parents used to scold me and they were pressuring me to do a job and earn. But I persisted and finished Women on Wheels training.

Today, I feel very happy that I have become independent and since joining Sakha as a cab driver I feel proud of myself. Earlier, I wished to be a driver but never had had the confidence to pursue such profession. Today, I am a driver and I feel very confident. I can go alone anywhere, which I could not do before. Now, I am supporting my family and I even have helped my father financially to build a home in our village. I have repaid the loan of my brother’s marriage. Today, I am supporting my parents by all means I can and I am independent to make my own decision.

In our community, people are happy to see me as a driver and everyone tells my parents that I am better than my brothers. I always used to resist my desires and never used to say anything to anyone. I never used to do anything for myself but now I have started doing things as per my wish. In future I want to buy a scooty for myself, soon I will do this. I am so very thankful to Azad and Sakha for changing my life for better.”

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