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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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The “Six Stars” at AMBA Estate

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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. 

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

The Happy Team at Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Chutney bottles at the AMBA Shop. 

On a lucky day you might get customized packaging, or maybe not!!

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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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Boosting a craft workshop in Kyrgyzstan

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Capacity Building Program

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.

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Launching in Tours

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.

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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.

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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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Our 2018 Impact Report is Here

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The year 2018 was an eventful year filled with social and political movements, polarizing world events, and endless news cycles. At the same time, we saw much of the world begin to take change into their own hands. Here at Planeterra, we watched momentum of grassroots-driven movements surge around issues like gender equality. We knew this year we had to put a focus on these issues, with our own twist. Our team set out around the world, spurred on by the desire to use the travel industry to distribute wealth to those who need it most, not only to fight poverty, but to strive for a more equal world, where cultures are celebrated, women are empowered, the environment is protected, and no member of society is left behind.

We proudly worked with four new women’s organizations, and witnessed many fulfill dreams they never had believed possible. These innovative women took their first jobs outside the home, saved for the future, and launched their own businesses. We travelled far and wide (Morocco, Jordan, and Colombia, to name a few), and we were left inspired by the universal drive of women to lead their families and communities toward a better future.

As our world continues to struggle with environmental responsibility, we proudly invested in five local organizations working to create sustainable change in their communities, and reinvent the way we interact with the environment around us. From New Zealand to Costa Rica, we were inspired by their focus on conservation education and engagement as a way towards a more sustainable future for all.

Last year, we felt more than ever the need to celebrate, embrace, and empower marginalized communities, and to cultivate economic opportunities that honour what makes us unique as individuals. We poured energy into our partnerships with Indigenous communities, such as the Diné (Navajo) community in the USA where a beautiful new project benefits members of Navajo Nation. We’re confident you will see this dedication and enthusiasm stretch into 2019.
Every day we have the privilege of working with individuals striving for a future where people have equal opportunities, value those around them, and protect the natural environment. We could not have achieved the success we had in 2018 without these hard-working, dedicated partners. We also thank the thousands of individuals who supported our cause this year, and every year. From the travellers that visit our projects, to our generous donors — we are grateful to each and every one of you.

In 2018 we on-boarded more projects than ever before — forging 17 new partnerships in 11 new countries — showing us that, though the world continued to face challenge after challenge, we could still use our passion and focus to enact change. As we look back on the year together through the publication of this report, we hope you enjoy seeing the journey we took to empower women, youth, and communities around the world. We hope you will join us in 2019 as we continue our mission to connect local communities to the life-changing benefits of tourism.

From all of us,
Jamie, Kelly, Rhea, Alanna, Vanessa, Joel and P. Tung

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Building a community restaurant in China

Ever wonder how a community tourism project becomes a Planeterra partner? Here is a quick photo blog to show you how the Jia Community Restaurant went from just an idea, to a restaurant with a steady stream of travellers in rural China.

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Meet Tomato. This young woman in the striped shirt had a dream to build a restaurant in her community of Liandaowan, China. She wanted this restaurant to be a gathering place for women and children to learn, enjoy life and building a stronger sense of community. Tomato had been engaged with trainings with a local nonprofit, the Rural Women Development Foundation (RWDF), for some time, and looked to them for partnership to help make her dream come true.

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This small plot of land is where Tomato dreamed of building her cafe. Through various connections, Planeterra was introduced to Tomato and the Rural Women’s Development Foundation. They told us about their vision to create the community space that would allow them to create jobs for women. They were in need of funding to build the restaurant, as well as a link to a customer base to make this business viable.

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Planeterra had been searching for a few years for a community partner in China. RWDF’s proposal was timely and meaningful. Even better, the village of Liandaowan is just a ferry ride from tourist hub, Yangshuo. This meant it could be possible to build a strong customer base for the restaurant through the G Adventures traveller market. Planeterra and G Adventures approved this program, and construction began.

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Planeterra’s first field visit to China in late 2017 showed the skeleton of a large new building. As the community continued to progress on construction, Planeterra was working with G Adventures to include this new community experience and local lunch into their 2019 itineraries.

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Many community members helped out with the construction of the restaurant. While Planeterra often provides grants for construction projects, many times our project partners chip in with a little “sweat equity” by volunteering their own labour. This gives an extra level to our partnerships and investment from the larger community.

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By mid 2018 the restaurant construction had been completed and community members began their trainings in food service and hospitality. The restaurant was named ‘Jia Community Restaurant’, referencing the land that the food comes from.

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The dining room now seats about 30 people while the kitchen serves up traditional Chinese dishes. They use vegetables from the local farms and use healthy ingredients. This dining space has already become a local hangout, as it is the first restaurant in the village!

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One of the most important parts of this new project is the building’s second floor. This area above the restaurant features a large open space for children to come and learn, or for various community activities. Even in the first few months since opening this space has already been used frequently for trainings through RWDF, and even weekly movie nights for children.

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The launching ceremony in 2018 brought out over one hundred people to celebrate the exciting new project. The ceremony included a cooking contest amongst the women. Some of the winning dishes are now featured in the restaurant for travellers to sample!

Planeterra couldn’t be more excited to see travellers start visiting this meaningful program in 2019. Many of G Adventures tours through Yangshuo will now feature this very local, very special experience. We can’t wait to see the impact it will have over the coming years.

When tourism is done right, everyone wins.

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