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Great Trips that Give Back

Think you have to pull up your sleeves and work on building orphanages in rural Africa or teach children devastated by poverty and AIDS in southeast Asia to give back when you travel? Not so. Responsible travel and travel philanthropy is all about giving back to the people and places you travel to AND there are endless ways you can do that. Voluntourism is just one of the more evident ways. Anyone CAN take a trip that gives back, even while enjoying travel luxuries.

This month Conde Nast Traveler features “Eight Great Trips that Give Back”. Travel companies are becoming innovative in the way they integrate social responsibility into their businesses. Luxury is no longer incompatible with responsible travel as you will see with these give back trips.

Photo: Guludo Beach Lodge Adobe bandas hand-built by a local workforce

Fair Trade in Mozambique
Stay at this eco-friendly resort on an idyllic beach and you’ll give the local fishermen jobs—as well as help send their kids to school
The coast of Northern Mozambique combines breathtaking beauty with practical preservation. Amy and Neal Carter-James built their luxury eco-resort, Guludo Beach Lodge, here on a beach on the edge of the Quirimbas National Park, not far from the impoverished village of Guludo. They “wanted to find a place where fair-trade tourism could alleviate poverty and provide jobs.” Fishermen from Guludo welcomed the prospect of good jobs and agreed to share their beach. The simple, elegant resort was built and staffed by locals. Entrepreneurs from the village now offer sunset sails in traditional dhows, beach archery, and fishing outings for guests. “Guludo Beach Lodge is a model for tourism that lifts up local communities.”

The Give: For $90, guests can send a teenager to boarding school for a year. Five percent of Guludo’s revenue goes to its Nema Foundation, which fights poverty.
The Get: A real connection to the community. The foundation is financing scholarships for 77 teenagers. In 2008, it built 28 water wells, helping more than 12,000 people.
Going Local: Palm rings woven by Guludo village women (dsdundee.com/charity; $7.50).

Cyclos for Change
Siem Reap is booming. Connecting with Cambodian nonprofits is a great way to get the real scoop
Siem Reap is a hot tourist destination in Cambodia. But how much of all that money is trickling down to the people who really need it? Intrepid Travel’s Cambodia trip not only includes the Khmer temples but also connects travelers to the best nonprofit projects working with local people. Their guides help the travelers become aware of the local issues at every stop. The cyclo ride past French colonial buildings along Sisowath Quay, for example, is run by Cyclo Centre Phnom Penh, which helps the city’s 1,400 peddlers get health care. And after Siem Reap, before hitting the beach at laid-back Sihanoukville on the Southern coast, you can stop for a pastry at a café run by the Starfish Project, which employs handicapped Cambodians. Travelers’ donations and business help keep the nonprofits afloat. Says Jane Crouch of Intrepid: “There’s the money, but there’s also a cultural exchange that enriches both parties.” In the past three years, the Intrepid Foundation, which matches travelers’ gifts up to $250, has raised $426,000 for 30 projects.

The Give: A $150 donation to the Starfish Project.
The Get: Transportation to Phnom Penh and psychiatric help for a patient with no access to mental health care.
Going Local: Fish curry at Phnom Penh’s Romdeng, served by ex-street kids (streetfriends.org $6).

Family Values in Kenya
Five-star safaris are decadent, but this tour operator connects you with real people—and gives back
Kenya’s Masai Mara is an immensely popular safari destination. But at the seven-tent Naibor Camp, tucked amid a riverside acacia grove, you are just one of 14 travelers on the edge of an 8,500-acre conservancy. Camille Feldman, of Palos Verdes, California, who traveled through the Mara with her family on a Micato safari in 2007 thought the trip was wonderful, but she says the experience that changed their lives was a visit to Harambee Center, which serves orphans from the Mukuru slum, outside Nairobi. It’s run by Micato’s foundation, AmericaShare, which—with the help of travelers—also sends hundreds of youths to boarding school. The visit inspired Feldman’s 16-year-old son to raise $34,000 for the center—enough to send four kids to boarding school for four years. The center’s success is a direct result of travelers’ generosity, says AmericaShare Director Lorna Macloid. Three years ago, a single donation built the facility. Today, it houses a Microsoft-funded computer lab that teaches computer skills and HIV/AIDS awareness through interactive video games.

The Give: $1,500 sponsors a child’s tuition, books, uniforms, and room and board for an entire year.
The Get: A real connection—sponsors correspond with the children and receive progress updates.
Going Local: Masai elder Rakita Ole Nkere explains how your visit helps his people (micato.com)

The Real Kerala
Tourism is helping revive spiritual and musical traditions on India’s Nila River
In the village of Mannon, in Kerala, India, you can watch musicians in sarongs play high-pitched drums as villagers in elaborate orange headdresses dance. Gopinath Parayil, founder of the Blue Yonder, never asks the musicians to play in a hotel, away from their natural environment. His company, which supports a foundation working on the Nila River’s environmental problems, hopes to provide travelers with experience of the real Kerala. Blue Yonder is supporting local culture and traditions that have been threatened by industrialization. Until recently, the performers, who come from the lower castes, had no outlet for their music. “We wanted to build social acceptance for these people,” says Parayil. After performances, travelers mix with the villagers. “We have 24 interpreters who have learned English because they want to share their legends with the world,” says Parayil. Travelers sail on boats traditionally used in the coconut trade and visit artists, potters, and bell-metal workers. They stay in 400-year-old homes, ending at Cochin’s luxurious Malabar House, where tradition meets chic.

The Give: Parayil pays the musical troupes more than $150 per performance.
The Get: Development. Some villages, where the daily wage is only $8, use the funds to start microcredit systems.
Going Local: Traditional pottery from craftsmen in a village along the Nila River ($2).

Read more on these and other give back trips at Conde Nast Traveler “Eight Great Trips that Give Back”

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