Whether it’s supplying financial aid to conservation projects or PPE to disadvantaged communities, the Lata Foundation is supporting those in need during the coronavirus crisis thanks to travel industry donations
Years operational: 13
Projects supported: 50+
Countries covered: 18
Funds raised: £480,000
Average years dedicated to a project: 3
In any normal year, the Lata Foundation selects 10 charitable projects to work with on topics spanning conservation, support for disadvantaged children and women’s empowerment, but this year has seen the charity shift some of its focus to coronavirus crisis management.
“Covid-19 means our funding has dried up a lot but we do have an allocated budget for Covid-19 response and we thought working with partners that we already have contact with would be more effective,” says Jude Berry, chairman of the Lata Foundation. She explains “projects are having to shift focus from goals such as bringing visitors, to survival.”
With up to an extra £1,500 allocated to each project, the charity has been able to supply 71 sets of PPE to midwives in Guatemala’s remote and underprivileged community of Quetzaltenango. The essential items supplied include gowns, gloves and face coverings, as well as alcohol, gel and jars which can be used to mix and store antibacterial gel. Similar efforts made in partnership with Healing Venezuela have resulted in PPE deliveries to 19 health centres in the destination.
“The difficulty is getting this [PPE] into a country that struggles to find alcohol to make hand sanitiser,” says Katie Aston, head of projects at the Lata Foundation, adding that “with Healing Venezuela in particular, it’s amazing we’re able to operate even though the country is in political turmoil.”
Financial support for projects affected by the pandemic has also been distributed in Ecuador, Bolivia and Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, a project named Kids Saving the Rainforest has had to repurpose funds meant for the purchase of an X-ray machine and construction of a room to house it in to instead spend on essential running costs in the absence of visitors to the organisation’s sanctuary.
In Mexico, where travel and tourism accounts for 80% of employment, citizens are struggling with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic reducing tourist arrivals to almost zero. In Puerto Vallarta alone, unemployment has exceeded 80%. Recognising this, operator Journey Mexico has fundraised more than $10,000 to feed vulnerable families who ordinarily rely on the tourism sector. Just $13 is able to feed a family of four for a week and, amazingly, Journey Mexico has supplied 86,000 meals after receiving these funds within two weeks of calling on the travel industry for financial support. The operator is continuing to support tourism industry employees in Mexico.
The centre focuses on rescuing and rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife in and around Manuel Antonio national park, and with tourist arrivals accounting for its main source of income, tour operators – including those from the UK – suspending departures has been a big challenge.
The Lata Foundation has also been affected by tour operators both suspending departures and tightening their purse strings.
“We get increasingly good support from the travel community in the UK with tour operators being our main support for funding,” says Berry, adding that fundraising is “quite tricky” at the moment.
But the Lata Foundation is still encouraging the UK and Irish travel industry to fundraise during the coronavirus crisis. It's created a dedicated logo for its coronavirus appeal, designed for travel industry partners to use in email signatures, websites and marketing collateral along with a link to the Lata Foundation Covid-19 Emergency Appeal fundraising page. The charity also hosted a virtual pub quiz that saw £577 donated.
Journey Latin America is one operator that has already shown support for the appeal, with the team walking the equivalent length of Latin America to raise £1,760. Other fundraising ideas include virtual cookery classes, cocktail-making workshops and yoga sessions.
“The Lata Foundation started very small and we’re really proud of how it’s grown,” says Berry. “All team members are volunteers so every penny raised goes to our projects.”