Small-group adventure operator Exodus has always had a responsible ethos, promoting positive-impact tourism to benefit local communities. And with its new charitable venture, the Exodus Travels Foundation, it hopes to further expand its reach.
Customers care about the countries they visit and want to make a difference, says Peter Burrell, chairman of the Exodus Travels Foundation. He believes the non-profit can help educate clients further about travelling responsibly.
“We want to use our local contacts to make a difference with small amounts of money,” he explains.
The catalyst for creating the foundation was the Nepalese earthquake in 2015, after which there was an outpouring of goodwill from customers. “They wanted to make donations but couldn’t find anywhere to do so, which meant they came to us,” says Burrell.
“We received £250,000 of donations straight from clients that we used to deliver aid on the ground using our team out there.”
The fund operates under three main pillars – Exodus’s “three Es” of education, empowerment and environment.
Examples of the fund’s positive impact on local communities include the creation of “freedom packs” for women in Nepal to ensure they have access to reusable sanitary products. The packs are made locally, and the next stage will be to provide training so women can make their own. “We’ve had some great comments from customers – more than 50% of them are women so they have real empathy for this issue,” says Burrell.
The foundation also aims to help alleviate poverty in the countries it visits, with one project in Ledak, India, funding local women to help them learn to make crafts to sell to passing tourists.
“We enabled a group of women to take a felting course and they started selling felt snow leopards,” explains Burrell.
“After the first winter, one of the women who was particularly poor had made enough money to buy food staples for her family for a year.”
There are often times when the foundation’s mission statements overlap, fulfilling all three values. An example is a project in Kenya that takes young people to see wildlife in their country.
“We have been taking groups of school-aged children to the Masai Mara National Reserve. A lot of the children had never seen an elephant despite growing up in the country. The experience provides education by showing them the value of conservation and it also helps build pride in their country.”
So what’s next for the foundation? “Over the years we have helped with the preservation of tigers, mainly in India, and we have now decided to back that through the Worth More Alive campaign,” says Burrell. Part of this will involve Paul Goldstein (an Exodus guide, photographer and presenter) running the London Marathon and Everest Marathon in a tiger suit.
Work on a mechanism to enable clients to donate directly to the foundation, rather than via bank transfer, is also currently under way.
“We are looking to work closely with our trade partners with an opportunity to support the Exodus Travels Foundation and the Worth More Alive campaign this autumn.”
The foundation has also set itself the target of raising £500,000 by 2022, half of which will be funded directly by Exodus Travels, says Burrell. “It’s not a vast sum of money, but doing it our way engages our customers. It means we can touch the lives of individuals on the ground, and customers can directly benefit individuals they personally meet.”
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