This season seems the appropriate time to pause and take stock of how well you’ve done during the year. Looking back, you may be tempted to engage in making toasts or in that-a-boy slaps on the shoulder. But that never feels quite right. These momentary highs are not the true measure of a man or a company.
We prefer to look at our progress in terms of people. How many lives have we positively impacted? We know that travel, in and of itself, changes lives through altered perceptions and new ways of seeing the world, which can be powerful. Rather we prefer to look at the life-altering changes that come to the individuals affected by the programs and projects we support throughout the year.
Willoq is a small Andean village of mudbrick houses with roofs of straw and red tiles. The surrounding rough landscapes are populated with ancient Incan archaeological sites. For most of its history, this community has been lost to the greater outside world as have so many tiny villages across the globe.
Since 2009, the nonprofit Awamaki began connecting indigenous artisan women, master textile creators in Northern Peru, to markets outside their villages. In remote Quechua villages, the men work on the Inca Trail and the women stay in the village to care for children, animals and farms. Most women do not speak Spanish, read or write, and have no education or opportunities to help earn money for their families. But they excel at creating textiles – spinning, dying and weaving that are part of Peru’s rich textile heritage. This is one of the few villages that still preserves authenticity in its language, food, clothing and traditional lifestyle. Beginning with this one small village, the nonprofit organization now works with eight artisan cooperatives serving hundreds of rural Andean women to help them build businesses and create reliable sources of income to better the lives of their family and community.
For every $1 Awamaki receives in donations, they provide business training and market access that allows the women to generate $4.10 in income to support their families. In 2017, Awamaki became one of our ongoing organizations that form the heart of the Spirit in Five Foundation nonprofit giving. This year, we have provided enough funding to pay one year’s income to 26 women, which represents a 34% increase over last year.
On the far side of the planet, the Spirit of Big Five Foundation supports the Jetwing Youth Development Program (JYDP) to fund training for young adults and children in northern Sri Lanka around Jaffna. These people grew up in a war zone, which left many dealing with substance abuse, psychological issues and even premature death. Conflict and other crises have devastated so many industries in the country, leaving many, particularly older children from rural communities with few choices and even fewer prospects for a path forward. They are largely labeled unemployable, which only accelerates their downward cycle.
In 2006, the Jetwing Youth Development Project was launched at Jetwing’s Vil Uyana property in Sigiriya to encourage young people to consider careers in the hospitality industry. JYDP trains young people in tourism and finds them employment within Jetwing hotels on the island. The program evolved with a focus on the improving socio-economic wellbeing in rural and marginalized communities through tourism.
Every $1 the Spirit of Big Five Foundation contributes pays for one day’s training, which includes accommodation and training materials. The program is free to students, who earn certificates equivalent to internationally accepted NVQ standards, and employment opportunities at one of the Jetwing hotels. Big Five began its participation at the end of 2018, paying most of the costs for 13 students. That number has already grown to 53 participants in less than a year. We were able to cover much of the costs, and as of this writing, 34 of those students are successfully employed.
Happily, we note that it is not just the individuals whose lives are transformed; it continues to the next generation and the ones after that. Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated: To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.