The Spirit of Big Five Foundation reflects the core beliefs of Big Five to conserve and protect the best of what our planet has to offer.  That encompasses conserving and protecting wildlife; working for poverty alleviation for some of the most vulnerable among us; education and healthcare for the next generation; and preserving the integrity of our global cultural heritage.



Jetwing Youth Development Program

Jetwing | Big Five ToursA

he Spirit of Big Five Foundation, working with the nonprofit Jetwing Youth Development Program (JYDP) helps fund training for children of war in northern Sri Lanka around Jaffna. These children were born into and grew up in a war zone. As a result, they are dealing with substance abuse issues and premature death.

At a time when conflict and other crises devastated many industries in the country, older children, especially those from rural marginalized communities, faced stiff odds in getting jobs that offered a career path. Because there was no real prospect for employment in the north and these young people were considered unemployable by many, the downward cycle accelerated. The average age of death among them is 31.

JYDP was initiated in 2006 with the inception of Jetwing Vil Uyana property in Sigiriya; The Jetwing Youth Development Project originated from a need to encourage young people in the area consider a career in the hospitality industry. The JYDP put these young men and women through tourism training and found them jobs in hospitality within Jetwing hotels in Sri Lanka.

The program evolved, focusing on improving socio-economic wellbeing in rural and marginalized communities through employment in tourism. It also positively influences the country’s reconciliation effort. The training is free to students, who earn certificates equal to internationally accepted NVQ standards, and employment opportunities at a Jetwing hotel.

Rasiyapriya Udayakumar, a young woman from Jaffna, joined the JYDP to create a better future for herself. She went through the six-month program that included professional and personal development, encompassing theoretical and practical training. English language, tourism and hospitality, hotel operations, general etiquette, and health and safety at work were studied. The final phase was on-the-job training, which she completed at Jetwing Yala, a property in southern Sri Lanka. She learned and perfected culinary skills. She now works in the kitchen of Jetwing Jaffna. Rasiyapriya supports her family and is well on her way to fulling her dream to become a renowned chef.

With every dollar the Spirit of Big Five gives to this project, JYDP creates opportunities for young people like Rasiyapriya to embark on careers to become skilled professionals in the hospitality industry. This allows successful graduates to develop sustainable sources of income that will grow as they progress in their careers, empowering them to support their families and their communities.




Awamaki | Big Five ToursAwamaki was founded in 2009 to connect indigenous artisan women to markets outside their villages. In remote Quechua villages, most women do not speak Spanish, read or write. The men work on the Inca Trail, and the women stay in the village to care for children, animals and farms. Women   have no education or opportunities to help them earn money for their families, but they are skilled in spinning, weaving and the arts of Peru’s rich textile heritage.

Awamaki is making a lasting impact in the remote mountains of Peru by giving rural Andean women a place to learn skills and have opportunities previously unavailable to them. They come to this women’s association to learn how to create and launch a small businesses creating authentic, high-quality products. Awamaki invests in women’s skills, connects them to markets and supports their business leadership.  The efforts provide women with a reliable source of income so they can increase their families’ quality of life and well-being as well as help lift their communities out of poverty. The cooperative operates a store in Ollantaytambo, and sell in the United States through our online store, trunk shows and partner retailers.

Awamaki was formed in early 2009 to support a cooperative of 10 women weavers from Patacancha, a rural Quechua community in the Andes of Peru.  The association’s founders, Kennedy Leavens, from the U.S., and Miguel Galdo, from Peru, had worked together at a predecessor organization with the weaving cooperative for two years. When that organization collapsed, Miguel and Kennedy formed Awamaki to continue their work with the weavers. The organization grew rapidly to include programs in health and education, as well as other artisan cooperatives and a sustainable tourism program. In 2011, Awamaki spun its health program off into an independent sister organization, and made the strategic decision to focus on income improvement and market access through fair trade artisan cooperatives and sustainable tourism. It has grown, too, in the number of women helped. The organization now works with eight cooperative helping nearly 200 women.

Awamaki also offers training in quality control, product development and technical skills improvement.  During training, they teach color combination, natural dyes methods and weaving to measurement to weavers; fiber selection and spinning yarn to specified weights to spinners; stitching and reading patterns to knitters; and sewing, garment pattern-making and design to seamstresses.

The programs to develop sustainable tourism for the area also include a homestay association, a Spanish teachers’ cooperative and market access for both. It also includes community cultural tourism excursions to visit Awamaki’s weaving cooperatives, where products can be purchased directly. The sustainable tourism projects mean meaningful cultural experiences for travelers and they promote appreciation of Andean traditions and ways of life.

For every $1 Awamaki receives in donations, they provide business trainings and market access that allows the women they work with to generate $4.10 in income to support their families. Awamaki currently supports 180 women artisans in our programs, who in turn support 612 children and elderly or disabled adults. Awamaki artisans working in tourism made $976 each, while the rest made $465 each, on average. The artisans use their earnings to pay for essentials and education with 80% of artisans ranking food as the top expense for which they use their Awamaki income. Household and education came next.

When a cooperative of women starts in our program, typically no member of the cooperative earns the same or more than her husband. After 5+ years in our program, 68% of women in the cooperative report earning the same or more than her husband.

Awamaki’s accomplishments include:

  • Growing from ten to 180 artisans over nine years
  • Built four artisan centers in artisans’ villages
  • Graduated first artisan cooperative in 2017 and will graduate the second in Oct 2018. This means that they have completed the business readiness program, acquired clients and are ready to walk on their own as independent successful businesses.
  • Partnered with 35 retail stores in the U.S. to sell the women’s products

The organization has developed a unique and sustainable model. Some 80% of its income comes from programs that generate income for both the artisans and Awamaki, which means that 100% of the donations are directly invested in women’s capacity-building, trainings and market access.


Anti-Poaching Patrols in Kenya

Elephant | Big Five Tours


According to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, almost 100 elephants a day are killed by poachers. The fate of rhinos is even worse. And the fate of Africans who depend on tourism for jobs to support their families and put food on the table is hanging in the balance.

A comprehensive study by National Geographic shows a decrease in poaching as a result of the tourism-funded conservation efforts in Africa’s frequently visited countries versus the unattended wildlife in the nations that have yet to develop a tourism infrastructure. The study showed that in West Africa, 84 percent of deceased elephants were poached illegally, while the more popular East Africa and Southern Africa registered markedly lower illegal kills – 59 percent and 51 percent  — still far too high but coming down in some areas.

In Kenya’s Chyulu Hills, the Spirit of Big Five Foundation recently made a donation through Campi ya Kanzi to the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT) to fund anti-poaching patrols to protect endangered elephant and rhinos from the illegal ivory trade. The funds will cover three community rangers for six months, plus the operational costs for anti-poaching patrols also for six months. MWCT operates on land owned by the local Maasai community that forms part of a vital wildlife corridor between the Amboseli and Tsavo West National Park. The ecosystem harbors a rich biodiversity including threatened wildlife populations of lion and elephant. 70% of the wildlife in the ecosystem depends on community land for their survival. The rangers are from the local Maasai community of Kuku Group Ranch, and operate under a formalized partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service. Currently, 44 community rangers have received formal training at KWS law enforcement training school in Manyani.

The main duty of the rangers is to protect the natural resources of the Maasai community, conserving the wildlife and habitat of their land. That includes rangeland monitoring.  For that, they use a special tool developed with the Zoological Society of London called SMART, Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool.

This conservancy has one of the lowest poaching rates in Kenya. This partnership enables Big Five’s guests to get an exclusive, close up look at how these anti-poaching patrols work and what it means to be a Maasai ranger working on the front lines to protect wildlife.


Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra

India | Big Five Tours
“On our recent trip to India, my wife, Usha, and I took time out to research more of the meaningful ways that Big Five can help the lives of people in need. Our journey took us to Bhartiya Samaj Kenva Kendra, a nonprofit organization that aims to help some of India
’s most impoverished children. When we paid a surprise visit to their main center in Pune, we were completely captivated with the outstanding work being done to better the lives of the babies and young children we met. We were so moved by these beautiful children and the work of this organization that we decided to make Bhartiya Samaj Kenva Kendra our newest project.”

Mahen Sanghrajka, Chairman
Spirit of Big Five Foundation

In 1979 in Pune, India, Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK) was founded as an Indian Charitable Trust and registered under the Bombay Public Trust Act of 1950, with the aim of providing welfare services to families and children in need, regardless of caste, creed, community or religion. BSSK is licensed to look after children from newborn babies to six years of age, understanding that the first six years of life, the formative years, are the most crucial stage of the child’s growth and development. BSSK is able to help some 160 children at any given time and the organization endeavors to give children the best nutrition, medical care, warmth, love and emotional security possible. They are cared for by a team of child development and social workers, caretakers, nurses, doctors, psychologists, teachers, therapists and volunteers – the latter come from as far as Germany and the United States.

The group’s main principle is to preserve and maintain a child’s birth family whenever possible. Always, the overriding concern is the best interest of each child. BSSK makes concerted efforts to restore a child to its birth family when a crisis has been overcome. Or, it may mean finding a place for a child in foster care and, for orphaned children, adoption. Sometimes, it is as simple as making sure that each child’s birthday is celebrated and documented. Beginning in 1980, BSSK has been able to offer sponsorships to help children from poor families to pursue their education. These sponsorships help strengthen each family by improving the children’s future prospects, preventing school drop outs, child labor, institutionalization and delinquency. They currently have about 800 children in their educational sponsorship program. BSSK also supports economically challenged children and their families through regular health clinic visits and nutrition programs.

The Spirit of Big Five Foundation supports the fundamental philosophy of BSSK – that every child has the right to a healthy life in a safe environment. Give a child the chance to compete in the world.


Blind Foundation for India

 India | Big Five ToursMore than 15 million people in India are blind, and two million of those are children. With the knowledge, medicine and equipment now available, up to 80 percent of blindness cases are curable or preventable.

Big Five has worked with the Blind Foundation for India since 1989. The company funded the acquisition of an especially equipped SUV as well as a mobile ophthalmic van, one of a fleet of 121 such vehicles that are used throughout India in free outreach “eye camps.” Through these camps, medical teams have subsequently restored sight to more than 170,000 individuals, and have examined and treated more than one million people. The foundation has distributed over $600,000 to key medical partners throughout India for eye sight check up of 750,000 school-going children, provided glasses, medications and Vitamin A as necessary, and vaccinated against measles. They have also distributed more than 10,000 Braille and mathematics kits to blind children in all Indian states.



Kenya Self-Help Project

Active since: 12-01-2006  |  region / location: Kenya / Kendu Bay

Self help Kenya 2copyKenya Self-Help Project (KSHP) is a U.S.-based organization dedicated to improving the social and economic future of 12,000 children in western Kenya. Its in-school programs promote gender equity and advance education opportunity.  

Some 40% of the region’s primary-aged schoolgirls do not finish grade 8.  Adolescent girls miss nearly a week of school each month due to lack of sanitary supplies. The absence of girls’ health and AIDS-prevention education contributes to 25% HIV/AIDS prevalence among Kendu Bay girls, compared to the national average of 6%.

Since 2011, this small 501(c)(3) non-profit has successfully reduced girls’ school dropout 98% – from over 200 girls a year to just four girls. Donor support of this program provides in-school Girls Club education, life skills training and monthly ‘Dignity Kit’ supplies for over 3,400 adolescent girls. Its Girls Empowerment program has eliminated pregnancy in 23 partner schools and improved girls’ high school eligibility from 43% to 100%.

Rural families living on less than $2/day cannot afford school fees for their children’s secondary education. Through KSHP’s Scholarship program, dedicated sponsors have enabled more than 200 high achieving impoverished Kendu Bay students to gain high school education. 90% of these students qualify for full university scholarship – a double return on their sponsor’s high school support.

Due to severe lack of textbooks in village schools, rural students are at severe disadvantage on national exams required to qualify for high school. KSHP’s Primary School Resources program supplies core subject textbooks and class readers to improve learning at 23 village schools. Since 2014, donors have helped students improve national exam performance 26-50% and boosted girls’ high school eligibility to 100%.

In all, more than 11,500 children benefit from KSHP donor-supported programs. The project has become a model for rural education development and social empowerment.


Willoq Andean Village

Child | Big Five ToursWilloq is a remote Quechua community that strives to keep their culture alive while seeking to improve the lives and future of its residents.

Since 2002, Big Five, in conjunction with Peruvian Odyssey, has worked with the residents of this small Andean community to improve their living standard, and have supported regular campaigns to prevent disease and provide medical attention to those in need, including hospitalization; and sponsored a health and education day. Big Five also helped fund restrooms and other needed public facilities for both local residents and visiting travelers.

The local school has received supplies and sporting equipment. In order to ensure the future of the local indigenous culture, children are encouraged to play traditional musical instruments. The ancient techniques of hat making have also been brought back to the village.