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Back to School

Date: August 20, 2015 | By: bigfive | Category: Travel Blog

Every classroom across the globe shapes its own space, whether that’s a thatched, open-sided hut in Ecuador or a kitchen in Cambodia. Education is the most powerful tool available that offers practical, measureable means to bring about change in the world and reduce crippling poverty. A child in Ecuadorean rainforest learns for the first time the concept of money; an impoverished teen in Cambodia begins to see a real future for her life; a young Maasia learns how to share his rich heritage and traditions with outsiders. Whatever shape the classroom — a university or a clearing in a field, people are coming together to learn how to create lives for themselves and their families.


Waorani Village
Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador
Deep in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, the villages of the Waorani stretch along the banks of the Shiripuno River. The traditional Waorani are historically a fiercely territorial people. They have lived for centuries in near isolation, except for regular skirmishes with neighboring tribe. They have never even traded with those outside their traditional lands. Everything they have ever wanted has provided by the river and the forest. Until recently. International oil companies found oil under the feet of the Waoranis, so they were thrust into the 21st century – ready or not. This community, which had no previous concept of money, is now learning about ecotourism and the larger outside world while they struggle to protect the forest and their way of life. With the help of a few outsiders, they are learning how to run an exquisitely simple, small-scale eco lodge – Huaorani Lodge – deep in the jungle that can only reached by dugout canoe. One of those outsiders serves as a teacher who makes the rounds of the villages ever few months, setting up his ‘classroom’ – a giant writing pad propped against a tree or wall and magic markers. To witness this amazing venture, explore our 15-day Ecuador’s Galapagos & Amazon, which is part of our family focused Precious Journeys.


Sala Baï Hotel & Restaurant School
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sala Baï Hotel & Restaurant School was founded in 2002 by the French NGO Agir pour le Cambodge. Meant exclusively for young Cambodians from underprivileged families, the school has helped more than 1,000 young people, 70% are girls, change their lives and their futures. Girls usually drop out of school earlier than boys to help at home, go to work or get married. Few vocational training opportunities are open to young women, even less when they have little prior education. Vocational training such as that offered here is one of the fastest and most cost-efficient ways to fight poverty and the scourge of human trafficking at the grass roots level. Each year, the school, trains 100 young disadvantaged Cambodians in four main hospitality related fields – restaurant waiter/waitress, cook, receptionist, and housekeeping. During 12 months, the school covers all the training fees (lessons, school supplies, books, uniforms), and daily expenses (accommodations, food, bicycle, insurance and medical expenses) for the students. The training lasts 11 months from September to July, with the 12th month, August, dedicated to helping the graduates find their first jobs. You can opt to visit this school while you are in Siem Reap, such as during our 12-day Rural Landscapes of Laos & Cambodia.


Koiyaki Guiding School
Southern Kenya
Human settlement in prime wildlife habitats of East Africa has reduced animal populations and altered ancient migration routes. Bush fires, poaching for meat, ivory and skins, illegal tree cutting and small-scale farming are all on the rise. The Koiyaki Guiding School on the Koiyaki Group Ranch is a neighbor of the Maasai Mara National Game Reserve in southern Kenya. Established in 2005, the school educates Maasai youth in the tourism industry and other nature-based enterprises in order to provide employment opportunities while also promoting and encouraging the long-term conservation of the unique Masai Mara ecosystem. By taking a holistic approach to conservation that includes local residents as stakeholders, the school provides an outlet that can help manage the region for the mutual benefit of both the community and its wildlife. Many of Kenya’s finest guides have come through this school, and many of them now work with camps in private conservancies such as the Mara Porini Camp that is included in our 10-day Private Conservancies of Kenya & Tanzania.


Injalak Arts & Crafts Association
Gunbalanya, Australia
Injalak is a non-profit, community enterprise that began in small shed used for screen printing. Today this indigenous community art center plays a vital role in the artistic and cultural life of traditional Aboriginal artists living in remote communities. Serious social and health issues often plague traditional communities all over the world, who have few resources and are vulnerable to alcohol and drug problems. They often have little education or training. One effective way to promote healthy Aboriginal communities is through arts center programs that enable Aboriginal people to generate independent income, which remains in their communities. Injalak Arts has over 200 members made up of artists and weavers from Gunbalanya and surrounding outstations. They are Kunwinjku, Mengerrdji and Erre people, all of whom today speak the Kunwinjku language. Within these cultural groups, all artists belong to a kunmokurrkurr or clan, which influences the stories and Djang, ancestral creation stories or ‘Dreamings’, that they are allowed to represent. The center offers classes and training to these local artists, and all are paid up front for their work. You can explore this center during one of our programs that includes Arnhem Land such as this 14-day Wild Australia adventure. (Note that permits to visit Gunbalanya must be arranged in advance.)


Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve
Huilo Huilo, Chile
The Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve is located in the middle of the Chilean Patagonian Rainforest, under the majestic Andes Mountain range. This is a unique project because of its commitment to the conservation of nature and local culture. The Huilo Huilo Foundation´s mission is to develop flora and fauna conservation projects and to involve the local community and local entrepreneurs in this work. The foundation has extensive network of public and private collaborators, who are committed to the area’s natural and cultural sustainability. There are projects for the dissemination of educational materials. One project is the creation of story books of Magical Tales that are associated with the flora and fauna. The books are distributed and used to teach reading to local children and adults as well as to teach them about their heritage through stories about the land and all its elements. Other illustrated educational materials include those that educate them about the species of birds and other aspects of the forest. You can explore this magical environment on our 14-day Chile’s Patagonia & Mapuche Culture

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