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Spirit of Big Five Foundation’s New and Ongoing Projects

Date: August 26, 2021 | By: Brenda Lee | Category: Travel Blog

Dear Advisor Partners,

Have you ever looked under the hood of a car, wondering what happens when you drive the car? You might even understand in theory what happens with the pistons and cylinders, etc. Have you actually seen it happen though? And where did the innovation start? In a similar fashion, many of you have heard me talk about Big Five’s sustainability mission while mentioning the projects around the world. These projects happen behind the scenes and are true labors of love. You are always welcome to see them in action, even participate for a day or multiple days. Our journey down this path started in the late 1970’s when our founder and CEO Mahen Sanghrajka, (aka dad), was collaborating with other companies in a joint effort to eliminate public cigarette smoking in the game reserves of Kenya. That led to education for the children in rural communities in Kenya and kept growing to even providing eye surgery to the underprivileged in parts of India. Since that time, the commitment has remained, always working behind the scenes.

In Peru’s Sacred Valley, we collaborate with the folks at Awamaki in teaching women from several Andean communities micro-entrepreneurship through weaving. Every $1 we give, generates $4 of income for each weaver. This support and education allows these communities to protect their land and provide for their families. Those of you who attended Virtuoso Travel Week, you may have seen that we were handing out 350 hand woven bracelets made by these women, with each bracelet representing a full day’s wage. We offered to mail these bracelets out to anyone who would like one, we still are, all you have to do is ask.

In Tanzania, just outside Arusha, sits Ereto Primary School. Built within prominent Maasai communities, this school is providing education to just under 300 primary level students. What amazes me about this school isn’t where we are now, rather where we came from. When Ereto first started, the local director had to basically beg the Maasai elders to let their children learn instead of being farmers. After intense deliberation to give education a try, Ereto was born with 20 children sitting on dirt floors in the open air, come rain or shine, without any stationary and limited literature. On my last visit in March 2021, the class size had grown to 265 students, 3 classrooms were built, with plans for 2 more, and thanks to a generous donation, a teachers dorm is under construction as of this writing. Many of our guests going to Tanzania stop in to deliver supplies, or even work at the school. Every $300 we provide allows for one child to be educated for an entire year.

In Sri Lanka, the JetWing Youth development Program we proudly collaborate with provides training for children of war in northern Sri Lanka. These children were born into and raised 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. With Jetwing, we train these older children in the hospitality field, giving them a step in the door with a well-known hotel chain and providing future opportunities to grow in a career. With every $1 donation made, we provide a trainee with a day’s worth of accommodation, learning materials and also set-off his or her trainer’s expense. The program is free to students, who earn certificates equivalent to internationally accepted NVQ standards, and employment opportunities at one of the Jetwing Hotels.

In Guatemala, one of the leading causes of death has been a lack of clean drinking water, something I saw firsthand when my family and I visited. Our recent partnership with EcoFiltro allows for artisanal clay pots made locally, to be turned into clean water filters that last 2 years. These filters start life as a clay pot, before a process of coating and submerging and baking turn them into long lasting, cost effective water filters. Each filter, which costs $35 to deploy, provides clean water for 25 children in need at a local school, or even a multifamily household. After the filter portion has been utilized fully, the pot, and the minerals captured in the filtering process, become an ideal pot for in home organic farming. Guests to Guatemala can choose to help us deploy more during a day of work.

And coming full circle back to Peru is our newest project, Kipi the robot, built by brilliant grade school teacher Walter Velasquez. In early 2020, when borders and schools closed, the concept of virtual learning in a town like Huancavelica just didn’t work. Most homes don’t have even the most basic forms of internet connection. To make matters more challenging, Huancavelica is one of the poorest regions in Peru with one of the highest cases of narco-trafficking. Walter, using the best form of innovation, built Kipi, a prototype robot from scratch, loading the mainframe with the complete curriculum in almost 50 languages. Kipi is then deployed to the villages where children learn in person. In many cases, Walter delivers Kipi in person traveling on foot or by Alpaca or donkey to these remote neighborhoods. Walter and Kipi are showing the world that children are not necessarily the victim of narco-trafficking, they are in fact, the biggest resistance.

Your Big Five journey, no matter where it goes, is supporting one of these projects. With the help of our system, GIB 5.0, your journey can take you to one part of the world, while your efforts are felt in another part of the world.  The name Big Five was born from the animals. To us, it is so much more, it is our higher purpose.

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