Getting in on the ground floor

By Asilia Africa News | 18 October 2016

Asilia guests facilitate African development agenda

With the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals having superseded its Millennium Development Goals the focus of every citizen, business and government is set to change. Asilia guests lead the way in East Africa.

Here’s an example of how.

The Mbitin Primary School is a government school located near the Mara Naboisho Conservancy in Kenya’s Maasai Mara region. It has 5 teachers and currently has 118 students between nursery and class four.

Until recently access to water and sanitation was a problem for the children. But thanks to the generosity of the Ross Family and Asilia Giving the school now has 50,000 litres storage from a new rainwater harvesting system off new roof sheets.

The teachers explain that these improvements will reduce absenteeism caused by water-borne illnesses as children will be drinking clean water and have the facilities to wash their hands. Girls will also now also feel more comfortable attending school during their menstrual cycles as they are able to wash using the shower.

The school also hopes to re-use grey water to improve the environment by planting trees and vegetables within the school compound.

When assessing the worthiness of financing a project both the Maa Trust and AsiliaGiving are aware that community buy-in is essential. A proven way of obtaining this is by insisting that the community contributes some of the funds. Generally the amount asked is between 5 and 10% of the project cost. In this case the community contributed 7%.

We asked the Ross Family what is was that inspired them to make it possible for this project to happen.

“Scott and I were travelling in India on a train. We shared our compartment with an interesting gentleman who happened to come from Kenya. As our conversation turned to Africa and we learned about Asilia and its philosophy as well as some of the projects the company is involved in. Upon returning home we started discussing our next trip (probably before we got home honestly). Before arriving in Kenya we organized the delivery of some soccer uniforms, balls and such. We had no idea at that time the tremendous involvement that Helen and Roelof (Naboisho’s camp managers) had with the local village. Upon hearing that we may be interested in going to the local school, Roeloforganized an amazing afternoon whereby we went out with some camp staff, delivered the soccer kits and had a great time participating in a soccer afternoon. It was a huge success. Over the next few days we discussed further needs for the school and how we may help in the future, and this little project was something we were interested in,” says Sue Ross.

“We have 3 daughters who have had great privileges in their lives and are blessed with good healthcare and education, so we have a particular interest in seeing that it is made easier for girls to attend school, and I think the water project has helped in this area,” she adds.

“Responsible tourism is about so much more than sustainability,” says Asilia’s Positive Impact Co-ordinator, Clarissa Hughes. “We’ve set up charitable organisations in the U.K. and the U.S.A. to make it easy for guests and other Africaphiles to contribute meaningfully to causes that make a big difference on the ground. Asilia covers the administrative costs of the charities so donors are assured that 100% of their donation goes to the project in question. All implementing partners are vetted by us beforehand for their ability to deliver.”

However, the message of tourism’s positive impact doesn’t necessarily reach the traveller beforehand as Sue Ross explains.

“We always have mixed feelings when travelling to East or Southern Africa in regards to how these camps affect the environment, the animals and the communities surrounding the camps. It is difficult to see the poverty in most areas, and here we are spending a small fortune on a trip to look at wildlife. It is a real contrast that sometimes takes you aback. We always remind ourselves that the camps frequently support communities, schools, clinics etc. and provide jobs for many, many people; and we try to focus on that and feel good about it. I would love to see more information in this regard on some of the websites that sell African tours. Asilia does a great job on their website, but I’m not sure most people researching safaris actually get to your site as you don’t actually sell trips.”

With more and more travellers becoming aware of the positive difference that tourism makes to African development agenda it is the incumbent on operators to be effective and legitimate when delivering their positive impact stories.

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