Since the global shutdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, local communities who depend on the tourism industry have been left with little assistance from their governments in many parts of the world, making the situations dire. In response, over the past seven months, Wilderness Travel worked with their partners abroad to create 14 GoFundMe campaigns in 14 countries to raise money for those communities and travel professionals most affected. Each campaign was shared with the company’s past travelers who had been to each destination. The results were astounding.
“Thanks to the support of our loyal travelers, we were able to raise more than $128,000 through these campaigns,” said Wilderness Travel’s Scott Abbott. “We have never been so impressed by our community of travelers. Their generosity and eagerness to help has truly blown us away. These contributions have already made a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands around the globe.”
Wilderness Travel began in June with two GoFundMe campaigns for guides and porters in Madagascar and Uganda. The company added a few more each month, resulting in campaigns in Bhutan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Galápagos, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Patagonia, Peru, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe over the next four months. Each campaign began with a specific monetary goal, and each one exceeded that amount—some even doubled their initial goal. By working directly with their teams in-country, Wilderness Travel was able to buy food, equipment, and sanitary supplies in bulk at heavily discounted rates to make sure the money made as much of an impact as possible, then distributed it themselves to guides, porters, kitchen crews, park rangers, bus drivers, camp staff, and boat crews.
In Tanzania, nearly 150 people were given food staples such as rice, maize corn, cooking oil, beans, tea, sugar, detergent, washing powder, and sanitary items. In the Patakancha highlands of Peru, over 40 trekking porters and their families were given food packages that would last an estimated 3 months. In Zimbabwe, Wilderness Travel worked directly with one of their longtime safari guides to help supply women with sanitary products in his village. In Namibia, donations were used to outfit local rangers with new boots, GPS devices, headlamps, and other gear so they could continue to monitor the parks and protect the wildlife against poachers.
“I wanted to say muchas muchas muchas gracias for your generosity and gesture. We weren’t expecting this and are able to use the support to buy food and medicine,” said one expedition leader in the Galápagos.
Some fundraising campaigns also coincided with celebrations, including Morocco’s most important religious festival, Aid-el-Kebir (the “big feast”) and Tanzania’s Nane Nane, or “Farmer’s Day”. Past travelers were able to raise money in time to help the camp crews, porters, and local guides celebrate, buy new clothes for their children, and give them an ease of mind that they have food for the next few months.
“I’ve never seen something like this before,” said Hamisi Chakwana, a Kilimanjaro porter “[The travelers] thought about us on how we were going to get through tough times and decided to help us by providing relief to our current situation. When you provide food support to another person, that is a huge support. For me personally, this support will give me a big boost as there is no work and many activities have been suspended.”
Many of the guides, porters, and staff who received donations were eager to show their gratitude with video messages and emails, which Wilderness Travel compiled into this heart-warming thank you video.
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