If you’ve followed Intrepid’s journey then you know that an integral part of our trips is our Responsible Travel philosophy. It’s not something we only talk about, but something we do every day, and seeing this in action made Viv Frost’s Kenya Wildlife Safari all the more special…
“As soon as you set foot on African soil there is something that captivates you, heightens your senses and makes you fully aware that you are somewhere magical. Arriving in Nairobi after a long arduous journey from Auckland, my husband and I felt relief as well as a sense of excitement.
Our short journey to the hotel gave us a glimpse into the contrasting beauty and chaos we were about to experience. We arrived at our hotel, not only hugely relieved we had survived our first taxi trip, but also hot and utterly exhausted.
The following morning, after a good night sleep, the interesting sounds of unfamiliar birds awaken us. After a shower and a tasty breakfast we set out to explore the bustling city of Nairobi, on a free day before we begin our weeklong safari of Kenya.
That evening was spent acquainting ourselves with our travel partners for the next eight days. Our group was relatively small, and made up of two Kiwis (us), a German girl and the other six being Australians.
Chris, our Intrepid Travel group leader, is a Masai man, dressed in the striking traditional clothing of red plaid cloth draped around the body, called a Shuka. The Shuka is held in place with a sturdy leather belt, complete with a substantial looking knife in a holster and adorned with traditional beaded jewellery. He greets us with a beaming warm smile and gentle handshake. We feel instantly welcome.
Leaving Nairobi the next day we head north towards Lake Nakuru National Park, honking for our place in the maddening traffic and passing by throngs of people walking along the dusty roadsides. Many are dressed in what looks like their Sunday best, perhaps heading to their office job in the cosmopolitan city, while others are loaded up with baskets of produce directing their donkeys toward the local market. Children excitedly wave to the truck of foreigners with smiles beaming a pure innocence.
Our first planned stop on the way to Lake Nakuru is to be at a children’s home.
I contemplate my feelings of apprehension about this stop. I have left my five precious children behind in New Zealand and as much as I am relishing my adventures, my heart is also desperately missing their presence and wishing I could share some of these wonderful experiences with them. I wonder if seeing these children will make me ache for my own kids at home, or as a mother just ache for what these children don’t have here in Africa.
After a few hours of travelling the roads of disrepair that are typical of Africa, we reach the New Hope Children’s Centre, nestled on top of a stunning lush green ridge overlooking the Great Rift Valley.
Before our truck has even finished parking, groups of expectant faces gather. This is where we discover that Intrepid Travel is more than an average travel company.
As we are shown into the centre’s basic two-storey concrete block building, more children surround us; some desperate to get close, others look cautious and reserved. Little hands paw for attention and some grip on like little tiny suction cups. Their beautiful sweet faces radiate a joy that I did not expect in such a place. But the children at New Hope Children’s centre appear clean, healthy and happy.
They fare better than many other children in Kenya. They are fed, clothed and get to go to school, things many children in Kenya miss out on.
Intrepid Travel has been formally supporting New Hope Children’s Centre since 2009 through The Intrepid Foundation – a global travellers philanthropy initiative started in 2002 to support not-for-profit organisations in the parts of the world where Intrepid operates.
The organisation supports work in a number of areas such as health care, education, human rights, child welfare and sustainable development, as well as environmental and wildlife protection.
The foundation supports 40 grassroots non-government organisations in the countries where Intrepid travels. A hundred percent of the donations the Foundation receives reach the intended projects. Also any donations made to a project by travellers or other donors, Intrepid Travel will match dollar for dollar – up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,00 for all donors in each financial year.
Jane Crouch, Responsible Travel Manager for Intrepid Travel explains, “Intrepid cover all administrative overheads to guarantee that the full amount of donations get to the intended project, and this is the biggest influence on travellers’ decisions to donate.” “Secondly, people have often travelled to the country and seen firsthand the issues and needs that are relevant”, adds Jane.
The needs we witness at New Hope are vey real and relevant. Just over 130 children live here, so there are obvious costs to feed, clothe and educate this many children. New Hope relies on the benevolence and generosity of individual and corporate sponsors, such as that of Intrepid Travel.
As we are enthusiastically shown around the grounds, Anne, the director of the centre, proudly points out the projects they have put in place through the generosity of givers. The new pig enclosure is one of the additions that she joyfully explains was made possible from the donations given through Intrepid Travel. These pigs are bred and grown as a sustainable food source, which is very valuable.
“Intrepid Travel is aware that travellers see the ethic of Responsible Travel clearly visible in such simple but obvious ways and this is amongst the top reasons people choose to travel with Intrepid again. Forty percent of Intrepid travellers are repeat business,” says Jane.
Paulette, a fellow traveller in our group is one of those repeat travellers. This is her ninth trip with Intrepid and she reiterates Jane’s words. “I like Intrepid’s Responsible Travel philosophy and in my newsletters I always comment to family and friends about the programs I have seen,” explains Paulette.
“I think travellers like to have a positive impact when they are travelling, so the Responsible Travel philosophy is certainly a way that tourists feel that they can contribute too,” adds Paulette.
Paulette has seen many of these sustainable projects in practice, “I remember one of the first trips I did to Vietnam, Intrepid had donated two buffalos to the village that we walked through. It was a relatively simple thing that really made a huge difference to the village,” she recalls.
Corruption is rife in Kenya. In our short time here we have already seen police stopping traffic simply to collect money from the lowly paid workers and encountered stories of other orphanages that syphon the donations to pad the pockets of its owners or directors. Little money actually goes to the running of these orphanages, but the Director now drives a nice new car or his children can now go to University.
This sort of corruption happens every day and there is little the locals can do about it.
New Hope Children’s Centre certainly gives no indication that anything of that nature remotely goes on here, but how does Intrepid monitor the donations given to projects or organisations to ensure that the money is being used as intended?
“We conduct due diligence checks on organisations when a staff member first proposes that we support them. The application that staff members complete must address several selection criteria including, effectiveness and transparency. After funds are disbursed (usually annually), we request a report within three months, giving evidence of how the funds have been used for a mutually agreed purpose. Our local staff in each region also regularly visit the projects to keep an eye on the appropriate management of funds,” says Jane.
In its warm, caring environment New Hope appears to be genuinely giving these children the help they need to find a better future. Before we leave the children want to sing to us. They energetically deliver some familiar Sunday school tunes accompanied with happy dancing and clapping. Their faces again shine with such a pure joy for life despite their difficult circumstances.
This is the moment my heart aches a little for my own children at home and a little for the children here in front of me and a few tears creep into my eyes. Although I now know that these children are amongst the lucky ones. Through the partnerships the centre has made with individual sponsors and corporate donators, such as Intrepid Travel, the generosity ensures their future has some hope.
For the next seven days we rattle along the roads of Africa, soaking in the wonders of this magical place. We take in the awesome sights of elephants bulldozing through bush as though it’s an insignificant obstacle, or a lioness on the prowl for dinner of a gazelle or two for her waiting cubs. We walk amongst the elegant giraffes and unfazed zebras; all the wildlife is just breathtaking.
We are also very fortunate to experience the colourful, fascinating life of traditional Masai. Hearing their real life, jaw dropping stories from the village Chief, dancing with the very athletic warriors and witnessing a very different way of life.
We relished every moment, and every encounter. Our trip was everything we had hoped for and, in fact, a whole lot more.
The Responsible Travel philosophy of Intrepid Travel, and the achievements, we were fortunate to witness was something unexpected for us, but it sparked our compassion and gave us much to contemplate.”
The Intrepid Foundation – travellers making a difference
Help support New Hope Children’s Centre and other great organisations via the Intrepid Foundation, plus find out how your donation can be matched* by Intrepid Travel!
* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.