In 2019, TreadRight and TTC were inspired by the incredible efforts of our Travel Directors (TDs) and Tour Managers to create the recently announced Tread the Pledge Fund. Developed to recognize the amazing local projects they are involved with, this annual fund is awarded to local organizations nominated by our TDs. Since the fund’s start, it seems like the world has been turned upside down, highlighting the importance now more than ever of focusing on and empowering those who are working to enact positive change for our world, big or small.
The four inaugural fund recipients for 2020 cover a variety of efforts that have become increasingly essential in the last few months. Although our Travel Directors are not on the road right now, they have spent years taking TTC’s guests around the world and have come to be invested in their second homes; the destinations they spend time in with their guests, that now hold a special place in their heart.
Their desire to give back to these destinations and help encourage others to do the same will guide the work we do annually in their honor through our Tread the Pledge Fund. Our TreadRight team had a chance to speak to the four TDs about their involvement with these organizations and got to hear firsthand how the projects are doing in the midst of the pandemic.
Learn more below about the amazing TDs and fund recipients for this year, their local projects, and how they are adapting to a changing world in 2020:
RPJ Helping Hands, nominated by TD Mark Moresby-White of Insight Vacations
Since he began with the TTC family of brands in 2004, Mark Moresby-White has transitioned from Contiki to his current role as a TD for Insight Vacations, having completed 170+ tours to date. Born in the UK, Mark now calls Cape Town home in the off-season. After relocating there three years ago, he was drawn to the plight of the impoverished in his new hometown. His concern quickly transitioned into a personal passion project and after doing some research on local organizations, Mark discovered RPJ Helping Hands and began his mission to get involved with their work to feed the hungry in Cape Town, one plate at a time.
Although the need for food support in Cape Town has been present for years, current COVID-19 related government lockdowns and restrictions on the economy have amplified it further. “The numbers of those who are now seeking food has grown exponentially,” Mark explains. “Prior to COVID-19 on an average day we would serve 500-600 meals, and now it’s in excess of 3,000. And it’s not just the homeless now.” With a population that relies heavily on a subsistence and tourism-based economy, government enforced lockdowns in Cape Town have eliminated many residents’ abilities to earn money for food and other necessities.
“With the explosion of numbers that we are facing, the funds that are being received from the TreadRight Foundation are going directly into making more food,” Mark adds. “It’s a godsend because our normal donors are not able to provide support at this time.”
Grassroots organizations and teams of volunteers such as the individuals at RPJ Helping Hands are essential now more than ever in so many communities, and the hardworking team led by founder Pat continues to be lifesaving for locals in this time of need.
Smiling Children Italia, nominated by TD Karin Kollarova of Insight Vacations
Karin Kollarova is one of the countless TDs who have been profoundly moved by the charitable work of colleague Lorena Schiavon. Several years in the making, Lorena started Smiling Children Italia with the hope to empower her TTC family to make a difference by sponsoring children in the north-eastern region of Kenya. With more than 40 children sponsored to date, Lorena’s passion and dedication has become contagious to many of her co-workers at Insight Vacations as well.
“Lorena spends a lot of her free time there. She provides students with clothing, books, tools they need for the school year, and she arranges and pays the hospital bills in the case of malaria or accidents,” Karin says. “She has a real relationship with the kids and parents.”
Karin was able to join Lorena on a trip to the region to see firsthand the impact of Smiling Children Italia and was truly moved. Lorena encourages as many TDs as possible to take part with her during their off-season.
Karin has been sponsoring her child for 4 years and is thrilled knowing that the money received from the Tread the Pledge Fund will help sponsor more deserving children in the region, and aid Lorena in the amazing work she does on the ground.
Clean and Proud, nominated by TD Colette Engstrom of Trafalgar / Costsaver
Colette Engstrom has been a TD with Trafalgar since 1987. As a mother of 5 daughters, she has always encouraged her family to give back whenever they can. This became a sincere passion for her geologist daughter Beatrice during her trips to Africa, after witnessing their struggle with plastic waste. From this desire to get involved, Clean and Proud was founded in Mzuzu, Malawi.
By upcycling plastic waste, the team has created a way to turn an ugly waste issue into beautiful and practical handmade products and accessories. As Clean and Proud has grown to employ 7 people and provide an essential revenue source for local families, it has also become essential in aiding the community with the fight against COVID-19 and encouraging responsible cleaning habits.
With tourism being halted in Malawi – eliminating their market – the team has shifted their focus from making beautiful accessories to making helpful tools, with the production of plastic-lined soap containers and cloth masks sold as hygiene packs. Colette adds “In the present conditions, washing your hands is critical, and in many places in Africa it is not easy to find soap, so carrying your own soap with you is very practical.”
With their Tread the Pledge Fund donation, Clean and Proud is also aiming to help tackle the local garbage excess with the installation of a Malawian-made biomass digester, which will allow them to create electricity for their business out of food waste. Additionally, with a planned future emphasis on outreach to children about the harms of single-use plastics, they aim to teach themselves out of their own market.
Walkers4Water, nominated by TD Aryan Taefi of Trafalgar / Costsaver
England native and Australia resident Aryan Taefi has been with TTC for 10 years, starting with Contiki and now working for Trafalgar as a TD since 2017. A vacation turned life-changing in 2016 as Aryan took a trip to Africa with friends and was moved by the daily struggle for access to clean water that many people face on the continent. The friends decided to utilize their time in the off-season to raise money and awareness for the cause, thus creating Walkers4Water.
Inspired by a story they heard about a local girl who walked 40 kms every day to get clean water, they decided to raise money at home by walking the 40 km from Sydney to Brisbane every day for a month. The group succeeded in their mission to raise $20,000 and have continued to do so every year since; partnering with Charity:Water to sponsor water projects around the world.
“The first year we raised 20 thousand and they sent the money to Mali in Africa and built this project which finished last year, bringing water to a village of about 450 people,” Aryan explained. “The second walk that we did, that money is now going to Mali as well, to another village. The project that we did last year, which is our most successful one, the money there is being sent to Madagascar, and they are currently in the process of building a project there.”
The current global situation has somewhat complicated Walkers4Water’s efforts this year – as their annual walk usually takes place in the summer months – but the team hopes to complete their 2020 walk in the fall, while they work in the meantime to identify their next project. Although their efforts may be modified this year, the funds donated by TreadRight will go towards this next project.
Aryan remains focused on the future. “There are so many great causes out there in the world, but for me, clean water is a basic need, and is something that can be solved quite easily,” Aryan says. “You just need the recognition and the money. I read this quote once and it stuck with me ever since: ‘The craziest thing that we can do is nothing.’ Doing what we all can may seem like something small, but that can lead to something great, and we can all work together to make a difference.”