A great travel experience can change your life, and life’s philosophy is that there are no limits to the experiences we can have in our individual lifetimes.
If theres one thing about the travel industry that has inspired me lately its got to be ‘responsible tourism’.
I recently met Kelly, who is the co-founder of The Village Experience and I was absolutely in awe by her wonderful personality and the work her and her sister do, especially because Kenya is one of their key destination. The Village Experience is a socially pro-active business dedicated to uplifting impoverished communities in the developing world through efforts in international trade and tourism. They operate a socially responsible tourism company, an artisan fair trade line known as The Opportunity Collection, and a non-profit called The Village Cooperative. Through these channels, they are able to increase tourism, create jobs, boost the local economy, and contribute to much needed development projects in their three partner countries: Kenya, India, and Guatemala.
Kelly and Anne Campbell grew up in the United States and obtained fashion merchandising and business degrees from Indiana University. They studied abroad in South Africa and Spain, respectively, worked in the fashion industry in New York, and traveled much of the world before launching The Village Experience. Kelly is a born leader and extrovert and thrives on taking people out of their comfort zones and into the unknown. She frequently speaks on social justice topics and is a contributing writer to multiple publications. Anne loves the challenge of the sale! She is often seen at trade shows, making the rounds to visit the Opportunity Collection retailers around the world, or working one-on-one with the artisans in their programs.
In their travels to places such as Morocco, Kenya, India, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and more Kelly and Anne were constantly meeting women with beautiful artisan goods, but no market in which to sell them. Kelly would frequently bring home intricate jewellery, handmade pillow covers, and colorful handbags and try them out on family and friends to gauge their reaction. Anne would then set out to sketch new designs inspired from what she was seeing and employ the artisans to begin making samples. These products would be inspired by the color, the diversity, and the beauty of the places they had been. What they also noticed was a lack of Americans traveling the world or even holding a passport for that matter. They vowed to do everything they could to inspire and encourage others, especially women, to travel this world, educate themselves, and break down the barriers and prejudices they had been building up for many years.
They specialize in socially responsible tourism. This means they adhere to basic principles when planning their trips to ensure that all parties involved are paid and treated fairly, passengers are exposed to social justice issues and encouraged to shop fair trade, hotels have a commitment to the community, and they are consistently involved in the development of the areas in which they visit. In fact, they have donated over 1.5 million U.S. dollars to projects in their partner communities through their vast network of traveler’s and donors. The Village Experience plans philanthropic tours, yoga retreats, family vacations, adventure trips, university trips, and your typical R & R trip. They target clients looking for something different than the all inclusive resorts.They want their passengers to meet local people, interact with their partner communities, eat at neighborhood establishments, and be inspired to start lasting and meaningful relationships with their projects on the ground. In Kenya, they run yearly trips to the island archipelago of Lamu, safari excursions to Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, Masai Mara, and Amboseli, service oriented trips to Mbita and Maralal, and fair trade focused tours in Nairobi. They can customize any trip to meet their clients exact requirements knowing that the trip will be giving back the entire time they are enjoying it.
The Village Experience passengers are exposed to “real” Kenya. They meet local people. They learn all about the unique history, culture, and diversity of the country. They catch up on the current events of the area. They try typical cuisine. They have opportunities to interact, ask questions, tell stories, and connect to people throughout the country. And they are led by some of the brightest and most experienced guides in the country. They are given a chance to stay involved long term in the projects operated by The Village Experience and their adventure does not end with the flight home.
Kelly first traveled to Kenya in 2006 and volunteered with a street kids program in Eldoret. She quickly realized how much Kenya had to offer and how welcoming and hospitable the country was. She decided that it would be one of their main destinations when the company was launched the following year. To The Village Experience, Kenya has the best of both worlds – undeniably beautiful nature on the mainland through the many game parks, nature reserves, and lakes and a wonderfully long coast line boasting unique Swahili culture and unspoiled beaches. Their clients could choose bush or beach, help the community along the way, and have the trip of a lifetime.
The Village Experience prides themselves on supporting local organizations with every passenger that travels through their socially responsible tourism program. A donation is granted with each trip and consistently throughout the year to ensure the steady progress and forward motion of their partner communities. To date, The Village Experience has built several schools, a medical clinic, a community center, multiple artisan workshops, a community tourism program, a small business development program, an FGM rescue center, and homes for an entire community of HIV/AIDs widows.
To learn more about The Village Experience, you can visit their website: www.experiencethevillage.com or email me them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tunes as Kelly tells us about The Village Experience in different chapters in the upcoming posts.