A Humbling Experience
It is day three in Kenya and the sun is shining again.
This morning we’re meeting a number of local women’s groups who are receiving funds from the money invested back into the community. The first is back at the tree nurseries: the ‘tomato sellers’. We meet representatives from six different women’s community groups who are making a living from the tomato plantation. There are six lines of tomato plants – one per group. Before long, we
realise there’s a competition to see which team can produce the most fruit! We meet two women and watch them work their way along each row harvesting whatever is ready to be picked. The fruit will be sold on locally to meet the growing demand for local produce in the community. The women take great delight and pride in their work.
Back in the truck and onto the Tutaweza women’s group, this time with Lenjo from Wildlife Works whose mother is a member. As we pull up outside a small unfinished building, we see women working the arid ground outside. The ladies – in their brightly coloured outfits – see us arrive, congregate and break into song. I’ve never felt so humble. They sing, clap and dance, welcoming us to their group. We thank them in our best Swahili and we’re led inside the building. There’s a pile of rubble inside and a couple of wooden benches. We’re offered a seat on the benches and they sit on the rubble – it doesn’t feel right. I feel completely out of place here, but at the same time very lucky to have this once in a lifetime opportunity to meet such inspiring, genuine people.
The group formed at the local church and has grown to 17 women, all with specific roles to play. After the formalities, Angelina, the group’s treasurer, explains their plans to set up a mill for grinding maize. There’s only one in the village and it’s very expensive. The building we’re in will house the mill once complete, but it will need electricity and another building to sell the ground maize. The women have submitted a proposal to fund this which is currently under consideration.
I’m inspired by how these women are intent on making a better life for themselves and the community. They have real soul and talk with passion, humour and drive about what they are hoping to achieve with the funding. We talk about education, birth control, politics, healthcare, and of course… carbon. It’s hard to put into words the admiration you feel when you’re sitting in such basic conditions listening to people talk so articulately about a brighter future. I’ve watched Comic Relief on TV but have never experienced this side of Africa firsthand.
We all are deeply touched by these women. I know this is one of those experiences I’ll remember forever. We leave content knowing that they’ll be helped by the funding which isn’t just providing aid, but the tools and education which will enable them to live a better life in the long term.
I take my hat off to Rob Dodson, who has been running the Wildlife Works project for over 10 years, and whose enthusiasm and determination makes anything seem possible. This is one of the most worthwhile and worthy enterprises I’ve ever come across.
I came to Kenya to learn about carbon offsetting and I’ve learnt so much more. It’s only been three days and I can’t believe what I’ve seen. The Wildlife Works project here in the Kasigau Corridor employs over 400 local people; it protects over 200,000 hectares of forest land; it has planted over 80,000 trees; it is providing nearly 800 students with secondary education; it is protecting endangered wildlife; and has generated around three quarters of a million tonnes of carbon credits from forest protection. Through our World Care Fund , Thomson and First Choice have funded around a fifth of the credits generated from this project so far. With everyone’s support of the World Care Fund I hope we can continue to support this project.
I must admit, I can understand that people might be sceptical about carbon offsetting. After all, we should all be responsible for our own emissions. However, knowing we’ve made a good start addressing our carbon footprint through Holidays Forever, I feel proud to work for a company that has the largest carbon offsetting scheme in the industry. We’ve invested around £7 million into accredited carbon offsetting projects which are saving carbon and changing lives around the world. We can all do our bit to save carbon, whether it’s reducing our personal carbon footprint through simple actions like saving electricity, taking public transport, or whether it’s supporting projects like this one through schemes like the World Care Fund.
Finally we say our goodbyes to the Wildlife Works team and face the journey on the ‘road of death’ into Mombasa for our Thomson Airways flight home. I missed my wedding anniversary for this trip; I know Sarah will forgive when she hears about my trip. I just hope she’ll forgive me for making a big deal about carbon!
Kwa heri from Kenya!
P.S. A huge thank you to Rebecca Fay and Charlotte Schofield from The CarbonNeutral Company; David Ward, Resort Team Manager in Kenya for looking after us so well; and to Pollmans and Camps International for providing great transport and hosting us in Kenya. Asantie sana!
About Jeremy Ellis
Having joined Thomson Holidays as a graduate trainee in 1991, Jeremy worked in a number of roles before becoming Marketing Director for Thomson and First Choice. Jeremy also has responsibility for the Sustainable Development team and the Holidays Forever plan.