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Voluntourism: Six Change-Makers in Africa

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Michaela Guzy, Founder of OhThePeopleYouMeet.com at the Unity Cup in Laikipia, Kenya with local children.

Michaela S. Guzy, who writes the blog OhThePeopleYouMeet.com, recently completed a three-month journey across seven African countries.  Sometimes, it’s not about just the destination or the organization, but the people behind it. Guzy shares six inspiring individuals she met on her trip.

For my list, I wanted to recognize people who realize the value of incoming tourism beyond their own personal self gain, who help channel these foreign dollars to have a positive impact on a destination and it’s local people.  These advocates promote in-bound travel, employ local people, but also dedicate their limited free time to give back to their local communities.  To say that I was inspired, would be an understatement– moved to help make change happen is more like it.  So here it is, six change makers and how you can get involved.

1.  Michael Dyer, Borana Ranch & Safari Lodge, and the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Laikipia, Kenya.

Michael Dyer, playing pilot, flying me to Borana.

From a tourist’s perspective, the grounds of Borana are breathtakingly beautiful and animals are everywhere—precisely what you would like to see on safari.  Michael and Nicky, opened Borana Ranch & Safari Lodge on the family owned land in 1990, which happened to be the first eco-lodge in the area.

For over 20 years, Michael has dedicated himself to helping teach and implement the importance of preservation, conservation, working with and supporting the community. Much to my delight, Michael and Nicky also offer guests the opportunity to visit the tannery, where they employ and then teach local, disabled or blind people the craft.

Given their dedication to the local people, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that they also started a mobile medical clinic eight years ago.  They employ two nurses and a driver to visit the local villages across the Laikipia region, Monday-Friday.  These hardworking women treat over 20,000 patients per year—from vaccinations, HIV/AIDS education and notably Planned Parenthood services.

A volunteer dentist with a willing patient.

While these projects were impressive, Michael and Nicky kidnapped me for a soccer match, where I learned that Michael was one of the founders of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum which is a member driven organization that brings together land owners and resource users (from large-scale ranchers to small scale farmers) to tackle the challenges in the Laikipia ecosystem. And the LWF as it turns out, is one of the key sponsors of the “Laikipia And Beyond Unity Cup Football Tournament” (LUC).   Two years ago, the LUC brought together 32 teams in remote rural locations throughout the district during five separate three day weekends, thousands of people participated in environmental education sessions and activities, ranging from tree planting, town ‘clean up’s’ to water conservation activities and over 12,000 people received free medical treatment, primarily women and children.

Post game, Michael took me back to visit the medical clinic.  The lines were endless for the free aid, but it was so wonderful to see the local people taking advantage of the services provided by the volunteer doctors.  I have immense respect for the brave patients who literally had their teeth pulled in front of hundreds of people without any painkillers.  There was never screaming, only smiles, “asante sana” (thank you) and handshakes.

You can help: by learning more about the Laikipia Wildlife Forum and the powerful impact the “Unity Cup” has on bringing people together through sport and for such a powerful purpose.  And by visiting Borana, you are helping support the work that Michael and his family do for the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, the mobile medical clinic and employing locals at the tannery.

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