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Humanitarian Travel

Spirit of Big Five Foundation focuses on the greater global good

Linda Hohnholz, eTN  Jul 27, 2009

Big Five Tours & Expeditions, providers of worldwide luxury travel and luxury tours, started in 1973 by their CEO Mahen Sanghrajka, and it remains a wholly-owned family business today. Going beyond the bottom line, the company and family have always focused on the greater global good, supporting individual projects as part of their corporate and personal philosophy. Their giving supports efforts in conservation, poverty alleviation, education, and healthcare in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.

In Nairobi, for instance, Big Five has for many years supported the St. Nicholas Community Development Center - home to more than 168 orphaned and abandoned children aging from 2 to 20. Some of these children are fresh from living on the streets, others victims of abuse, still others whose families have been devastated by AIDS.

Big Five has donated to the India Blind Foundation since 1989, and they have provided funds to purchase and equip mobile units that travel into villages to offer free “eye camps.” Through these camps, medical teams have subsequently restored sight to more than 40,000 individuals, and have examined and treated more than 500,000 people. They have also distributed more than 5,000 Braille and mathematics kits to blind children in all Indian states. More than 13 million people in India are blind; two million of them are children.

One of the newest recipients of their generosity is the Southern Environmental Association (SEA) Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Conservation project in Belize. The Spirit of Big Five Foundation grant goes directly to support SEA’s scientific monitoring and management of the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. The funds support ranger patrols to prevent illegal poaching within the marine protected area, scientific data collection used to carry out environmental impact assessments from unregulated coastal development, and local community educational outreach, including funding marine conservation awareness and teaching about the environment in collaboration with local elementary schools.

The foundation’s focus on responsible and sustainable tourism is a natural choice for this company as it has many components: fostering the preservation of its natural and cultural heritage and, equally important, the well-being of local communities. A key element of this philosophy is to work with local communities to help alleviate the devastating consequences of poverty. The purpose is to create win-win situations for their guests, the environment, and local people - each side of the triangle supporting one another.

Spirit of Big Five Foundation recently joined The Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC Partnership). This coalition of 32 organizations works to foster increased understanding of sustainable tourism practices and the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles. As a network member, the Spirit of Big Five Foundation is focusing on GSTC’s Education and Training Working Group.

“Education is crucial to increasing awareness of the many important issues surrounding responsible travel,” said Mahen Sanghrajka, chairman of the Spirit of Big Five Foundation.

The foundation is a natural progression of this company’s humanitarian heart, and the establishment of the Spirit of Big Five Foundation was to be able to formalize their corporate giving. Launched in 2007, the foundation is funded by Big Five Tours & Expeditions and the Sanghrajka family. In addition to donations to charitable organizations, the foundation also solicits and funds small project grants.

Spirit of Big Five Foundation focuses on the greater global good
James & Gabriel from the St. Nicholas Community Development Center - Image via

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