Celebrate the new year by helping others with a humanitarian-aid jeep adventure in Rajasthan


Following up on the success of its inaugural January 2009 trip, Relief Workers International (RWI) will offer a dozen travelers the opportunity to join its second humanitarian aid adventure in the Rajasthan desert — just in time for the 2010 New Year.

The trip, which runs from December 22, 2009 to January 2, 2010, will allow participants to visit remote desert villages in the stunning, geographically-unique, salt-pan region known as the Little Rann of The Kutch. From their base camp, the garden oasis of Rann Riders Resort in Dasada, participants will travel each day to different villages where they will distribute school supplies to children and assist RWI’s team of doctors to provide medicine and critical health care for needy villagers.

According to Alexander Souri, executive director of RWI, trip participants can create an enormous difference in the lives of the villagers they visit. “At the heart of every RWI excursion is the very meaningful interaction between trip participants and local residents,” Souri said. “No matter what life experiences they’ve had or what skills they possess, each trip participant performs a pivotal, integral role in our aid efforts. As a result, both villagers’ and participants’ lives are improved.”

Among the most important aid efforts that RWI conducts are mobile eye camps, which allow villagers blinded by cataracts – a widespread problem in this sun-scorched region – to undergo simple surgery and regain their sight. Participants during the January 2010 trip will set up a mobile eye camp in the village of Patdi, where they will help RWI’s medical team to do check-ups, organize triage, and distribute medical supplies for aftercare.

Trip participants will also have the opportunity to visit with and provide books and supplies for schoolchildren at Patdi and other villages and will attend seminars designed to educate and enrich them about local culture and its place in the world. Trip members will get to meet with Ganthar, a non-governmental organization that created “Floating Desert Schools,” which help educate the region’s semi-nomadic children. Participants will also travel to the Rann’s salt pans to meet salt workers, who form the foundation of the local economy; attend an interactive seminar about global climate change; and meet with the honorary secretary of the Indian Red Cross’ Gujarat state branch in Ahmedabad.

The January trip itinerary also allows plenty of opportunities for participants to explore the region’s dazzling landscapes and landmarks and to immerse themselves in the local culture with daily yoga practice and freshly-prepared local meals.

“It’s important that, alongside the crucial work we do, we take time to appreciate the beautiful terrain, fascinating wildlife, historic monuments, and cultural traditions that surround us,” Souri said. “This is an integral part of the RWI experience.”

An offshoot of Relief Riders International (RRI), an aid organization which has provided humanitarian relief to Rajasthani villagers via horseback since 2004, RWI seeks to address the same issues as its sister organization: providing general and pediatric medical care; treating blindness; and donating livestock, books, and school supplies to villagers. In the five years since its inception, RRI has provided aid to some 15,000 villagers, half of them children.

“After four years of offering unique voluntourism expeditions on horseback, we were delighted to create a whole new humanitarian travel experience for those not interested in riding,” said Souri. “The aims are the same and our success should be as well.”