GREAT BARRINGTON, MA, USA (August 22, 2008) – Alexander Souri, executive director of the award-winning VolunTourism Company, Relief Riders International (RRI), announced today that he is launching Relief Workers International (RWI), a new venture that will bring travelers to Gujarat, India. RWI has scheduled two trips for the beginning of 2009: January 29 through February 9, 2009 and February 27 through March 10, 2009. RWI will carry on the innovative mix of altruism and exciting adventure travel that marked the four successful years of RRI.
“Up until this point, our humanitarian journeys were based on horseback rides,” Souri declared. “So many people over the years who weren’t horseback riders asked if I had trips in which they could participate. The educational and medical relief mission is at the heart of what we do; I wanted to share our experience with as many people as possible so I decided to re-design our journeys and transport our riders by jeep.”
Previously based in the Thar Desert region of Rajasthan – an area known for its horseback riding – RWI decided to expand its trips to a new area, the breathtaking Rann of Gujarat.
RWI participants will spend their days helping local schoolchildren, distributing school and sports supplies, and helping the RWI professional medical team to provide free health care. The RWI program is designed in such a way that people with no previous medical or humanitarian aid experience can easily and productively participate. Nights will be spent in a comfortable tented encampment under the stars. Along the way, participants will sample the best of local cuisine, see the rare wildlife of the Rann and experience the region’s unique cultural life.
Relief Workers International will expand its Give the Gift of Sight program and provide free cataract eye surgery to villagers in remote rural areas of Gujarat. “Earlier this year, I did a needs assessment trip to Gujarat. I learned that there are over 500,000 blind people living in the state of Gujarat,” Souri noted. “I knew immediately that RWI could play an important role, and that there would be many opportunities for our volunteers to not only have an extraordinary trip, but to make an immediate and positive impact on the lives of those we will be visiting.”
Since 2006, the Give the Gift of Sight program has provided free eye care to 1900 villagers; 294 patients qualified for and received life-changing cataract eye surgery.
On both RWI trips, medical camps will be held in several different villages. RWI’s medical team includes specialists in ENT, an ophthalmologist, gynecologist, dentist, pediatrician and a general physician. RWI expects to treat 300-400 villagers during each of its medical camps. At its combined Pediatric Care/Educational camps, RWI will de-worm 1200 children and distribute pencils, papers, erasers, rulers, notebook, crayons, and drawing pads at local schools. During seven successful rides since 2004, over 14,000 villagers received medical care, including 6,300 children.
The itinerary for both trips begins with a stay in Ahmedabad, a city founded in 1411 by Sultan Ahmed Shah, and famous today for its historical monuments and its association with Mahatma Gandhi. After visiting the Gandhi ashram and a meeting with the local Red Cross, participants will travel to The Little Rann of The Kutch, a geographically unique landscape that was once an arm of the Arabian Sea. It is now a vast and stunningly beautiful plain encrusted with salt. During the January 29 – February 9, 2009 trip, the RWI campsite will be located on the outskirts of the old village of Tikar. During the February 27 – March 9, 2009 trip the campsite will be located on the outskirts of the old village of Zinzuvada, which borders The Rann.
Many of the past participants in relief missions have asked about new opportunities for volunteering in the developing world. Under the supervision of Medical Director Dr. Arora, RWI will be presenting 10 hours of instruction during each trip on various aspects of disaster management. This will help prepare participants for RWI’s humanitarian work and also be of value to those who might want to work in the future with non-profits like the Red Cross.
Souri noted, “I have already heard from several RRI alumni riders who want to join us again. For many of them, the trip was a very powerful, emotional and spiritual experience. They learned about a new and rich culture in a very unique and deep way. There is nothing quite like seeing the face of a small child receiving the unexpected gift of books and a soccer ball or watching a woman open her eyes and once again seeing the world around her.”
Relief Workers International is now taking reservations for both the January 29 through February 9, 2009 trip and the February 27 through March 10, 2009 trip. You can read about trip details and the itinerary for the January 29, 2009 trip at http://www.reliefworkersinternational.com/?page_id=28
For more information about RWI:
Relief Workers International
PO Box 615
Great Barrington, Massachusetts 01230
MEDIA CONTACT: Alexander Souri, 413.329.5876