People are the heart of our business. We believe in honest, mutually beneficial and dignified relationships with our rural community partners in ways that deliver a meaningful and life-changing share of the proceeds of responsible ecotourism to all stakeholders. Our mechanisms include community-centric employment, joint ventures, education and training, social and health benefits, capacity-building and infrastructure development.
Community is divided into two elements:
The Internal Community is our staff, which we call 'the Wilderness Tribe.' They are the interface between our company and our guests – as well as other stakeholders – and so they are fundamental to our operations. We strive to ensure that they are fulfilled, rewarded and act as valued ambassadors of the company.
Staff and guide training is a vital part of our operation. Through regional training programmes, we provide local people with the skills to become some of the best guides and managers in the African tourist industry. These guide and management training programmes are entirely self-funded and take up large amounts of time and money, coupled with energy and input from dedicated guides, naturalists and managers who share their knowledge with the next generation of staff.
Our innovative HIV/AIDS programme, formally implemented with the assistance of primary health care and HIV specialist Dr Clive Evian in 2003, has built a solid foundation over the past 12 years. Its stated aim is: "The removal of the stigma and mystery of HIV/AIDS, the creation of a safe, unprejudiced environment and the testing and treatment of all infected and affected members of the Wilderness community." Find out more here.
The External Community comprises our neighbours, the rural communities that either own the land on which we operate or live adjacent to these areas. We aim to engage with these communities in an honest, mutually beneficial and dignified manner. (Many of our staff are drawn from these communities and thus form part of both Internal and External Communities.) Wherever possible, we offer visits to local villages and various cultural experiences in the communities adjacent to the wild areas in which we operate. Read more about these activities here.
Our Children in the Wilderness programme, our pride and joy, is part of our Community vertical. Every year, some of our camps are closed to paying guests while we host underprivileged children from neighbouring communities. The week-long programme, combining wildlife conservation, environmental awareness, health and education, helps to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the wildlife and natural heritage of African youth. For more information on this great initiative, check out the PDF or go to www.childreninthewilderness.com.
Pack for a Purpose was started by a Wilderness Safaris guest who saw an incredible opportunity to make a difference to the lives of children around the world. The goal of Pack for a Purpose is to assist travellers to make a meaningful contribution to the communities they visit by supplying lists in order to meet the needs of children in specific areas of the world. These lists are provided directly by the local community-based projects that will receive them. There are a number of Wilderness community projects listed on the website. By searching the destination you are travelling to, you can ascertain what the community projects are and how you can assist. Pack for a Purpose qualifies as a charitable organisation under code section 501(c)(3). All contributions to Pack for a Purpose are fully deductible. Read here for more information.
Culture and Community News
For the past five years, we have been compiling a Community and Culture Newsletter which has included news from all the regions relating to community engagements, projects, staff training, team building and the like. The newsletter has grown from strength to strength and is now available via our blog on a monthly basis. These newsletters offer an excellent opportunity to share experiences, learn from other regions and document all community projects and engagements.