Testimony of an inspired traveller

Testimony of an inspired traveller

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Time in Nepal

On a recent trip to Nepal I had one experience that really stands out. It wasn’t the hectic streets of Kathmandu or the green hills of the valley - as amazing as they are. It was taking part in a cooking class at the Seven Women centre, organised through Urban Adventures.

Arriving at the Seven Women centre I was greeted by so many smiling faces and made to feel so welcome by the women working and visiting. Heading into the bustling cooking school, I was quickly put to work grinding, chopping, stirring and frying alongside other travellers. The room quickly filled with delicious smells and people’s laughter as we were shown by the women how to cook easy and tasty traditional Nepalese meals. Their skill (and patience) ensured the meals we prepared were a success and ready to share for lunch.

Over our lunch we had the privilege to hear personal stories from the women. What they have been able to achieve in the face of adversity and how passionate they are about empowering their communities was truly inspiring. Their faces lit up as we cheered and clapped upon hearing about their engagements, graduating high school and overcoming obstacles.

Returning home

After my time at Seven Women I knew I wanted to do more and become a part of the movement. When I arrived home to Australia the first thing I did was reach out via email asking what I could do to help. I was blown away to hear from Steph Woollard herself and to have the opportunity to meet with her in Melbourne. Her enthusiasm and optimism were contagious and we quickly discussed a plan on how to bring the story of Seven Women into workplaces this Christmas. 

I am now organising for my workplace to have Steph come and speak in the lead up to Christmas and have a stall selling Seven Women scarves. Getting the story of Seven Women shared with as many people as possible will ensure the amazing work they do can continue to grow. I encourage everyone to get their workplace involved by taking part in the Christmas Fundraising Drive.

If you are heading to Nepal make sure you make the time to visit Seven Women. It will be a highlight that will stay with you long after you leave

Written by Emily Lyons

How travel broadens the mind

How travel broadens the mind

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Travel, especially if done properly, is perhaps unique in its ability to expand one’s perspective, which so often become closed because of our routinised lives. Rather than sitting by the hotel pool, sustainable travel — with its emphasis on genuine cultural exchange and meaningful interaction — is the best means of enriching our minds.

Discarding our cultural lenses

The testimonies of the participants who went on our recent Hands On Development tour to Nepal, provide first-hand evidence of how travel broadens the mind. One participant, Vanessa Moskal, described how the trip had the effect of making her aware of her own ‘cultural lenses.’

In the West, it is often too easy to forget that there are other value systems and ways of looking at the world, which we can also apply to our own lives. A key inisight that emerged for the participants was that happiness does not always come from material wealth. Rather, it comes from the people who are in our lives. Undoubtedly, in such a competitive, career-minded society as Australia, this is a lesson which we can all take on board.

In a classic example of how travel is a force for peace, participants described how the language barrier was not an obstacle to experiencing human connection at the ‘fundamental level.’ If travel is done so as to emphasis cross-cultural interaction, as the global middle class rises, travel can create a groundswell of momentum for peace.

How we can all make a difference

Another key takeaway from the trip was that it is possible for every person to make a difference. After seeing the work of Seven Women and various other partner organisations in Kathmandu, the participants realised that goals as seemingly unattainable as women’s empowerment in a traditionally patriarchal society, are actually achievable if we all pitch-in.

Yet, as Sue Gammon attested too, this realisation was only made possible through embarking on a sustainable tourism tour. In her words, if you are interested in finding out ‘what you can do to help’ and ‘what [truly] goes on in a country’, then this ‘is the type of tour for you.’

With the right type of travel experience, we can broaden our minds like never before.

Tourism: an industry update

Tourism: an industry update

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State of the industry

The global tourism industry has the potential to massively aid the cause of sustainable and inclusive economic development around the world. Tourism is the world’s third largest employer, sustaining twice as many jobs as the financial sector and accounting for 10% of global GDP. Tourism has also managed to consistently outperform the global economic growth rate for the last few years. 

The tourism industry is also unique in the type of people that it employs. Tourism is the largest industry in many developing countries and is almost twice as likely to employ women than other industries. Because of their low-skilled nature, tourism jobs also serve as a great provider of opportunities to marginalised communities. 

Tourists are attracted to a country because of its natural beauty and unique culture. However, these pulling factors are often tainted by global corporations and their all-inclusive resort franchises.These corporate giants often take advantage of local communities and capitalise on cheap labor costs. Sustainable tourism has the ability to help developing countries avoid debilitating ‘races to the bottom’ where conditions and wages are driven down in order to attract big corporations.

Trends and challenges going forward

In 2017, the UN recognised 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, recognising the potential of tourism to eradicate poverty, empower disadvantaged groups and minimise adverse impacts on the environment. However, for this to occur, sustainable tourism practices must be embraced. The good news is that the trends lines show that tourism is becoming increasingly sustainable. 

AIG Travel’s 2017 Pulse poll found that 78% of respondents viewed sustainable tourism as important, a massive 26% increase from the previous year as awareness of the industry’s huge potential spreads.

This development has been noted by Lonely Planet, who reported that sustainable tourism will become a ‘top industry trend.’ Not only do sustainable travellers leave a lighter impact on the environment and local culture, but they also spend about 61% more than the average tourist. 

However, despite the positive trends, the tourism industry has no shortage of challenges as it attempts to transition to a more sustainable model. Overcrowding continues to be a challenge for many destinations. Moreover, only 5% of the money spent by tourists actually remains in local economies. As an industry, tourism remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels and will have to undertake significant adjustments as the global economy transitions towards renewable energy. 

Your role

Although governments and tourism operators have a huge responsibility, tourists have a vital role to play in the transition to a more sustainable tourism industry. With the internet at their disposal, tourists have the ability and the responsibility to ensure that the companies they travel with hire local, buy local and have a limited impact on the environment.

If tourists chose the right companies, demand for sustainable tourism practices will increase, thereby encouraging other companies to embrace a more sustainable model.

Tourism has the potential to be a massive force for good, but it is up to us all to ensure that the transitional to responsible, sustainable tourism actually occurs.

How tourism can support sustainable economic growth

How tourism can support sustainable economic growth

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A vital part of the eighth Sustainable Development Goal is to promote the growth of small and medium sized enterprises and to achieve full and productive employment for everyone, including women and the disabled.

NEPALI CONTEXT

Creating well-paying and sustainable jobs is a particularly relevant concern to Nepal, where the majority of the working population is employed in small-scale agriculture.

Women and especially disabled women face multiple barriers in gaining access to employment. Being victims of double discrimination, disabled women are cast down, stigmatised and often excluded from the rest of the community. They have very little access to education (a majority receives no education at all) and they have very little opportunity when it comes to finding employment.  Accordingly, many becomes unemployed.

Thankfully, tourism has the potential to transform Nepal's economy and help lift many people out of poverty. Globally, the growth of the tourist industry is expected to outpace the global growth rate, while by 2030, 57% of global tourist arrivals will be to developing countries like Nepal. Accordingly, there exists real opportunities for the expansion of burgeoning small and medium sized enterprises, particularly in the hospitality sector, as Nepal caters for up to 1.5m tourists by 2020.  

OUR WORK

Here at Hands on Development, we run 10-day cultural immersion tours and treks to Nepal. We employ those who need it the most and help create sustainable and inclusive jobs by partnering with Seven Women, which supports disabled and disadvantaged women from and around Kathmandu.

On our tours, participants attend Nepali language and cooking lessons run by the women, whilst also having the opportunity to purchase handcrafts made at the Seven Women Centre. In turn, the profits from these activities provide the women income whilst also supporting their ongoing education and vocational training.

Your support and participation does make a real and meaningful difference. 

Travel and support a more peaceful world

Travel and support a more peaceful world

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At its core, the sixteenth Sustainable Development Goal aims to reduce all forms of human exploitation and achieve a more peaceful, just and better-governed world. 

The challenges facing Nepal 

Despite having successfully emerging from the Civil War which plagued the country for a decade between 1996 to 2006, Nepal still struggles with human security issues. In the past few years, Nepal has faced a host of issues including civil unrest, human trafficking, separatism, crime and of course, natural disasters. 

A range of groups such as Dalits, women, the disabled and above all disabled women, continue to face discrimination and human rights violations. As victims of 'double discrimination,' disabled women are often denied basic rights such as access to healthcare, education and employment.

Our Impact 

Recognising that intercultural dialogue and understanding will lay the foundations of a more peaceful world, Hands on Development's tours are immersive and focus on facilitating cultural exchange. Participants have the opportunity to learn about Nepali language, culture and history while also having the chance to share their own skills, culture and perspectives with locals. 

Moreover, Hands on Development partners with a number of organisations who tackle Nepal's social and human security issues head-on. One such organisation is Maiti Nepal, an NGO who is at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking. 

Finally, we contribute to building a safer and more just Nepal by facilitating the employment of disabled and marginalised women. For example, we employ women from our partner-organisation, Seven Women, to teach tour participants Nepali language, cooking and handcraft skills. 

Rotarians unite for Hands on Development tour to Nepal

Rotarians unite for Hands on Development tour to Nepal

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Recently, twenty-two rotarians from all over Australia had the opportunity to participate in a ten day tour of Nepal. What quickly became clear is that Rotary International and Hands on Development are a match made in heaven. 

Common ground 

As well as soaking up the litany of UNESCO world heritage sights in and around Kathmandu, the twenty two rotarians also had the chance to put their values in action by directly making a difference. 

Promoting education and community-focused economic development through innovative projects represents Rotary’s core purpose. There is no better place to do all of these things than in Kathmandu. 

Throughout the Hands on Development tour, the rotarians had the opportunity to visit and support Dambar and the Association for Craft Producers — two local enterprises which directly contribute to community and economic development through their commitment to fair trade principles and providing opportunities to disadvantaged people. 

Visit to Seven Women Centre

The Rotarians also had the opportunity to visit the Seven Women centre, which through its innovative partnership with Hands on Development has provided education, vocational training and economic opportunities to over 5, 000 people. 

The group had the opportunity to attend language and cooking classes run by the women, as well as engaging in sessions where the rotarians were able to share their unique expertise.

An inspiring journey 

The rotarians who participated on the trip came away full of inspiration after seeing how Seven Women has been able to help disadvantaged Nepali women along the path to economic empowerment and self-sufficiency. 

One tour-group member, Dianne Hennessy, described visiting the centre as the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ and all members spoke of the sense of togetherness and purpose that they felt from being apart of the group.

Sue Power ultimately summed up the feelings of the entire group when she described the trip as a ‘very memorable’ experience which she highly recommends to all Rotary members, and indeed any ‘who cares about making a difference.’

How to Holiday and support Sustainable Capitalism!

How to Holiday and support Sustainable Capitalism!

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Overconsumption and the inefficient use of resources is a huge challenge going forward as the world moves towards a sustainable economy. The twelfth Sustainable Development Goal aims to achieve responsible production and consumption by achieving a sustainable balance between natural resource use and economic growth.

Sustainably harnessing the power of tourism

Tourism accounts for 10% of global GDP and around 30% of global exports. Improving the sustainability of tourism is therefore crucial to achieving the twelfth SDG.

Unfortunately, stories too often abound of environmental damage and scarcity caused by the overconsumption of local resources. Mass influxes of tourists can also erode local cultures. When these things occur, it damages local communities and threatens the beauty which draws visitors in the first place. 

In Nepal, tourism puts pressure on already scarce local resources in places like Kathmandu. Tourism also contributes to local waste management problems. Nowhere is this more evident than on Mount Everest, where up to 50 tonnes of rubbish has accumulated. 

Be part of the solution

Fortunately, by focusing on sustainable and responsible tourism, companies like Hands on Development are offering affordable travel experiences which support rather than burden local communities. 

Our smaller tour group sizes minimise the impact on the local environment and preserves the sanctity of local sights. Participants also have the opportunity to support and learn about sustainable local enterprises. By engaging in cooking, craft and language classes, tour participants learn about the local culture and support economic development, all in a respectful and sustainable manner.

By choosing to holiday with Hands on Development, you can enjoy unforgettable experiences while directly contributing to the transition to a more sustainable global economy and tourism industry. Not only will the planet and local communities win, but you yourself will have a more memorable and meaningful experience. 

Seven Women’s exciting new venture

Seven Women’s exciting new venture

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Here at Seven Women, we are thrilled to announce that work is well underway on setting up our very own Boutique Hotel, which should formally open no later than early next year. Contracts have been signed and brand new kitchen equipment from China has arrived!

New opportunities

Located in the beautiful and prestigious Lazimparth area of Kathmandu — close to several embassies and the glamorous Shangri-La Hotel — our boutique hotel will provide guests with comfortable and well located accomodation, not to mention friendly staff and warm service!

Most importantly however, the hotel will provide real time, hands-on hospitality training and employment for the marginalised women who Seven Women’s core mission it is to help. This is particularly important in the sense that although hospitality is a burgeoning industry in Nepal, women — particularly the disabled — are often excluded from these growing opportunities. 

Our hotel will teach women all the skills that they need to thrive in the industry, becoming a springboard from which they can launch their careers, all the while challenging patriarchal norms. By providing these women with skills and jobs, we will also be supporting the aim of the  Sustainable Development Goals to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth. 

Where this fits in

The opening of the hotel will mark a significant step in the journey and evolution of Seven Women. Going into the hospitality business is just one of a series of ventures we have embarked upon in recent years, as we have grown Seven Women to employ women in making handicrafts as well as teaching Nepali language and cooking skills.

The hotel itself will also be integrated into our relationship with Hands on Development tours, and tour participants will stay at the hotel during their tours. In doing this, tour goers will have yet another opportunity to support local, sustainable enterprise in Nepal.  

Do-gooders who do harm: the dangers of Voluntourism in Nepal

Do-gooders who do harm: the dangers of Voluntourism in Nepal

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Searching for meaning

Young people are looking for a new kind of travel experience. Rather than simply booking a trip, visiting that country for a few weeks and then leaving with a fridge magnet, today’s travellers are increasingly looking to find purpose in their overseas experience.

Out of this has arisen an entire industry which has been nicknamed ‘voluntourism’, where companies facilitate a volunteer experience to immerse visitors in a foreign culture. Estimates put the industry worth at over $173 billion globally and as much as $2 billion annually among Aussies alone. 

And it all sounds attractive. These programs and organisations are designed to show the best of both worlds, benefiting the local people while the traveller gets a ‘real’ experience. 

Voluntourism's hidden cost

Unfortunately, the programs often cause more harm than good. Many of the travellers approach these programs with an unconscious inherent superiority, the white saviour who ‘knows best’ riding in to alleviate the poor and disadvantaged, and then leaving a few weeks later feeling good about the work they’ve done.

This mentality is apparent in the practice of everyday — often untrained — people working as   doctors and teachers. They are there for a short time but they take positions and training away from   local workers and professionals who will still be there long after the tourists are gone. Sadly, the foreign money and free labour that voluntourists bring is often highly attractive to unscrupulous  operators. 

You often hear of horror stories such as orphanages bribing or buying children from impoverished local families to fill their institutions in order to inspire foreign sympathy. These stories abound from Haiti to Nepal. Typically, well intentioned and unsuspecting foreigners have no idea about these backroom realities.

A way forward

To me the difference between meaningful volunteer experience and ones which cause harm come down to qualities of patience, curiosity and genuine understanding on the part of stakeholders.

Time is needed to identify underlying societal needs instead of a brief scan of the surface problems. I prefer to see participants develop the art of listening — really listening — to the local people, in order to understand their world and concerns. 

Sustainable tourism is the way forward

Sustainable tourism is the way forward

 

 

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Improvements in technology, transportation and middle-class wages have opened the door for people to travel further than before, and niche industries have also flourished to cater to specific interests. The rapid development of this industry has, however, left sustainability behind.

Sustainable Tourism's infinite potential

We are now raising to catch up to public demand for travel opportunities while changing the way we think about the local people affected by an influx of tourists. The UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) has reported that for $100 of tourism money spent worldwide, only $5 remains in local economics. 

Sustainable tourism policies, according to the UN, hope to implement and support practices that are economically, socially and environmentally friendly to the locals. When tourism is done well, it can provide great opportunities for ongoing development, the creation of jobs, mutual cultural exchange and the opening of trade and business partnerships. 

How can we ensure that the growth in the global tourism industry is a force for good? Like any market trends, a shift in mindset is required. Awareness is key. If people choose more sustainable tour operators the demand will grow and more companies will and emulate responsible tourism practices.

Our mission

At Hands on Development Tours and through Seven Women, we see tourism as an opportunity to uplift — providing mutual gain.

We partner with both smaller tour companies with similar values and larger companies such as Urban Adventures, who bring people to our Seven Women school for our cooking classes, lessons in basic Nepali and fair-trade product- making workshops. All these activities support social empowerment and sustainable growth in the local economy. 

Seven Women’s cooking school is an example of this ethos in action, pairing local women with ready-to-learn- foreigners to gain a true appreciation for the Nepalese way of life, contributing to the local economy at the same time as engaging tourists in learning about the local environment with the local people.

At the same time, we cap our group numbers to minimise our impact on the environment and cultural heritage sights. Ultimately, operating with this ethos ensures the benefits of tourism remain with the local people. 

 

Holiday while supporting gender equality

Holiday while supporting gender equality

Globally, gender inequality remains one of the biggest developmental challenges of our time. Despite being the key to sustainable development, not one single country has achieved full gender equality. The problem is worse in developing countries such as Nepal: women often have to fight for basic issues such as health services, education and freedom. Yet, they are often invisible and overlooked. As a tourist, is it possible to help?

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Gender inequality in Nepal

Nepal is a deeply patriarchal society and was ranked 110th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Equality Index rankings in 2017. Although Nepal has made some strides forward in recent years — such as instituting quotas which reserve seats in parliament for women — norms that discriminate against women persist at the social level.  

Girls are often denied access to adequate education — particularly in rural areas where poorer families struggle to afford education — because of the view that the women should work in the home. Accordingly, it is no surprise that because of these normative and economic barriers, women’s participation in the paid labour force hovers at around 30%. 

Because of the social stigma surrounding disability in Nepal, disabled Nepali women are victims of ‘double discrimination.' They are vulnerable but they do not have much support. They are more prone to abuse but these women are often denied services that are provided to disabled males. 

Hands on Development: Making a difference

As a tourist, you can help make Nepal a better place for women, all whilst enjoying an exciting and culturally enriching holiday. Hands on Development directly supports gender equality by supporting and facilitating the employment and vocational training of local women — many of whom would otherwise have been denied these opportunities because of their gender and/or disability. 

Profits from the cooking classes attended by tour participants directly supports training local women in hospitality skills, allowing them to break into a male-dominated industry. Through their economic empowerment, women become role models within their community, thereby challenging patriarchal norms. 

Gender inequality is not inevitable. By travelling responsibly with organisations like Hands on Development you can make a tangible difference by directly empowering marginalised women. 

A challenging opportunity

A challenging opportunity

 

The growth in international tourism provides an unprecedented opportunity for meaningful cultural exchange and economic development. However, if left unchecked, tourism can have adverse effects which detract from its positive potential. A paradigm shift towards responsible tourism is needed to best harness travel’s transformative ability. 

The numbers…

A quick look at the numbers illustrates just how massive the global tourism industry — and its growth potential — truly are. In 2017, tourist arrivals increased by 7% globally and are projected to rise by 4-5% throughout 2018. Moreover, tourism is currently the world’s fastest growing economic sector. 

Given these stats, it is not surprising that travel and tourism indirectly or directly supports at least 313 million jobs globally. As travel becomes even more affordable and the global middle class continues to expand over the next ten years, 100 million more jobs will be created.   

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The challenge

Of course, a surge in tourist numbers is not without its drawbacks. Mass tourism has the potential to cause environmental damage, ruin local cultures and sights as well as pushing up prices and creating economies centred around seasonal, low-paying jobs. 

Startlingly, despite these damaging impacts, only 5% of the money spent by tourists actually ends up staying in local economies. The tourism industry must also find a way to adapt to climate change. 

The solution

Fortunately, around the world, interest is growing in sustainable and responsible tourism — which focuses on minimising tourism’s footprint while also maximising economic benefits for locals. Responsible tourism also provides the basis for more meaningful experiences by emphasising genuine cross-cultural interactions.

Hands on Development — and its partner organisation Seven Women — are part of a global movement which seeks to truly transform tourism into a force for good. Profits from tours helps fund the training and employment of disadvantaged Nepali women, thereby ensuring that local communities tangibly benefit from tourism. Tour goers also have the opportunity to learn about Nepali cooking, crafts and language, while broadening their perspectives on a variety of global issues.

If you want to create positive global change, choose Hands On for your next holiday!

 

 

Culture, natural beauty and people : Why you should holiday in Nepal

Culture, natural beauty and people : Why you should holiday in Nepal

Ranking fifth on Lonely Planet’s countries that ‘you cannot afford to miss’ list, Nepal is one of the hottest destinations on earth. With its colourful sights, vibrant culture and charismatic people, Nepal does have a lot to offer. So what is the best way to take in this unique and beautiful country? 

Sights galore

Despite having been a tourist destination for years, when visiting Nepal, one still has the opportunity to experience a culture and people relatively untouched by mass tourism. Nepal is also one of the rare places where you can experience sublime natural and cultural beauty all in the one spot. National parks filled with tigers, famous mountain peaks and trekking areas are all in reach of ancient temples and cities. 

Wedged between the continental mammoths, China and India, Nepal’s unique Hindu-Buddhist culture has been shaped by centuries of complex cultural exchange. Regional and indigenous cultures further enrich one of the most diverse and multicultural societies on earth. 

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Why go now

There is no time like the present when it comes to visiting Nepal. The landlocked Himalayan nation has just emerged from some of the most turbulent times in its recent history. From 1996 to 2006, Nepal was embroiled in a civil war pitting the government against Maoist rebels. 

Then in 2015, Nepal was rocked by a devastating earthquake which killed over 9,000 people as well as destroying infrastructure and ancient temples. 

Yet, the ever resilient Nepalese people have bounced back. Although the rebuilding process has been slow, 2018 has seen a surge in reconstruction. Nepal’s first elections in twenty years — held in late 2017 under the new Constitution — hopefully heralds an era of much needed political stability. 

Immerse yourself

An immersive tour offers not only culturally authentic experience, but also a chance to help local communities. A Hands on Development tour offers you the chance to interact with and learn from locals, all whilst taking in Nepal’s incredible sights. You get to experience the very best of what Nepal has to offer, from the temples of Kathmandu to the remote beauty of Sudal village. What’s more, you will have the chance to learn about Nepali culture through craft, cooking and language classes. Most importantly, the profits from these classes help fund the training and employment of marginalised women

Interested in authentic Nepali experience that support local communities? Discover Hands on Development's tours.

 

Eliminating poverty whilst travelling

Eliminating poverty whilst travelling

While tourism has a huge potential to lift entire populations out of poverty, currently only 5% of the revenue from tourism stays within local communities. Solely profit-driven tourism can also have adverse impacts on local communities. Through travelling with Hands on Development, you can ensure that you travel responsibly and help reduce poverty in Nepal.

What is Responsible Tourism?

In short, responsible tourism minimises the negative effects of unsustainable travel while creating economic benefits for local people and facilitating meaningful cultural exchanges. For obvious reasons, responsible tourism therefore has the ability to support the realisation of the first SDG, which aims to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 — with a particular focus on supporting marginalised groups such as women and the disabled. 

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How you can make a difference

So how can you travel responsibly while supporting the SDGs? Hands on Development run ethical tours to Nepal with a particular focus on social, financial and environmental sustainability. By going on a tour with Hands on Development, you can directly help economically empower marginalised communities in Nepal. 

Specifically, Hands on Development employs local women as tour guides, allowing them to achieve financial independence. As part of the tour, participants will engage in genuine cultural exchanges by participating in Nepali, craft and cooking classes. In turn, the profits from these classes help to fund the training and employment pathways of disabled and marginalised women who are often denied the opportunity to work. The tour also visits and directly supports various local enterprises, such as the craft business run out of Seven Women’s headquarters in Kathmandu.

So, next time you’re looking to get away, holiday with a difference and directly support poverty reduction by choosing to travel with Hands on Development!