The Bird’s Word Blog
On the Ground with Our Guides during Shutdown
We started Journeys in 1978 with the idea that tourism could help sustain local communities through the contributions of travelers. At Journeys, we work in partnership with many incredible local guides, operators, and community members, some of them pictured above at our 35th Anniversary Jamboree in 2013. These generous, talented friends have welcomed us – all of us – to their homes for 42 years, and have helped us learn about the world. Now, those of us who yearn to explore can’t leave home… and we can’t support the livelihoods of the folks whose income depends on hosting, teaching, guiding, and befriending us.
Until we can all connect in person again, here are a few snapshots of the experiences of our guides at home during the pandemic to help you feel a bit more connected.
We are raising money through our associated non-profit, the Earth Preservation Fund, to help support the families of these and other members of our global Journeys community. Can you help us? Donate here.
Grounded Guides around the World
Narayan Kumar Shrestha, native to the Arun Valley of eastern Nepal, now lives in Kathmandu and has been working with Journeys International for more than 20 years. His village is very proud of his educational and guiding accomplishments. He is celebrated by the community when he returns home, although he cannot do so right now. Narayan and the people of Nepal have been under a strict lockdown for 52 days and counting. They can only leave their homes for emergency purposes. Narayan says that the Nepalese government is not providing any financial support to businesses or people without work, and that food costs are rising. The government also requires parents to continue paying school fees despite closing schools. With little infrastructure available for improving public health, the tourism industry is expecting long-term challenges, but with the swift and unexpected implementation of the lockdown, there is an immediate need right now. The local guides and drivers are struggling to cover their living costs while trips and tours are postponed until after the pandemic.
Paul Tamwenya, born in eastern Uganda, is our go-to guide for Uganda and Rwanda. He has been working with Journeys International for over a decade, sharing his kind heart and passion for Uganda’s nature and wildlife with our travelers. Paul is a leading guide in the country, responsible for the training of other naturalists. Right now, Paul reports that his country is under lockdown, and he is having difficulty doing business because he can’t access the broadband Internet only available from his office and not his home. More troubling to him, though, is the plight of his many countrymen who have no savings and can’t buy food if they can’t earn money under lockdown conditions. He reports that the government’s policies are perceived to favor the small percentage of wealthy Ugandans, and the income gap in the country leaves Uganda on the brink of famine. Paul says, “It is a very hard time for tourism and for everyone here, but we are keeping our hopes alive.” The positivity throughout our global travel community in these trying times has been inspiring, and Paul is a standard-bearer for positive energy.
Luis Godoy, native to Belize in Central America, is an incredible storyteller with the ability to make anyone listening laugh out loud. He has been working with Journeys for over 20 years, leading trips through Belize’s ancient Mayan sites, impressive caves, and exciting jungle rivers. However, these awesome adventures are currently paused until the Coronavirus pandemic passes. Belize is 6 weeks into quarantine and the government has extended the lockdown until the end of June. Fortunately, there are currently zero cases of COVID-19 in the country of Belize, but the government is keeping people home to ensure the number of cases doesn’t rise. With limitations in place on travel within the country as well, Luis also reports that people in the larger cities have had trouble getting fresh food from the countryside and food costs are rising. The government is offering only $35 every two weeks to help people suddenly without income. Luis is excited to continue to lead tours and meet travelers once the country opens its borders. Until then, he needs our help.
Rinchen Pelmo, native to Tibet on the northern side of the Himalayas, has been working as a local guide to travelers from all across the globe for over 12 years. She loves working with travelers because it’s an opportunity for her to share her beloved culture with them, and learn about theirs, too. Tibet, like Belize, currently has no cases of COVID-19, but has been under a stay-at-home order for the last few months. Fortunately, things are gradually opening up, but temples, monasteries, and other tourist sites are remaining closed; mass gatherings are banned; and masks are required in public spaces. Because tourism is at a stand-still, the female guides in particular are tasked with staying home and caring for their families without any income or government subsidies. They are staying hopeful for next year’s tourism season, but need some help right now to cover living expenses.
Can you give to support these and other members of the global Journeys community? Donate here.