From our inception and initial involvement with the SOS Tibetan orphanage in Chuglamsar, Ladakh in 1989, Destination Himalaya, along with our clients and partners in Asia, has made “giving back” to local communities paramount. Dealing exclusively with small, local organizations, our goal is to be highly involved in our chosen projects. This hands-on approach amounts to much more than just giving money. We become actively involved in each project and maintain that involvement over time. Every year our staff and our Asian partners visit the communities and institutions we sponsor to monitor the status of our projects. This creates an invaluable atmosphere of trust and understanding as a long term relationship develops between Destination Himalaya and our beneficiaries.
Destination Himalaya, along with our clients and Asian partners, is currently involved with the charitable projects listed below.
South India is a stunningly beautiful place of pristine white beaches, palm trees, and landscapes abounding with colorful temples. This is a gentle land and a place to be treasured. As such, it is one of our favorite Indian destinations. In this spectacular region, however, live many whose quality of life could be greatly improved. Destination Himalaya is actively supporting four school projects in the Kumarakom and Marari areas in the South Indian state of Kerala.
In 2005 Destination Himalaya established its "Giving back" program in South India. With our friends at the Grace Family Foundation, DH started by supporting a small rural elementary school in Kummanam, Kerala, by establishing a “Nutritious Lunch” program. Prior to our involvement, the schoolchildren had a very poor diet, consisting primarily of rice and little bit of dal (lentils). In addition, school enrollment was low, as families could not afford to send their children to school. Funded by The Grace Family Foundation and under Destination Himalaya Staff supervision, the PTA association now provides healthy meals for the children. By the end of 2011, approximately 144,000 lunches had have been served at this ONE school. A side benefit to the initiative was a 38% increase in enrollment.
Based on the success this program we now in the process of setting up similar "Nutritious Lunch" program in two other schools in Kerala. The Kareemadom Welfare Primary School in Kottayam, Kerala, is in a remote location and schoolchildren currently walk over an hour each way dilapidated bridges. In addition to starting the lunch program at this school, Destination Himalaya has also funded the retrofit of the bridges leading to the school, making it safer for the children who walk to school.
The Mararikulam Lower Primary School, in the Marari Beach area, had no desks, chairs (or other furniture) for the students. Here Destination Himalaya funded and provided supervision for local carpenters to build desks and benches for the entire school. In addition DH clients funded bookshelves for the entire school.
Finally, the Deepthy Special School, in Muhamma Village, Kerala, is a residential school for developmentally challenged children. This inspirational school is run by Congregation of Mother of Carmel Sisters and is the only institution of its kind in the region. The demand for placement in the school is great, so Destination Himalaya and the Grace Family Foundation have committed to actively support this institution as the CMC Sisters expand to accommodate more students. Construction of separate girls & boys bathrooms, sleeping dormitories have now been completed.
The lands of North India are home to some of India’s most exciting destinations, from the majestic Taj Mahal to the exotic palaces of Rajasthan to the mighty Himalayas. North India is also a place where village life continues as humbly as it has for centuries, and the forces of modernity have left many of these villages behind. The heart of our mission in this region is to assist local tribes and villagers with whom we work, and to actively incorporate them into our projects.
The Dera Sand Dune Retreat in the Jamba region, located in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, is used as a base from which our clients are able to explore the neighboring Bishnois villages and interact with these communities. Sustainable tourism and conservation, of both the natural environment and traditional village cultures, have been foremost in the development of the property in Jamba. The local community was involved in every step of The Sand Dune Retreat’s journey into existence, from initial agreement and approval, to the hands-on construction process. The property features exquisite examples of traditional Rajasthani architecture, including the stonework and carvings of local designers and craftsmen. Furnishing and décor, notably carpets and tapestries, are all crafted in the nearby villages. Just a stone's throw from the Retreat, we are supporting the construction and operation of a school and a clinic which was started by our India Partners. Many of our clients who have visited this school and spent time with the children have chosen to maintain a charitable connection, and, in some cases, have scheduled return trips.
THE MOUNTAIN REGIONS
The religious traditions of India have given much to the world, and we at Destination Himalaya feel honored to give back to India’s great spiritual centers. In particular, Destination Himalaya is a proud supporter of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his many projects in the Dharamsala region. We are directly involved with the Nechung Monastery in Dharamsala, as well as, the Nechung’s U.S. operations, through the sponsorship of young monks at the monastery and event sponsorship for displaced Tibetans in the USA. Since 1997, we also provided annual support in the form of funding, clothing and housing opportunities for the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala.
Finally, Destination Himalaya continues to search for new giving opportunities. We seek out distinct individuals and institutions with whom we may establish a charitable relationship, those who are most in need and who will most value of our heartfelt assistance.
In February 2014, Destination Himalaya CEO, Sanjay Saxena was one of the 51 Honorees at the “Unsung Heroes of Compassion,” honored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Sanjay was selected as one of the 2014 Honoree for his longtime commitment to involving, empowering local comminutes in all of our travel destinations, and for the “giving back” projects that he and Destination Himalaya have started and continue to oversee in South Asia.
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"I have always felt that less selfishness and more selflessness make my life much happier."
- Nawang Jigme Topgyal
Typical school lunch
Lunch funded by the Grace Family Foundation
Photo: Shagzil Khan
English language class
1st grade class