Inspiration

These 2 India-based NGOs Are Saving Tigers, Empowering Villagers and Helping Travelers with Disabilities See the World

When travel is used as a force for good, it can help provide economic empowerment to communities around the world by creating jobs that pay living wages while preserving traditions at risk of being lost.

By Jeff Chu

Mar 29, 2021

Dastkar Ranthambhore

FOR THE COMMON GOOD

WHEN THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT established Ranthambore National Park in the state of Rajasthan 40 years ago, it preserved the habitat of the endangered Bengal tiger—but displaced the communities that lived within its new boundaries. Enter the nonprofit Dastkar Ranthambhore, which aimed to create economic stability by training the relocated villagers in traditional crafts practiced less and less by younger generations, including pottery, embroidery, quilting, and block printing.

Their creations, many of them tiger-themed, are sold to tourists visiting Ranthambore—making the park a win-win for both tigers and humans—as well as in shops across India and now online. Since 2004, Dastkar Ranthambhore has helped hundreds of women, many illiterate, achieve financial independence, fund their children’s education, and better their families’ living conditions while reviving part of India’s rich artisanal culture. dastkarranthambhore.org.

Planet Abled

ACCESSIBILITY ACTIVISTS

IN 2009, NEHA ARORA visited a temple in Kerala, India, with her parents. Her father is blind, her mother a wheelchair user, and they encountered persistent inaccessibility, as they did whenever they traveled. “My parents said, ‘Accept it,’” she says. She wouldn’t—and her loud advocacy incited what she calls “a mob fight” at the temple. The incident inspired Arora to start Planet Abled, her Delhi-based travel company. “It’s not the disability that disables a traveler. It’s the environment and thought process of society,” she says.

In each destination, her team trains hotel staff, drivers, and guides; maps accessible routes; lobbies officials for better infrastructure; and even creates 3-D-printed models of monuments to offer blind travelers tactile experiences. She now sends travelers to more than 40 Asian destinations—“Singapore is most accessible”—and plans to branch out to Europe. Arora hopes that her work will benefit all visitors. “People with disabilities should have the freedom to travel just like anyone else,” Arora says. “My mission is to change how travel happens, so we don’t need a separate travel company.” planetabled.com.

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