Wild Frontiers Foundation - Annual Report 2020
Like many charities, the work of the Wild Frontiers Foundation quickly changed tack this year. The scene was set for a big year for the foundation, having forged new partnerships and committing to a number of exciting new projects. However, our role soon switched into support mode, assisting several communities we visit as a travel company, not only deal with the consequences and challenges of the COVID pandemic, but also through natural disasters that further impacted livelihoods.
Emergency Relief and Projects Supported in 2020
- COVID relief appeal in rural Rajasthan, India
- Cyclone relief Kolkata, India
- Women’s Empowerment with Pink City Rickshaw Company, India
- Flood relief in the Kalash Valleys, Pakistan
- Gondar Girls Football Team, Ethiopia
- Classroom sponsorship at Lone Buffalo English School, Laos
- Baleygon Village Community School, Pakistan
- Student Scholarship, Pakistan
The COVID-19 pandemic closed many of our fundraising channels throughout 2020. Without the proceeds of our annual ‘Evening of Adventure’ major fundraising event and other planned activities during the year, we are grateful to those individuals who supported our work, gave to our fundraising appeals and enabled us to help provide emergency relief to many in 2020.
COVID Relief in Rural Rajasthan - India
When Wild Frontiers India director, JP Sharma, called for support to provide food parcels and protective equipment to help members of the community in his hometown of Bundi, in Rajasthan, we were quick to respond. During the initial lockdown, many people in Bundi, as was the case across India, were left without their daily wage income.
Emergency Funds for Kolkata Cyclone Appeal - India
We answered a call from our charity partner, The Hope Foundation, to help feed and protect vulnerable street connected people in the aftermath of super cyclone Amphan, that devastated parts of the Indian city of Kolkata in May.
Our donation of £1000, helped provide food parcels and tarpaulins to create new shelters for people who were already suffering with the consequences of COVID-19.
Added Support for the Pink City Rickshaw Company
The two new Wild Frontiers funded electric rickshaws are parked up in the Pink City Rickshaw Company depot until such time as tourists return to Jaipur, in India.
In January we funded the training of five ladies as driver/guides as a part of an exciting new partnership with the Pink City Rickshaw Company, a community enterprise which aims to empower local women from low-income families and provide work opportunities in the tourism sector.
The ladies had just got up and running in their new employment, when COVID hit. Continuing our support for the ladies and their colleagues, who lost all income in the lockdown, The Wild Frontiers Foundation donated £1000 to help provide food and provisions for them and their families. This donation was bumped up by a further £500 through the generosity of clients, who had previously had the chance to take a rickshaw tour through the charming backstreets of Jaipur with the ladies.
We are looking forward to the day we are again riding through the streets of Jaipur with the Pink City Rickshaw Company.
Kalash Valleys Clean Up - Pakistan
The small Kalash Valleys village of Balanguru in northern Pakistan was again hit by flooding in September after heavy rains sent mud gushing down the valley, damaging community buildings in its wake.
With little income from tourism this year due to COVID-19, and the necessary community funds to carry out the work following the mudslide, village spokesperson and friend of Wild Frontiers, Saifullah, called on us for help.
Through the Wild Frontiers Foundation, we were able to fund the excavation work to clear the tonnes of mud that immersed the village guesthouse, community temple and caused minor damage to the primary school, crucially before the onset of winter high in the mountains.
The village guesthouse took the brunt of the impact, with many of its rooms and furnishings submerged in mud. The guesthouse is vital to the small pagan community and its future tourist income when not only Wild Frontiers clients, but other guests, are able to visit again. The repair work has included building a new stone wall to help protect the guesthouse from future flooding, along with replacing stairs, windows and balcony railings in the stone and wooden structure.
Balanguru village is no stranger to flooding. After high river levels caused devastating damage to the village that sits on its banks in 2013 and again in 2015, the Wild Frontiers Foundation funded the construction of a 100ft flood defence wall to help protect the community. The wall was not put to the test this time, as the mudslide came from high above the village, where it is difficult to put measures in place to prevent such acts of nature. As a community living a simpler life in the mountains, the Kalash are vulnerable to the harsh elements this can sometimes bring. Through the Wild Frontiers Foundation, we will continue to support the community where we can to help preserve their traditional and unique way of life.
Gonder Girls' Football Team - Ethiopia
2020 kicked off our new partnership with Link Ethiopia and the sponsorship of a girls' football team in the northern town of Gonder.
The aims of the girls’ football team and coaching programme is to promote gender equality, self-confidence, fun and fitness for girls with otherwise little access to social growth activities.
The programme also aims to runs regular information sessions for the 20 girls on puberty, sexual health, family planning, and the right over their bodies, along with providing menstrual hygiene management kits.
While some activities were able to continue this year through the pandemic, the full programme, including playing in their first competitive matches, could not go ahead as planned. However, we will continue to support the team and their goals in 2021.
Classroom Sponsorship - Lone Buffalo English School, Laos
The Lone Buffalo English School in northern Laos re-opened its doors to students in June after a nine-week absence. Fortunately, with low rates of COVID-19 infections in Laos, the disruption to the education of the students was kept to a minimum, and with set home learning and two weeks of refresher lessons on their return they were quickly back on track with their classes.
The Wild Frontiers Foundation has supported Lone Buffalo's class sponsorship programme for six years, this year funding the education of class 3A.
Co-founded by Wild Frontiers tour leader Mark Steadman, the school nurtures students from the rural communities around Phonsavan from beginners' level through to gaining their high school certificate, providing every opportunity to move on to higher education.
This year 40 students completed high school, with 36 having gone on to secure places in tertiary education. The centre has also had record new registrations.
Baleygon Community School – Pakistan
The new partnership between the Wild Frontiers Foundation and the Felix Foundation Baltistan, was agreed in January to help secure the future of the Baleygon Village School in the remote Hushe Valley of northern Pakistan.
Re-building the Baleygon Village School has been Wild Frontiers biggest and most challenging project to date, spanning over 10 years. It was a proud day in 2012 when all came to fruition and the new school was officially opened amid much fanfare and celebration in the village.
With continued funding and invaluable support from Wild Frontiers’ clients, work continued with the building of a new toilet block, which was essential in giving the girls of the village the equal opportunity to attend school, paying teachers’ wages and providing educational materials.
Over the years since we have enjoyed watching the children progress and grow, while continuing to fund the development of the school.
However, without the ability to closely and continuously monitor the management of the school from the UK, it became increasingly difficult to ensure the quality of the students’ education, attendance and school upkeep, so in late 2019 we began talks with the Felix Foundation Baltistan, which supports and manages schools in the valley, catering for approximately 1500 students from infants to secondary school.
With its progressive strategies for education in the valley, the Wild Frontiers Foundation’s board of trustees made the decision to transfer the management of the school to the Felix Foundation.
With the blessing of the Baleygon village community, the school management was officially transferred in February and the school was due to re-open as a middle school, catering for students from Baleygon and surrounding villages in the spring.
COVID Delays and low attendance
Unfortunately, as a result of the COVID pandemic, progress for the school didn’t go to plan and it suffered with delays in opening, further disruption due to on-going government restrictions and low attendance in the few months the school was open. The school then closed for the long winter in the mountains in December.
The priority for early 2021 is to continue discussions with the Felix Foundation to reassess the facilities in the village and the educational needs across all age-groups, with the view to better utilise the school and increase enrolment for the new academic year starting in the spring of 2021.
University Scholarship - Pakistan
The Wild Frontiers Foundation continued to support the education of a university student from the Kalash Valleys of northern Pakistan. The student, from the minority pagan community, is taking environmental studies at university. His ambition is to return to his village to help with the many environmental issues that face the vulnerable community that live a traditional lifestyle high in the mountains.
During 2020, the student established a clean-up campaign in the Kalash Valley and spend time with the children of the village schools talking about protecting their environment.
The student was due to complete his studies in April 2021, but due to COVID distribution to his education the course has been extended until later in the year.
2021 will be a consolidation year for the Wild Frontiers Foundation. With limited general fundraising opportunities in 2020, which now looks likely to also effect 2021 budgets, the trustees agreed that 2021 should be spent supporting our current partners through these challenging times and help ensure that our current projects can get back up and running according to pre-COVID plans.