Caroline Meets the People in Nepal

In March, Caroline and Kate from Traidcraft’s Digital Marketing and Product Development teams joined our Meet the People tour to the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal. Here, Caroline tells us a little bit about the special places she visited, and the people she met…

I haven’t travelled all that much really. I’ve been around Europe and the US, but I’d never ventured across to Asia or Africa, and I’d always regretted not travelling more when I was younger and had fewer commitments. Though everything always seems easier in hindsight!

When the opportunity came up to go along on a Meet the People tour I was initially a little bit nervous. I didn’t really know what to expect on an organised tour – would I like it? What would my fellow travellers be like? The world is a huge place, and the range of countries and tours was mind-blowing – there’s so much to see and do!

But when I read the Nepal itinerary, something clicked. Starting in magical and vibrant Kathmandu, we’d travel west to relaxing Pokhara, south to the forested Chitwan National Park, and then east to watch the sunrise over the mountains from Dhulikhel, before returning again to Kathmandu. Everything would already be organised, and a local Newa: guide would be there to meet us and show us the real Nepal. I signed up, and before I knew it, I was on my way!

Nepal

Nepal is a country of colour, spirituality, and warm welcomes. Hardly a moment passed by when I didn’t have my camera in my hand, ready to take a quick snap of a golden temple, pagoda, or palace – not to mention the distant glint from snow-capped mountains, and the otherworldly lavender mist each morning at dawn. From feeding elephants and crocodile-spotting to listening to traditional folk musicians and seeing living heritage in action in old Bhaktipur – I can hardly believe all the different sights, experiences, and flavours I encountered.

Rice FieldsDuring the tour our group got to meet a range of traditional artisans, from paper-crafters and ceramicists to expert weavers and knitters. My job requires me to write about Traidcraft producers a lot, but it’s a completely different experience to visit them in person. The first group we visited was the Women’s Skills Development Organization in Pokhara. We were given a tour around the site and the chance to watch the artisans at work, from the spinning and dyeing to weaving and finishing. Since 1975, this not-for-profit programme has been supporting women facing significant social and economic hardships, offering them free training and employment opportunities in a social and safe environment.

Meeting PeopleNext, we visited Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS), an inspirational organisation offering training and employment to craftspeople in Kathmandu. Since starting out, Kumbeshwar have set up a primary school to educate local disadvantaged children, and even an orphanage! It was incredibly moving to see how happy the children were and to hear stories about the craftspeople who started out with very little and ended up working for Kumbeshwar long-term, supporting families of their own with their income. We’ll be selling a few woven products from Kumbeshwar in our Autumn collection, so you can look forward to hearing lots more about this organisation.

GPI SchoolAnd of course, a trip to Nepal wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Get Paper Industries! Fair Traders and Retailers who’ve been with Traidcraft for even a little while will have heard of GPI – a handmade paper products co-operative which uses waste cotton, paper, and agricultural materials like banana fibre, straw, and water hyacinth to craft home accessories, gifts, cards, and packaging. We visited the artisans at work and visited the Anita Milan International Academy – set up with GPI’s aid to educate local children. Our welcome at GPI was phenomenal! I won’t spoil the surprise for any of you who visit in the future, but I’ll just say that it was an experience I’ll never forget.

PapermakingAnd finally, we visited the HQ of Mahaguthi, who market a range of handcrafted Nepalese wonders to the world. From weavers and embroiders to leather-workers and jewellery-makers, Mahaguthi offer traditional artisans a global audience for their heritage crafts. A highlight of the visit was meeting some of the traditional potters in their workshop on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

I returned to the UK at the end of March, and I’m still remembering all the places I went and the emotions I felt. Taking part on an organised tour meant I saw so much more than I would have going it alone, and I didn’t have to worry about the logistics of transport or finding somewhere to eat. It was wonderful to share the experience with so many different fellow travellers too, hearing different perspectives and stories along the way. Some of my group had been on lots of Meet the People Tours before – a sure sign that the tours all have something different to offer. I know if I get the opportunity to go on another tour I will. But the question now is, where to next…?

You can find more information on our tour to Nepal by downloading the tour dossier here. The tour dossier contains a day by day itinerary and more travel advice on the holiday.

MTP NepalTo browse the full range of Meet the People holidays have a look on our website www.meetthepeopletours.co.uk or order your copy of our brochure by clicking here. You can also call Mark or Lizzie in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.co.uk if you have any questions or want to check availability on any of our departures.

Meeting Inspiring Communities in Peru

Exploring a new culture through the stunning sights, captivating history and delicious food all makes for a great holiday, but it’s meeting the people that takes our experience of Peru to a whole new level.

Our warm welcome starts with the greeting from Yannina at Manos Amigas. At their ceramics workshop in Lima we see beautiful figures being created and painted with intricate detail and meet the skilled people making them.

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Traidcraft’s joyful nativity set is made by artisans working with Manos Amigas and it’s a great time to share stories of how these pieces are treasured by families back home. There’s a great sense of pride in making something that’s to be so loved by people on the other side of the world.

Whilst no trip to Peru would be complete without an opportunity to explore the spectacular Inca ruins at Machu Picchu and in the Sacred Valley, it’s combining these with visits to communities that makes for a really special trip. Following a fantastic visit to the quinoa farmers at Coopain, we make our second visit to Manos Amigas. A world away from bustling Lima, this visit is to a Collasuyo community high in the altiplano.

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With a backdrop of mountains and flamingos feeding in the distance, we meet women spinning and knitting alpaca fibre into the black, white and grey scarves we recognise from the Traidcraft range. Life here is very different to home, but the connection through fair trade is strong, and with a greeting of local music and dancing it’s a fitting celebration to end this journey.

Peru

Come and join us in Peru! To to find out more about our holidays visit: meetthepeopletours.co.uk/peru email: traidcraft@skedaddle.co.uk or call us on 0191 2651110

Discovering fair trade in Sri Lanka

Following their tour earlier this year, David and Ann share with us their experiences of meeting the people in Sri Lanka 

What does fair trade look like at the sharp end where tea is picked, toys manufactured, and fabric woven? Who are the people who create the fair trade products we buy in our local fair trade shop and sell on the Saturday morning fair trade stall in our Church? What would it be like to meet them face to face and see their country through their eyes rather than through the eyes of the tourist?

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These were some of the questions which prompted us to book for a Traidcraft ‘Meet the People’ Tour. We decided on the one to Sri Lanka because David had for many years wanted to find out about the land where his grandfather had been a missionary a hundred years ago. It proved to be absolutely the right decision as we explored this beautiful island meeting the people as well as visiting some of the places any visitor must see such as the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa and the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. We even spent half a day on a beach!

But for us fair trade was the priority. What did we learn about the process of producing the fair trade products we buy in the UK? We learned first of all, of course, that it is about work! We were familiar with the pictures of smiling workers standing in flourishing fields; and we found that they do smile! But they also have to work very hard, as we discovered when we visited the Greenfield Tea Estate where Ann tried her hand at tea picking. She says: “I was left full of admiration for the women working in quite difficult conditions on steep hillsides using their skill and knowledge and accepting the intruders we were with such grace”.

Ann picking tea

At the top of the hill where the tea bushes grow is the factory where the tea is processed, from the drying of the green leaves to getting the tea ready for dispatch. This estate is certified organic and fair trade and has recently created its own ‘Organic Life’ brand for sale in London and on the internet (http://www.organiclifeteas.com). Compared with the huge tea estates which cover the Sri Lankan hillsides as far as the eye can see, fair trade is only 2% of the Sri Lankan tea market, but this farm is a sign and symbol of what can be achieved when workers and management work together.

We had the privilege of meeting the ‘Joint Body’, which is elected by the workers and is made up of some twenty people, women and men, young and more mature, some well-educated and some who have had little educational opportunity. After they had greeted us with singing, dancing, and cake, we sat with them to hear about their life and achievements. We noted at the time that this is a ‘well-focused and thoughtful group of people’. They are certainly enterprising: with the fair trade premium (that bit extra we pay when we buy a fair trade item) they have built a substantial community centre, they support the community’s children in their education, and they plan to buy a bus which will run on the route to Colombo, some eight hours away, thus improving the bus service for the community whilst at the same time making a useful profit.

Continuing the theme of work, we made a number of factory visits where we were able to see how fair trade products are made and talk with leading people in each company.

At Selyn (www.selyn.lk) we were stunned by their beautiful colourful fabrics and toys – we bought table mats and David bought a shirt. Equally stunning is their close attention to caring for the environment (great care taken to render non-toxic the waste product of their dying plant) and their care of the workers (we saw the nursery where the children of the weavers are cared for and shared their excellent meal). We visited a huge warehouse now full of people working hard making toys, cushion covers, and much more. It was stifling and conditions seemed poor, but we learned that fair trade accreditation encourages firms constantly to improve their working practices and conditions will be transformed when they shortly move into a purpose-built air-conditioned factory.

Sri Lanka 01We could go on the write about: the compost coir block factory where the waste husks of coconuts are transformed into peat-free compost for UK gardens; the Maximus elephant dung factory where elephant dung comes in at one end and beautiful paper products come out of the other; and Ma’s Spice Factory where we saw the production process and sampled the end product when they served us lunch. They even persuaded us to try our hand at cooking!

So are we still fair trade enthusiasts? We certainly are! But of course there is a lot more to it than the brief explanation of the back of a packet of fair trade tea. We became aware of how much there is still to do to bring working and living standards to the level those of us who buy their products enjoy, and of the importance of the standards set by organisations like the World Fair Trade Organisation and Traidcraft in encouraging organisations to achieve their standards.

Sri Lanka 02Perhaps most of all, we became aware of the hard daily work done by thousands of people so that we can enjoy products so well-designed, well-made, and beautifully packaged that they are attractive to us in the West who have such a wide range of goods to choose from. It is certainly worth paying that bit extra to buy fair trade!

Our many thanks to David and Ann for sharing with us this article which was originally published in the Methodist Recorder

Celebrating 30 years – Ngwenya Glass in Swaziland

It has been 30 years since the Prettejohn family came to Swaziland and brought life back to the Ngwenya Glass Factory. Today Ngwenya Glass is still run by the Prettejohn family, employs over 70 people and supplies customers with its creations worldwide.

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For Ngwenya Glass ‘green’ is a way of life. Environmental considerations are integral to its production values. All products are made from 100% recycled glass, old engine and KFC oil is purchased, purified and used to fuel the furnace, effectively disposing of used oil. Old newspaper is used for packaging and rainwater catchments are used within the production.

Ngwenya also donate a percentage of worldwide sales to wildlife conservation in the Mkhaya Game Reserve, as well as supporting numerous orphanages and charities in Swaziland and South Africa.

Ngwenya

We visit the Ngwenya factory on our Swaziland tour which gives us a great opportunity to watch the art of glassblowing from the overhead balcony above the roaring furnace. We’ll hear of the importance and the benefits of fair trade and in the gift shop we can appreciate the finished works of art that have passed through 11 sets of skilled hands belonging to craftsmen and quality control.

Watch this video of the Ngwenya story…

For more information on our tours in Swaziland click here for our website or contact Mark or Lizzie in our office on traidcraft@skedaddle.co.uk or 0191 2651110. 

Meet Get Paper Industries, our friends in Nepal

Following the fascinating journey along Kathmandu’s crowded roads, and past temples and busy shops, we arrive to the warmest of welcomes from the team at GPI (Get Paper Industries). Coming from the bustle of Kathmandu, there’s a sense of calm at GPI, but what also comes across quickly is the strong work ethic, and a palpable sense of pride in producing only the best quality paper products.

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Established in 1985 as a family papermaking business, GPI’s aim is to provide decent, sustainable employment for people in the local area. We listen intently as Milan Bhattarai speaks plainly of the challenges they see around them in Nepal, and be it business, inequality or environmental, there are many. But Milan’s focus is not on the challenges, it’s on the solutions and it’s inspiring to hear the sense of fun and daring in some of the imaginative solutions they have pioneered.

GPI has been recognised with several environmental performance, social achievement and business excellence awards. They provide a very friendly and comfortable working environment, with a meal provided at lunchtime, and with tea and tiffin facilities for breaks. Approximately 50% of the employees are women, wages are above the national average and around double the government’s legal minimum wage. There is also a profit sharing scheme, production bonuses, and workers have access to advances and interest free loans from GPI. As we walk through the production rooms we see the skill and speed at which the beautiful coloured paper is made and finished, and meet the amazing people behind it all.Brushing_the_paper_26301

And it’s not just about the people, GPI embraces an environmentally friendly approach to producing handmade paper and paper products using waste materials like cotton rags, paper, banana fibre, straw and water hyacinth. The paper is dried in the sun and there is a waste water treatment plant in place.Drying_paper_26294

As well as the Body Shop being a supportive buyer of paper for many years, Anita Roddick herself had an enormous influence on GPI and her presence is still felt throughout the organisation. The school closest to GPI is named the ‘Anita Milan school’ after her and the founder of GPI. One of the highlights of our visit is meeting the teachers and children, learning about the scholarships provided for local families and celebrating the successes GPI has achieved in supporting access for girls in the community to a good education.Pupils_at_Anita_Milan_International_School_26261

In 1993 GPI formed General Welfare Pratisthan (GWP) to deliver development activities such as girls’ education, HIV / AIDS awareness, and environmental projects. Human trafficking, particularly of young women, is a major problem in Nepal where up to 15,000 people are trafficked each year. GWP has a number of successful projects giving women and their families alternative income generation schemes in the most affected areas and continues to raise awareness of the issues.

DSC_8929_44444Rather than allocating a percentage of profits, GPI dedicate 4% of the total of all their invoices to GWP to ensure a higher level of financial support even in years where profit is low.

On Traidcraft’s website you can find giftwrap, cards, gift bags and writing sets from GPI and learn more about their product development support which has enabled them to work with other buyers and diversify into new areas like felt-making.

GPI are one of the amazing producer groups we meet as we discover Nepal. For more details of our visits the you can find lots more on our Nepal Holiday Page or by contacting us in the office on 0191 2651110 or info@skedaddle.co.uk

Nepal Temple

Celebrating a fairer future for South Africa

Our journey in South Africa is set against a backdrop of truly stunning scenery, but this trip is far more than just seeing the sights. As we discover the lingering impacts of years of apartheid, we celebrate the role of fair trade as the country works towards a more equal and fairer future.

Table MountainOur 14 day tour begins with a memorable visit to Robben Island, one of the Cape Peninsula’s World Heritage Sites, to visit the prison where Nelson Mandela was kept for 18 years. During the visit we understand why the island is described as the unique symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice, as our guide for the afternoon, a former political prisoner, provides a personal insight into what life was like in the prison.

In the Northern Cape we visit Eksteenskuil Agricultural Co-operative (EAC). Traidcraft’s relationship with EAC began in 1995 and with their support they became the world’s first supplier of Fairtrade raisins.  We also meet the growers at Heiveld Co-operative, an organic tea co-operatives. At Heiveld, the Rooibos tea is grown and processed in the traditional way with minimal use of machinery and is harvested carefully by hand.

Raisin FarmersAlong the way we also visit the botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch with its unique flora, the famous wine producing area around Stellenbosch, and of course, Table Mountain itself. A visit with a local guide to a township and a children’s HIV/AIDS project also highlight the realities of some people’s lives in this part of South Africa.

PellaThis holiday is perfect for anyone interested in fair trade looking for an opportunity to meet the people behind the products and see the impact of fair trade. For more information on our holiday click here or contact us in the office on 0191 2651110 or at info@skedaddle.co.uk 

Cocoa, Bananas and Palm Oil…

Meet the People travellers Arton and Christine tell us about their experiences during our wonderful tour in Ghana.

Ten degrees in Lancaster in mid November seems very cold a day after returning from Ghana where the midday maximum was over 30 degrees. We were part of a group of twelve people whose interest in fair trade had caused us all to use our holiday money on a Traidcraft  ‘Meet the People’ tour to Ghana visiting  growers of fair trade cocoa, palm oil and bananas.

Divine Chocolate

Within twenty four hours after landing in Manchester we were in the Parish Hall setting out the Traidcraft stall which sold cleaning products that used palm oil, and Divine chocolate made from the cocoa grown in the areas that we had just visited. The contrast in weather could be felt but the direct link between us and the producers also felt very strong.

The fortnight included visits to cultural centres and Kakum National Park, a cruise on Lake Volta, and an exposure to the barbarities of slavery – inland at Slave River, and on the coast at Elmina Castle where, branded and shackled, slaves were forcibly embarked on ships for their transatlantic voyage. These visits are all part of any tourist holiday in Ghana, but our main purpose was to meet people at work on their farms and processing plants, in towns and in villages to see how fair trade was helping them improve their quality of life.

Ghana Beach

The cocoa farmers we visited in Amankwaatia are all members of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative which has over 80,000 members and produces some 6% of Ghana’s cocoa. The farmers’ smallholdings are about eight acres (3.24ha) in area with about half growing food crops for subsistence and local markets, and the other half growing cocoa trees. When asked what was the main benefit of belonging to a Fairtrade group the answer was that they had been able to build  a school in the village so the children did not have to walk a long way to school.

Serendipalm bags

In the different areas that we visited we saw other schools built from the Fairtrade Premium which is an additional sum of money on top of the minimum price of the product. It is the people themselves who decide how this premium will be spent. There were also new boreholes providing the clean water which was head-loaded in large metal bowls (wider than the shoulders of the teenager carrying them) from the pump back to their home. Improvements to clinics and health services in the villages were other areas chosen for communal benefit.

The palm oil producers farmed in a similar co-operative structure to Kuapa Kokoo and we saw the processing plant on a dark wet evening with smoke and steam from the wood-fired boilers providing scenes reminiscent of a stage-set for Hades.

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We also saw banana processing, and a secondary school built with Fairtrade premium funds. The Fairtade banana growing is large scale with four sites cultivating 600 acres (approx 250ha) of bananas and producing 5000 to 6000 tons of bananas a year. The growing and processing is meticulous with the workers even having pillows on their shoulders so as not to bruise the stems  of bananas as they carry them to the conveyor system.

Trashy Bags Sewing

Other producers we visited included Trashy Bags, who made all sorts of goods from plastic bags, Cedi beads making bangles and necklaces from local materials, and Global Mamas which sells beautiful printed materials and clothing produced by women in their own homes.

So back to the Autumn Sale where by buying fairly traded products from the Craft Aid or ESME stalls (over £700 was taken on the day) you will have helped people much less well off than we are. By continuing to use fair trade goods in your regular shopping throughout the year you can make a real difference to people’s lives.

For more information on our tour to Ghana click here, call Lizzie or Mark in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.co.uk

Chicuchas Wasi School for Girls in Cusco

Our introduction to Chicuchas Wasi
We were first introduced to Chicuchas Wasi, School for Girls by our guide Efrain Valles who is an active board member and advocate for the school. Providing an education for young girls in the Cusco region, Chicuchas Wasi is a charity really close to Efrain’s heart and we always make a visit during our tours.

Efrain at Chicuchas Wasi(2)Alternative School for Girls, Cusco
Chicuchas Wasi began in 1987 creating a safe space offering nutrition, health care, school, life skills to abandoned children, some as young as 6 years old, surviving alone on the streets of Cusco. Whilst there was a need to provide emergency care for these children, there was concern that it did not address the many reasons for their suffering.

In Peru, public education up to 16 years is free, but in reality many families living in poverty cannot afford uniforms, books, and transportation, thus making it impossible for many children to attend school. In poor families the priority is to educate the boys, and many girls are relied upon for domestic chores and are brought up to depend on men for survival. Chicuchas Wasi were seeing girls become pregnant as early as 13, and with no education or skills, those finding themselves without male support were totally unprepared to provide for their families and their children were being abandoned through desperation.

In 1997, recognising the need for female education, Chicuchas Wasi reorganised to prepare and educate poor girls to become future leaders for social change, and to end gender inequality, abuse and child abandonment.

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Chicuchas Wasi provides free, primary education, emphasising personal development, empowerment, and academics. They stress personal values, integrity, self-esteem and social responsibility for an adult life of quality, dignity, and financial independence. Chicuchas Wasi School maintains a big presence in the community with cultural celebrations, supporting social and women’s issues and to spread the value and importance of education for girls.

Visiting Chicuchas Wasi
Our visits to Chicuchas Wasi are always a memorable and celebrated experience as we see for ourselves the amazing work that is being pioneered in their community. You can find out more information about our tours to Peru and Chicuchas Wasi by clicking here.

Friends of Chicuchas Wasi
The charity Friends of Chicuchas Wasi was set up in February 2011 by a group of travellers from the 2010 Meet the People Tour to Peru to support the school and share news of its progress. Following Efrain’s visit to run the London Marathon in 2012, the charity became the vehicle for giving for many of Efrain’s ex-tour friends and so far over £40,000 has been collected and transferred to the school.

The charity holds an AGM for members once a year, which is an opportunity to hear more news on the school, to meet with fellow Peru Tour friends, and to hear about other Traidcraft Meet the People Tours. This is normally held in Birmingham on a Saturday in the spring or early summer.

Becoming a Member
Membership of the charity is open to all who would like to donate to Chicuchas Wasi. There is a similar but larger support group in California who share news and pictures from Cusco which are circulated through the Friends of Chicuchas Wasi to members in the UK.

If you are interested in becoming a Member or Associate of the Friends of Chicuchas Wasi please email Michael Tunnicliffe at mtunni@sky.com

Donating to Chicuchas Wasi
The Friends of Chicuchas Wasi welcomes regular or one-off donations from supporters of the school and there are a number of ways to donate:

paymentPlease notify Michael (mtunni@sky.com) of any BACs payments. The charity is registered for Gift Aid so please indicate if your donation is eligible for this to Michael, either in your email or in a note along with a cheque. He will then send you the Gift Aid form to complete and return to him.

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Explore Costa Rica on our new 2017 tour!

From the white sands of the Caribbean to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, our journey takes us past geothermal springs, lush cloud forest, and includes visits to inspiring fair trade groups.

In a country where roughly a quarter of land is protected in parks and reserves we’ll meet farmers whose passion for fair trade and working in harmony with nature is protecting their future.

We meet the proud growers of a whole host of delicious goodies. Tasting pineapple and mangoes fresh from the fields and enjoying the rich aroma of fair trade coffee brewing on the farm, are only some of the highlights of this new tour.

Our tour also takes us on a journey through stunning natural scenery as we explore volcanic craters, relax in hot springs, watch the weather as we pass over the Continental Divide, spot monkeys and sloths hanging about in the National Parks and finally dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean!

For more information about our November tour visit our website by clicking here. Or contact Mark and Lizzie in the office by calling 0191 2651110 or  emailing us at info@skedaddle.co.uk 

CHILE TRAVEL ALERT: DIRECT FLIGHTS TO SANTIAGO

Calling all fair trade enthusiasts! South America just got a lot closer…

Our Meet the People Tour to Chile has always been a firm favourite for Skedaddle. As well as being the birthplace of our company, we’re lovers of MiFruta’s raisins, Lautaro’s wine, and Apicoop’s honey of course! So news that the first ever DIRECT flight from the UK to Chile has finally arrived has us beaming, ear-to-ear.

How to get there?
Thanks to BA, as of the first week of 2017, you can fly direct from London Heathrow to Santiago – yippee! Telegraph Travel tell us more:

“Chile is of enormous appeal to leisure travellers, especially those looking for adventure, exploration and experiences, thanks to its outstanding and diverse natural beauty and attractions and its great food and wine.”

For more information see the Telegraph travel’s article in full by clicking here.

Feeling inspired?
For us, visiting Chile is about more than simply enjoying the stunning landscapes and tucking in to delicious local food and wine (although that’s always part of the experience too!). But visiting Chile on a Meet the People Tour is about getting under the skin of a seemingly well-developed and comfortable nation. It’s learning about the challenges that you don’t hear about, it’s hearing from farmers and activists striving for better. It’s hearing inspiring stories of fair trade, solidarity, empowerment and overcoming adversity.

Thanks to BA’s new direct flights, it all got easier and quicker to make all this happen and we invite you to join us!

Find out more about our trip to Enchanting Chile by clicking here.