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Solidarity Tourism Hits Hearts

Solidarity-TourismSolidarity Tourism may be set to be the biggest market-led development to happen since ecotourism.

Why? Because fewer and fewer people believe what they read or hear in the media, plus there are more and more people with money AND time who want to find out for themselves how our world works.

"Seeing is believing", they say. And, there are more and more people willing and competent to fulfil this desire, like Maria Calvo, the lady behind

Maria lives in Madrid, Spain. She's worked for years in the tourism field. As an air hostess, as a guide, in a travel agency, and as a tour representative she studied graphic design and some translation...

How it all started... during my first trip to Africa, Gambia, (Brikama to be more accurate), I stayed with a group of African youths living in a compound. I lived with them for several months. To me it was a fantastic experience where I got to learn a lot.

At that time, that village had hardly any white people living there, and those who were there, were busy all the time. Whatever the reason, people learnt that there was a white woman living in the village, and everyday there were many people coming to greet and exchange experiences.

Many times, people asked me when was I going to bring more people to them. Friends, other white people they could share with. I started thinking about this issue, and one day I met Ousman Diallo, now founder of Africania in Senegal, and we started discussing about all this.

Weeks later I returned to Spain. Since then, the same idea of sending people was in my head. The first idea though, was to build a village by the river Gambia where both locals and travellers could exchange ideas, cultures, etc. Though this idea needed some initial funding that we still lack.

Then, a couple of years later, on a workshop on alternative tourism, I met Paloma Fraguio, the teacher. I told her all about the idea and she said she would be willing to found an organisation with me. Bamfa Kanyi, a former guide in the Gambia was the third person for the constitution of the NGO.

Both of them after some months, had to leave the NGO for they were with other activities and in other countries. So I started looking for people who could help us in this project, promoting, finding the contacts, helping with the design of the site, etc, etc, but, online, as, I live quite far from town, and also, had no room to have many people work.

So, I found out about "online volunteering" from the UN, and ever since then, this project has been evolving thanks to the help and contributions from many people, different countries and backgrounds, but who all believed that Solidarity Tourism and its project Africania could be a good way to promote development and make people learn about other cultures from within them.

Up to now, we have been only promoting our trips in Spain through a couple of newsletters. I would have loved to wait until we have the new site, but, as Edna says, you should understand that without any funding, it is not so easy to have things done as quickly"

for newsletter (pdf) [email protected]

Valere Tjolle


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