“The idea of linking tourism to development work was new to me in January 2005,” says Julian Page, LTT’s Founder, “before that holidays were slightly self-indulgent activities, even if it was done independently.”
“Watching one of the Red Nose Day programmes I was particularly moved by the story of two street children in Dar-es-Salaam aged 1 and 3. The 3-year-old was looking after her 1-year-old sister who could not walk because her feet had been eaten by rats.
There are many dreadful things in the world, but to me, this was the worst ever and I started to cry. I have two nephews of the same age and they wouldn't begin to know where to start fending for themselves, let alone support each other! I gave money but it didn't make me feel any better and those two kids haunted my every thought.
When an opportunity arose for me to rethink my career path, I sat down with some trusted friends and I told them I wanted to help these street kids. They very kindly pointed out to me that I had none of the skills necessary to look after street children and suggested I rethink and use what skills I did have. So we analysed my strengths and weaknesses, what I enjoyed doing and what I didn’t and concluded that travel mixed with a desire to help people and make things right was somehow the future for me. This led me to do a Master’s Degree in International Development Management with Sustainable Tourism.
It was whilst planning my dissertation that the idea of the Livingstone Tanzania Trust started to form. Talking the idea through with my friend Clive, he convinced me that the concept was achievable, that people really would want to go on a holiday that was doing good things for the local community as long as the holiday was still fun and a not real life guilt trip. I took the idea to one of the Professors at the University who also thought it would work, and between the three of us we hammered out the details. I then went on a research program in Tanzania for 4 months where I found Joas, a cultural tour operator using his own profits to build local schools. Our ideas were very similar, we got on famously and Joas quickly joined the team.
Since our first meeting in November 2007, we have listened to and worked with the community to identify their wants and needs and, through consultation and partnership with them; we have started the complicated process of improving lives. The needs of the community lead us to focus on 5 main areas: Schooling; Farming, Health, Environment; and Community Development which we now combine under the headings Education and Enterprise. We could see from the outset that the hardship faced by the community could not be addressed through education alone, or just improved health, or just better farming knowledge. Addressing any one issue would never have the impact that we wanted. But by addressing all 5 areas we know we can help the community escape from poverty and improve their quality of life.
Along our journey amazing people have come out of the woodwork to work with us and we feel blessed that they have. We have joined forces with an ethical volunteering organisations who bring volunteers to help build alongside, not instead of, local builders, and they learn first-hand what life is like in developing countries and what extreme poverty means. I am so excited by my work and not for one minute of one day have I ever regretted not working in the city, despite the loss of income.
I have met so many fantastic people who are giving their money, their time, their efforts for the benefit of others and it has restored my faith in human kind. I want to thank my fellow trustees who are just brilliant and I am extremely grateful for all that they have done, not to mention the generosity of everyone who has helped us get to where we are and I hope will help us get further. I must also thank my parents who housed me during the early stages.