Tourism is the world’s largest industry, growing larger every year. Hand in hand with this has come an unprecedented level of interest in responsible travel and a rise in philanthropic programs, with travellers increasingly seeking to give back to the communities they visit.

This has, in turn, placed greater pressure on tourism suppliers to improve their social and environmental responsibility.

Boutique luxury travel operator Sanctuary Retreats is a company that has long been committed to conservation and responsible tourism ever since opening its first camp in the Masai Mara in 1999. Says Michael McCall, Director of Sales Australia, NZ & Asia the company has always endeavoured to build long-lasting relationships with communities in the areas in which it operates, making a point of identifying and supporting enduring, viable and self-sustaining projects. “Our aim is to ensure that all projects are supported by our staff and guests, and we work closely with communities to identify their needs, so we can deliver outcomes that really have an impact.”

One of the projects of which the company is particularly proud, is its Safe Water for Schools initiative in Kenya’s Masai Mara. Suffering from avoidable health problems has become a tragic way of life in many developing countries, with millions of people challenged by the burden of infectious disease, malnutrition, and health complications simply because they do not have access to clean drinking water.

Together with its guests, Sanctuary Retreats Philanthropy (SKP) is working toward eliminating these problems among Kenya’s Maasai children at least – a demographic whose health inequalities continue to be persistent and pervasive. So far, as part of the Safe Water for Schools Initiative, SKP has provided the LifeStraw community filter, a high-volume water purifier designed to deliver safe drinking water, to eleven Maasai schools.

The filter’s hollow fibre purification technology converts contaminated water into safe drinking water by removing almost 100% of bacteria, viruses and parasites, making it instrumental in preventing waterborne diseases common in Africa, like diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera, worms, and cryptosporidiosis. With each filtration system capable of purifying between 70,000 to 100,000 litres of chemical free water (enough to serve a school for three to five years), without resort to electrical power or batteries, the introduction of the filter into Maasai schools has proven revolutionary. Not only has it improved nutrition in those schools where it has been already introduced, it has also proven effective in helping to prevent stunted growth and malnutrition in children who are particularly vulnerable to waterborne illnesses and diarrhoea.

Communities where the filters have been introduced have also benefited economically, thanks to a reduction in pressure on the cost of running medical clinics. The ready access to clean water will also help increase productivity of school children and staff by reducing absenteeism from sicknesses.

As part of SKP’s long-term commitment to the Maasai community, going forwards the Safe Water for Schools Initiative will use mobile phone technology to conduct quarterly surveys of all schools participating in the program to ensure that schools continue to practice good health and hygiene, and to monitor the ongoing benefits of the program.

For more information about the Safe Water for Schools Initiative, and SKP’s partnership with LifeStraw, watch the following inspirational video:

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