The Intrepid Foundation- Travelers Making a Difference

The Intrepid Foundation- Travelers Making a Difference

The Intrepid Foundation

'Trade before aid' has become a common catch-cry in contemporary approaches to sustainable development. Bring business opportunities to a community and you'll help support the local economies, support employment and empower local people to improve their standard of living on their terms. This has been the approach of Intrepid Travel, as the company has grown the adventure tour operating business to more than 100 countries on 7 continents, and employing more than 2000 people.




The need

Since the early days of Intrepid, which began with a tour in Thailand in 1989, staff and travelers, have said they want to do more - they want to give back and make a difference in the communities where they are working and traveling. At head office, we literally had travelers land on the door step with brown paper bags of cash collected - asking Intrepid to send it over with the next staff member visiting that clinic/school/orphanage they learnt of during their holiday. But as a growing travel business, not a not-for-profit, we realized this demand was beyond our business remit…and there had to be a better way.


The Intrepid Foundation launch

In 2002, Intrepid Travel's founding Directors, Darrell Wade and Geoff Manchester started The Intrepid Foundation, in response to these many requests from travelers asking "how can they donate to communities or organizations they visited with Intrepid, and really know that the money will get there and be used effectively?"  Darrell and Geoff kicked the Intrepid Foundation off with AU$200,000.  Since then more than AU$3.5 million has been raised from travelers and Intrepid Travel, and distributed to over 75 organizations.


What is The Intrepid Foundation?

It's a not-for-profit fund that helps bring support to non-government organizations in the places that Intrepid visits.  Each year the fund raises and distributes donations from Intrepid and travelers to more than 50 fantastic organizations around the world. It includes organizations working in the areas of: health care, education, human rights, child welfare, sustainable development, environmental, and wildlife protection.



What's the advantage to a traveler?

100% of donations received by The Intrepid Foundation are donated through to the local beneficiary organizations, in an annual grant.  Intrepid Travel contributes into the fund by matching Intrepid traveler donations dollar for dollar*, and paying for all the administration costs.  All donations make a real difference - like paying a nurse's wage, building that much needed classroom, paying for 50 students' school fees, or helping treat injured wildlife. The organizations are required to report back on the use of the funds, and we monitor their effectiveness.


*currently up to AU$400,000 in each financial year and a maximum of AU$5,000 total per donor in each financial year.


Trust and engagement

After the Asian tsunami hit in late 2004, Intrepid received many calls asking how we intended to respond and offering assistance to whatever Intrepid was doing. It really struck us how many people saw Intrepid as an operator who knew the local region well, and were prepared to put their trust in Intrepid to ensure their donations would be used effectively and accountably. On this occasion more than 1,000 donors contributed to The Intrepid Foundation's appeal, and we were able to make a donation of over $225,000 to Medecins Sans Frontieres and Plan International, to help their response in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and Thailand.


Examples of recent traveler feedback:

"Going to the COPE visitor centre in Laos had a strong impact on me. I really feel for the people affected by the second Indochina war. Keep up the good work Intrepid Foundation!" Kate, Australia

"I'm very happy to know that my donation to Animal Care in Egypt will be doubled through the Intrepid Foundation. I visited ACE on my Intrepid trip and their work is so important!" Elodie, Canada


Community benefits

The Intrepid Foundation currently brings support to more than 50 beneficiary organizations in over 25 countries. Most are in The Intrepid Community projects Fund which includes a selection of grassroots organizations - some visited by Intrepid travelers. For those that are not appropriate to visit (like some vulnerable children's institutions) - Intrepid group leaders share information about them to travelers, to engender their support.


The Foundation also has 10 Perpetual Partners - mostly 'bigger picture' beneficiaries like Amnesty International, addressing human rights issues, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.


Project SAMA

After Intrepid Travel achieved carbon neutrality in 2010, the business sought another major issue to tackle - gender equity. Intrepid's Project SAMA (meaning ‘equal’ in the Bahasa language) aims to:

  • Raise awareness around the importance of gender equality, and
  • Raise funds for projects around the world that address gender inequalities - and this is done via The Intrepid Foundation.


In two years of Project SAMA, we've had broad engagement on the issues of gender inequality and raised over $150,000 for 10 projects. This includes education projects run by Plan International. In Laos, we have supported more than 11,000 children to attend school. And in Uganda, supported over 2900 children to access quality early education programs.


Complimenting Project SAMA, Intrepid's co-founder, Darrell Wade and family and The Intrepid Foundation provided a significant contribution to the making of the documentary, I Am A Girl, which highlights the issues facing young women around the world today. The documentary screened widely in Australia, at the Sarasota Film Festival, FL, in April 2014 and with more dates in North America and Europe to be announced.


What's next for The Intrepid Foundation?

The lessons learnt by The Intrepid Foundation have been widely shared through Travelers' Philanthropy Networks and featured in the Travelers' Philanthropy Handbook available here.   A new web-site is under construction, several new potential beneficiary projects currently under-going due diligence and we are seeking further innovative ways we can increase traveler engagement and leverage greater benefits for Intrepid's destination communities.





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