Tourism is about so much more than the wonderful memories travel creates. Tourism builds livelihoods, it puts food on families’ tables, drives local economies and allows children to go to school.
But when a crisis hits, all this stops. Travellers stay away and places travelled are made to suffer.
That’s why at the Anita Mendiratta Foundation (AMF), we help tourism-dependent communities hit by crisis rebuild childhood education, allowing the adults to focus on re-establishing economic activity, ultimately rebuilding hope for the whole community.
At AMF, we are all passionate about tourism and its transformative impact on both the travellers and the communities travelled to, including Jessica Zijlistra, Co-Lead of Global Projects.
We sat down with Jessica to talk about her love for travel, how her experiences of motherhood shapes her work and the key takeaways from working in the charity sector.
WHERE DOES YOUR PASSION AND INTEREST FOR TOURISM COME FROM?
“I grew up in a very small town and no one in my family had a passport or had ever travelled, so it was quite foreign to me. But I loved National Geographic magazines and watching travel shows and I’d dream about visiting all of these interesting, far away places and people I was immersed in.
Once I had the opportunity to travel and was able to see people in such different circumstances to myself, it was really eye-opening. It makes you look at your own life and feel so incredibly lucky and grateful for everything that you have. I was also clearly able to see the positive impact that tourism can have on the communities that are travelled to. For example, when taking local tours you know that the money raised is going straight back into the local economy and its structures, from children’s community centres to adult education.
Having the opportunity to work for a charity like AMF, that supports communities dependent on tourism, is really fulfilling.”
PART OF AMF’S MISSION IS TO SUPPORT PARENTS AND GUARDIANS, HAS YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE WITH MOTHERHOOD SHAPED YOUR WORK WITH AMF?
“I would say definitely. I think especially having a child who has complex needs, I am very aware of the different facets of education and how important not just the academics are, but the emotional support and the support for parents. I live in a world where I can tap into benefits and programmes from the government, pay for specialty support privately, and even then it is still difficult. Thinking of the kids and parents that don’t have that support or capability, whilst trying to juggle work and their children’s safety, can be painful. But it also provides a real drive for me. I know that AMF and the work we do can help make that little bit of difference for not only the kids, but for their entire support networks, their entire communities.”
SINCE BEGINNING YOUR WORK WITH AMF, WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR KEY LEARNINGS?
“When AMF started it was a simple idea that we were all excited about and one we felt could positively impact those in need. Although that excitement has always stayed strong, I soon learnt just how much effort goes into creating a successful, UK-registered charity. All that work is very necessary as it protects the charity and protects the children and families on the other side, but it was a big realisation for me.
I would say another big takeaway has been witnessing how far any amount of support can go in changing people’s lives. AMF’s first project was with Apt Social Service Society, an orphanage based in Andhra Pradesh, India, where we had the opportunity to provide the essential resources the children needed to access education. The children were able to go to school that year with shiny new uniforms, books, shoes and even hair ribbons. On top of the difference it made to the children, the orphanage and the caretakers, the only people these children have in the whole world, didn’t have the stress of paying for their tuition. It opened my eyes on how much of a positive impact you can have, even with a small amount of support.”
Jessica Zijlstra, Co-Lead on Global Projects.
Join us at the Anita Mendiratta Foundation in our mission to ensure all children have equal access to schooling. Find out more about what we do today.