Sala Baï, Cambodia
Though the hospitality industry is a driving force in Cambodia’s economy, access to lucrative tourism-related jobs remains limited—especially for the country’s younger generation. The Sala Baï hotel school, in Siem Reap, works to close the gap by annually selecting 100 underprivileged youths for a fully funded, 11-month program that trains students in front office, housekeeping, cooking, and restaurant service and culminates in four-month-long internships at partner hotels. To date, all 605 students, 65 percent of whom are female, have graduated and found jobs—proof that education and opportunity can change lives. salabai.com.
Qianlong Garden, Beijing
For much of the 20th century the exquisite interiors of the two-acre Qianlong Garden, built between 1771 and 1776 and tucked within Beijing’s legendary Forbidden City, lay hidden from view and slowly disintegrating. Today they are being saved, thanks to a unique 17-year-long restoration partnership between Beijing’s Palace Museum and the World Monuments Fund. Employing experts and artisans skilled in highly specialized and increasingly rarefied crafts (lantern making; bamboo carving; silk embroidery), the project has already completed work on the 18th-century Juanqinzhai pavilion, and has plans to restore all of the garden’s buildings and courtyards in the coming years. wmf.org.
Southern Foodways Alliance, Oxford, Mississippi
An exuberant champion of Southern food culture—from its barbecue pit masters and bourbon distilleries to its butterscotch-pie breakfasts and deviled-eggs competitions—the Southern Foodways Alliance celebrates and records the region’s diverse gastronomic landscape through documentary films, books, and not-for-the-calorie-shy field trips and events. The Alliance’s food-trails program, which has mapped a Tamale Trail through the Mississippi Delta, a Barbecue Trail in the Southeast, and Boudin and Gumbo Trails across Louisiana, introduces travelers to the small-scale producers and off-the-beaten path restaurants that are the soul of Southern cuisine. southernfoodways.com.
Asia Transpacific Journeys, Boulder, Colorado
When Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in May 2008, killing an estimated 140,000 people and devastating the Irrawaddy Delta, the Asia Transpacific Foundation, the charitable arm of tour operator Asia Transpacific Journeys, was there to help survivors with access to purified drinking water via simple clay filters. The foundation’s nimble response, which saved countless lives, was an outgrowth of its campaign to teach locals in northern Thailand and Burma how to make these filters, providing them with both clean water and a source of income. The foundation now operates four water-filter factories and has brought better hygiene and sanitation to some 450,000 people in Burma alone. asiatranspacific.com.
Northern Great Plains Restoration, United States
Though it may seem that our continent’s largest grassland, the Northern Great Plains, has little in common with the Namibian desert, the areas are, in fact, intrinsically linked. In 2007, when the Nebraska-based Grassland Foundation was searching for a conservation model for the largely unprotected area in the States, it looked to Namibia’s successes in harnessing ecotourism for wildlife preservation. The project began sending ranchers and conservationists alike to Africa on study tours: the first step in building a viable tourism infrastructure in the Great Plains. grasslandfoundation.org and www.worldwildlife.org.