Donate to Kerala's Shikara community to survive COVID, get a loving boat ride on the backwaters in return 

COVID-19 has been harsh on the travel industry and small communities like the Shikara community in Kerala are facing the consequences. This fundraiser aims to help them
Help the Shikara community in Kerala | Pic: Cherish Expeditions
Help the Shikara community in Kerala | Pic: Cherish Expeditions

Alleppey, the land crisscrossed by rivers, canals and lagoons, is quite fondly known for its traditional Shikara boat rides that let you sail across calm waters with views of coconut trees, paddy fields, landscaped by villages and fishermen going about their daily routines. However, this breathtaking and lively setting has been disrupted numerous times — first by the Nipah virus outbreak in May 2018, then by two consecutive floods and currently by the COVID-19 pandemic. Major parts of Kerala are totally dependent on tourism and they are suffering due to such unprecedented calamities.

The Shikara community which one of the most important pillars for tourism in the state, their livelihoods have come to a complete standstill amid the lockdown. To support these families, Cherish Expeditions, a community of conscious travellers and Sustera Foundation, a non-profit working in the field of climate change have begun a fundraising campaign. "It’s an emergency response to provide help for families which will help them survive this lockdown period. Especially after the devastating floods in 2018, and now the current scenario, the Shikara community is facing a hoard of difficulties. They are directly dependent on tourism, which has taken quite a huge hit after the floods and the consequent pandemic situation. Paying back their loans, maintenance of the boats, feeding their families, have all become difficult, with the lockdown extended they have no means to earn their livelihood as they are not skilled labourers," says Cherish Manjooran, Founder and CEO, Cherish Expeditions.

The campaign aims at raising Rs 1 lakh which will be donated to about 50 families in the Shikara community, who are in need of things for their basic survival. The families will be provided support by giving them a minimum of Rs 2000 and the funds are being raised on Milaap. "As there won’t be any income for the next couple of months and as these Shikara drivers are mostly working in an informal structure and are not salaried, it will be a challenge for them to cope with the situation. We realised we can support at least 50-100 families for the next few months. So, we listed down some of the most vulnerable families with the help of Sustera Foundation. We will provide Rs 2000 initially to families, then extend it to a larger amount if this goes well," adds Cherish. Started on May 6, the fundraiser has already collected donations of over Rs 80,000 out of their Rs 100,000 goal.

And there's also something in it for the people who are donating money to help these families in need. They get a free Shikara ride anytime in the next 12-17 months, or until December 2021, when they are in Kerala. As a gesture of gratitude from the Shikara community, if someone donates Rs 500 or more, they can avail these free Shikara rides. "This is with the intention that we can also bring back tourists to the state. A Shikara ride on regular days costs between Rs 400-500, according to season and non-season so we have put the parameter at Rs 500. The duration of the ride will be an hour. For availing this the donors can get in touch with the Cherish Expeditions," he explains.

The team aims to benefit these households by directly transferring money into their accounts. "Currently, the funds are coming to Sustera's account and we are looking at transferring them digitally to the families. We will also do a couple of transfers in person for those who don't have a digital account," concludes Cherish. The team will also be sending weekly updates on the campaign to the donors with the details of the community’s well being and recipient testimonials.

You can donate here:

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