“ME to WE” is a unique program by the world-renowned WE Charities in which travelers like you and me are welcomed into a tourist relationship that is authentic, sustainable, and mutually beneficial. Designed to compliment the destination and locals who live there, ME to WE’s community-based development program takes a win-win approach to bridging the global economic divide.
As an unforgettable three-day adventure in rural Rajasthan, ME to WE gives you access to the hidden India that very few foreign visitors ever experience. In addition, your visit to Aravelli Camp employs locals and directly contributes to the many “We” development projects in the region.
“Our work is to give back,” says Ricky Ranawat, the leading ME to WE Facilitator in Rajasthan. “The relationship is NOT based on money—we fund projects and offer training. There is a longtime trust, so they are willing to open their lives and homes to us, and in turn, we help empower villages.”
For this holistic approach, ME to WE works towards the five main pillars of development: Education, Health, Agriculture, Water, and Opportunity. During my time at Aravelli Camp, I was able to personally help in some way with all five goals, all while learning about the rich culture and traditions of the tribes who live here.
The Adivasi are the first inhabitants of India and make up 12.4% of the population. As a minority in Rajasthan (the largest Indian state by area home to some 75 million people), these “tribal people” are especially vulnerable to outside pressures. Most of them live on less than 150 rupees a day ($2/day) and face serious challenges like illiteracy, food insecurity, and lack of access to clean water and health care.
After years of research and listening to the community, ME to WE designed specific programs to improve the locals’ lives. They trained them in growing kitchen gardens with sustainable, year-round crops. They showed them intercropping, and gave access to more successful seeds, doubling production for most farmers. ME to WE also helps deepen wells and protect them from contamination, allowing for year-round water supplies and an extra season of crops for many families. They introduced the sirohi goat, a “super animal” that requires less grain, produces double the milk and give birth to two kids a year. The expanded foor source and productivity also helps build a family’s wealth as their own herd reproduces. In a culture where child marriage is common and most girls drop out of school after puberty, ME to WE focuses on improving local schools with better facilities, furniture, and technology while providing motivation and incentives to keep girls in school. To improve health, ME to WE has provided an amazing “smokeless” chulha, or woodstove that burns much less wood and sends all the smoke directly up the chimney. Before, villagers often simply cooked over a fire in the hut, smoking up the house and causing respiratory problems for many. Hygiene training is also critical and has led to less disease and sickness for the Adivasi.
So where do we come in? By traveling with ME to WE, your tourist dollar directly funds the many development projects here in India, along with 9 other countries. What’s more, your activities and adventures give you a chance to physically help with their efforts in Rajasthan, all while exploring a new culture in fun, hands-on ways. In my three days, I dyed cloth with a professional Rajasthani dyer, I helped carry water and make the daily bread over a fire in the home of a young family, I fed goats and helped build a new school, and I took an amazing cooking class from our chef.
ME to WE is not “voluntourism” or the kind of poorism that exploits locals and punishes a destination with pollution, illegal drugs, and human trafficking. “If they didn’t want us here, we wouldn’t be here,” says Ricky. “Tourists are not out collecting data, but we are—we are always evaluation, learning, and progressing. It’s a privilege for us to be invited into these communities and for travelers like you to be a part of it. You’ll see, the real trip beings once you leave. A lot of people go back to their country and keep helping. It’s all about paying it forward.”
Good travel is a two-way conversation, between guest and host. Diving deep into the real life experience of India, Uniworld partners with ME to WE to make your India adventure more intimate, authentic, and unforgettable.
“We show our guests the real India—without any filter. You know exactly what life is like for these people,” says Rana, the Community Organizer for ME to WE. Yet, the sharing goes both ways. Your total immersion in the traditional community will make India more colorful and exciting, while your work and support directly benefits your hosts. Your presence helps change lives, and in what they share with you in turn will change your life as well. This is the real miracle of travel—to know our own humanity and to share our best selves with the world around us.