In 2007 some two million vacationers traveled to Kenya, drawn by its safari camps, abundant wildlife, gorgeous landscapes and beach resorts—and its welcoming people. But last December, the disputed presidential election stoked tribal tensions and caused an unexpected wave of violence. When the conflict hit the newspapers, many would-be visitors changed their travel plans. An agreement to resolve the political differences was finally signed at the end of February, but it may take Kenya years to salvage its reputation as one of Africa's most stable nations.
Should travelers fail to return, Kenya's community-aid projects would be at risk, since many of these are funded by donations from grateful visitors. AmericaShare, started by Micato Safaris, has built a complex in Nairobi's Mukuru slum to house a boys' dorm and the headquarters for a women's collective that cares for families living with HIV/AIDS. (To see AmericaShare's updated website, with information on projects in Kenya and Tanzania, go to www.americashare.org.)
Campi ya Kanzi, a lodge in southeast Kenya's Chyulu Hills, has set up the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust to manage several projects, including the school whose students are shown above. The Trust has hired a doctor for the region's medical clinic; some women walk 1½ hours to have their babies immunized there. Most donations come from guests who have stayed at the lodge—actor Edward Norton is one of them. For information, or to make a contribution, go to maasaitrust.org.
These tourist-funded projects aren't limited to Kenya; they're taking place around the world. For information on others, go to travelersphilanthropy.org, run by the Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development (based in Washington, D.C.). The site is updated regularly with new projects.