Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

One of the silver linings that crises bring is a renewed emphasis on helping those less fortunate. And travel companies have long been at the forefront of philanthropic efforts that provide needed services and education about the far-flung and often impoverished communities they visit.

Recent events in Myanmar underscore just how crucial such efforts can be.

In 2008, the Asian river line Pandaw set up a nonprofit fund to establish a  series of medical clinics following Cyclone Nargi.

The company says the clinics regularly treat some 5,000 patients a month free of charge, but they are now also providing crucial medical care as violence and military actions "proliferate on the streets, not just of big cities, but every town and village in the country."

"The Pandaw Clinics medical teams are actively providing medical aid to injured people in the Middle Burma towns and villages in which we operate," the company wrote in an emergency appeal last month for new donations. "Our doctors are out with the demonstrators and ready to assist. Only yesterday they attended a sixteen-year old boy shot with a live round in his face at Pagan.

"We have opened our seven clinics to offer medical assistance to all striking workers at a time when government medical facilities have closed. We believe we are well placed with a long established, nongovernmental healthcare network to assist at this time."

In an update later in the month, company founder Paul Strachan said the emergency appeal to donors has raised a "decent amount" of new funding, but more is needed.

Donations can be made through the nonprofit's site.

While the events in Myanmar are unique, the yearlong pandemic has also prompted travel companies to step up their emphasis on creating programs and travel-related experiences that have a positive impact on the destinations they visit.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and U by Uniworld, for instance, this month said they will be incorporating parent company The Travel Corp.'s Make Travel Matter Experiences into some of their 2021 itineraries.

Among the Make Travel Experiences being added to river sailings are an option on Uniworld's  India's Golden Triangle & the Sacred Ganges itinerary to visit Calcutta Rescue in Kolkata, which serves the area's underprivileged children with health clinics, schools, vocational training and preventative health programs.

And in Europe, U by Uniworld's Amsterdam & Brussels Bound sailings will include the opportunity to go plastic fishing and clean the waters of Amsterdam's iconic canals.

"At Uniworld, we're proud to offer our guests experiences that make a positive impact and aid sustainable, conscious travel," said Ellen Bettridge, president and CEO of Uniworld and U by Uniworld. "Along with our sister brands, we're committed to making an effort to stand together and show support for the people, wildlife and planet that we all call home, which is imperative now more than ever. Our new experiences meet a rigorous set of criteria to identify the ways in which they will truly make an impact."

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