Transformative Learning – Inspire

This was the final presentation of the ATWS in Scotland. It followed the title Inspire, and it was a breathtaking intervention with a lot of emotion and value. Truly inspiring!

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women-led NGO she founded in 1995. Established to provide teacher training, education and health services to women and children, over 7 million have benefited from AIL’s programs to date. Sakena’s vision of a healthier Afghanistan evolved after watching her mother give birth to 15 children, only to have 5 children survive. Under Sakena’s leadership, AIL has established itself as a visionary organization which works at the grassroots level and empowers women and communities to bring education and health services to poor rural and urban girls and women, as well as other disenfranchised Afghans. AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women in the 1990s. AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3000 girls in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. AIL was first to open Women’s Learning Centers for Afghan women—a concept now copied by many organizations throughout Afghanistan. Dr. Yacoobi has received multiple recognition-of-service awards in Afghanistan.ATWS Scotland Inspire

Who she is:

Not much more can be said to this introduction. She was the first in her family to be able to go to university in the US, when she finished and wanted to go back to Afghanistan but the border was closed. When she finally was able to go back to her house, she created a learning center for women, which was illegal at the time.

She told some stories that she has to live through, this is an example:

One day while travelling as of any other day she got stopped by a line of armed men with riffles. When she saw the line of men in the middle of the road that she travelled every day, she was very afraid for her life and those on board the truck. The young men aged between 16-22 years wanted her to get out of the vehicle. The people inside requested for her to stay but she knew they were all in danger if she did not do what they said. Finally when she confronted the men they told her that they wanted education and they would stop her every day until she accepted, they knew that she had a school. She said she will try to look for a solution, even though the school was for women and that she had no means to take care of them. When she got to the school the phone rang and it was from the aid program, she explained what had happened to her that morning and they told her they would take care of them too. Finally next day when she was stooped she told them she would teach them to write and read but on the condition that they would come every day, clean and behave correctly. After 4months in the program they had learned to read and write and today they are their guides and protect her.

This is a true story and shows the feelings and how everybody wants to learn and be educated. They wanted to improve their life and change, education as a means of transformation and growth.

Another story was that of a young girl who wanted to go to school to read. She was told by her parents that the only way to go to school was if she woke up at 4 o’clock and did her labor before leaving every morning. For the first 4 months she did not speak a word but from the work she was doing by knitting she could pay his brother to do her work at home and take care of her 3 children. By the age of 22 she had become the leader of the local center with 300 women under her training, and people come and ask her for advice. She has become an important figure in her village and people come to her for advice. She is in the local council and is spreading the word to other areas.

This is an example of how empowerment of women thorough education can lead to development.

Finally she told us that her main aim is to make the world and the afghan women aware that they are individuals and that they can do anything they set to do. She is doing a great work in developing a women liberal right movement in Afghanistan and creating leader in that country. Empowering women in a very complicated country.

Best is to listen to her:

Do you think it´s an inspiring story?

After hearing this incredible story that I feel charged up with positive energy and feel to continue with our mission of achieving sustainable development in the region of la Vera through the promotion of responsible tourism.


My trip to the Adventure Travel World Summit 2010 – Scotland

We set form the shire of la Vera on the Sunday morning to Madrid. We are excited by the experience we are about to embark, we leave to Scotland on our flight and even though we are delayed two hours inside the plane because one of the crew members has too many flight hours and has to be replaced, we eventually reach Edinburg airport. It is night time and we still have to drive to Aviemore at the north of Scotland where the summit is held. We eventually arrive at the Macdonald complex at 11.00 pm! Long first day but very excited to finally be there!

Monday 4th October.
After we have registered and been given our identification we set out to the auditorium for the opening ceremony. First day is activity day and we have chosen the tour Aviemore Adventure.

The activities are to create a sense of community and partnership in the summit. All members have been given the possibility to participate in order for new member like us to get to know some of the colleagues in the industry.
Some of the activities included where;

  • Wild Class White Water Rafting
  • Canoeing and Whisky Tour
  • Sea Kayaking (Dolphins)
  • Gorge Walking
  • Sailing on Loch
  • Wildlife Tours
  • Cairngorms Golf
  • Hill walking, Orienteering
  • Red Dear stalking
  • Loch Ness Walk and Boat Trip
  • Skyline Mountain Walk
  • Aviemore adventure
  • Land and Sustainability management of Estate.
  • Among others.

Before we leave to our adventures we have the opening ceremony. This is a great opportunity for Scotland to promote their adventure tourism based on experiences. There are more than 25 activities planned and it’s a great opportunity to meet tour-operators, reservation and booking agents, media and experts from the sector.

Our activity was Aviemore adventure and consisted on a walking / trekking trip through the Glenmore forest of until we reach the Loch Morlich. This was a great experience where we walked through the forest which is a remnant of the Caledonian Forest near Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park. This native Scottish forest transports you to your childhood and thanks to the good weather that accompanied us we could see the beginning of the autumn with the changing colors of the trees.

Finally we arrive at the Loch Morlich, one of the many lakes that can be found in the area in between the hill landscape that can be found in the park. After a quick chat and explaining some of the basics of canoeing we set to cross the lake. At mid day we have lunch on one of the banks of the lake.

We are able to paddle our way to the other side of the Loch, from where we cycled back to Aviemore. On the way back we crossed some very nice tracks through the Scottish forest, stopping at another Loch where we could see an old construction in the middle of the lake. It seemed an old castle which used to have a passage before the level of the Loch was risen.

Very nice adventure, we had a great time and meet some really good people who have very similar of looking at life and what is really important. Hope that the connections that we made this day continue and that the things we set out to accomplish in sustainable tourism become a reality. Thank you to the Active Outdoor Pursuits team that made this tour possible!

At the end of the day we are brought back to the auditorium of the MacDonald Aviemore Resort.

Back at the Conference centre:

Shannos Stowell, ATTA President, welcomes us to the 7th adventure travel world summit in Aviemore, Scotland.
… in this digital age, where social media, mobile connectivity and online meetings define much of our interaction, the ATTA still firmly believe that to come together, shake hands, laugh, debate and deepen friendships through personal human interaction creates more progress and lasting relationship that matter that any electronic alternative can offer”.
He puts forward the idea that we are selling experiences and that it is the time to use this opportunity and get the best of this summit.
“This event is about education, knowledge, sharing, inspiration and relationship building through work and fun”.
“This event promotes adventure travel business grow and thrive responsibly. The group of collaborators is a group for good, bringing much needed revenue to local economies around the world and turning customer’s into lifelong advocates of responsible tourism practices”.
Shanon Sotwell.
After the opening speech, there are several special presentations:
Adventure travel is defined as activities in the outdoors with specific interest to maintaining the cultural heritage and economically developing remote regions. (People, Planet & Profit)

From Armageddon to Utopia … Business as Unusual
“Costas Christ is an award-winning travel writer and Editor at Large for National Geographic Traveler. He is one of the world’s pioneers of ecotourism (he helped to officially define the term) and is an internationally renowned expert in sustainable tourism, traveling to over 100 countries, including some of the most remote wilderness areas and archeological sites on Earth, home to vanishing cultures and endangered species”.

Shows us through a very compelling video how adventure tourism and discovering new areas has also the risk of destroying them. Tries to give a wakeup call to all of us on the dangers and the need of the industry to work together to try to develop regions in a sustainable manner in order to not repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
From his 30 years of experience he sees the future of tourism focusing on authenticity, sustainability, (travel good), experience, interactive experience which he defines as:

  • “Travel as unusual / green travel”.

Some interesting examples he gives includes;

  • Airport that uses the movement of the people within the building to get their planes as the source of renewable energy.
  • The underwater hotel build as skyscraper upside down where the bottom will bne used for marine research and it will be powered with wind, tidal and solar energy.

Dr Wallace “J” Nichols. has undertaken the task of reaching new constituencies with a positive and inclusive conservation message and building a network of like-minded people, from diverse regions, backgrounds and careers who share a commitment to maintaining abundant life in the oceans and on the coasts.

He is a Scientist, activist and above all a father with a deep connection with nature.
In his speech he works on the idea that the sector and the different agents, touroperators, town councils, private companies have to work together and collaborate to create lifelong lasting relations to help develop the world.
“J” and Costas end up with the song “All you need is Love” from the Beatles.
Reinventing Conservation
“John Kasaona (conservationist) is a pioneer of community-based conservation — working with the people who use and live on fragile land to enlist them in protecting it.”
He brought the inspiration that there all also good case studies of conservation in Africa and in his case in Namibia. The achievement he describes comes from the transformation of poachers into conservation agents for the conservation of the Rhino. All of this thanks to empowering the local community and learning how to listen to the local needs.
Very good example of sustainable tourism outside protected areas can bring development to regions and countries.
Better to hear him explain it:

ACCESSING Creativity
“Judith Fein, award-winning travel journalist, photographer, filmmaker and teacher, has contributed to over 80 publications and is a regular travel columnist for three”.
New Yorker Judy, tried to teach us that everyone is creative, from 15-85 years. Creativity is important to achieve new ways of living! She put forward the idea that “because everybody thinks it does not work it doesn’t make it real”.
We ended up all dancing on the auditorium!

The night finished with the Scotland opening dinner!

Music, Shinding, Kilt, every one enjoying the traditional food!
Sponsors: MACDONALD Aviemore Resort / Visit Scotland /Cairngorms National Park, The Highland Council!

This is just the first day at the Adventure travel World Summit!! I will continue with the description of the strategic alliances, seminar and lectures and future trends of the sector in future posts!