At JohnGrahamTours, we care about the communities that we interact with.
We make an effort to spread our tour capital to individuals and businesses who can directly use this income, rather than corporate enterprises whose share-holders are not located in the communities and whose profits do not affect the economies of the local communities. When possible, we take a step further, and go out of our way to support specific projects that hold special interest for the values of our company founder, John Graham.
Trans-Caucasian Trail (TCT)
The Transcaucasian Trail (TCT) will be a world-class, long-distance hiking trail more than 3,000km in length, following the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains and connecting roughly two dozen national parks and protected areas in the region. Bordering Europe, Asia and the Middle East, the region known variously as the Caucasus, the South Caucasus, or Transcaucasia is one of the most biologically, culturally and linguistically diverse regions in the world – yet one that few have had the chance to explore. Now, united by a shared vision of a long-distance trail network across the region, a growing community of local and international hikers, cartographers and conservationists is putting this hidden gem on the map to help ensure that the landscapes and heritage of the region can be enjoyed by future generations.
As JohnGrahamTours actively use the trails that the TCT is improving, we are proud to be sponsors of their important initiatives, and hope to promote sustainability and wildlife management education as part of our eco-tourism mission.
To make donations to this worthy community, see more information here: https://transcaucasiantrail.org/en/membership/
Temi Community, Gremi
This community serves the needs of 30 resident handicapped children and young adults, as well as at-risk single mothers and their young children. With a pedagogical and philosophical grounding in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), Temi community treats their "villagers" as valued members of an active community in which each person contributes at their own capacity. John's parents became intrigued by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner while teaching English in Japan in the early 1980s, and proceeded to dedicate the rest of their professional lives to teaching in Steiner (Waldorf) Schools in the United States. In the Pennsylvania area where they raised John and his two siblings, there were three communities similar to Temi, where John's best friends were 'staff children' and where John grew up interacting with boys with disabilities that were his own age. The Temi community is supported minimally by the Georgian government and relies heavily on volunteers and grant funding. To make donations to this worthy community, see more information here: https://www.temi-community.org/en
Mazeri Primary School
The Becho Valley has become a hikers destination, and when we go, we stay in the tiny alpine hamlet of Mazeri. Long neglected by the federal government, the school is reinvigorated with the return of children whose parents are rebuilding the town to service the blossoming trekking industry with hostels, cafes, and guiding services. But the school needs funds. One of John's first and dearest teachers, Georgian ethnomusicologist Joseph Jordania (Prof. emeritus U. of Melbourne), has organized an annual fund-raising drive for this school for several years. Here is the link: https://www.mycause.com.au/page/167309/mazeri-primary-school-georgia-caucasus
McLain Association for Children
Among those to welcome John into the Tbilisi expatriate community during his Fulbright research year in 2004 were joy-to-be-around Cathy McLain (psychologist) and Roy Southworth (Director World Bank). When they retired, they started one of the most impactful non-profit do-good organizations in Georgia, using modern fund-raising and organizational structures together with on-the-ground-know-how and psychological creativity to create lasting impact programs. For example, kids in rural communities in Georgia suffer from high rates of dropping out of school and childhood marriages. The issue is not money so much as motivation. In an inspired test case that has now been expanded, the McLain Association for Children helped remedy the motivational aspect by promising full university scholarships for any student who finished high school and passed university entrance requirements. Furthermore, they started activity clubs to get middle school aged kids into active-participation games such as soccer club, chess club, judo club, dance club, and others. They let the students brainstorm what they wanted. It won't come as a surprise to anyone reading this, that those students that participated in extra-curricular activities saw their scholastic success increase dramatically. Most importantly, the students remained engaged. MAC has expanded to train a new generation of pediatric psychologists to provide much needed psychological services to schools around the country (up until non-existent). They have also tackled the issue of providing safe and modern wheelchairs to children in need. JohnGrahamTours is proud to endorse the MAC foundation: http://macgeorgia.org/en/
Preservation of Georgian Traditional Chant
John first came to Georgia in 2003 following an intensive senior-year thesis project researching and performing Georgian traditional polyphonic chant. In Georgia he found a welcome audience for his interests, as it seemed like dozens of other young people were equally enthused about the discovery of boxes of one-hundred-year-old chant manuscripts and audio recordings, and their portent for a fresh revival of this forgotten music that so boldly spoke to the heart of Georgian identity as a nation of singers, Orthodox Christians, mountaineers, and uniquely creative artists. Singing was everywhere. John was welcomed particularly by members of the Aghsavali Ensemble, with whom he continues to perform in the Kvashveti Church in Tbilisi (when in the city), and serve as a consultant on academic projects. In March 2018, the Aghsavali Choir was sponsored by the Georgian Minister of Culture to represent Georgia at the St. Ketevan World Music Festival in Goa, India. The Aghsavali Ensemble not only serves as a church choir, but also runs programs to locate and rejuvenate rare repertory through intensive study, performance, publication in cd and booklet form. If this is a field you find yourself passionate about, consider donating to a current Aghsavali project, ask John for more details.
One thing that we take very seriously is our extraordinary privilege to be able to travel the globe, enjoying visits to cultural sites of our choice. Not everyone has this privilege, and the wealth disparity is particular striking in Ethiopia.
Our trip brings much needed income to the many guides, scouts, hotels, restaurants, national parks, and religious sites that we will visit. In addition, John Graham Tours is committed to helping social organizations that make a difference for the most vulnerable. The following two organizations will receive a gift on behalf of our entire tour group. If you would like to contribute an additional amount (not necessary), we will have more information during the tour.
Addis Guzo (www.addisguzo.com), a wheelchair center in Addis and Yenege.
Since 2012, Addis Guzo has been operating a centre for people with disabilities in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Through its actions in the areas of Counseling, Aid Provision, Rehabilitation, Education and Sport, we promote the social and professional integration of people with disabilities.
Tesfa (www.yenegetesfa.org), a social project in Gondar.
We are a non profit organisation providing orphans and vulnerable children with loving shelters, education, healthcare & a bright future. There are over 2500 street kids in Gondar but many more are vulnerable. Yenege Tesfa supports 730 of them today. Help us to do even better!