National Geographic Nominates Belize’s Chaa Creek As Finalist For World Legacy Awards 2017
The World Legacy Awards (WLA) is a collaboration between the National Geographic and ITB Berlin that seeks to honor companies, organizations, and destinations that drive positive transformation of the tourism industry.
With categories like “Earth Changers”, “Sense of Place”, and “Destination Leadership”, the WLA’s aim to spotlight the best of the forward thinking best.
This year, The Lodge at Chaa Creek has been chosen as one of the three finalists for the “engaging Communities” category of awards.
The Engaging Communities category is given to an applicant who aids in the direct and tangible economic and social benefits that improve local livelihoods. This includes training, capacity building, fair wages and benefits, community development, health care and education endeavors.
For over 35 years Chaa Creek has pioneered sustainable tourism and responsible travel in Belize. Today, being a member of the Chaa Creek team is to be a part of the Fleming family and a part of their vision for a better Belize. The Lodge at Chaa Creek is manned by 160 employees, all from the surrounding villages and towns.
Chaa Creek’s social conscience starts right at the roots, aiming to employ citizens from as close to them as possible to maximize the direct economic input into the surrounding communities. The Chaa Creek Cares philosophy starts even before the outreach programs with systems such as the Employee Dollar Club; As a member of the EDC at The Lodge, each employee donates $1bzd every week into a fund that is then matched 50% by the company to serve as a sort of insurance to ensure swift aid in times of medical emergencies for employees and their relatives.
Under the Chaa Creek cares program 10% of the resort’s room revenue is funneled directly into community outreach programs. Chaa Creeks Natural History Center, butterfly exhibit, and the naturalist guides who use these facilities as tools for awareness and education are funded by a fraction of this 10%. Initiatives such as the Butterflies on the Road program teach children in an engaging manner the importance of being environmentally responsible and how each individual contributes in a unique way to the functioning of the ecosystems.
The Eco Kids Scholarship Camp held every summer for the past 7 years invites young, environmentally conscious middle school students to apply via essay for a chance to attend the 7-day all expenses paid summer camp. The aim is to make the youths more aware of Belize’s rich cultural and natural history. While there, the 24 chosen campers will play educational games, attend interactive presentations with orators from different sectors of natural management organizations and embark on nature tours all to deepen their knowledge of Belize and their habitats.
Running in tandem with these other projects is the Pack-a-pound program. Pack-a-pound asks guests to, instead of packing all clothes, to set aside a pound (of how much ever they wish) to pack school supplies. after an amount is accumulated, Chaa Creek employees pick a local, nearby school that is in need of aid and then set out to share the supplies in the hopes of better equipping teachers and their students to learn all that they can.
Chaa Creek’s commitment to engaging communities extends further by offering a number of secondary school scholarships to children and siblings of employees every year. High school and junior college students have the opportunity to intern at The Lodge in any field available therein, giving them a deeper understanding of how each job plays an integral part in boosting the travel industry in Belize.
Shifting focus from the financial aspect of how Chaa Creek injects vigor into the local economy, the holistic views of responsible travel also shine brightly in and around The Lodge. Many of the package tours are designed to highlight the human element of Belizean cultures, guests get to make chocolate the traditional Maya way, and visit nearby women’s groups for a walkthrough of an average day in the life of a Belizean. Guests who stay at Chaa Creek leave with a personally identifiable understanding of what makes us all tick here in Belize.
Sitting on the grounds of the private nature reserve is the Maya Organic Farm, a facility that blends modern advances with ancient technique to achieve produce with no synthetic additives. On a tour of the Maya farm, guests learn the way that the Maya used to grow crops and how some of those techniques are employed today, as well as the importance of growing produce as clean as possible. This farm to table approach produces some of the freshest most exuberant platters and salads seen locally, not only are they pretty but they’re good for you too!
The Lodge at Chaa Creek is located within a 400-acre private nature reserve, is equipped with accommodations ranging from luxury suites to a rustic Macal River Camp, amenities that include a restaurant and lounge featuring organic farm-to-table dining, an internationally recognized Hilltop Spa, Belize centric Natural History museum and activities that include horseback, mountain bike riding and nature walks along an extensive trail system that snakes its way through a jungle containing 70 recorded ancient Maya archaeological sites and an unexcavated temple. Chaa Creek started life as the Fleming family’s small farm and has now grown into a major local employer and trainer that supports the economy and culture of local villages and communities that surround it.
Congratulations to the Owners, Managers, staff, guests, and partners that helped to make every bit of Chaa Creek’s success possible. Onward to the Award ceremony in March, Godspeed.