When you start an adventure-travel business with an intention to give back to the communities where you work, the logical next step is to begin peer-to-peer fundraising for people in the region.

For Ati and Alex, owners of Indy Guide, working with CAI to raise money for girl’s education in Tajikistan was a perfect progression. Indy Guide is a peer-to-peer travel marketplace for Central Asia and Mongolia. They connect adventurous travelers with in-country guides and services to create the trip of a lifetime in some of the most beautiful but remote areas in the world.

One of the principal objectives of Indy Guide is to help the people in these communities. When they stumbled upon Central Asia Institute’s website, they contacted our development director, Christel Chvilicek, to see how they could help. Christel matched them to our peer-to-peer program, and they set up a fundraising site to support a year of school for 10 girls in Tajikistan.

From a Year of Travel to a Business and Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Ati is originally from Kazakhstan, but his family moved to Switzerland 30 years ago. He and Alex were both working high-pressure careers at a Swiss bank when they decided to get married, quit their jobs, and take a year-long honeymoon to Central Asia to visit Ati’s home country and travel in the area.

They left without a plan or a goal and let their adventurous spirits guide them around Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and other Central Asian countries including Tajikistan.

“During our travels we were so surprised and amazed at how beautiful the countries are, and how little most of our friends and people in Europe and the U.S. know about Central Asia,” recalls Ati.

An incident that occured during travel to eastern Kazakhstan shaped Indy Guide into a full-fledged business idea. The pair wanted to visit the Alti region, where Ati’s family originated, but they found little information on how to get there. The woman at the local tourism agency didn’t speak English or Kazakh, and neither could any locals they ran into. They were stuck.

“We thought it shouldn’t be that the most beautiful region of Kazakhstan is so hard to access for foreigners,” said Ati. “We discussed it, and then we started working on the website for Indy Guide.”

They spent the rest of their time researching trips, traveling, and meeting with drivers and tour operaters in each region. They decided Indy Guide should support the people in each country where they work. The local residents are interested in tourism, but they don’t have the means to reach out to foreigners. Indy Guide is the link between the travelers and the tour providers.

Tajikistan horse riding adventure

Ati and Alex researching trips. Photo courtesy of Indy Guides.

Creating Connections and Helping the People

Developing a personal connection with the trip providers is key to the success of Indy Guide. Ati explains, “We went from company to company in all the cities. We were standing at bus stations and train stations to talk to drivers and hosts and told them about Indy Guide. We met them and now we are chatting with them on Skype and WhatsApp, we really feel a connection.”

Connecting with the people in each country and sharing these amazing places with others isn’t the only goal of Indy Guide. They want to create an even bigger impact in the countries where they work.

“Our main goal and the reason why we are doing it the way we are doing it, is to help the people,” says Ati. “We’ve just started but already our customers spent $100,000 on trips with our hosts and guides.”

Still, Ati and Alex wanted to do more for these communities. They were aware of Central Asia Institute from their research. They loved the mission of providing education to the people in some of the same places Indy Guide works. They contacted CAI to see how they could use their network to fundraise for girls in Tajikistan.

A Peer-To-Peer Fundraiser to Educate Girls in Tajikistan

Central Asia Institute’s peer-to-peer fundraising program was a perfect fit. The program is geared toward anyone who wants to get friends involved to fundraise for a particular goal. Participants set up a quick website, describe the goal and what they want to accomplish, and invite friends and family to contribute. The set up is painless, and you can fundraise any way you wish. Some people run races, host dinner parties, donate portions of craft sales, or design their own events. There are no limits.

Ati and Alex decided to use their social media accounts to reach friends and family. Their goal is to raise enough money to send 10 girls to school in Tajikistan for a whole year. They haven’t been fundraising for long, but the cause is gaining momentum.

“With this fundraiser, anyone can participate,” said Ati, “Regardless of the amount of the donation, we could connect to our network and ask our friends to ask their friends. We had the feeling it was the most effective way for us. The system of crowdfunding is well known. Our network trusts us, so they think that is the most efficient way.”

Why Fundraise in Tajikistan

It was easy to pick a goal for the fundraiser. Ati and Alex fell in love with the breathtaking mountain landscapes of Tajikistan and the kind and friendly people they met.

As soon as they crossed the border into Tajikistan, one of the wheels of the rental car came off. They called the rental company, but it would be hours before anyone could get there to help. When a local man drove by, he stopped to offer help and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Ati and the man spent the day together, traveling to a local mechanic and the bazaar to find parts, eating lunch together and fixing the car. At the end of the day, he offered the man payment, but the man refused. Instead, he apologized because his wife wasn’t home and he couldn’t offer them dinner. He insisted that Ati and Alex visit him when they returned so they could have dinner.

Indy Guide programs in Tajikistan include trekking tours, jeep tours through the Pamir Highway and Wakhan Valley, and adventures that last from one day to 12. People can hire cars or drivers to see wildlife like ibex and Marco Polo sheep. Ati’s dream is to see a snow leopard.

“Education is key for everything but especially in Tajikistan,” says Ati. “It starts with some English skills. You have access to so much more if you just know some English. It’s one part of the education.”

Indy Guide is set to start their second push for their peer-to-peer fundraiser around the holidays. Ati is even more excited to share the Indy Guide fundraising page with their social networks, and to introduce many more people to the amazing culture and adventure in Tajikistan.

“We cannot wait to go back,” said Ati. “We are interested to see more. How are the people helped, what do they need? To see them, to listen to them, to talk to them, to ask more questions.”

At CAI we’re excited to work with Indy Guide and to provide scholarships to as many girls as possible in Central Asia. If you’re interested in setting up your own peer-to-peer fundraiser, check out our page. It’s easy to set up and a fun way to gather friends and family to make a difference.

fundraising for education in Tajikistan

Photo courtesy of Indy Guide.