During these recent months of challenge, unpredictability and hardship — from Asia to America — it has been heart-warming to be shown that we heal not in solitude, but through community and connection. In all of Aman’s destinations, we’ve seen such love, concern and care for the welfare of our wider communities from our Aman family, all over the world. Let us share some stories of how our teams have been helping their neighbours and extended families.
Feeding our Navajo family in Utah and nurturing cultural preservation
The Navajo Nation surrounds Amangiri in the American Southwest’s Canyon Country. Half of the team who work at the hotel, live on the reservation. They were greatly impacted by the pandemic, and as a way of supporting the community, the resort has been creating pre-packaged meals to help feed hundreds. Many of these meals have been delivered to communities in very remote areas.
Eli Secody, Navajo leader, and member of the Earth Surface People clan: ‘Our Navajo clan system is our hospitality, it is our connection to new family members if our clans relate. Everything here in the Navajo Nation has meaning. Down to the details of the Navajo individual, to the rivers, rocks, plants, trees, mountains, the animals, the wind, the sunrise, the daytime, the evening time, the night-time and especially our Navajo language. The language is all connected to the sacredness of nature. When a guest comes to Navajo land they are going to experience our storytelling.’
At the heart of many ancient Asian belief systems is the concept of Dharma. Not a word easy to explain to the uninitiated, yet the simple spiritual instinct to do what’s right. In Aman terms, our Dharma or duty, is not simply just to consider the wellbeing of our guests, our Dharma is our community spirit — our way of striving to uphold the natural order of the universe. As it says in the Bhagavad Gita: Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.
Supporting local children with essentials in Java
It is always a priority to consider how we can support the micro-economies around Amanjiwo and to foster opportunities for locally-made products and generate income for the families working with our resort — such as making small handmade batik pouches filled with hand sanitiser, wipes and face masks as gifts for guests. Jann Hess arrived as General Manager of Amanjiwo last year and he met with the village leaders — the Bapak Kepala Desa — early on, to get to know them and to better understand the needs of the local communities. Often this is the desire for better roads or recycling systems – and Amanjiwo has already helped create a waste-sorting system for their immediate community. Through this challenging time, together with family and friends, Jann has also been raising money for the nearby orphanage in Majaksingi at a time when Amanjiwo had temporarily suspended its operations.
Jann Hess, General Manager: ‘The orphanage was set up many years ago and houses a hundred young people. It has always been supported by Amanjiwo — but during this time they were in urgent need of food and supplies, such as educational items, schoolbooks, and mattresses. I am really keen to think deeper about how to support them in as meaningful a way as we can, rather than buy what is urgently needed, and in time educate our guests about all that they do.’
Growing nutritious food together in Ubud, the leafy heart of Bali
Organic produce from the gardens of Amandari has been shared with the local village of Kedewatan throughout recent months. The gardening team continue to produce fruits and vegetables and the villagers have been invited to plant their preferred varieties in the garden to harvest during this unprecedented period. Many Balinese work in the tourism industry. As their local Ubud community feels the effects of this ongoing crisis, the need for support when it comes to essentials is great.
Socio-economic support of Bali’s microbusinesses in Manggis
Soul Bali is an NGO established by members of the Amankila front office team, which supports children and the elderly, who live in poor conditions or with difficult access to medical care and social contact. Heart, spirit, humanity, integrity, compassion and selfless service are the essential values that drive the foundation. The resort has commissioned the making of hundreds of facemasks, and Amankila works with Soul Bali Charity to source a selection of their turndown gifts, such as local salt and coffee, showcasing the beauty of Bali.
Kusamba salt harvesters live together in modest huts on the beach, extracting sea salt to be sold in the market. Using a traditional method, they produce natural salt with a truly distinctive texture and subtle flavour. The old-fashioned way of processing Balinese coffee (Kopi Bali) called ‘wet processing’ removes the fruit covering the coffee bean while it is still wet. This method creates a distinctive taste and is much brighter than other coffee in the archipelago, and it’s gifted to guests through Soul Bali Charity, and through this they can help support the work of this grass-roots charity.
A symbiotic relationship with its local community
A 45-minute boat ride from Amanpulo lies the island of Manamoc, where a community of kind-hearted people raise their families by providing service to the resort. In isolation, Amanpulo and Manamoc have developed a beautiful and fruitful symbiotic relationship through generations. In partnership with the Andres Soriano Foundation, Amanpulo has extended its aid to the residents of Manamoc Island by sending much-needed food, vitamins and masks. The resort’s resident physician, Dr. Rom, has created an educational video on the safety measures that must be practiced during this time when health is paramount. All these have made their way across the sea, along with the assurance that the residents are not alone in this time of need.
Shaping a better future together with Shima's students
Working with Shima city, Amanemu is hosting a tour for local high school students in September as part of a drive to encourage more people from the local area to engage with the property and consider it as a place to work. Noriko Tanaka, General Manager, has been exploring how her team can do more volunteer work. A local public school hosts a three-year Shima Studies class in which they study local businesses and visit these companies. In this class they will get to know the local area, then think about issues affecting their community, and in their third year reflect on how to take action.
Noriko Tanaka, General Manager: ‘It is a great opportunity to showcase Amanemu to these young students, especially as our gates are usually closed to outside visitors, and through this the local Shima people will better get to know us, and we will get to know them.’
Making masks and looking after each other in remote Rajasthan
The lockdown in India was so unexpected that 65 employees couldn't go home to their respective states, so they were brought to the property to live. This started as being for three weeks in lockdown, but 49 employees and seven hotel-school trainees stayed for 11 weeks. So that everyone could remain in touch with family they installed a portable modem in the staff accommodation area. They also enrolled employees in Typsy, an online training programme, which they have loved and many completed courses in hospitality management.
Karin Van Zyl, General Manager: ‘Since we are located in such a remote area we have always embraced a family feeling at Amanbagh. We work and live together as a family and though we miss our blood family, we have each other and cheer each other up.’
Karin found an antique sewing machine in the laundry and started making masks initially for team members and family, but it grew to be given to delivery people and then to local school children. They all live in multigenerational homes in the village and protecting the older generation is of vital importance, especially in this rural community. ‘I found a pattern for children’s masks and we raided our spa store and discovered a roll of calico, destined to become poultices for our Ayurveda treatments: this unbleached cotton was perfect for masks.’ During the windy season, they also collected branches and twigs for villagers to use as firewood.
Growing vegetables to training Guardians of Peace
The teams at Amankora have always been committed towards community development and so it's no surprise they have shown a sincere commitment to numerous projects in these last months. Made up of five lodges in the Himalayas, Amankora shared supplies grown in each of the lodge gardens at Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Punakha. Vegetables as well as eggs from their chicken coups were gathered and distributed to local communities at the start of lockdown.
With the uncertainty of when the border will reopen, the management team has been doing all they can to assist and protect the livelihoods and welfare of their team members during these challenging times — and this has included supporting 42 men and women from the Amankora team who were specially selected to take part in the country's Disaster Management programmes (desuung.org.bt). As His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo says, 'Of paramount importance to the strength of a nation, is the ability of her people to live as one united family – a community in which interaction is marked by trust, understanding and cooperation.'
In addition, the team have planted a small fruit tree orchard at each of the lodges in memory of the hardships suffered during this pandemic. The trees were planted on an auspicious day and will blossom on a seasonal basis coinciding with the months worst hit by the pandemic to signify new life and optimism.
Although Amankora’s efforts to support the local communities and natural surroundings have increased during the pandemic, the teams in each of the five lodges have long been involved in a variety of projects. These include, assisting in the rebuilding of the Wangdue Dzong temple and fortress in Punakha, which was almost entirely destroyed in a fire; regular clean-ups of forested areas and the hoisting of new prayer flags in sacred spots in Thimphu, and the delivery of food and essentials to the monks and caretakers of Tiger’s Nest in Paro.
Jonathan Lithgow, General Manager. ‘In Bhutan there is an incredible loyalty to His Majesty and an intense pride to be Bhutanese. As part of its COVID-19 readiness initiatives, the Government is training volunteers through their De-Suung — or Guardians of Peace — training, and we are paying our team's salaries while they take part in the programme.’
Looking after Siem Reap’s most vulnerable including donating to blood banks
The team from Amansara have been delivering relief and hygiene packages to the most vulnerable and to some Pagodas (the active Buddhist Temples). These have included non-perishable parcels of rice, noodles, oil, sardines, vitamins and electrolytes, soap, and COVID-19 awareness literature, posters, and masks. They commissioned handwoven cotton and silk masks from the social enterprise Fairweave, which fights poverty and builds sustainable livelihoods for women, especially mothers, in remote areas.
Astrid Killian, General Manager:We have, of course, been engaging in much more community work during this difficult period and it’s been so lovely to see members of our team take the initiative to share knowledge and awareness with our surrounding community and set up trail clean-ups as well as donate blood to the local children’s hospitals. The blood banks are always in need of support, and even though we usually contribute once a year, during this period they have been in a critical situation due to people being scared to visit hospitals during the pandemic. Thanks to a team of 14 from Amanyara in Turks and Caicos visiting our resort, the Angkor Hospital for Children they were able to boost their stock for various blood types.’
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