The ME to WE Lodge: Araveli is somewhere quite extraordinary. Facilitating the tireless work of WE Charity in this corner of Rajasthan, the lodge plays an integral part in the charity’s mission to break the cycle of poverty across the world. A stay there promises to be truly unforgettable as you immerse yourself in the projects underway there, spend time with the local community and soak up its extraordinary setting. India expert, Julie, finds out more.
Tucked away in the beautiful countryside of Rajasthan, the ME to WE Lodge: Araveli provides welcome respite from the noise and crowds of the region’s huge cities such as Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, yet sits within driving distance of Udaipur and Jodhpur. I was lucky enough to spend time at the lodge, learning about the projects underway there and soaking up the stunning setting of surrounding Araveli Hills.
Every ME to WE project can be seen through two lenses. Firstly, they must do good in the world. The projects create jobs for local people, and everyone from architects and engineers to chefs, drivers, interpreters and guides are recruited locally. And secondly, they must make money to fund the organisation’s charitable projects. Revenue from each trip is funnelled back into WE Charity to fund development projects in the same communities, so every guest is part of the sustainable development process. Just by staying with ME to WE, you do good. Not only by mixing cement or laying bricks for a new school, but because the cost of the trip itself helps to fund the very same projects you can get involved with during your stay.
On arrival at the lodge, you are greeted and shown to your accommodation, a modern tent or cottage, all equipped with A/C, modern bathrooms and wonderfully comfortable beds and private outside area where you can sit and take in the view, listening to the myriad of birds that call the area home. It is then that you are introduced to the programme before enjoying some of the activities on offer there. Whether it be visiting the UNESCO heritage site at Kumbhalgarh, or Kumbhal Fort, or enjoying a cooking class with Chef Asantha and his team, there is plenty of choice for all. I was lucky enough to do both and can highly recommend! On returning to the lodge that evening, the next and biggest surprise was still in store. Thinking it would be a simple affair, I was amazed to have an incredible three course dinner prepared lovingly by Chef Asantha, all using locally sourced vegetables.
We started the next day with early morning yoga before a delicious breakfast of fresh fruits, bread, eggs and a host of vegetarian options. Afterwards, I took the first opportunity to visit the local community. Depending on needs, you can either join a women’s meeting at the local health centre, spend a couple of hours helping to build new classrooms, help with construction work, or visit a local family to help with chores. I opted for the latter and spent the morning collecting water, making chapatis for lunch and feeding the goats. Collecting water made me realise how important water is to each family and how time consuming it is to go to a nearby well 8-10 times a day! This is an experience like no other in Rajasthan, allowing you to help out but also to meet local men and women and learn about their daily life.
In the afternoon, you have the choice to relax at the lodge, go on walks in the beautiful Araveli Hills or spend time with local artisans, learning painting, tie dying or block printing. All of the artisans you will meet have learned their skills through generations and it is a delight to try your hand at these traditional methods or buy a small souvenir which has been so skilfully made.
On the final day of the trip, you can visit temples, return to the village, relax in the lodge, go birdwatching or hiking and in the evening you have the chance to dress in local attire which is made to measure by a local tailor and makes for a wonderful souvenir from your stay. That night we enjoyed a traditional Indian thali with traditional Indian music, a cultural show performed by local people alongside a spread of samosas, pani puri, bhel puri and jaleb – just as you would have seen in the street markets of Delhi, Jaipur and Udaipur!
I left ME to WE with a heavy heart and was sad to say goodbye to such an amazing team but determined to return next year for longer and keen to spread the word about the amazing work of the organisation. If you want to incorporate a few days in a social enterprise that has a real impact on local people whilst staying in a beautiful, peaceful rural environment with incredible food then certainly add ME to WE into your itinerary for three or four days!