People Not Stones 2013 – Campaign Update


We’re at Day 10 of our People Not Stones 2013 campaign. So far we have raised an impressive $16,500, that is 33% of our overall goal! We have made it this far with the help of 49 generous contributors who have donated towards our campaign.

We’re extremely grateful to all who have viewed our page, donated to our campaign and helped us spread the word about People Not Stones 2013.

We will continue to update you on our campaign’s progress throughout it’s duration so watch this space!

SPI’s ‘People Not Stones 2013’ Crowdfunding Campaign Has Launched!

The Sustainable Preservation Initiative has launched its first crowdfunding campaign on, an online platform where people can create fundraising campaigns to tell their story and get the word out about their important mission. We have had great success in empowering entrepreneurs, creating jobs, and preserving cultural heritage. Now we want to do it at more sites and let everyone know about our new paradigm that saves sites and transforms lives.  Crowdfunding offers the opportunity to do both with a brand new audience as of yet unfamiliar with SPI.

Our Mission: To alleviate poverty through economic development in and save the sites of Bandurria, Peru, and Chotuna – Chornancap, Peru.

Our Funding Goal: $49,000



Pyramids older than those of ancient Egypt still stand at the archaeological site of Bandurria, where excavations have also uncovered ancient homes and a cemetery that belonged to a complex society that marks the origins of civilization in the Andes. However, alongside this rich cultural heritage is a community living far below the poverty line, with no running water or electricity.

Chotuna community

Our project aims to alleviate this poverty by empowering local entrepreneurs in the community. It will construct a communal artisan and visitor center where local residents can produce and sell their traditional reed and rush handicrafts and train future artisans, creating more local jobs in the community. The project includes a store for these handicrafts, a snack bar, and clean toilets for tourists. In addition, our project will provide the only source of potable water and electricity available to the community.

Chotuna – Chornancap

Chotuna monumental

The archaeological site of Chotuna – Chornancap is a 235-acre monumental temple and pyramid complex where several remarkable, one-of-a-kind ancient royal tombs have been discovered (See National Geographic article here). Similar to Bandurria, however, the community living near the site is very poor. There are few jobs, little income and no opportunity to escape this cycle of poverty. Our project invests in local textile, metal embossing, and gourd artisans, funding the construction of a facility for artisan training and production and a sales area for their work at the site. It also includes a picnic area and snack bar to generate additional revenue for the community. Our funding will also build a store and showroom at a major museum (Museo Bruning) for these handicrafts in the nearby city of Lambayeque where guidebooks and brochures for the Chotuna site will also be available.

Help us save sites and transform lives! Click here to make a tax-deductible contribution at indiegogo today and spread the word by liking our campaign on Facebook, posting about our crowdfunding campaign on your own Facebook page, retweeting us on Twitter, or pinning our project video on Pinterest!

Thank you for your support!

Photo of the Week


Photo of the Week

We know why this guy seems so happy! He’s just as excited as us about SPI’s upcoming project crowd funding campaign which goes live next week! Our campaign will raise money for our two new project sites; Bandurria and Chotuna-Chornancap. All contributions will help alleviate poverty in these two communities and sustainably preserve the stunning cultural heritage that remains there. With less than a week to Valentine’s Day, why not make a contribution to this worthy cause in the name of a loved one? He already has…!

Context Travel Honors SPI and Shares its Mission of Sustainability


Guest Blog Post by Context Travel's Paul Bennett

These past holidays, Context Travel honored SPI with its annual charitable gift. Context Travel is a travel company dedicated to sustainable solutions that preserve our shared global heritage for future generations. Our thanks goes out to Context for that honor and please read on to hear about another dynamic, growing organization interested in saving sites and transforming lives.

Sustaining Cities the Context Way

by Paul Bennett

In the mid 1990s I wrote an article for National Geographic Adventure about “ecotourism.” At that time, the concept of sustainability and sustainable travel—a broader, more inclusive idea that included consideration of cultural preservation and local communities—was nascent. The focus was on nature and fragile ecosystems. My piece zeroed in on an ecolodge deep in the Amazon jungle that was doing some interesting things with the local indigenous tribe. But, it was an ecolodge nonetheless. Everyone assumed that sustainable travel was about nature.

We’ve come a long way since then. I’ve moved on out of journalism (for the most part) to run my own travel company that considers sustainability a critical part of our mission. We don’t do nature.

Context is an urban walking tour company. We have bases in five cities (Philadelphia, London, Paris, Rome, and Istanbul) and run walks in 16 more, including Barcelona, Beijing, Boston and a bunch in between (not all beginning with B). When we first started out ten years ago we considered ourselves a rogue: Instead of employing guides, we’d work with scholars. Instead of leading huge groups, we’d limit ours to six. Instead of doing tours at all, we’d do something we called “walking seminars,” an in-depth alternative.

We still consider ourselves outsiders to the travel industry, which is partly why we’ve gravitated towards a sustainable approach. Everyone in our organization—from our nine full-time staff to the 300+ docent-scholars who lead our walks—care deeply about the cities where we live and work; and none of us want to be involved in anything that compromises their cultural integrity or human fabric.

But tourism is a compromise. There’s no way around it. Every year millions of tourists traipse through the fragile archaeological monuments of Rome or Istanbul, putting far more pressure on the physical infrastructure than local administrations can handle. But, there’s more to the story than the constant struggle to preserve and conserve the great monuments and artworks of Paris, Berlin, or Naples. As the tourism industry grows—and this year the industry outpaced global GDP—surpassing the automotive to become one of the largest industries on the planet, huge crowds also impact the local culture of these great places.

Take Venice, for example. On a given day in Piazza San Marco, when up to 5 or 6 enormous cruise ships can match the city’s entire population (60k), it can be hard to even see the paving on the ground, much less to connect with the piazza’s great history and cultural importance. The Piazza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; yet one learns more about tourism dynamics here than about Venice and its role in world history.

Against this backdrop, we decided to take action and started a sustainable travel initiative in 2007. Part of this program was a simple “greening up” of our business. We went through a popular sustainable travel accrediting scheme, and improved our carbon footprint, offsetting, and recycling. More significantly, we looked closely at our message to our clients, 10,000 of whom take walks each year. We invested in docent training on ways to engage these travelers around conservation and preservation, by making the lasting preservation of a site—or the struggle to preserve it—part of our teaching narrative. And we armed our docents with a set of sustainable recommendations for locally owned restaurants and shops.

We also started the Context Foundation for Sustainable Travel, a 501-c3 charitable organization, which invests in projects. We focus on two main areas: projects that mitigate the negative effects of tourism in our cities and projects to boost the positive impact of travel on society at large.

Over the past five years, we have invested in or run a wide range of projects related to the first set. These have included special visits to sites like the Stanton Street Shul on the Lower East Side of Manhattan or to the Chapel des petits augustin in Paris to raise money for their restoration. Our longest program—and the one that I’m personally most proud of—is an apprenticeship program that places young artisans in the workshops of older, establish artisans in Florence. The aim of this program is to help sustain those established workshops—some of which have been in business for hundreds of years—in the face of a changing economic landscape, fueled by tourism, in which it’s increasingly hard for artisans to find apprentices. Partial funding for this comes from an artisans walking tour that we run in Florence.

The Context Foundation’s biggest program, now entering its sixth year, is the Transforming Youth Through Travel scholarship that we cooked up with St. Hope Public Schools in Sacramento, California. Each year, as part of this project, we send 1 or 2 high-achieving inner-city students to Europe for a 10-day cultural boot camp. We send them on walking seminar after walking seminar, engaging them with Ph.D.-level scholars for one of the most in-depth learning experiences out there and a life-changing adventure. The best evidence is the kids themselves, who produce pretty amazing projects about the trip, and then share these projects with their community back home. For most of these kids this is the first time we’ve left California, never mind the U.S.

In the end, our impact is small. We’re a tiny organization, and the Foundation runs on a shoestring. Yet, however incremental our work may be, it fits strongly with a love of the world’s cultural capitals and a recognition that if we stand by and do nothing they will literally drown in bus tours and tourist menus.