If you thought you couldn’t love hostels any more than you already do, be prepared to let your heart expand as we introduce you to the hostel heroes making the world a safer place to be.
Every backpacker knows that hostels are THE best places in the world – fact! Where else can you meet loads of new friends, explore on a budget, get local insider tips and join free events? Nowhere, is the answer. So, what happens to hostels when the world stops travelling?
It’s no secret that the travel industry has been hit hard during COVID-19, and many hostels are having a difficult time. Which is why these miraculous hostel heroes deserve so much love, as they’ve managed to rise in a crisis, turning their businesses into hubs that support frontline medical staff, local communities and stranded travellers. We extend our love to all our hostel friends around the world, as we know many others are doing great things, and many who can’t right now, but they would if they could!
Hostels heroes helping frontline healthcare workers
Once in Cape Town & Once in Joburg – South Africa
When you’re recovering from Coronavirus what ya gonna do? Well if you’re Kim from ‘Once In Cape Town’ hostel you’ll be devising a plan to support medical frontline workers. While in quarantine, Kim set up ‘Ubuntu Beds’, a service that gives healthcare professionals free and safe places to stay near the hospitals they work in.
Kim was inspired after joining a Zoom with a doctor in Lombardy, Italy, the Coronavirus epicentre at the time. The doctor talked about the exhaustion of the medical professionals and the need for temporary accommodation near hospitals. This call was the catalyst in Kim’s fast action in setting up Ubuntu Beds, which now has over 400 accommodation providers signed-up and around 300 registered healthcare workers. This initiative is supporting frontline workers throughout Cape Town and Johannesburg. We’re sure you’ll agree that Kim and her team are hostel heroes.
Kim told us, “I believe the Coronavirus is a time that tests our humanity, and I have never been prouder to work in hospitality. I feel that hostels and accommodations have always offered a safe space for travellers, and now is our time to shine!”
Instead of closing their doors completely, these hostels kept their staff on the payroll and set themselves up as a workforce to support front-line workers.
The staff from Auberge Clarksdale Hostel in Mississippi have got crafty in a crisis and turned their hand to mask-making. They’re supplying local hospitals and care homes with these handmade masks, and to vulnerable members in their community too. While the team at Auberge NOLA Hostel in New Orleans, Louisiana have also become a well-oiled mask-making production line, supporting a local organisation that gives free residential care to those with substance misuse disorders. When these guys aren’t making masks, they’re volunteering in various community-based projects helping locals access aid and supporting a local food bank.
Hostel heroes supporting communities
Mango Tree Hostel – Brazil
Usually filled with carefree backpackers, enjoying a caipirinha or two in this idyllic Rio location, the team at Mango Tree Hostel have been fast to turn their attention to their local community.
With over 13 million Brazilians living in poverty in Rio’s favelas, the risk of the virus spreading rapidly through densely populated homes that have limited water supplies makes these locals extremely high-risk.
This hostel’s humble goal is to support 150 families with food and hygiene kits before Brazil reaches its COVID-19 peak at the end of May. They’re working with ACE Projects, a long-term partner to fundraise and distribute. You can support these families by donating here.
Sweet BCN – Barcelona
This hostel is doing what it does best and giving those who need it a safe and comfortable place to stay in Barcelona’s Eixample neighbourhood. Partnering with NGO Homeless Entrepreneur they’ve helped get 17 locals off the streets and safely into their hostel. These hostel guests have their food, hygiene and medical needs covered. Also, the hostel team are providing life-changing training to help develop personal and professional skills.
These hostel heroes are taking it in their stride, saying: “This crisis has given us the opportunity to keep doing what we do, with a different focus, more open and committed.”
The Bristol Wing – UK
This boutique hostel was once the city’s police headquarters and the building dates back to the 13th Century. Part of the YMCA group, they are no strangers to doing good things for people and the planet. During the current crisis, the guys at The Bristol Wing hostel have handed over their whole building to support rough sleepers in the UK city. Homeless charity St Mungo’s are working with Bristol Council to make sure no one is on the streets during the pandemic.
“As we left, it still felt like The Bristol Wing, just with a different set of humans in the bedrooms and behind the desk. Calm, welcoming and friendly. We will be back when our world finds its new normal again – and we will be spruced up, arms open wide – ready to welcome you to our city.”
Haiti Communitere – Port-au-Prince, Haiti
In normal times travellers kick back in hammocks as Haiti Communitere sits within a garden filled with mango, coconut and plantain trees. However, this hostel is also a community resource centre and even before the virus hit, they were supporting local NGOs. Born immediately after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti which killed 316,000 people, they’ve since supported over 800 small organisations. Janet at Haiti Communitere explains, “Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is one of the most politically and economically fragile countries in the world and is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. It is a wonderful country but very unstable. There are constant shocks and crises in this country.”
Haiti Communitere runs a home for vulnerable women and a project called Non Signifi Non (No Means No) which teaches rape prevention. Another organisation they support is Kids Connection Haiti, who help young people coming out of orphanages, by giving them office space and a place to hold large workshops and training sessions. During the Coronavirus pandemic, the team here have taken up mask-making among other activities to continue their valuable community support work.
When this is all over you know where to book if you want your backpacking budget to make a difference to others.
BaobaBed Hostel – Myanmar
Much like the rest of the world, Myanmar is struggling to manage the impact of COVID-19, but it’s also one of the least developed countries. BaobaBed Hostel was set up by a group of young Burmese backpackers and once the crisis hit their country, they shifted gears to give their support to the poorest members of their community. Collaborating with Yangon City Government they’re donating food packages to the most vulnerable people.
Kai Maung explains the situation they’re facing. “Yangon is the former capital of Myanmar and around 7 million people are living here. The government asked us to stay home for 20 days, even cancelling the New Year Celebrations. We knew some of the poor population who live around the city would have a tough time staying home because they rely on everyday income.
We decided to help the government and we gathered rice, oil, onions and canned tuna and portioned it up for around 2000 family members. Then we loaded the truck and delivered it to all the families who needed this the most to help them stay at home. We were grateful for our staff who helped in any task needed.”
Frendz Resort & Hostel in Boracay and Frendz Resort & Hostel El Nido – The Philippines
The Philippines is a country so many of us know and love, much like Linus, a traveller who has stayed in Frendz Resort & Hostel many times and found himself quarantining there during the COVID-19 outbreak. Working with the hostels, Linus has been helping to coordinate activities that focus on fast and immediate help for people fighting for daily food and critical medications. The local team also identifies people in need not covered by the government programmes.
The hostel staff are fundraising and ensure that 100% of all donations reach people in need in the local communities of El Nido, Palawan and Boracay, Aklan.
Linus tells us, “Frendz Resort & Hostel is very blessed to have guests around the world reaching out to ask how the situation in The Philippines is developing and if they can help somehow. Since we were already regularly giving out food and care packages to all our affected staff families, the idea was born. We realised we could potentially support even more local families. So now we have the lovely Frendz Resort & Hostel Team, the stranded tourists on the ground, and all the “frendz” around the world working together.”
Hostel heroes supporting travellers
Hi Tehran Hostels – Iran
Golnar and Habibeh from Hi Tehran Hostels in Iran were the first hostel to reach out to us and let us know that they were opening their doors to stranded travellers as their country’s borders closed. The team closed both of their hostels in Tehran on the 1st of March and re-opened them as “Free self-run hostels” for backpackers who found themselves stuck during the ongoing pandemic.
So far, they’ve hosted over 70 travellers who couldn’t afford accommodation and were waiting to go home. The project is still ongoing, with 15 guests currently still staying with them. They’ve even had BBC Radio asking them to join a podcast interview in recognition of their work.
They’re also running a fundraising campaign with previous guests, to support local families under extreme financial pressure. To raise money, they sold two pieces of art that they had in the hostel, raising €8374. With this cash, they were then able to provide 160 families with basic food and sanitary packages. Also, with the help of “SOSA Poverty” NGO and remaining money, they provided the materials and a workplace to sew 800+ cotton masks to be distributed in less privileged areas of Tehran.
It was Golnar and Habibeh’s quick thinking that inspired us to set up ‘Beds for Backpackers’, an initiative to support stranded travellers around the world. We were humbled, but not surprised when so many hostels signed up to the project and you can check out the generous bunch here.
All hostels are heroes
Like we said at the beginning of this post, these hostel heroes are not the only hostels giving so much during this time of crisis, but they do reflect what a community-spirited group they are. If you’d like to support their initiatives please do reach out to them, and if you’d like to make sure that hostels are here for a long time to come you can also Adopt a Hostel. By doing so you’ll be helping a hostel keep its doors open and you’ll have a hostel stay banked for when you’re ready to travel again. We hope this post has given you a little faith in humanity and reminded you why we all love hostels.