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A&K Senior Vice President APAC, Graham Wood talks about his ambitious philanthropy goals

Graham Wood might be in a new role at A&K, but his history with the brand goes back to when he was a teenager, and he has ambitious goals to transform lives through travel.

Graham Wood might be in a new role at A&K, but his history with the brand goes back to when he was a teenager, and he has ambitious goals to transform lives through travel.

Wood has worked with A&K most of his career, and says while they do a lot of good around the world, “It’s the projects on the fringes I’d like to focus on in my new role and see where we can help communities, and in particular women who are disadvantaged”.

“A lot of places where A&K works it’s male-dominated and women don’t have the same freedom, so that’s what I’m looking at. India and Asia, but even here, getting education to Indigenous groups and bringing them to education centres.”

Travelling through Morocco
Graham Wood and his wife, Lizzie in Morocco

Giving back to community

Wood says travellers are much more aware post-pandemic about how you can do good and travel in an eco-friendly way, but we need to go further than that.

“When you leave, leave it in a better place than when you started, and it’s not just taking photos of rescued animals, but try and get your hands dirty, make a direct donation where you know the money is going to be used correctly. There are simple ways travellers can make a tangible difference.”

And he walks the talk.

“When I was in Northern Tanzania, we realised there was no school for deaf children, so we built a classroom for 20 kids and when I was last there, it was 260 kids. That feels good.”

Graham and his brother Simon in Vietnam
Graham Wood and his brother Simon in Vietnam

A family affair

Wood’s passion for A&K is obvious, and it stems from a long history with the brand.

His parents spearheaded the opening of A&K’s Uganda office, and it was there he met A&K founder Geoffrey Kent.

“I was 15 years old, and I saw him and thought wow, that’s what I want to be. That combined with watching my parents who did things like carve a campsite in far-flung places in Uganda, I was like that’s proper adventure .. and I was impressed and in awe of them.”

He’s since worked for A&K across Africa, Asia and in Australia and New Zealand.

“I laugh about it when new people come in and they roll me out to tell the A&K story, I genuinely love it. My brother and his wife used to be camp managers in Tanzania too, so we’ve all had our stints in the family.”

And he says there are plenty of others who have been very loyal to the A&K brand.

“In Kenya, there are staff who have been there for more than 40 years and so the people it has trained and put into the industry and philanthropic projects in Africa is incredible.”

Graham Wood and his family at Maasai Mara
Graham Wood, wife Lizzie and their children in Maasai Mara

Looking to the future

Wood says things have come a long way in awareness of ensuring we give back when we travel, but we can still strive to do better.

“I’m a fan of raising funds for animals and conservation  and we work with a lot of wildlife projects around the world, but I want to do more in making education more accessible for women in remote Indigenous communities.”

And he says there are better, more authentic ways, we can tell Indigenous stories.

“We should face up to our history and push the industry to step out of the comfort zone … in Rwanda when go to reconciliation villages and have confronting experiences to hear true stories from both sides, it’s the most impactful experience people say they had.. and I think we need to do that here too.”

If change is driven by passion, Wood’s is palpable.

“There’s all this amazing stuff A&K does and it’s very close to my heart and so it’s about keeping that spirit and philanthropy alive.”

For more information, visit A&K.