By Suman Munshi
It all began when on March 19th when I was birding in the pacific slopes from the western Andes close to Cali with a good friend and an amazing naturalist from Turkey named Emin Yoğurtcuoğlu. We were at the end of an incredibly successful tour through Colombian Choco bioregion close to Cali Colombia, where I live.
We were in the middle of nowhere in a very remote village called el Danubio, having lunch when we saw in the news people were starting to panic and were going to supermarkets to buy food, toilet paper, face masks, antibacterial gel, etc. It really looked bad.
We paid to the owner of the restaurant to have access to the Wi-Fi and I checked my email. All my tours for 2020 have been canceled. It really shook me, I finally realized coronavirus was a big deal and it was in Colombia. We ended the tour some hours earlier, not without making efforts till the end to get amazing birds, the last one we saw was the majestic Lyre tailed Nightjar at dusk. Emin could notice, despite my efforts, I was worried, I realized I was not going to be able to work the rest of 2020. Then it all came like a tsunami, the lockdown, all the countries including Colombia closing their borders, all the deaths in countries like China, Italy, Spain and more recently the USA, Uk and Brazil. Fortunately, here in Colombia the lockdown and the social distancing began on time and the health system hasn´t collapsed yet.
So far, we have around 560 casualties and around 15000 confirmed cases. Then during these two months every day, they talk about the economic crisis due to coronavirus. All the people in the tourism industry is struggling. Many hotels and restaurants broke and are closed. A lot of people lose their jobs and many companies are fighting for survival. So two months ago I knew this crisis was going to last more than my savings and began working in an alternative income. But first I decided to help other friend bird guides who didn’t have any savings. So, with the help of former kindhearted participants of our tours who knew them I started a small campaign that could help 5 families. We did not accomplish as much as we all wanted but it helped and gave them a starting point. After doing that I decided to begin working on my project. I spent at least two weeks trying to think what could I do in a fast way, using my skills, and the tools at hand, that could provide an income for me and my family and hope to keep helping a couple more of my less fortunate friends who live in more isolated places and don’t have too many options to work using the internet.
The result of this two weeks was the idea of www.giftsforbirders.com I decided to make good use of my knowledge of birding, birding industry and my drawing skills to create beautiful designs for an online gift shop with amazing and unique T-shirts, mugs, décor objects, etc., with designs I as birder would love. I tried to do designs with bird species birdwatchers all over the world love and appreciate. Of course Colombian bird species have a special place in my heart and in the designs I did. People can purchase from any country in the world and our products are printed in the USA and UK, trying to guarantee quality and fast shipping. Every day I give thanks for my family which is my biggest blessing,
They have supported every little thing I have done and their wellness is the motivation for everything I do. Today I hope people like our designs and that we all can overcome these difficult times with positive attitude, creativity, solidarity, and a strong will power.