Vang Vieng sits nestled between enchanting limestone spires that house massive labyrinths of intricately carved cave systems. Monkeys sing out from the neighbouring jungle, as the traditions of many hundreds of years continue on in peace and tranquillity. However, in the lasts twenty years, the town has gone from a relatively unknown river-front village in northern Laos, to a bustling tourism hotspot. And it’s easy to see why so many have gravitated to this delightfully breathtaking town. Hordes of people flock to the area each year to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and partake in the infamous tubing on the Nam Song River. But with so much growth in the area, in such a short amount of time, and with relatively no infrastructure, the local environment has suffered the consequences. At this very moment, more land is being clear-cut in order to expand or build new hotels to accommodate the ever-growing number of visitors. Luckily, the S.A.E. Lao Project has set out a new and exciting program for the surrounding area’s conservation – and they need your help!
Located in Nathong Village, just 7km outside of Vang Vieng, S.A.E. Lao Project is a place for volunteers to immerse themselves in the local culture while giving a helping hand to the community. I had the opportunity to meet, and have a chat with, the owner of this facility and was amazed with what I heard. Bob was born in Vang Vieng and over the years had witnessed first-hand the changes that have been taking place in the area. And although the tourism industry created jobs for the local people, there are also many environmental problems that have been created by that same industry. Bob has taken a stand and vowed to build a positive community centre with a focus on environmental sustainability. A hub for innovative and creative thinking, S.A.E. Lao Project has many objectives; from teaching sustainable building practices and waste management systems, to teaching children and young adults English, as well as creating jobs for Laotian people.
When travelling through Laos, you’ll notice many places that sell traditional handmade textiles. Most of these places pay extremely low wages to the people who actually make these wares. One of the first things that jumped out to me at S.A.E. Lao Project was that the textiles here were slightly more expensive than the ones I had seen previously at stores in town. Bob explained that part of his vision is to pay the craftsmen who make these items a fair wage for their efforts.
Weaving these intricate designs takes time and skill and the people who make them should be compensated fairly, not just the owners of the stores who sell them. There was even a weaving station on the grounds that a local woman was using and it was such a treat to watch the process of how these beautiful objects are made. With so many of the people in this area living below the poverty line, it feels good knowing that the money spent here on these textiles will actually go to the artist who made them.
If you have a chance to visit Laos, why not spend some of your time giving back to community? The area around the S.A.E. Lao Project grounds is the perfect backdrop to an unforgettable holiday. With the crystal clear turquoise waters of Blue Lagoon and the famous Poukham Cave system just minutes away, you’ll never be far from adventure! A very rewarding and uplifting experience, volunteering at S.A.E. Lao Project will enable you to enjoy a different side of Laos, a more genuine side. You’ll have a chance to interact with the local people and learn about the local culture instead of just observing as an outsider. Be a part of the solution, and check out the opportunities available at S.A.E. Lao Project today!
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