How can Laotian mulberry trees help children?

Imagine me sipping a glass of homemade mulberry wine while sitting in the restaurant of Vangvieng Organic Farm (Laos) listening to Mr. Thi telling the history of this place.

Everything started in 1995, when Mr. Thi came back to his home town to make an old dream come true. After several years of working in NGOs and governmental departments, all related to natural resources, he finally set up his own farm.

But more than a farm, this place is more a community.

CelineGuillaume_LaotianFarm2At the beginning there were mulberry trees. The leaves were used to feed some silk worms which were used to weave silk fabrics. It takes lot of time and work to go through all the process, around 100 days. To be more cost efficient, Mr. Thi decided to make tea with the mulberry leaves. Since then, the community participates in various activities in the farm. Now, they grow organic vegetables and fruits, goats, pigs, and of course mulberry trees.

Their main goal is to help people in this area to acquire skills to earn a living. These activities also help the kids to have a fair education. Most of the children couldn’t go to school because it was too far from their home, and those who could go to school had just a bowl of rice for breakfast and shared a salad for 5 or 6 for lunch. At first, some of the money made by the farm was used to buy those children bicycles so that they can go to school. But after a couple of years, the bikes were damaged, and it was expensive to repair them. Then appeared AVAN (Asian Volunteer Action Network), from the Korean commission of UNESCO, who donated a school bus to the farm. Thanks to this bus, 30 students could be brought to school every morning. They now have a second bus, which allows 60 children to have access to education. As for the nutrition part, the milk from the goats is a source of calcium and is a good complement to the rice for their breakfast. Also, the profit made by the farm is used to buy them some good meals and the school uniform too.

CelineGuillaume_LaotianFarm3The restaurant, the guest house, the “Mojito Bar”, the silk and the tea were all first conceived in order to help the children. Moreover, a Belgium youngster, Ward, is creating a curriculum for free private evening English classes. Volunteers from the guesthouse can apply and give a bit of their time to teach the local youth. In a village of 1,200 people, around 50 children attend those classes.

Lately, AVAN is also creating a library, a youth center and an environmental group.

So if you plan to travel in Laos and want to do something useful, take some time to help this community that needs volunteers. Working in the garden, teaching English, milking or feeding the goats, there will always be something you can do.

For more information, visit the farm’s website

Photos by Guillaume Rosec

Celine et Guillaume (莊依琳 & 莊奇龍)

After 3 years and a half living in Taiwan, we have decided to go back to France. Our wanderlust has led to the idea of a one year backpack road trip around south-east Asia. From the very beginning, the idea of making this trip useful to other people seemed obvious. We will travel in a responsible way, and also commit in organizations involved in environmental and relief issues by doing volunteer work or supporting them by writing articles. The Waterbox, an educational material to make children aware of the issues of water, will be our main thread during this trip. We will carry it from school to school, trying to sensitize as many children as possible. We believe that education is a good way to kindle people about environment problems. By doing so, we hope we can contribute to spreading a little more respect for our amazing and fragile planet.


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