Cleaning The Jungles Of Laos | Aay's Village Project.
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
This blog is an ongoing space where I write travel content on a variety of important and trending topics in the industry. So just what is the #Voluntourism Industry?
It is usually known simply as volunteer work carried out by tourists - some good and some not so good! Unregulated #orphanage tourism presents alarming child protection issues, mismanaged funds and poorly organised projects.
The welfare of children in many volunteer opportunities is something every traveller needs to be considerate of. As individuals we should seek out projects where the community benefits in a sustainable way, through a social #enterprise or not-for-profit, which openly aims to create opportunities that benefit the local people.
Cherie Julie, Founder of Travel For Change.
"The laid back atmosphere and the relative lack of modern development make Laos perhaps the most authentic and unspoiled of the Southeast Asian nations" Aay's Village.
At Travel For Change, I believe in creating awareness through education and development and that is just one of the reasons why I really admire this project. When it comes to sustainable travel, writing about the key problems is only one side of this blog as I aim to find projects that are out there creating real solutions for local people!
I found Aay's Village through social media, on Instagram, by searching the hashtags #explorelaos #laos #volunteerlaos. One photo that appeared was one of children playing in a rural village and the account read 'come join us in the jungle of Laos' - Aay's Village - A charity organisation. I decided to reach out and inquire about this not-for-profit and their volunteer work.
I am very thankful to the organisation for replying with such enthusiasm so I can share some insight on what this unique organisation is doing.
Laos is a Southeast Asian country which is landlocked and boarded by Cambodia, Burma, China, Thailand and Vietnam. Aay's Village is in an area located around 3 hours' drive from the capital city of Vientiane Laos. It is surrounded by lush jungle, mountains, waterfalls and it is where this project started developing.
The concept initially began in a small house which together founders Aay, Mari, Eirik, Malin & Ashlid worked from at the beginning of 2016 to October 2016 when their not-for-profit organisation officially started. The group worked closely with representatives on the ground to ensure that their work valued the local cultural norms and customs.
By early 2017, the organisation was accepting its first volunteers to work with the local community on all kinds of ideas for the future. The village has numerous projects operating within the foundation which are aimed at making life better for the children, their families and the environment.
The concept of 'Cleaning The Jungle' relates strongly to the increasing concern of plastic waste. Yes, plastic! It's everywhere. Littered across this beautiful region of waterfalls, mountains and the Mekong river, one-time-use plastic waste is a huge problem for the environment.
In Laos, one solution has been, like its neighbouring countries, to burn the plastic. Burning plastic is a common sight which is both damaging to a persons health and the earth. So what options are available to alleviate the mounting plastic problem today? Education of course - but what activities can we do that work to get people interested and involved right now?
Introducing Ecobricks; a way to give discarded plastic bottles a new life!
These plastic bottles already exist, and like most, have been used for a very short period of time. Think about it. More often than not, we use a plastic water bottle, soft drink bottle, or plastic bag for a fleeting moment and then we throw it away - only there is no such thing as away. Everything must go somewhere!
Food packaging, hygiene products, medical items, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, kids toys, bottles, lids, takeaway coffee cups the ongoing use of plastic in our daily lives is endless. When we throw these items 'away' most of the time they find their way into the fragile Eco-system. In Laos, Aay's Village has started to use this discarded plastic from around the village to compact it into plastic water bottles to form what is called an #Ecobrick. Filling a water bottle with non-biological waste will create a reusable building block that can then be used to construct buildings such as a classroom.
Ecobricks have been a huge success in many parts of Southeast Asia where the plastic pollution is on the rise and waterways and streets are littered with plastic each and every day. Ecobricks do not require anything complicated or expensive for the manufacturing process. It is simply a matter of compacting the plastic you have collected, sorting it to be reused and filling the collected plastic bottles!
Ecobricks are more important than ever! In the last 50 years, the problem of plastic in Laos has continued to rise due to the inexpensive and durable nature of plastic and the role it plays in society. As more foreign tourists enter into #Laos, the plastic waste problem continues to be a concern.
In a location where very little education is available on ethical or sustainable living there needs to be reliable projects and further support to help teach the local people what their options are. This responsibility also falls on the tourists and encouraging a 'leave nothing but footprints behind' ethos is vital to ensuring the future of the jungle.
Aay's Village is aware that volunteering in one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia can, unfortunately, do more harm than good. That is why this organisation ensures their commitment to the welfare of the community and believes that volunteers must adapt to what is best for the village and not the other way around. This philosophy embraces the idea that volunteers should be humble, open-minded and respectful towards the people, their culture and their way of life.
Check out the #volunteer opportunities below!
Ethical Volunteering at Aay's Village is a special experience where you can gain further insight into the daily life of everyone who lives in the community. These projects aim to come away from the Voluntourism trend and by planning each volunteers meaningful contribution. As a willing volunteer, you can contact the administration team to discuss what you feel you could best contribute to the team.
As a teacher, you will contribute to the wider community by providing an education to both children and the local villagers. This will help them with their long-term goals of ensuring a better life for everyone. You will need to be motivated to teach English and create resources that will support the goals of the school and provide an encouraging space for the students to learn.
If you would like to put your skills to good use, the village has a need for administrative volunteers to help with daily tasks. This project will suit someone with experience or knowledge in the areas of Marketing, Design or Business. You can work in one of two roles [Project Administrator] or [Community Administrator] which have varying tasks.
Did you know that more than 80% of all workers in Laos are employed in the area of Agriculture? Or that what used to be a country with over 70% forest coverage now has only 40% remaining? Sustainability and Eco-Friendly frameworks are so critical to this region! If you would like to help out with environmental campaigns, gardening, planting or have new ideas on how to plant the seeds of change for the future of the village please consider this project.
Aay's Village has a simple approach to life and when you visit you will be able to embrace the local culture in a comfortable environment. You must be over 18 years of age to volunteer on the projects. You will be assigned a mentor who will support you in areas such as 'volunteer mindset', 'cross-cultural awareness', 'social norms', 'safety' and 'pre-departure information'. During your stay, you may like to visit the pristine waterfalls, explore the caves, wander through the market or enjoy cooking the Lao cuisine.
There will be no shortage of gratitude, happiness or kind hospitality extended to you during your visit to Aay's Village.
Are you ready for this adventure? #adventurelaos
Apply to volunteer and contact Aay's Village for further details via the following links
Please support the incredible work this organisation is doing in Laos.
All volunteer and full-time workers are unpaid positions and all funds go directly back into the project and the local community.
To enquire about employment with this organisation you can find a contact form on their website.