BET Vietnam Projects: Vinh Long

One of two major projects run by our dedicated Buffalo Educational Travel in Vietnam, Vinh Long lies deep in the Mekong River Delta.

Vinh Long city is a province 3 hours from Vietnam’s Southern Capital, Ho Chi Minh City and home to around 190,000 people. This dynamic town is in the bustling trading center of agriculture and aquaculture. Rich soil and abundant waterways allow tropical fruits, shrimps and fisheries to thrive alongside the high rice production. However, Vinh Long is still struggling to provide sufficient welfare and support for the disadvantaged, with the majority of people living on less than $5 a day.

In 2014 Buffalo Educational Travel founded the Vinh Long Community Development Association alongside Vinh Long Red Cross, Vinh Long Welfare Association, Vinh Long District Authority, Vinh Long Education Authority and Cuu Long Tourist Corporation. Our joint aim, alongside the community, is to promote the welfare and education of disadvantaged families in Vinh Long.

In our community meeting for needs analysis in 2014, the poor housing and sanitation conditions of twenty-two families were identified as the most pressing issues facing the community. Since then we have completed 6 of these homes with the help of visiting school groups. These homes have allowed 6 deserving families to focus on their futures – their children’s education and their work – rather than be stuck in a cycle of poverty worsened by harsh living conditions.

Our community health care project has also been incredibly successful in the Mekong with our strong connection to the Vinh Long General Hospital. In particular, a Midwifery placement program has seen local women, and men, learn crucial information about healthy pregnancy, delivery and childcare. Through our connection with Vinh Long Red Cross we also offer around 70 local students healthcare insurance.

Vinh Long’s rivers and waterways are a mesmerising place to explore and all who visit leave with fond memories of floating markets, endless rice paddies and delicious local cuisine.

BET Vietnam Projects: Mai Chau

One of two major projects run by Buffalo Educational Travel in Vietnam, we have been working in the beautiful Mai Chau valley for over a decade.

na chao village stay

In the past two years we have been working particularly closely with the Bao La Commune on a number of construction projects to improve their agricultural and farming systems. Bao La Commune is a small commune of Mai Chau District, in Hoa Binh Province, around 160 km from Hanoi. This commune has 8 villages and approximately 2,400 people. We work mainly with 2 villages: the 62 families in Na Chao village and the 42 families in Long Sang village, all of whom are ethnic Thai people.

The main work in these villages is farming and raising livestock. Some families have small shops or create handicrafts at home for extra income. Many people survive on as little as $300 per year, while sustaining themselves from their farms.

In 2016 the Long Sang community determined, after lots of discussion, that a major priority should be better traffic connections in the village. Buffalo Educational Travel helped facilitate the building of a new bridge and road that would make it much easier for the people of Long Sang and surrounding villages to access the fields, transfer the farming products and develop the local economy.

Our close connection to the Bao La Commune has allowed us to think outside the box on a number of sustainability initiatives. One of these is the cow bank project. With the help of our own generous donors, we are able to provide the lowest income families with female calves that they are then able to sell for a considerable profit if they raise them well.

We have also strived to foster social development through cultural exchange activities and educational initiatives for kids. This is achieved through our connection with visiting schools as well as a permanent library set up to encourage reading and self-education in the local youth.

Homestay experiences are common throughout the Mai Chau Valley and visitors are always charmed by the intricacies of the local culture; the textiles and traditional performances. We are proud to offer guests a chance to experience a village stay in Na Chao village and experience a more remote and quiet location.

BET Thailand Projects: The Om Goi Community

Buffalo Educational Travel in Thailand takes you to the mist shrouded mountains of Om Goi District in the northern province of Chiang Mai.

thailand development project om goi

Om Goi, one of the most impoverished districts in Thailand, is located 180km south of Chiang Mai. It takes around 4 hours’ drive through rural countryside and mountain roads to reach the communities who live there. The population of around 62,000 is spread into 6 sub-districts and 95 villages. 95% of the local population belongs to ethnic Karen and the remaining 5% are from other ethnic tribes including Hmong, Lahu & Thai. The majority of villages are difficult to access.

The people of Om Goi have survived for centuries through migration, slash and burn agricultural techniques and subsistence from the thick forests of the remote highlands. Tighter conservation of Thailand’s rapidly depleted forests, however, has placed the minority cultures at a crossroads between their traditions and development. Educational travel groups have a role to assist villagers in creating alternative livelihoods and support for environmental conservation and cultural preservation.

BET is creating cooperative, community based tourism initiatives tasked with fighting poverty through development and supplemental income-generation. Initiated in 2013 in partnership with the villages and Om Goi District Authority we are using responsible tourism to allow local residents to earn supplemental income through providing services and products to visiting groups. They are eager to have guests discover their local traditions & cultures in unique and exciting ways – in short ‘to see the world through the eyes of another’.

An ongoing and frustrating aspect of village development is the promotion of clean water, sanitation and toilets. Om Goi Hospital has been working on this, yet progress in remote villages is slow. Most of the villagers know the benefits but do not change traditional habits, such as allowing pigs to roam free and defecate throughout the village area. Likewise, the lack of toilets means the majority of the growing population continues open-defecation. The Om Goi Hospital Director states it is extremely frustrating to cure children of intestinal problems, only to have them return home to unhygienic conditions. Changing habits is a slow and difficult process, particularly in remote villages, yet there is a strong need for better livestock handling, toilets and clean water supply.

BET has been working alongside the local communities and hospital on accessibility to healthcare through the international nursing placement programs. The major construction projects have focused on improving sanitation and access to clean water in the higher mountain homes and villages.

Om Goi is both culturally rich and stunningly beautiful, with cultural performance and trekking being a major part of any program.