Giving back in Southeast Asia
Each month a Travelfish.org writer selects a charity or non-government organisation that they believe does excellent work on their patch in Southeast Asia. They write about them and we donate $100, a small way for us to give something back to the region. If you're looking to give back too, please consider giving a little cash as well.
Wander the streets and beaches of Phuket and other tourist destinations around Thailand and you’ll often soon be met by someone trying to sell you a photograph with an exotic animal. The thrill of an encounter with a gibbon, slow loris, iguana or python might add some excitement to someone’s tropical holiday, but what many don’t realise is that these happy snapshots mask a brutal, damaging and illegal trade.
Music has the power to launch you far and wide, create a sense of community, replace hopelessness with creativity and soothe the deepest roots of your soul. In Bangkok's poorest area, underprivileged kids are exposed to all of this and more thanks to Khlong Toey Music Program (KTMP).
Blue Dragon's Street Outreach team recently took in three homeless boys, one of whom was living in a precarious position under a bridge in an attempt to stay safe. The other two had previously been sexually assaulted. Fortunately the harrowing stories are usually balanced by positive and uplifting news: Blue Dragon kids have done well at school, a child who was living on the street has been re-united with his family. The list goes on.
Phuket, like most areas of Thailand, is home to many stray animals in need of care. But visitors returning to Phuket will notice that there are far fewer sad, sickly dogs and cats on the loose than there were a decade ago, thanks in no small part to the tireless work of Soi Dog Foundation in providing medical care, sterilisations and adoptions for the island's strays.
If you've been to a teashop in Burma (Myanmar), you've probably been served by young kids who work every day of the week for well over 12 hours a day. Many will never attend school, missing out on an opportunity to improve their outlook in life. The myME Project tries to change this by taking the classroom to them.
When five-month old Kobe arrived at the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, he was traumatised. His mother had been shot and killed by hunters. Kobe had been caught, noosed, bound tightly by all four legs, tied to a length of bamboo and carried through the jungle. He endured being carried around this way for three days as Forest Rangers pursued the hunters. Eventually he was abandoned and found by the Rangers, then saved by Free the Bears.
The work of Angkor Hospital For Children (AHC) is immense. Since 1999, the paediatric teaching hospital -- Cambodia’s first -- has provided more than one million medical treatments, education to thousands of Cambodian health workers and prevention training to thousands of families. A non-profit, the hospital relies entirely on donations.
More than just a Kampot cafe, Epic Arts have been using creativity to expand horizons for disabled and non-disabled participants for ten years, with the simple but powerful message that Every Person Counts. Services for people with disabilities are very poor in Cambodia, particularly for those with learning disabilities. The Epic Arts Cafe was set up in 2003 as a model for inclusive business and the purpose-built Arts Centre opened six years later.
One child drowns every 45 seconds in Asia. For Vietnam, the estimated daily death rate sits anywhere between 10 and 32 children a day, making drowning one of the leading causes of death for children under the age of 10; for the under fives, almost 90 percent of drownings take place within 100 metres of their homes.
Back in 1994, Peter Robinson, a British Buddhist monk living at a temple in the Northern Thai province of Nakhon Sawan, began looking into how he could help a promising student find enough money to attend university. His actions then planted the seeds of an education trust that has since grown into a multi-million baht scholarship fund supporting thousands of students across Thailand.
Well away from the sunset cocktail bars and five-star resorts of Phuket there are untold stories of families in struggle. When families are burdened by poverty, illness, addiction or abuse, it’s often the children who suffer the most. Life sometimes gets tough enough that the family home is no longer safe or secure for a child; in some cases, there is no home for them to go to. This is where the Phuket Sunshine Village (PSV) Foundation steps in to help.
Between 1964 and 1973 the US army dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos, earning the country the dubious distinction of being the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. The Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise -- COPE -- is a non-profit based in Vientiane that runs rehabilitation centres aiming to provide access to orthotic and prosthetic devices and a range of other services for the victims of the remains of these weapons.
Other than running Chiang Mai's excellent Freebird Cafe -- a Shan/Burmese vegetarian restaurant -- Thai Freedom House runs a community education, arts and language centre for both refugees from Burma (Myanmar) as well as underprivileged ethnic minorities in Northern Thailand itself.
Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam (HSCV) was founded in 2002 to help orphans, homeless children and other children living in poverty in Hanoi and surrounding areas through the provision of food, shelter, clothing, health and education.
It was a frigid winter day in the US state of Vermont when I first met with a recently resettled refugee family back in 2008. The resettlement program had told me they were Burmese, so I was confused when only one 17-year old family member could understand what was written in an English-Burmese phrasebook. I soon learned how they were part of the ethnic Karen minority, displaced by the world's longest-running civil war.
The Samui Prison Project (SPP) was set up by local legal firm, PKN Legal & Business Consultancy, to work with groups raising money to help prisoners in the Women’s Unit at the Ko Samui District Prison. The aim is to assist the prison in its own efforts to provide rehabilitation for female offenders through education, training and community support.
Visitors to Singapore always speak of its impeccably clean streets and ultra-modern architecture, but few know the secret behind the city-state's flawless appearance: transient foreign workers. As the wealthiest country in the region, Singapore is able to 'import' people from neighbouring countries to do its dirty work for wages of a couple of dollars per hour.
It is hard to believe that the village of Anlung Pi is just 25 kilometres from the five-star hotels of Siem Reap and the iconic lotus bud towers of Angkor Wat. Tourists don't come here, and they shouldn't. The village itself is unremarkable, but if you were to walk through the fields, just a few hundred yards from the neat, traditional wooden village houses, you would find yourself in the middle of a vast, stinking, rubbish dump. Sadly this rubbish dump is also home to an entire community.
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (19)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Khlong Toey Music Program
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma ()
- Cambodia (9)
- Indonesia (4)
- Laos ()
- Malaysia (1)
- Singapore ()
- Thailand (66)
- All stories
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Are Thailand’s cheap guesthouses disappearing?
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Great Thai food blogs
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Ko Chang's east coast
- Ko Lanta's best budget guesthouses
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Loy Krathong in Thailand
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Songkran festival in Thailand
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Full Moon Party
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The changing face of Ko Lipe
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- The road to Sangkhom
- Trekking in Thailand
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What are the alternatives to Bangkok?
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (7)
- Accommodation guides (4)
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (17)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Great river trips in Southeast Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- Where is the best place in Southeast Asia for ...
- How do I? (8)
- Cycling Asia (12)
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (5)
- Photo essay ()
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.