Give something back

Photo of , , Luang Prabang

What we say: 4 stars

Under-developed and with a tumultuous history, it's hard to travel through Laos without feeling affected. Luang Prabang has many opportunities to contribute toward the community.

Stay Another Day
Stay Another Day publishes an excellent (and free) handbook of eco-friendly activities, shops selling fair-trade souvenirs and volunteer opportunities. It's worth seeking out a copy. Note that most volunteer opportunities require some advance notice.

Big Brother Mouse
Main office beside 3 Nagas Restaurant, T: (071) 254 937
Meet some young Lao writers and illustrators at Big Brother Mouse and help them proofread their next storybook. In a country where books are a luxury, this Lao non-profit publishes children's stories in both Lao and English to encourage reading. Stop by their office to see some of their work, or sponsor a book party. Books cost $1-3 and make great souvenirs or gifts to give children if you're heading into the countryside. Daily English teaching opportunities exist as well.

Government Orphanage School
You can't volunteer here, but if you exchange your used books at Tamnak Lao Restaurant the 20,000 kip fee goes directly to supporting this charity. You can also donate goods including food, clothing, and school supplies. Visit their website for details of their latest projects and donation needs.

Lao Red Cross
Visounalat Road, opposite Wat Visoun, T: (071) 252 856, Open daily 08:00-12:00, 13:00-20:00
If you've been looking for a way to help, this one saves lives, costs nothing, and takes a matter of minutes. Blood is in short supply in Laos, and you can help a lot of people by donating at their town clinic. You can also support the Red Cross by getting a massage or herbal sauna (really this is not just self-indulgence!). All profits support the clinic.

Contact Tiger Trail Tours, Sisavangvong Road, T: (071) 252 655, (071) 212 311
With a little help from the Tiger Trail agency, you can spend a week trekking, living and lending a hand in a minority village in the mountains north of Luang Prabang. Volunteers stay in a nature lodge or homestay and spend their time teaching English, planting rice, gathering food in the forest, and helping out with typical village chores. It's not cheap (approximately $420 for six days, depending on group size) but the price includes everything and is not an experience you'll soon forget.

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