Last week on 20th November we celebrated World Children’s Day – a UN initiative created to promote international togetherness. The day looks to raise awareness of issues affecting children worldwide with the aim of improving children’s welfare globally.
With various things going on at Discova that are positively affecting children, we thought why not extend the day to a whole week of awareness? Having already updated partners on the fantastic work being done for our Laos dormitory project and our new endeavour in teaming up with ChildSafe, we thought we would also provide insight into what’s been happening at our Om Goi project in Thailand.
Porjai Chaiwongyart, Operations Leader Chiang Mai, and ‘Nuk’ for short, recently visited the community and provided some updates on the situation on the ground, especially on how we have been able to spread a little joy at a local school thanks to the funds collected through our educational travel activities.
The History – Why Om Goi?
Discova is committed to improving the welfare of the communities we partner with in our host countries. This is part of our broader approach to fostering more responsible tourism initiatives that can be mutually beneficial for everyone involved.
Om Goi is a relatively poor area southwest of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Due to its remote location, Om Goi does not see much of the benefits of Thailand’s tourism industry. It is home to ethnic minority groups that live traditionally from farming and who do not have the same access to education and health services as the rest of Thailand.
Discova has been working with the Om Goi community for more than 8 years, following a unique approach to community-oriented tourism. As Nuk explains, “When we look for communities to work with, our focus is to build a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship. We want to talk to the villagers to understand what the community needs and expects from our educational travel programs and financial capabilities. There needs to be an understanding of reciprocity in the relationship.”
What Have We Achieved?
Based on the village requirements and numerous meetings with the village head, we have conducted many development projects at Om Goi over the years. With sanitation and water supply an issue for the villagers, we were involved in building several water storage systems. Since access to healthcare is a problem, we were instrumental in setting up a mobile health centre for health checks.
In return, many travellers have visited the area and enjoyed incredible learning experiences in the form of cooking classes, bamboo weaving, agricultural techniques, and more. It’s this example of a reciprocal relationship that our educational teams aim to bring to more and more communities across our destinations.
One way in which we have helped a local school is to build a new playground benefiting more than 120 kids. Nuk visited the school to check out the playground and speak to the school’s director, Mr Prasong Payongorapin. Watch the video below:
Learning Through Play
As with the villagers in Pak Xeng in Laos, the local community in Om Goi identified children’s education as a pivotal factor in improving the lives of the inhabitants going forward. Whereas accommodation was an area of concern in Laos, a problem to be solved here was the lack of an adequate playground for the school children.
As Mr Prasong clarifies, the playground now enables the kindergarten students to play in such a way that encourages emotional and social learning, using the obstacles and materials to help with their development. Before this new playground, the children had been playing and rummaging in the forest during break times. This was a cause for concern to the community because of the dangers and the difficulty of supervision. Now, they have a much safer place to play – and they are excited to come to school to use it!
This is Just the Start
Our work in Om Goi is funded through our educational travel programs that allow travellers to come and share unique experiences with our community, as well as participate in some of the local development projects. With a pause in travel across borders, there has been a pause in funding. However, we remain as committed as ever to improving the welfare of our communities.
On her recent visit, Nuk attended a public meeting to discuss how best to move forward when international tourism returns. Among the potential ideas raised for new projects were plans to stock an after school club with toys and books for the schoolchildren, as well as broader community improvements such as better lighting in the villages and upgrading filter tanks to ensure clean water.
We can’t wait to launch new projects and are excited about the possibilities to improve the lives of people in Om Goi. As soon as we are able, we will be working hard to bring travellers back to contribute to the development of Om Goi and its people.
If you want to learn more about our projects in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, don’t hesitate to contact our educational travel team at [email protected].