Not really a blog entry. But in case it's useful to anyone who's travelling (or anyone who's bored at work), I've made a list of some of the most amazing organisations we encountered on our trip, including links to their websites and some news articles. I really recommend all of these places.
- INDIA -
Friends of Orchha (orchha.org) Truly amazing homestay project that brings in extra income for farming families in an insanely beautiful village in central India.
Green Hotel (greenhotelindia.com) Stunning solar-powered hotel in a Raj-era mansion in Mysore, southern India, that donates all its profits to good, wholesome local causes. Its lovely cafe employs girls perceived as being from a caste branded "untouchable". Here's an interesting article: (www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/apr/06/dalit-girls-waitress-caste-taboo)
Salaam Baalak Trust (salaambaalaktrust.com) Former street kids lead eye-opening tours through the streets of Delhi, talking about their lives and about this organisation, which provides shelter and education.
Ladli (ladli.org) One of Ladli's many, many projects trains destitute women and girls in Jaipur, India, to make very lovely handicrafts and jewellery so they can earn a living, which is better than the awful alternatives.
Kabir Foundation (kabirfoundation.org) Runs a whole glut of services, from healthcare to education, in a poor village near Khajuraho, central India. (Must admit we didn't get to go to the village, but I met the staff and they're all thoroughly good eggs.)
Learn for Life school (blog.learn-for-life.net) School for poor kids in Varanasi, north(ish) India, that seems to be succeeding in the face of awful, awful corruption. (There's an unscrupulous, and successful, imitator of this project, but this website is the correct one.) It's partly funded by the delicious Brown Bread Bakery, also in Varanasi.
- BURMA -
Rural Development Society (sites.google.com/site/rdsswitzerland/home) An organisation run by a powerhouse of a local politician, Tommy Aung, that does development projects like building libraries and water infrastructure in ethnic-minority villages surrounding Kalaw, central Burma. It's run jointly with tribal leaders from these communities and the society can arrange tours of the beautiful landscape around Kalaw, including to see its projects.
Phaung Daw Oo monastery (phaungdawoo.org) Runs a huge school in Mandalay that provides free education and some vocational training to poor kids, regardless of their religion - thereby taking care of the population in a way the government absolutely does not. Here's an interesting article: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/132aa124-3e6c-11e2-829d-00144feabdc0.html#slide0
The Moustache Brothers Two of this comic family trio were sentenced to hard labour after being accused of mocking the government. Now they perform for tourists at their family home in Mandalay, campaigning for a free Burma. Here's an interesting article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20528893
- LAOS -
Makphet (friends-international.org/shop/makphet.asp) Very good restaurant in Laos' capital, Vientiane, that trains street kids and other young people as chefs and waiters. Its menu is unusual and massive, and there's also a lovely shop inside.
Cope (copelaos.org) Provides prosthetic limbs for landmine victims and others. The organisation's information centre in the capital city, Vientiane, has a powerful display on the lasting effects of the Vietnam War in Laos, including a room that screens a wide range of documentaries about the war and about Cope.
MAG (maginternational.org/where-we-work/where-mag-works/lao-pdr-/) The amazing Mines Advisory Group has established teams of local experts who go and detonate bombs around Laos. MAG's centre in Phonsavan, northern Laos, has a small, informative display about the organisation's work and screens some harrowing, but worthwhile, documentaries (one of which is also on their website).
Big Brother Mouse (bigbrothermouse.com) Delivers story books in the Lao language to communities around Laos, including to remote villages, to improve literacy. Also invites tourists to come along and help young adults practice their English at its shop in Luang Prabang, north Laos.
- VIETNAM -
KOTO restaurant (koto.com.au/about-koto/koto-enterprise/koto-hanoi-restaurant) Nice restaurant in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, that trains disadvantaged young people in the ways of the restaurant industry.
Reaching Out (reachingoutvietnam.com) Shop in Hoi An, halfway down Vietnam's coast, selling entirely beautiful household stuff like coffee pots and embroidered tablecloths made, for a fair wage, by people with various disabilities who would otherwise find it difficult to get work.
Just round the corner, Reaching Out also recently opened a very beautiful, old-fashioned tea room, which uses crockery produced at the shop. The waitresses bring you a matching teapot, cup and saucer, little spoon, tray, a little bowl put to put your teabag in, and some free biscuits... It's unfeasibly adorable.
- CAMBODIA -
Shop in the lobby of Soria Moria hotel (thesoriamoria.com); Rajana (rajanacrafts.org); Seven Candles (which is also a hotel: sevencandlesguesthouse.com); shop in the Butterflies Garden restaurant (butterfliesofangkor.com/the-butterflies-boutique/) All are lovely fair-trade shops in the town of Siem Reap (home to the famous Angkor temples) that bring income to more remote communities.
Cambodia Knits (cambodiaknits.com) Adorable, squeezable knitted monsters, bunnies, and more made in poor communities. The label on each animal tells you how many stitches it took to make and the name of the person who made it. Whee! On sale at Rajana and Soria Moria hotel (details above) and probably other places too.