I am 22 years old from Perth, Australia and I first stumbled upon GIVE through a friend’s Facebook page. I signed up immediately and volunteered on GIVE’s Tanzania trip with the add-on to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in the summer of 2014. Spending just under a month in Africa, I became inspired by the local kids we tutored and witnessed firsthand the impact of a past GIVE project - a fresh water tank - for the beach town of Cairo, Zanzibar. Within weeks of being home, I had already planned to embark on GIVE’s Thailand trip the following summer with two volunteers from my Tanzania trip.
It was here my Southeast Asian adventure began and flourished. I accepted an internship position with GIVE as the Assistant Educational Coordinator for the Laos groups. For three months, I worked to introduce volunteers to the history and culture of Laos whilst teaching English lessons and building a dormitory for the school in the small village of Muang Ngoi. I immediately fell in love with the Lao people and the exquisite scenery, which was unlike anywhere I had travelled before.
Sop Chem is much smaller and more remote than Muang Ngoi. The time we spent with volunteers in local homestays were some of the most eye opening experiences of everyone’s time in Laos. Our local guide, Touy, approached Mickey and I with a suggestion from the Sop Chem village chief to build new water tank as a future project, we jumped onboard right away to find out how we could make it happen. Currently there are over 300 villagers living without access to fresh, clean, drinking water and no hope for government assistance in the foreseeable future. These issues are only compounded by a series of hydroelectric dams built by international corporations. One of which is just a few kilometers upstream of Soph Chem and was finished earlier this year. In just a few short months since its’ completion, the dam has already altered the flow patterns and ecosystems of the Nam Ou River, which runs adjacent to the village and is the primary means of survival for locals. The water has now been polluted so heavily that locals are unable to use the water for household use and human consumption. Beyond that, their closest fresh water aquifer is located on a piece of land that was recently bought by the same international corporation, with plans to bomb sections of the land and utilise the limestone for building another dam. The solution lies in building a 21,000 L tank (using repurposed plastic bottles filled with sand as bricks, of course) and connecting it to the nearest aquifer by piping through 6km of dense jungle.
Creating access to safe and clean drinking water through this project will drastically improve the lives of Sop Chem villagers. Safe drinking water will decrease the prevalence of preventable diseases, leading to a longer and healthier life for the locals.
To put it simply, the challenge of running along The Great Wall of China and training to work towards that goal excites me. Since experiencing solo travelling and being a GIVE volunteer, I am now hooked on seeking out new adventures and ways to push myself to my absolute limits. GIVE showed me a new way of getting the most out of any experience abroad: being able to see all a country has to offer by traveling mindfully, off the beaten track and creating opportunities to give back to local communities who often, wholeheartedly, gave so much to me.
When asked this question I have to quote the famous Mountaineer George Mallory when he was asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, to which he replied,
‘Because it’s there. Everest is the highest mountain in the world and no man has reached it’s summit. It’s existence is a challenge. The answer is instinctive, a part, I suppose of a man’s desire to conquer the universe’.
Donation Page: www.gofundme.com/runforlaos
**Note that donations are in Australian Dollars, so a $10 donation is actually only $7 USD.
Facebook Page: Run For Laos
I hope my story inspires you to take on your own personal challenges, relish in the opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and support projects that excite you and drive your own personal passion, whatever it may be. Whether it’s through participating in a GIVE trip, supporting Run for Laos with a donation, or starting your own project to implement abroad or at home, I want you to seek to create your own adventure and live for the moments you can’t put into words.