For years now, LayosCamp has sought out a social project that would combine our knowledge of youth development with our desire to contribute to making the world a better place. In the year 2013, after a trip to Vietnam, the idea started to develop. For the past three years we have established a big friendship with the Hmong com- munity in the village of Hau Thao, in the SAPA valley. Through extended stays with different families we have worked to understand this community and have built a relationship based on trust. It is this mutual respect that has made the project possible.
Beginning in 2017 we are at last able to share this very special program. Two weeks living together with different Hmong families, in the village of Hau Thao, combined with a cultural trip through Vietnam. The region of Sapa is located 186 miles from the capital, Hanoi, in the province of Lao-Cai, in the north of Vietnam. The ethnic group referred to as the Black Hmong emigrated to the south of China in the 18th century and settled in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. The Hmong are the biggest minority group in the Sapa valley. Their way of life re- volves around the cultivation of rice on stepped terraces on the mountainside, the manufacturing of fabric using hemp, and using their knowledge of the region for toursim.
Guiding foreigners through the beautiful countryside they offer a unique opportunity for cultural immersion, inviting guests to stay with them in their villages and partici- pate in their way of life. This rural way of life is rooted in the past, their warm hospitality, colorful clothing and the beauty of the countryside have captured our hearts and imagination. We have been inspired to dream of a project that promotes and strengthens this minority group.
Our goal is simple. We believe that the best way to get to know other cultures is to coexist with them. We want to help the Hmong develop sustainable toursim while providing our groups with a rich cultural experience. We hope to help strengthen their knowledge of the tourism business and to aid them in protecting the enviorn- ment and resources they have. Volunteers need only come with an open heart and a willingness to particpate.
Globalization came to the city of Sapa 20 years ago and the growth has been ex- treme. Unfortunately one of the biproducts of globalizaiton is an excess of garbage that comes from packaging and ‘modern life’. Finding a solution to this excess trash is an important subject and developing a sustainable recycling program is a long- term goal which we will incorporate in our work with the Hmong. The work of La- yosCamp will be to contribute to the promotion of Hmong culture, customs, and to promote respect for their ancient traditions.
Our summer program will focus providing opportunities for the villagers to practice their English language skills. We will also collaborate in the public school with the local teacher providing 2 to 3 hours of English instruction per day (except for certain days dedicated to excursions). A typical day will include workshops, activities, and volunteering to help with the daily tasks of life in the village. The settlements are full of children between 3 and 12 years old who will join us for group games and activities providing a meaningful and fun cultural exchange.
The standards of living in the settlements are very different from ours in the Western world. You need to come to this program with an open mind in order to take full advantage of this unique experience. Campers who sign up must be capable of living frugally. The houses are made with traditional architecture in which the main materials are wood and bamboo. Food is cooked on a fire, in the living room of the dwelling located on the ground floor. Sleeping quarters are on the top floor, on protected mattresses with mosquito nets. Showers do not always have hot water and the bathrooms are exterior, in bamboo huts. Common pets are dogs, ducks, roosters, pot-bellied pigs, and buffalo. The majority of homes have only one or two electric bulbs.
Though this lifestyle is extremely primitive by Western standards, it is rich in so many ways. We at Layos can ensure that the environment is both safe and hygienic. Couselors will keep a close eye on all participants to make sure that they are healthy and are adapting well. The center we have built will be the main meeting point for our participants and will have a permanent WI-FI connection.
Carchin de Gregorio Oriol will remain on site to direct and monitor the program throughout the trip.
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