Elephant and Community Tourism Model To Be Replicated

Hiking over hills and deep into the forest, we came across 3 adults and 1 baby elephant. I was able to spend a day with Global Vision International staff and volunteers getting to know the elephant herd they have sponsored and supported back into the elephants’ native habitat. This also includes the mahouts’ (elephant caretakers) return to their local villages.

The elephants we got to know were Mana, Tong Dee, Boon Jon, and Song Kran along with their mahouts (the other member of the herd, Bpee Mai, was off to receive mahout command training which is a part of local tradition and culture). One of the mahouts had been caring for his elephant for 50 years. Getting to know the staff, I learned that one was an elephant specialist, helping collect the data on the elephant behaviors. Another staff and volunteer were in veterinary school, and the rest of the volunteers were passionate about animals and conservation. Staff are not only gathering data about elephant behavior from volunteers, they also are studying the various types of plants the elephants eat, what traditional plant medicines the elephants take in the forest, and how they relate to each other. This team hopes to provide new data and research on these Asian elephants never gathered before.

While there, the local community was so supportive providing homestays and a traditional “Dee Joo” welcoming ceremony. The community and mahouts drive the projects activities. Because of this project, not only were the health and well-being of the elephants supported, they were able to stop working in stressful and harmful tourism and street begging activities, return back to their forests, and the mahouts were able to return to their homes and still make an income for the family. GVI is creating an eco-tourism model to be replicated that shows villages and elephants do not have to be involved in harmful, invasive tourism, but can be integrative, collaborative, and mutually beneficial.

GVI is hoping to expand the number of elephants reintegrated back to the local habitat.

Check out this video of my experience… and when I feed a baby elephant:

GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention in Thailand – The SOLD Project

This is the home of one of The SOLD Project scholarship recipients. This recipient lost both of her parents, and currently her sister is raising both this girl and her young brother. They are at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

On May 10, I met with an organization that is addressing human trafficking and sexual exploitation from where it starts instead of at the end of the line. The SOLD Project is using education as a means of trafficking prevention from the outskirts of Chiang Rai, Thailand.

I met with Shannon, Director of Interns and Volunteers, to visit The SOLD Project facility and resource center for youth. GlobalGiving funds provided a computer lab and provided new desks to this facility. When I arrived, a local university student was teaching students the importance of social media safety. A lesson I think we all could benefit from. Shannon shared that there are about 120 youth in its program in total, but about 20-30 attend daily. Youth spend their time after school, on weekends, and on breaks learning about computers, art, guitar, photography, and any other projects that volunteers and mentors wish to teach.

Class in session - Social Media Safety Training

Class in session – Social Media Safety Training

During computer time, I was able to sit down with a few of The SOLD Project’s scholarship recipients and get to know them better.

Cat, one of the first scholarship recipients, shared a bit about her background: Her favorite subjects include English and math. When not in school, Cat watches TV and listens to music. After high school she hopes to do something with communication and language. She loves to learn because of the variety of knowledge she gains, and she wants to learn more. After, she said “thank you very much for tables, chairs, and computers.” Because they have access to computers and Internet, they can all learn so much more. In addition to the computers, the new shiny desks were wonderful to see compared to the old ones that were falling apart.

Nan is another young student I spoke with who has applied to and just passed the entrance exam for a good school that teaches English and Chinese. In her free time she likes to listen to music and read books. Her favorite subject is language, and she hopes to pursue studying tourism when she gets to university.

I was told by one of the SOLD students that if SOLD wasn’t there, she would not have anything to do, be bored, and not be with friends. The SOLD Project provides an outlet for these youth – a chance to continue education past what they can afford, continue learning, and a safe place to be when not in school.

At the end of the day, I sat with staff and spoke about their backgrounds and what brought them to SOLD.  Many shared how their religious backgrounds drove them to work with an organization like SOLD, but all shared their passion and commitment to working for this organization.

Getting to know the students

Getting to know the students – looking at family pictures and sharing memories
Speaking with staff
The SOLD Project students playing at their school

If interested in learning more please go here: http://thesoldproject.com/about/ … and to support The SOLD Project go here: http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/6013/the-sold-project/.


GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Supporting schools and artisans in Laos

On April 26, I met with SouLy from SEDA in Vientiane, Lao to visit one of the schools in Ban Phao (or Phao village) that received GlobalGiving funding for renovation and to visit participants of the Micro-Credit weaving project.

at the SEDA supported school

at the SEDA supported school

This village’s income generation is mainly from rice production, cassava, vegetables, and potatoes. The town consists of mostly farmers supplying these items to cities. In this town, there is an elementary and middle school but no high school – the children have to go to the next town for high school. Before renovation, these classes were held in flimsy buildings that were practically huts with dirt floors.

Walking around, I could hear laughter see kids playing and teachers congregating. A horn was blown, and the students were being called back to class. These classrooms were no longer held in huts, but in solid structures allowing the children to study and learn in a sturdy and safe environment.

I sat with two of the students who spoke to me about SEDA and the volunteers SEDA brought through to teach – they said they learned a lot of things like English, numbers, months, fruit, and conversation in English. One girl even said her favorite subject was English because it helped her to understand others that speak it. The teachers were happy to sit and speak with us also sharing their needs with us – the school currently needs science equipment to turn theory into practice, books, a library and computers.

speaking with students

Speaking with 2 students

classrooms receiving renovation

Classrooms receiving renovation

Renovated Classrooms

Renovated Classrooms

After visiting the school, we went on to visit participants of the Weaving Artisans – Micro Credit Project. SEDA was working with a specific village where the women are wives of handicapped military veterans – therefore usually the main income generator of the household.

We visited 3 women who benefited from and were part of this project. All three were highly grateful and dependent on the support of SouLy and SEDA for marketing and selling their work. Tuh, the 1st woman to participate in this textile project in thie village shared some of her beautiful work. She spoke about her current situation while we all sat on the front porch next to her large weaving machine. Tuh was an orphan who went to work at the handicapped veterans camp where she met her first husband. Now Tuh was a widow – twice she was married and both times they passed away leaving her alone to support herself and her children. I asked her what she was able to do with the money earned – and she said finally buy a computer for her kids.  She had been a weaver before, which is a tradition passed down, but now with the market testing of quality, color etc. SEDA helped bring her products to the market.

After, we met with another woman who was part of this project. We sat with her and her husband while she weaved. Her husband had lost both of his arms – but one wouldn’t notice from the great big smile he had when he greeted SouLy and myself upon arrival and sat laughing and talking with us. Both husband and wife were warm and welcoming eager to speak with me despite the language barrier.

visiting the first SEDA weaving participant

visiting the first SEDA weaving participant

a weaving artisan with her husband

a weaving artisan with her husband

Creating beautiful and intricate traditional Lao skirts

with a SEDA weaving participant

with a SEDA weaving participant
The final product
Finally, we went to explore the local market so I can learn a little bit more of the culture through food, smells, and sounds.
Choosing from a variety of rice – who knew there were hundreds of types 
At the market in Vientiane Laos
Yummy dried frog dishes in the market…
… or perhaps you prefer beetles, grasshoppers, and grub worms?
I would like to thank SEDA and SouLy for her support and hospitality in accompanying me to visit this project, experience how GlobalGiving funds were used, and learn more about the Lao culture.
*SEDA is now a for-profit entity called Guo Angkham Technical Expertise Ltd. (GATE)

My first time in a refugee camp – Ethnic minority refugees on the Thai-(Burma)Myanmar Border

The refugee camp

A Karen group refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border
 My first time in a refugee camp, was on the visit to DARE Network, a partner of GlobalGiving. DARE provides therapy, support, and prevention for drug and alcohol users within refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. Many Burmese and ethnic minorities such as the Karen and Shan flee Burma/Myanmar due to military and internal violence.  I was shocked at the political and situational state of these people …

On the way to the Karen Refugee Camp – We were so close to the border I could see Burma/Myanmar 

Imagine being stuck in 1 place for your entire life – one community with the only way in or out controlled by authorities of another land. Imagine having no access to income generating activities outside of this compound. Imagine not having a country or state to claim and call home – from yours, you fled for your life and from violence. This is the situation of the refugees I met near Mae Sariang, Thailand.

We arrived and stopped for lunch at the vocational training restaurant within the camp – provided by an International Organization

I met with staff of the DARE Network in Mae Sariang and after a wonderful tour of the office by Lawlaysay, Kiri and Det Sot took me to one of the refugee camps they work in – a Karen group camp to be specific. The Karen group is an ethnic group found throughout Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and other areas. This trek to the camp was a rough 2 hours through windy mountain roads .. with the Burma border just within reach – a dangerous tarek during the rainy season, Det Sot told me.

Along with the direct therapy and prevention work that DARE does, its staff also coordinates with other active NGO’s in the camps to ensure they were all meeting the needs of these communities that have little to no access outside of the camps unless emigrated to the “Third Countries” as they call them – the U.S., Canada, or Australia. I asked why is supporting the youth important, and the staff said because the youth are stuck in the camp and can get trapped using drugs and alcohol. DARE protects the youth and provides alternative activities like their “ultimate Frisbee tournaments”, holding educational groups before activities like ultimate Frisbee can begin. I asked what other types of activities the villagers and youth have access to, and the staff said none.

Meeting with staff at the DARE center

Meeting with staff at the DARE center

studying the DARE methodology

studying the DARE methodology and treatment for current drug users

Immediately upon entering the camp, you could see remnants of the flood’s impact on the community (this area was devastated by flooding last year), but also the strength of the inhabitants. Their homes were washed away and bridges were destroyed. After, the refugees returned from higher ground, rebuilt homes, fixed bridges and carried on.  The center had just finished its round of therapy and was on break until the next round of therapy began – along with the youth program since they were on holiday.

with DARE Network Camp Staff

After, I met with the head of “Social Welfare” in the camp that explained there were about 18,000 refugees in the one camp alone. His role was to deal with fighting within the camp along with social conflict. He said although alcohol was not allowed, people still found ways to get it into the camp. He also explained he is volunteering at DARE. Why was it important to him? He said because at first there was pushback from users in the community, but now the users after receiving therapy receive jobs and are hired providing outlets to alcohol and drug use, not to mention income for their families. He went on to explain that now there were only 11 workers serving this large camp. He hoped there would be more DARE workers to make the camp “more strong”.  There is a saying there that “when using the bottle, you go straight to heaven” – demonstrating the importance of DARE’s presence within the camp along with its educational, awareness, and prevention work along with treatement.

rest of the community supported by DARE

Other section of the camp  supported by DARE accessible only by this bridge that was washed away in the flooding (finally rebuilt)
Bridge destroyed by floods and rebuilt by community – it is rickety and terrifying to walk across but is the connector between the camp’s 2 sections

In addition to its facilities,  Lawlaysay explained to me the goal is to translate its process in a “training” manual that is the accumulation of over 12 years of work. DARE hopes to help people not only in the camps but also inside Burma and even in Karen/Burmese communities in the countries where the refugees have resettled, particularly the USA.

The rest of the refugee camp – kids playing in the river and above a picture of the electricity source of the camp… hydropower

Below are pictures from my guest house in Mai Sariang (a border town between Thailand and Burma). The area is beautiful. 

A giant gold Buddha statue among the mist in the mountains just after a storm… view from my hotel…
 After the visit, I returned to Chiang Mai… but I wanted to share some images of a typical bus stop in these towns… notice the “spirit house” in the second picture which is prevalent in a majority of establishments and the chickens roaming free below it.  Buddhism is the major religion here, but it is more of a mixture of Hinduism, Animism and Buddhism.
 Many more stories to come…

Where nature meets technology and e-creativity – an environmental-education program to be replicated

Imagine entering your science class and the teacher says – “today we will learn how to create a video game, then you will create your own, enter it in competition, and then finish up playing the games.” I am sure your experience with textbook-based environmental awareness – the importance of nature, animals, plants, and RECYCLING – would be forever changed. Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam (or YAWA) has partnered with corporate partners like AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) to change the way environmental education is being taught in Malaysian schools – through technology training and creativity capacity-building.

Me with YAWA staff and current student now a volunteer trainer for new youth groups.

Through a train-the-trainer approach, youth train younger youth creating mentor-mentee relationships. This particular youth said before he did not know a lot about the environment, but now he knows more about things like recycling, has fun doing it, and now hopes to be a landscape architect.

One of the staff explained why she went from supporter, to volunteer, to staff with YAWA: Her own son had disabilities and was very shy. After joining the program, he started wanting to go all of the time and finally the pivotal day was when he asked his mom “to go home”. He was confident there and no longer needed her with him. She said she committed 100% to making sure he could make it to every YAWA activity because she saw the change in him. It gave him courage, and his grades even improved. Now he is a volunteer training younger youth.

at MyCore Cyberjaya (the tech-park of Kuala Lumpur) where a class is creating video games with environmental advocacy missions (defeating deforesters, poachers, gathering rubbish); AMD gave 112 pc’s to the program to promote the E-Creativity Green Competition

MyCORE was created through a government push for an educated and technoologically savvy population. It was looking to develop the job and economic future of Malaysia.  There they provide trainings and workshops.

The first collaboration AMD had was a road show to 10 states in Malasia for 9-12 year old students to compete in educational games. AMD gave 80 pc’s at first to 8 schools.

I was told that game development project not only cultivates creativity but develops skills for future careers.

Next we visited  YAWA Environmental Education and Interpretive Centre – students practicing combining entrepreneurship training through green-solutions, products, and businesses. This center is for youth to gather, organize, and meet building entrepreneurship skills, selling products, and starting businesses with a green-focus.  The picture above is one of the top students in the e-creativity competition demonstrating his environmental game that involved jumps, avoiding bad guys, grabbing rubbish, and depositing it in trash bins.

This group demonstrated their advocacy campaign by selling t-shirts they made about the environment with cool catchy slogans and colors

These 2 young women took old newspapers and made new paper to sell- they showed me how and then made a lovely card saying “thank you for coming”. Now I know what to do with all of my old newspapers – I never have to buy paper again.

This group was using old water bottles to create hydroponic plants and spices – which they then sold to the community.

This group of youth were practicing baking and fundraising… and creativity… by selling home-made sweets self-decorated  (even the icing was homemade.. and delicious).

Salina from AMD and me

with cupcakes to take home and the home-made card

Other projects not pictured were taking left over water bottles, fruits and vegetables to create home-made cleaners, soaps, and shampoos to sell in the community. Another project was to raise birds to sell eggs.

YAWA is trying to encourage the moving away from a culture of dependency and teach self-empowerment while also creating awareness about environment through a hands-on science education approach.

YAWA’s long term goal is to create a forest development center with land to provide hands on training for youth.

Although YAWA is not a current project featured on GlobalGiving, I visited because of GG’s involvement in the partnership between AMD and YAWA.  I was blown away by YAWA’s organizational structure, commitment and drive of its creators, staff, and volunteers (the volunteering and give-back culture of Malaysia is commendable and inspiring). Additionally, the students I met were learning not only about the value of recycling turning waste to new products, developing creative mind-sets, and practicing career skills that will support them for a lifetime. I would love to see these programs implemented in schools back home…

GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Improving Rights and Opportunities for Citizens and Youth with Developmental Disabilities in Malaysia

Children’s laughter, coloring time, puzzles, math worksheets, and outside exercise… the activities, sights, and sounds of school.

April 20 I visited Wings Melaka, but this “school” was different  – Wings Melaka is a Center for Developmental Disabilities.  The youth at this center are special needs, and the teachers and staff are dedicated professionals and parents working to provide learning opportunities to bring out the youth’s full potential. In a country where rights and opportunities for those with disabilties barely exist (there is even a stigma against recognizing the issue), Wings Melaka’s staff and parents are joining together to petition for the govnermnet and community to recognize the basic rights of citiizens with disabilites and to provide education, training and opportunity for their futures. Wings is also creating best practices for special education and promoting special needs education and support in the major school system. Upon arrival in Melaka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I was greeted by Executive Director, Dr. Boon Hock Lim, at the bus station.

Immediately we departed for Wings Melaka’s location to visit staff and experience Wings first hand. I toured the facility, seeing all of the toys and resources available for parents and the youth. Their resource library was full of dvd’s, books, trainings, educational toys, and more for not only the teachers but also for parents to be able to rent and take home for after school is over.  I was able to observe and help out at Wings’ School Age Programme observing the class and spending time with the kids. The teachers were committed, patient, and creative making sure each student was busy completing his and her activities for the day. Some of the students’ favorite activities were coloring and some were puzzles. Many of the students in this class had autism and other development disabilities.

Wings Class in Action

Wings Class in Action
Class activities and resources -organized on a “tasks for the day” basis practicing focus, structure, and then reward for completion

Physical Education time – stretching and running races

Next, I visited the Young Adults Programme. Run by two of the orginal founding parents, this provides life and skills training for 18-25 year olds and teaches everything from cooking meals and cleaning, to employment and job training.   I met 3 of the current youth program attendees – all young men learning and practicing together the basic skills of life and even breaks for physical exercise.

This woman is one of the founding parents of Wings Melaka. Her and her husband now run the Young Adults Programme – and are so inspiring. Their son is one of the students in the program.  She explained that often there are little to no services for job placement, so after experiencing the lack of opportunity, Wings Melaka expanded its services. Speaking with this family was incredibly inspiring – despite their struggles they find solutions and are hopeful creating change both in the lives and on a public level for those with development disabilities.

At the end of the day, I sat in on the weekly Parent Support meeting (Coffee Session) where parents can share struggles, experiences, and questions to support each other raising children with special needs. Some of their children were autistic, some hyperactive, and some had very rare developmental diseases.  The parents opened up and began to share their experiences both with Wings and their children for example when they found out their child had a form of developmental disability like Autism and then the process of finding the right support and education. All of the parents shared the improvements they have seen with their children after being at Wings. There were tears, laughter, and encouragement.

A unique aspect of Wings’ program that inspired me was that at least 1 parent/guardian is required to attend sessiona and practice with their kids. This is because Boon Hock explained to me that the learning process only BEGINS at Wings, but in order to make progress it must be continued at home consistently. Wings Melaka is providing the tools and training for the youth and their families for a brighter future with options, possibilities, and hope when before it was a future full of questions and fear. Also, it was wonderful to see kids, staff, and parents from all backgrounds, languages and cultures – all seeking a better future for their children.

At the end of the day, Wings staff and parents provided this “Thank You” award and card to me and GlobalGiving on behalf of the support for Wings Melaka.

GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Thank you – #GIVE25 Announcement and InTheField Updates!

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to my birthday #GIVE25 Campaign, supporting impact organizations on the ground that I had visited through GlobalGiving!!!

Together we achieved:
Total Amount Raised: $2,487.00
Total Donations: 36

What does that mean?
Together we gave trafficked girls a new future in Cambodia, provided bikes for girls to get to school, provided support for families with AIDS, empowered Cambodian families towards self-sufficiency along with ending hunger and poverty, educated kids on the importance of the environment, and cleared land mines in Cambodia!

Instead of a 1 time gift for 1 person on 1 day… you have provided a hand-up to hundreds of individuals that will impact their entire lifetime. Thank you.


As for updates in the field…

  • I have met with 53 organizations …
  • Had 148 organizations attend workshops …
  • Visited 4 countries (Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia)
  • and met incredible people along the way!

Currently, I am in Chiang Mai, Thailand kicking off the second half of my trip. I can’t believe 3 months have flown by so fast! Stay tuned for more exciting details on updates from the rest of my trip in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Philippines!

Thank you to my friends, family, GG staff – and those in the social media world who I may not know in person but value your communication and presence!



How to empower women in Vietnam: Day with Hagar

Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Vietnam:

On the morning of April 11, I visited Hagar International’s office in Hanoi, Vietnam hosted by Kelly, Program Development Manager, and staff. The day started off with visiting Hagar’s main office and meeting staff. We sat down to discuss the staff’s backgrounds, current work, and challenges.  I learned about the impact of Hagar, the spearheading of Hagar’s case management and social work within the field for future social workers, and goals for Hagar.

Because social work is such a new field in Vietnam, Hagar staff is working with local universities to bridge the gap between class theory and work.  At Hagar, survivors receive intensive training for 4-6 weeks, personal development, art therapy, and life skills.  The next part of their time with Hagar involves job skills, career training, and goal setting. One of Hagar’s jobs skills partners is Joma Café. Joma works with Hagar by providing a rotating training program in hospitality helping develop these women’s financial and self-independence.

Life Skills with Hagar

Life Skills with Hagar (Photo approved and provided by Hagar, taken by one of their photographers)

I asked the staff to share the most rewarding part of working at Hagar. One said working with the women, and when the survivor shares that it is the first time someone listens to her.  Another said that Hagar is a place people can be and can  cultivate themselves – where one can be authentic. Working there makes them feel proud – where each person feels like they are making a difference.  Another staff member said being part of a learning organization. It’s not just about the numbers, but about each individual client. Hagar’s goal is to run its own shelters.

Next we went to visit Joma Café, where Hagar survivors are able to receive on-the-job training in hospitality, and met some of the empowered women. I met with 2 women – one who had been with Hagar for about 1 year and half and another who was with Hagar for about 10 months.  Let’s say their names are Sara and Mary (to protect their identities).

Vocational Training with Hagar

Vocational Training with Hagar (Photo approved and provided by Hagar, taken by one of their photographers)

I asked them both why Joma and hospitality?  Sara said she thought it was popular, easy to get a job and opportunity, and to meet people. Mary said she liked cooking. Before she cooked at the shelter and was good at it. I then asked if they would like to continue at Joma, and Mary said she hoped to work in her hometown to open a small business. Sara said she wanted to stay with Joma to increase experience and English. I then asked if they weren’t with Hagar and Joma where would they be?  Mary said it would have been difficult to find a job because she lacked skill sets.  Sara said before she wasn’t able to learn life skills, vocational training, and not able to be recruited. It would have been way more challenging. Without support like this from Hagar, they don’t know where their future would be. Finally, I asked if they had any questions for me, and both shrugged. Then Mary stopped, looked at me and said “I never thought I would have an opportunity like this. I want to thank GlobalGiving.”

Through protection, personal well-being, economic empowerment, and social capital women are able to not only survive trafficking but be empowered in their lives to move forward, create a positive and thriving life, and not be a victim.