Week Without Walls - Laos - Itinerary

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  • 1. Laos: Seuang River Experienceservice learning in ethnic communitiestrip highlights In the very heart of once colonial French Indochina the traditional lifestyles of the rural communities continue much as they have for centuries. Modern life style is making its mark and there is growing need to assist communities to develop the sanitation, health and education standards we take for granted. sightseeing choices Luang Prabang UNESCO WorldHeritage town & temples, treks, elephant rides, Mekong river boats & morelearning opportunities Sustainable Tourism for the Elimination of Poverty (STEP), Community Development, Global Issues & more outdoor activities multi-day trekking & overnights inrural villages, river rafting, caving & more why travel with Buffalo? Buffalo Tours has developed a specializedVolunteer & Educational Travel team of experienced teachers, community development practitioners, andtravel experts that allows you to 1) customize not only your volunteer & educationaltravel arrangements but also integrate these into yourschools core learning objectives! 2) participate in community development projects andactivities that have undergone a rigorous participatory needs analysis processIn this way your travel creates the most inspirational impact for all involved.

2. Why?Despite rapid progress in the past decade up to 80% of the Seuang River Valley population live in poverty ofwhich 30% in extreme poverty. The majority of the population does not have access to adequate health care,housing and sanitation.Poverty, combined with rapid population growth and unequal distribution of economic development aredramatically increasing demands on remaining forest cover and wildlife. Simply, when no alternative isavailable, environmental conservation and wildlife protection are less important to those living in poverty.The unequal distribution of economic development is also having dire consequences on local cultures as youthtoday now have access to television program from Thailand and India showing luxurious lifestyles. Theconsequence is a slow drain on pride and understanding of local culture.Seuang River Experience is changing this in partnership with our international stakeholders such as BuffaloFoundation, International Union for Conservation of Nature (EGP Netherlands), EON Foundation and St.Thomas University. Our goal is to fight poverty, preserve traditional cultures and conserve nature!School groups play a crucial role to assist villagers build the financial capacity to create alternative livelihoods tohunting and logging while creating awareness and support for environmental conservation and culturalpreservation. Your group is directly assisting the Seuang River communities become independent stewards of their tourism resources.What?We are seeking participating schools, university and community-service groups to fund and build specificeducational development projects at Sop Jak Regional High School. All projects undergo a strict needs analysisprocess and local staff work closely with school leaders to ensure projects are planned, implemented andevaluated successfully. Potential projects that have been identified through community needs analysis processinclude:1.Dormitory for students2.Library3.Renovate classrooms4.Computers5.Desk & chairsDuring the volunteer work we encourage taking an active role in village life. Lao people are warm andwelcoming - with just a smile and a willingness to help out you can form true bonds with your new friends in justdays. By expressing a genuine interest in their culture you will also be giving the most valuable gift you couldgive, helping them rebuild cultural pride lost in the face of modernization.In addition to the volunteer work there are opportunities for you to visit local schools, a community health clinicand learn about the traditional crafts. Your time participating in this programme will provide a clearunderstanding of social, educational and health related issues facing rural people in northern Lao. In this wayyou will touch and experience this country in a way very few foreigners are able.Seuang River Experience can be customized for each groups needs and desires. Please contact to discusshow you can become involved. 3. Where?On this trip you will travel to northern Lao cultural centre of Luang Prabang a UNESCO World Heritage Site -and into the surrounding hills with rice fields and lush vegetation. Luang Prabangs international airport has dailydirect flights.ItineraryDay 1 2 March 2012 - Luang Prabang, historic city walking tourWelcome to Laos (PG 941 09:15/11:15 BKK/LPQ). At the airport, after customs & immigrationformalities, you will be greeted and transfer directly to your guest house for check in. After lunch enjoy aguided walking tour around the historic city & UNESCO World Heritage sites. Dinner will be at apopular local restaurant and if time and energy permits a stroll through the evening market in search ofsouvenirs and collectables.Meals: lunch, dinnerAccom: Luang Prabang Guest House to be confirmedDay 2 3 March 2012 - Seuang River, Team Building & Survival Challenge, Song & DanceAfter breakfast transfer 2hrs. out to Seuang River Experience. After welcome from villagers settle intohomestays. You will stay in teams of 2, 3 or 4 in a local familys house, or community lodge. Everyonewill have electricity, clean Asian style squat toilet and private bathing area (no hot water). You will sharea room with your team mates and be provided with fresh sheets, blankets, pillows and mosquito nets.All will be well explained by your guides who will be on hand to assist with communications andquestions. 4. In the afternoon we will take part in a number of team building activities based around survivaltechniques of rural Lao villagers. This will be a fun and informative session that helps students betterappreciate the community they are staying.Later in the afternoon we return to our village to meet with the village elders and learn about traditionalLao song and dance. We will practice a song and dance that can be performed together with our villagehosts on our last night together.In the evening enjoy traditional songs and dance with the villagers.Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinnerAccom: Seuang River Village homestayDay 3 4 March 2012 - Seuang River Project Work & Bamboo RaftingAfter breakfast work together with our Lao hosts on the community project. Over the next four daysvolunteers can expect the tasks including light construction, digging, carrying supplies, mixing cementand brick work. In the evenings enjoy activities with villagers.In the late afternoon we float rafts - made only from natural materials! (bamboo, vines and simplepaddles) past waterfalls and towering mountains back the Community Lodge. (life jackets provided).Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinnerAccom: Seuang River Village homestayDay 4 5 March 2012 - Seuang River Teaching at village elementary school & Project WorkAfter breakfast, we will head south to visit with a village elementary school. This is a great chance toconduct activities with the students (teaching English, songs, games, etc). This is a fun time for all andespecially for the Lao students to meet those from another country / culture / language. The teachingactivities require preparation and planning and it is recommended to bring along some teachingmaterials to help.In the afternoon continue your construction work.Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinnerAccom: Seuang River Village homestayDay 5 6 March 2012 - Seuang River Project Work & CookingToday continue your construction work.In the late afternoon we get some hands-on experience with Lao cooking in one of the village homes.The kitchen is basic with earth floor and wood burning for fuel but clean and a very nice location tolearn some new cooking styles for a nice dinner with our hosts and a special music performance withtraditional instruments.Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinnerAccom: Seuang River Village homestayDay 6 7 March 2012 - Seuang River Basci Ceremony, Reflection, Mekong Cruise, Luang PrabangIn the morning we will have a chance to say good bye to our hosts with a traditional Basi Su Khouan*ceremony. Basi is Pali for "ties of thread," and su khouan is Lao for "defending the spirit or soul." A group will perform the ceremony to mark a recent or upcoming event such as a birth, marriage, departure for atrip, or arrival from a trip. The group gathers around a centerpiece made from banana leaves on a traywith offerings to the spirit or spirits. The master of ceremonies is a male village elder who chants to the participants spirits. The ceremony is a group event that bonds the community together and demonstrates the persistence of animist beliefs in Lao culture. 5. After, we take time for personal reflection on the experience of living, learning and laughing together with our village hosts before we drive to the sacred Pak Ou Buddha Caves. The caves overlook the confluence of the Mekong & Ou Rivers. It is home to thousands of Buddha images consecrated by local people since 16th century, Explore the caves before boarding Mekong River boat and a cruise down river to Luang Prabang. In the evening we will return to our hotel in town for nice hot shower, dinner at a popular local restaurant. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner Accom: Luang Prabang Guest House to be confirmedDay 7 8 March 2011 - Luang Prabang Alms Giving - Elephant park Project OnwardIf you wish, rise early (5:30 am or so) and go watch or participate in the traditional Lao rite ofAlmsgiving to the monks. In the city, some 300+ monks file through silently collecting alms. This is anamazing sight and your guide will be on hand to demonstrate and explain this important ritual.Return to your hotel for breakfast before we transfer out of town to the Elephant Park Project. TheElephant Park Project is located in the middle of a wonderful mountain