Below is a list of organizations we recommend considering supporting who have proven success with projects and services in the region. In-country, while visiting, we can also arrange for you to stop into a school to donate school supplies (above) or, better, teach an impromptu English lesson (a wonderful experience for kids if you are traveling with family). There are also volunteering opportunities, such as with regional elephant sanctuaries, or if you are a medical professional, ask us about volunteering with such organizations as the Alliances for Smiles or University of San Francisco's Vietnam Nurse Project.
San Francisco-based Room to Read provides for the building of libraries throughout Asia —and has been phenomenally successful, building over 13,000 so far, while distributing over 10 million books. From Room to read: "We are a global organization dedicated to promoting and enabling education through programs focused on literacy and gender equality in education. Our Reading Room program provides libraries to children so they can read and to explore. Our Local Language Publishing program allows children to read books in their mother tongue. Our School Room program gives children a safe place to learn. Our Girls' Education program enables girls to enroll in and stay in school. We currently work in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia – with plans to expand so we can bring educational opportunities and resources to children throughout the developing world. Web: www.roomtoread.com
If you are traveling with your children to Luang Prabang, we will be arranging a visit to this delightful place, an international project that has worked in Luang Prabang since 1993 providing safety, shelter, and schooling for local children. The village is a wonderful model for similar projects, with children places into "families" who share housing, vocational training and learning together. Learn more and support at: www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/sponsor-a-child/asia
The problem of cleft lip and palate is significant, particularly in developing regions of the world. It’s estimated that one in seven-hundred babies is born with a cleft condition, which often means they will unduly suffer physical, mental and emotional challenges. Alliance's mission is to forever improve and transform the lives of children and communities impacted by cleft lip and palate by providing free comprehensive treatment, while training and equipping local teams to sustainably provide quality, long-term care.
This French non-profit charity works to help children in Southeast Asia gain access to education and health. Enfants du Mekong works to promote children's and their families' quality of life and opportunities for a better future for the whole region. Founded in 1958 as the Association pour la protection de l'enfance du Laos (APPEL) by French doctor René Péchard the original aim was to help orphans in Laos through sponsorships and volunteer French dentist services. In 1977, APPEL became Enfants du Mekong and is now active in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar, and Yunnan region in South China. Annually, 22,000 children receive school scholarships. In addition, the organization supports about 60,000 children on a daily basis.
EdM's work also addresses infrastructure needs to improve the welfare of communities, building and renovating schools, kindergartens, and access drinking water. Projects are monitored on-site every year by EdM with local teams to oversee their progress and ensure the correct use of funds. Learn more and donate at: enfantsdumekong.com.
The first international project to provide post-graduate education for nurses in Vietnam. The project's mission is to improve the health and well-being of the people of Vietnam by improving education, training, and practice standards of the nurses who care for them. The VNP organizes trips for American volunteer nurses to travel to Vietnam and provide education and training within the country.
The Project Vietnam Foundation's long-term programs have assisted the development of crucial services: newborn health, emergency care, cardiac treatment, training for disaster management, and promoted important guidelines for children health care. Their Newborn Care Initiative is especially successful, in creating model projects and training programs to decrease infant mortality. Read more, help, and donate at www.projectvietnam.org
A humanitarian organization established to improve the quality of life for poor, disadvantaged, and disabled people in Vietnam. Principal forms of assistance are micro grants for small business start-ups, vocational training, and education. www.vietnamproject.org
located in a small village just on the other side of Thu Bon River from Hoi An. This project's activities are on vocational training and women may learn to create goods, such weaving rattan mats and baskets, or producing marketable food items, such as dried noodles. We can arrange a visit with the cooperative's officers to learn more about and support the project.
Charity for Misfortunate Pregnant Women. A charity project providing shelter, food and career support for pregnant girls who have no support or resources. Women can stay at this project until they give birth to their child and after that, they can continue to stay here if they want for some time.
Mai Tam is a home and center for HIV/AIDS positive widows, mothers, and children that provides shelter, medicine, medical care, education, and referrals for its residents and the many walk-ins it receives in need of support. Read more and donate at: www.maitamhouseofhope.com
Enjoy an authentic glimpse in a local village during a visit to a silk farm, where traditional fine silk products are made from harvesting the silk worms to final loom work. Silk production provides the primary income for over a hundred residents at the village and provides employment opportunities to many former orphans from the village and to other disadvantaged rural people living in the surrounding areas of the farm, with strong focus on women's empowerment. The female founder, Pheach, states that "in our affluent and unequal world, women are at the forefront of the struggle against poverty and oppression and in Cambodia, as elsewhere, women are both the ultimate goal of development and its means." Through their skills, link to their training and their desire to create, they promote the action of emancipation that contributes to change. Find out more about the Golden Silk Farm.
Founded by M.I.T. professor and author Alan Lightman (Einstein's Dreams), the Harpswell Foundation has two dormitories in Phnom Penh that provide room, board and leadership training to up to 80 young women while they attend university. Our in-house curriculum includes critical thinking, analytical writing, debate, civic engagement, current events; and computer, English and French lessons. As of Spring 2020, 168 young women have graduated from Harpswell, and are making their mark in Cambodia or in their studies abroad. Learn more and support at: www.harpswellfoundation.org/
AFESIP is a non-governmental, non-partisan, and non-religious organization established at the grass-root level in Cambodia in 1996. AFESIP operates several shelters devoted to “humanly correct development” to aid the fight against the trafficking of women and children for sex slavery. Web: www.afesip.org
The RCW provides skilled work employment for Cambodians with physical disabilities producing quality handicrafts and marketing products along with products from rural artisans. Web: rehabcraftcambodia.org
The Cambodian Women Crisis Center. The center's goal is to provide women who have been victims of gender-based abuse and their children with crisis intervention services and to reduce violence against women. CWCC provides services at both a drop-in-center and confidential shelter. Web: www.cwcc.org.kh
A non-profit, non-government organization with a strong feminist mission, dedicated to promoting self-sufficiency and self-reliance in Cambodian communities and the advancement of women's economic and social rights. Web: www.pub22.net/cwda/
An important and popular non-profit with many of our past travelers. A lack of clean drinking water is one of the most critical issues facing Cambodians living in rural villages. Many source their drinking, cooking and bathing water from pools of standing water, streams or canals—water that is often contaminated with bacteria and pollutants and can lead to ongoing illness or, in extreme cases, death. Constant sickness impacts lives by preventing adults from working and children from going to school. For those already in poverty it increases their problems. Support the building of a well in whole, or in part. We can arrange to visit the well you have sponsered during your travels in Cambodia.
A French non-profit organization that does effective work with boys & girls in providing schooling and vocational training at their center in Stung Meanchey, where visitors can also enjoy lunch and visit the PSE center. Learn more at: www.pse.ngo
Nearly 60 countries and states suffer from the blight of hidden landmines. In Cambodia, APOPO's landmines detection "HeroRATs" ignore scrap metal and only detect explosive scent, making them much faster at finding landmines than traditional metal detectors.
That's not their only talent. Detecting tuberculosis remains one of the biggest challenges facing medical professionals, but APOPO’s TB detection rats can check 100 samples for tuberculosis in 20 minutes. The same task would take a lab technician up to four days. Suspect samples are then re-checked using LED fluorescence microscopy.
Adopt a HeroRAT at www.apopo.org/en
Women's Resource Center. Founded in 2008, the WRC's mission is to empower women by providing information and programs related to health education, mental health counseling, legal aid, literacy education and work skills training. Programs include reproductive health, literacy education, maternal and infant health care and resource referral program. Web: www.wrccambodia.org/
The mission of HRND is to provide support to the women and orphaned children, who make up so much of rural Cambodian society. Activities include nutrition education, sanitation and clean water projects. Web: hrnd-siem-reap-cambodia.blogspot.com/
A unique orphanage supported by a French organization Enfants d'Asie, where orphans from far-remote areas are trained the Khmer music and dance to preserve the traditional art. Read more at: www.enfantsdasie.com
Educating people about the danger and devastating effects of land mines. The long-time project also provides for education and support for at-risk youth and landmine-affected children. Web: www.cambodialandminemuseum.org
This support organization's goals are to promote gender equity in sexual health and develop knowledge and human resource capacity on gender, sexuality and sexual health in Lao PDR. The program various activities include selecting students within the Lao PDR to participate in the M.A. Program in Women’s Studies at Chiang Mai University, Thailand, with a particular focus on gender, sexuality and sexual health; Supporting Lao students in national and regional seminars on sexual health issues; Field visits of students (both Lao and Thai), coordinators and professors in the M.A. Program in Women’s Studies to organizations in Thailand and Lao PDR working on sexual and reproductive health issues; On-site seminars on relevant topics such as gender mainstreaming in the provision of sexual services; safe sex negotiations and sexual power dynamics; and trafficking in women. Web: wsc.soc.cmu.ac.th
Literacy is a major issue in Laos, lagging far behind Vietnam and Thailand, especially in remote hill tribe areas where many children have never held a book. In Laos we recommend Big Brother Mouse which publishes and distributes books to children. Consider becoming a sponsor during your trip, and even distributing books your self as you travel through the country. More on Big Brother Mouse at www.bigbrothermouse.com.
A large successful organization with offices throughout Bhutan and Washington D.C. The Bhutan Foundation works to serve the people of Bhutan in living and sharing the principle of Gross National Happiness. The Foundation supports efforts to build Bhutanese capacity under the four pillars of Gross National Happiness through training and access to global expertise, new technologies, and resources. Teh BF helps build exceptional international partnerships to achieve sustainable, lasting results in Bhutan. Partners include NASA, Adidas, WWF, MIT, Harvard, and Yale. Find out more about the Bhutan Foundation at https://www.bhutanfound.org
The BNF seeks to empower and educate Bhutanese women and young girls who are in the nunneries. Their goal is to improve the living conditions, health and well-being of nuns, provide quality education and services, and foster self-reliance. This in turn helps preserve Bhutan’s strong, sustainable culture and promotes nuns, other women and girls as agents of social change in a rapidly changing modern society. Since 2014, the BNF has been developing and constructing its new Training and Resource Centre (TRC) at Tsalumaphay, near the country’s capital of Thimphu. The TRC provides a space for the nuns, plus other women and girls, to come together, share and learn from each other. Each may develop themselves, by acquiring various skills necessary to meet the challenges of modern day society. Read more about the Bhutan Nuns Foundation at https://bhutannuns.org/
Almost all volunteering with elephant camps and care centers are volunteerism projects in which travelers pay to attend. We can provide details on over a dozen camps in Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar, which vary dramatically on location, infrastructure, amenities, and length of service. Contact is for specific details and see our comprehensive guide on elephant camps and conservation centers in Asia.
Adopt an Orangutan! The Orangutan Project (TOP) is a not-for-profit organization, supporting orangutan conservation, rain forest protection and reintroduction of orphans in order to save the species from extinction: www.orangutan.org.au
There are many wonderful NGOs and charities focused on human assistance and development the region, including one of our favorites, Room to Read. Sadly, native wildlife has been decimated in recent decades with little attention. A handful of projects have appeared, including Orangutan and Asian elephant programs in Borneo, Sumatra, Laos, and Thailand. In the spirit of bringing attention to this plight, we've adopted Chocolate as our mascot and provide support to the Orangutan Project that provides funding and expertise for his well being at the Batu Mbelin Quarantine Centre located in Borneo. Camp Leaky is another such projects focusing on Orangs.
"Born in June, 2010, Chocolate was confiscated from villagers in Southwest Aceh. He was very thin, with dry skin and dull, wiry hair. By chance, his confiscation coincided with the presence of a film crew from NBC in the USA, and Paul Hilton, a well known photographer based in Hong Kong, so the whole process was well documented. Both were in the area covering a spate of recent fires in the nearby Tripa peat swamp forests, from where Chocolate without doubt originates. He was named Chocolate, as someone stopped at a roadside store to buy some chocolate, and was then informed during discussions with locals about an orangutan for sale, hence the name… Chocolate has now been introduced to another young infant male orangutan, named 'Pandu', from Kutacane in South East Aceh. At first Chocolate seemed not so interested in 'Pandu', and 'Pandu' seemed a little afraid of his new room-mate. But after a month they were much happier and were often seen playing together." Read more about Chocolate and the Orangutan Project.