VolunTourism Trips Inside VolunTourism.org Resources Global Education Media Contact Us Home

 
 
 
Volume 2 Issue 1 - Supply Chain

The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in dis-covering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.

ARCHIVE QUICK LINKS

VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1 - Home

FEATURES:
FEATURE ARTICLE 1
FEATURE ARTICLE 2

COLUMNS:
So You May Know
UnXpected
Wisdom & Insight
VT-Lines
3-Q's
Supply Chain
Study & Research


ARCHIVES - Home

Supply Chain

Volunteers Without Borders [formerly Voluntourists Without Borders (VWB)]

Track of the Tiger in Thailand has created a special brand for their VolunTourism experiences in the region. "Voluntourists Without Borders" is their effort to engage travelers in meaningful experiences that provide long-term benefit to destination residents.

For this issue, I caught up with Shane K. Beary who shared the following information on Track of the Tiger and its "Voluntourists Without Borders" effort...

A Brief History & Background

Track of the Tiger - the 'voluntourists without borders' initiative operator - was established as a specialist soft adventure tour company and adventure tour resort operator in Ban Thaton, Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, in early 1986.

At a time when tour operators based themselves in the city and sent their guests to the outlying areas accompanied by guides, Track of the Tiger, opted to set up shop in the heart of its operational area, to become a part of the community it was based in, to be amongst the ethnic minority groups, and to be within easy reach of the remote areas visited during its daily operations.

The founder, Shane K Beary, was born in Ireland and raised in Africa. Whilst in Africa, he served with 'C' Squadron SAS where he was a combat tracker, later spending time at the tracking wing on Lake Kariba as a bushcraft and survival instructor. He was inducted as a founder member into the then newly formed 'Selous Scouts' where he worked as a clandestine operative.

Leaving the military in 1975, he spent 8 years as an oilfield diver in the north sea, most of that time as a deep saturation diver on cutting edge diving projects.

He came to Thailand in 1984, built a teakwood lodge on the Kok River, right on the Thai-Burma border, and established Track of the Tiger.

Together with his wife Sriphan and business partners Bryan & Rosie Massingham, both experienced educators, he then designed and built the Maekok River Village Resort & Outdoor Education Centre in Ban Thaton. The centre incorporates environmental studies, geography, organic farming, team building, leadership and community development into a range of educational programmes for International school students.

WEEKLY WEBCAST

Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT

Track of the Tiger is currently developing the Pang Soong Retreat & Outdoor Education Centre in the village of Ban Mae Lai, Mae On district, on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. The property, located at an altitude of 1'000 ma.s.l. is some 700 metres above yet, only 50 minutes drive northeast of Chiang Mai city. It is located at the head of the Pang Soong Nature Trail, an eco-tourism product in the community forest that is currently being developed by the villagers, with support from the 'voluntourists without borders' initiative as a pilot project showcasing northern Thailand's eco-tourism potential.

The team from Maekok River Village Resort & Outdoor Education Centre will run educational programmes for international students from the Pang Soong Retreat, and Track of the Tiger will run a range of eco-tourism related tours, and team building programmes for their respective markets.

Outside of its involvement in educational tourism, Track of the Tiger T.R.D., is involved in the northern Thai tourism industry in several areas: The company has expanded its well-regarded special events management and team building market, providing services to a growing client base at locations throughout S.E. Asia. It is developing 'Just Khao Soy', a restaurant product dedicated to serving Chiang Mai's signature dish, into a franchise operation.

The company is also involved in tourism publications, and will shortly publish 'Chiang Mai's Shopping Secrets', a comprehensive 'directory' and 'detailed' guide book designed to encourage tourists to extend their stay in the north by just one day, spending that time bargain hunting the handicraft and home decor markets of the north, many of which were until now, undocumented.

The Philosophy

To overcome the resistance to 'paying to volunteer' we do two things.

a. We do not accept donations - the volunteer brings his or her own funding direct to the front line avoiding the heavy drain incurred in admin costs and support staff salaries that is a perceived weak point in the operation of the global NGO's.

b. We focus on matchmaking student groups/schools/universities with MNC (multi national corporations) and their social corporate responsibility funds - in order to subsidize the cost for the student participant, and to provide a viable CSR programme for the MNC.

In Addition...

The Hill tribe tourism product has been operating for over 30 years in northern Thailand. The tours have been reduced to cheap 'walking and gawking' options that provide little or no benefits to the ethnic minorities, and in fact rob them of dignity whilst keeping them in abject poverty. Under pressure from the government and lowland farmers who blame them for destroying the forests, the rural Thai villager and ethnic minorities are being squeezed into small areas, that are not big enough to allow them to produce enough food for sustain them.

We are sitting on top of a potential human rights and environmental disaster of biblical proportions. Solving the problem now not only helps these people and the forests, it alleviates the need to pay huge sums of aid money at a later date, allowing those funds to be reallocated to other problems/disasters.

The VWB Initiative aims to help them become stakeholders in tourism, by using voluntourists’ labour and expertise to assist them in the development of their own eco-tourism industry.

Northern Thailand has tremendous eco-tourism potential, not only is the outdoor product here, but the 'rural people' are perhaps the region's best but undeveloped USP (unique selling point). If the VWB programme can be used to develop the product, we as a tour operator can build our own CSR image whilst increasing our Eco-tourist customer base.

Unique Volunteer Activities

Ban Pang Daeng Nai is a Paulong Hill tribe village established in the low hills of the Chiang Dao area, some 80km north of Chiang Mai city, and 10km east of the main road north.

Their continued presence in that location is under question due to the proximity of the community to a national park as well as concerns about the agricultural activities of Pang Daeng Nai and other nearby com-munities in the Ping River Watershed. As the government is being pushed to reverse alleged forest destruction in an attempt to halt or limit damage from annual downstream flooding, most upland agricultural communities, regardless of their farming practices, are the focus of national attention. However, with small, degraded hill field plots providing their only means of livelihood, the people of Pang Daeng Nai are striving to implement various sustainable farming options.

Working with the village hierachy we have drawn up plans to address the problems.

The Components

a. The agri-trail development component

Aim: Generating tourism revenue

With assistance from the CMU Herbarium consultancy, we shall identify the plant life on the trail, augment the forest with indigenous species as agreed by the stakeholders, and write up a nature, or agri-trail guide.

b. The forest augmentation component

Aim: Increasing revenue without increasing land use

With assistance from the Upland Holistic Development Project staff, and from other local recognized experts, we will work with those villagers who are turning to agroforestry to augment their growing areas with indigenous high value forest product.

It is intended that product grown in the forest be used for local consumption, and also to produce 'nostalgia food' - favourite Thai dishes of an earlier generation that were well know for their unique taste and preventative medicinal value. Such 'healthy' dishes are gaining in popularity and if properly marketed would add value to the forest product.

Other avenues to be explored in seeking to add value to the forest product are in the use of bamboo. Recent technological developments in the use of bamboo carbon in nanotechnology for the production of odour resistant materials, combined with low cost small scale electricity production from bamboo fuelled biogas give new value to this product and its potential for use in poverty alleviation.

c. The check dam component

Aim: Jump starting a failed eco-system

Continuing with check dam construction based on the model initiated by His majesty King Bhumipol of Thailand, we will install check dams in accordance with the village committee's wishes. We will also maintain and repair existing check dams, patching them up removing silt deposits (to be used for top soil).

d. The Bamboo village - accommodating tourists.

Aim: Generating tourism revenue and training villagers for the tourism industry.

Developing a bamboo village to house the visiting eco-tourist that is in close proximity to the main village, and designed to a standard that although basic, meets the expectations in terms of services, hygiene and safety of the eco-tourist market that is willing to pay an appropriate rate for the product. (see price argument)

e. The English language component

Aim: educating the next generation in order that they may manage their own tourism product effectively and as part of a network.

A curriculum must be established to teach basic English to villagers and their children who wish to play a role in the management of their tourism product. With a proper curriculum and effective hand over notes, qualified ESL teachers can conduct effective ESL training.

Unique Tourism Activities

Track of the Tiger offers a 4-hour tour along the stunning Pang Soong nature trail, guided by local 'Khun Muang' villagers who are receiving assistance in developing their own eco-tourism product.

The Pang Soong Trail is a community based tourism project run by the villagers of Ban Mae Lai , in the Mae On district of Chiang Mai Province with development and promotional support from the VWB initiative.

The villager are 'Khun Muang', the original farmers of the Chiang Mai area, and have for years grow 'Chaa Mieng', a local variant of tea. Nowadays, with their offspring showing little liking for fermented tea, and coffee prices relatively high, they are turning to farming 'Arabica' coffee.

Not a hill tribe, they are somewhat unique in that they have been ignored by tourism development and as such they, and the mountainous areas they live in, are amongst the last 'undeveloped' attractions of the north.

The nature trail follows a path edging the river course over some 15 waterfalls ranging in height from 2m to 30m as the trail ascends from 1'000.m.a.s.l. to app.1'500 m.a.s.l.

To facilitate access, a path has been cut along the edge of the stream with steps, ladders and handrails where needed to ensure safety. The vegetation is thick with a variety of flora seldom seen any more anywhere but in very remote jungle areas on the north, where tourists and locals alike rarely set foot.

Sample Itinerary (Thailand)

Day One

1200 Meet your appointed project managers and fellow voluntourists for lunch at Just Khao Soy on Charoen-phratet Road, Chiang Mai. Khao Soy is a curry based noodle dish and is the signature dish of northern Thai cuisine.

1300 Receive a welcome briefing from the management of Track of the Tiger and an overview of what has been achieved to date, and what we hope to achieve with the help of your group.
Go through last minute equipment check lists (personal and project related) and appoint 'specialists' in given roles should the need arise.

1400 Depart by 4WD vehicle heading northeast from the city. The first 40 kms of the journey take you across the flood plains of the Chiang Mai valley (app.300 m.a.s.l.) to the foothills of the chain of mountains that separate Chiang Mai from Lampang to the south.
Leaving the flood plain you drive along winding mountain roads, through vegetation that gets thicker and greener as you climb up to the temperate zone at 1'000 m.a.s.l.

1530 Check into Pang Soong Lodge, a group of 4 main wooden buildings set around a clear water swimming pool. Your group is accommodated in one or more of our barrack rooms, equipped with 6-8 bunk beds each, and with adjoining bathrooms with hot water showers.

1600 Meet the village headman and senior villagers. Take a tour of the project to see what has been achieved to date, and of Pang Soong itself to familiarise yourself with the general area.

1800 Task, team and equipment allocation for the following day's work.

1900 Dinner - is a set Thai style meal (4 dishes plus rice, fruit and tea or coffee). Food prepared by Thai chef with village women trainees assisting.

The meal is served in the sala restaurant, an open sided building in the centre of the complex that overlooks the clear water pool and is within listening distance of the closest waterfall on the nearby Mae lai stream.

2000 After dinner, relax around the campfire getting to know your fellow volunteers, and perhaps some of the villagers.Retire to bed at your leisure.
Note* Limited bar on cash sales basis is available. You may also bring your own alcohol.

Day Two - Three


0700 Breakfast (Thai rice soup, bread, butter, jam, scrambled eggs.) Food prepared by Thai chef with village women trainees assisting. This meal is served in the sala restaurant.

0745 Teams depart for work sites as determined the evening before and accompanied by your local co-worker - who is also your guardian in the forest - and in the process of learning how to work with foreigners.

0800 Commence work on project 'components'

1015 Tea or water break. (delivered to the work area).

1045 Recommence work.

1215 Break for lunch, returning to camp.

1230 Lunch followed by a mid-day break.
Note* Lunch is a set Thai style meal (4 dishes plus rice, fruit and tea or coffee). Food prepared by Thai chef with village women trainees assisting.

1400 Return to work site and recommence allocated tasks. Each individual will be given the opportunity to stay on a given task if they so wish, or to rotate through several tasks and so get a feel for the whole project.

1530 Tea or water break. (delivered to work area).

1545 Recommence work.

1700 End of site work period, collect tools, tidy up work site and set off for the camp.

1730 Return to camp. Clean up and take a swim if you wish or stroll down to the village to see how the villagers go about their lives.

1900 Set Dinner for voluntourists and co-workers of the day. (4 dishes plus rice, fruit and tea or coffee). Food prepared by Thai chef with village women trainees assisting. The meal is again served in the tastefully designed sala restaurant.

2000 Spend time around the campfire chatting to the Pang Soong villagers and/or other voluntourists before retiring to bed at your leisure.

Day Four

0700 Breakfast (Thai rice soup, bread, butter, jam, scrambled eggs.) Food prepared by Thai chef with village women trainees assisting.

0745 Teams depart for work sites.

0800 Commence work on project 'components' as described above.

1015 Tea or water break. (delivered to the work area).

1045 Recommence work.

1215 Break for lunch, returning to camp.

1230 Lunch followed by a mid-day break.
Note* Lunch is a set Thai style meal (4 dishes plus rice, fruit and tea or coffee). Food prepared by Thai chef with village women trainees assisting.

1400 Return to work site and recommence allocated tasks.

1530 Tea or water break. (delivered to work area).

1545 Recommence work.

1700 End of site work period, collect tools, tidy up work site and set off for the camp.

1730 Return to camp.

1900 Set Dinner for voluntourists and co-workers of the day. (4 dishes plus rice, fruit and tea or coffee). Food prepared by Thai chef with village women trainees assisting.

2000 Speech of thanks on behalf of the villagers by the headman followed by time spent around the campfire chatting to the Pang Soong villagers and/or other voluntourists. Retire to bed at your leisure.

Day Five

0700 Breakfast (Thai rice soup, bread, butter, jam, scrambled eggs.) Food prepared by Thai chef with village women trainees assisting.

0800 Teams depart for work. Depending on allocated tasks, or if particular task work is finished, walk the nature trail or spend time with the villagers.

1000 Each group to make note of progress achieved on Monday, with regard to the task objectives set for this particular programme. Progress report will be entered in the master log along with your signatures and comments.

1030 Pack up, return sleeping equipment, prepare to depart and pose for digital photograph with headman, village committee, and villagers.
Note* Leave email address with the guide for copy of photo-image.

1045 Depart Pang Soong by 4WD vehicle, heading for the city and some well dserved 'luxury'.

1200 Drop off at Just Khao Soy restaurant - or at the hotel of your choice.

Contact Information

Shane K. Beary

tiger@loxinfo.co.th

Phone: 66-(0)53-308775 Mobile 66-01-764-9950

http://www.volunteers-without-borders.org

[Return To The Top]


 

 

VolunTourism:
A seamlessly integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination and the best, traditional elements of travel—arts, culture, geography, and history—in that destination.

VolunTourism.org
717 Third Avenue
Chula Vista, CA 91910
Phone: 619.434.6230
Fax: 619.426.6664

General Inquiries
vt[at]voluntourism.org

Subscribe to
The VolunTourist
free newsletter

Email

First Name

Last Name