Back From the Mountains

December, 2015: Kids playing in the mountains beyond their village.

December, 2015: Kids playing in the mountains beyond their village.

In December and January, I travelled to the Mae Hong Son province of Thailand to work on our two current projects: the clean water program, and the preschool.  The two villages are deep in the mountain range that separates Thailand and Myanmar, and both are about as remote as it gets.  Both villages are home to Karen populations, who have historically been persecuted by national governments in Southeast Asia, and have fled to the mountains to rebuild their communities.  As such, they are incredibly isolated, and receive little assistance from either municipal or national government programs.


Our water project involved running PVC pipe from a naturally rock filtered spring down the mountain to the village, over a mile away.  When we arrived at the village with all of the supplies (pipes, cement for creating a dam at the natural spring), the entire community immediately and enthusiastically began to help.  Of the approximately 100 inhabitants of the village, all- from young to elderly- worked together to accomplish the project as quickly as possible.  The older women and children carried small rocks from the rivers for the dam, while the men carried PVC pipe, mixed cement, and hacked away at the dense foliage with machetes to create a path for the pipes.  The project has since been completed, allowing a constant supply of water for drinking, bathing, and cooking.  Below are a few pictures that I think show the pride and cohesion of this community.

Carrying pipes to the spring.

Carrying pipes to the spring.

Rolling a log to help build the dam.

Rolling a log to help build the dam.

Connecting two pipes.

Connecting two pipes.

Mixing cement for the dam.

Mixing cement for the dam.

Final stages of building the dam.

Final stages of building the dam.

Taking a break while surveying the progress.

Taking a break while surveying the progress.

Me with the village elders.

Me with the village elders.


After finishing our water project, we moved on to our next village to work with government contractors and village leaders on the preschool program.  When we arrived, the school building was already in the process of being refurbished.  With the help of government engineers, we built the roof and cleaned out the building.  The Thai school term starts in June, so in the coming months we will paint the school, buy school supplies for the 40 students, and work with government authorities and the new teacher to ensure that everything is in order.  This includes the free, protein rich meals that will be provided free of charge to students every day.  We are so excited about this school, as it will advance both education and public health for the entire village.  Children will begin their education at the age of two, and will receive nutritious meals that promote mental and physical development in such a formative stage of their lives.  Furthermore, the mothers who previously had to take care of their young children every day will be able to work in the rice fields; we are confident that this will lead to positive economic effects for the village as a whole.  

I enjoyed my time in this village greatly, and was ecstatic to hear that everyone is so excited about their new school.  Below are some pictures of our construction, the village, and the people that call it home.

Putting up the roof.

Putting up the roof.

Helping with the roof.

Helping with the roof.

Finished roof.

Finished roof.

The villagers, including several young mothers, looking on as we build the roof.

The villagers, including several young mothers, looking on as we build the roof.

A view of the mountains in which the village is located.

A view of the mountains in which the village is located.

As with all of my trips with Village to Village, I left inspired and confident.  I am constantly amazed by the resiliency, empathy, and kindness of the people I have had the pleasure of working with, and am happy that we have been able to help affect positive change within these communities.

As always, I'm happy to answer any questions, and I welcome your comments and suggestions.  Send me a note at ryan@villagetvillage.org

Ryan Sullivan

Director, Village to Village