What started as a Mark Wiens’ Travel for Food vlog, ended up as toilets in a remote Khmu village in Luang Prabang.
Earlier this year, Mark Wiens, with 1.9 million YouTube subscribers, approached White Elephant Adventures (WEA) to enquire about embarking on a tribal food-based trip for his vlog.
“Of course we could,” said WEA Director Alex Robb-Millar. “So my idea was to cover both Khmu and Hmong tribes and turn it into an overnight trip. This also gave me the opportunity to better know the villagers and look for new tour ideas that could benefit the local communities there.”
Off they went on a two-day ethnic culinary journey, which Mark duly filmed. Before heading back to Luang Prabang, the group stopped at Ban Hat Hid to re-supply the village school. This is just one of 24 schools WEA supports, all of which are stops on their tours.
“As we were leaving, the village chief called me over to ask if it was possible to help with building a toilet, as the village didn’t have one, and the locals were simply using the jungle,” Alex said.
He noted that unsanitary conditions impact children’s health, and a side-effect of this hinders education. The chief and Alex roughly calculated the costs, and he returned to Mark, who was waiting in the van.
“I explained the reason for my short delay to Mark, who instantly stated he would be more than happy to fund half of the project”, Alex recalled.
They agreed on the spot to go move forward, and within one week the villagers had already started digging and preparing the ground. The double toilet, with an extra-large septic tank, was installed within a month, with finishing work completed before the end of May.
“While not enough for the entire village, it’s a good first step,” Alex pointed out.
He concluded, “As WEA expands, and more schools/volunteer groups come on board, the more we will be able to do. WEA is only a small Luang Prabang company, but we do what we can, and by working with others, the benefit multiplies…Big thanks to our guests for choosing WEA, Mark Wiens for the generous support, and the villagers for their community spirit.”
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