Over recent months, our dedicated Buffalo Educational Travel team have been working with a number of international groups to execute and develop program initiatives as well as develop new projects. Read on to find out more about the success of our Vinh Long project in Vietnam as well as our range of specialised programs now on offer in Thailand.
Vinh Long Community Development Association
Vinh Long is a three-hour journey south-west of Ho Chi Minh City in the heart of the Mekong River Delta. This dynamic town is in the bustling trading centre of agriculture and aquaculture with rich soil and abundant waterways allowing tropical fruits, shrimps and fisheries to thrive alongside rice. Despite this, Vinh Long community is still struggling to provide sufficient welfare and support for the disadvantaged.
Founded by Buffalo Education Travel (BET) in 2014, this project is in partnership with Vinh Long Community Development Association which includes trustees from Vinh Long Red Cross, Vinh Long Welfare Association, Vinh Long District Authority, Vinh Long Education Authority and Cuu Long Tourist Corporation. The Vinh Long Community Development Association is dedicated to promoting the welfare and education of disadvantaged families in Vinh Long. With poor housing and sanitation conditions of impoverished families identified as the most pressing issues, Vinh Long Red Cross identified families with the most urgent needs based on the following selections criteria:
1) Income and living conditions of the family
2) Health and physical condition of family members
3) House located in flood-prone area
With the collaboration of dedicated agents and schools across the globe, twenty houses with toilet and water supply have been constructed in the community since the project’s inception five years ago. For families earning less than $10 per day and often taking care of sick relatives, the hope of improved housing and living conditions is a far-off dream but when turned into reality can have a transformative impact.
Throughout the entire process, Ms Chi (BET Project Manager) works with all stakeholders including the local authorities, families and our educational travel partners. The dedication and commitment she provides truly supports the BET team to continue changing lives through travel.
Art & Culture in the Land of Smiles
Asia is thriving with cultural and artistic heritage, so BET has developed specialised programs to tap into these excellent learning opportunities. In particular, Thailand has such a diverse and rich cultural heritage that as an educational destination it provides learning groups the opportunity to explore music, art, theatre and dance from a unique perspective.
A few of the many opportunities on offer in the ‘Land of Smiles’ include:
Thai classical dance “ram wong” – or circle dance – is the main dramatic art form of Thailand. The songs and dance patterns known today were set between 1938 - 1944 as part of the promotion of Thai Nationalism. “Ram wong” was then promoted as Thailand’s national dance and a set of specific songs and dance patterns were commissioned by the government – today there are ten standard “ram wong” patterns. In this specialised program, students begin with a series of body stretches, followed by some basic classical dance poses before learning a classic “ram wong” choreography.
“Look Choop” dessert workshop gives students the opportunity to learn how to make a traditional Thai dessert. Made from mung bean paste mixed with coconut milk, “Look Choop” originated in the royal palaces of ancient Siam and to this day is still commonly enjoyed throughout Thailand. The paste is shaped into miniature fruits or vegetables then painted with food colouring before being glazed with a gelatin coating. In this workshop, students get the chance to craft their own “look choop” and taste one of Thailand’s ancient culinary creations.
Traditional Lanna arts and crafts is a fantastic way to learn about Northern Thailand’s distinct culture, traditions and history. At Lanna Wisdom School, a local expert or craft master can teach a variety of traditional crafts including umbrella painting, bamboo weaving and ‘tung’ flag cutting. Whilst learning to make these handcrafts in Chiang Mai, this activity helps to conserve local knowledge which has been passed from generation to generation.
The End of an Era: Farewell to Graham Harper
This month, our team must say goodbye to Graham (Gray) who has been an incremental leader of BET for the past twelve years. With a background in education for sustainability, community development and project management, Gray left his high school teaching job to create opportunities for students to see the world through the eyes of another. His plan was never to work for a travel company, but a fortuitous meeting with Buffalo Tours' founder transformed his life, and that of many others. Over the years he has assisted BET’s team of "community change-makers" to create unique community-based and educational travel projects across Asia. As part of the BET team, he has been able to support schools, universities and specialty agents from around the world make a positive impact on the lives of those in some of Asia’s most marginalised communities.
As he takes on a new role at Pacific Asia Travel Association as Director of Sustainability, his enthusiasm and spirit will continue through the dedicated team he helped form. Gray is very proud of the dedicated Buffalo Educational Travel team that will continue the legacy to serve our partner rural communities through poverty alleviation, cultural preservation and infrastructure initiatives.
We wish Gray all the best in his new role and extend our gratitude for his dedication and hard work over the years.