Who we are and what we stand for. Since 1999 we have been travelling the Mekong River in Laos, providing educational support for village children and building new schools. In some cases we were the first westerners to visit these villages, and we’re continually amazed by the incredibly warm welcome we get wherever we go.
In our spare time we raise money and build schools in Laos through Bridging the Gap Mekong Trust, a not-for-profit, New Zealand based charity whose prime purpose is to improve the education and potential employment prospects of underprivileged, isolated, village children along a stretch of the Mekong River between Pak Beng and Luang Prabang in Northern Laos.
You can read more about us here in a Gizmag / NewAtlas story http://newatlas.com/laos-mekong-river-kayaking-adventure-travel/39207/
or on the official Mekong Tourism site at http://www.mekongtourism.org/news-and-media/kayak-paddling-mekong-river/
or in the NZ Herald at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10715119
The Trust has no religious or political affiliations, and the trustees draw no pay or management fees. All money raised goes directly to the purchase of building materials and teaching aids. (Our only operating expenses are river freight to get construction materials to the schools and translation services).
The villagers live a subsistence life style in isolated villages sandwiched between the river and the jungle and have only river access to the outside world.
There are no roads, no cars, no phones, and no distributed electricity. Villagers are self sufficient growing rice, vegetables, pigs, chickens and catching fish in the river. They trade wood and food for limited cash to buy essentials.
Many kids currently use a piece of slate the size of a CD case and a stub of chalk to record the day’s lesson which is totally inadequate and inexcusable in the 21st century.
In partnership with the villagers we are now developing sustainable tourism as a way to maintain and supply these schools with their essential needs.
For every tourist who stays a night in a village we donate US$10 to the school building trust we created that administers the program. Check out Bridging the Gap Mekong Trust
Xangnoi (Little Elephant pronounced Sarngnoy) is one of Luang Prabang’s leading and trusted tour guides, often appointed to look after visiting government presidents, prime ministers, VIPs, dignitaries, and travel magazine editors.
A fluent English speaker, Xangnoi was a monk for 12 years before becoming a guide. He has a wicked sense of humour, is a mean guitar player and motorbike rider.
Xangnoi lives in Luang Prabang.
Geoff Collins is a Kiwi who has worked across Asia for nearly 20 years running advertising, data and digital companies. A keen biker for over 50 years, he has ridden all over SE Asia, much of it off-road. 16 years ago while dirt tracking in Laos with his brother, they visited some isolated Mekong river villages where they saw first hand the appalling school conditions.
They decided to help and improve them, and formed the Bridging the Gap Mekong Trust, a New Zealand charity that raises money to build and maintain schools along the Mekong River in Laos, and then sustain them with educational materials.
Today, US$10 is donated from every Mekong Kayaks’ overnight client to the Trust to support these schools.
Geoff juggles his time between Auckland, Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang, is passionate about adventure sports (has all the broken bones to prove it!) and spends his spare time trail bike riding in Thailand and Laos.
Family motto is: “Do one thing every day that scares you”