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 ever visit these villages, and we’re continually amazed by the incredibly warm welcomes 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 on Who we are and what we stand for in a Gizmag / NewAtlas story http://newatlas.com/laos-mekong-river-kayaking-adventure-travel/39207/
or on the official Mekong Tourism site at https://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 (Means Little Elephant and is pronounced Sarngnoi) is our Operations Director and one of Luang Prabang’s leading and trusted professional tour guides.
He’s often appointed to look after visiting country presidents, prime ministers, VIPs, dignitaries, and travel magazine editors.
A fluent English and Thai speaker, Xangnoi was a monk for 12 years before becoming a guide.
He’s assisted on several of our Laos movie and documentary shoots and frequently stars in them.
He has a wicked sense of humour, is a mean guitar player, and motorbike rider.
Xangnoi lives in Luang PrabangLinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/lanexang-vongsichan-81126291
Geoff Collins is a Kiwi who has worked across Asia for over 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. 19 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 an isolated section of the Mekong River in Laos, and then sustain them with educational materials.
Today, we donate US$10 to the Trust for every Mekong Kayaks’ client who stays overnight in a village, 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”