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In 2004 our key development partner Track of the Tiger T.R.D. established an outdoor and Environmental Education Centre in the Mae On area, 50 kms., northeast of and 1000m above the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. Our main market was the International schools many of which required their students to undertake a number of days on field studies, and service -learning projects, as part of their curriculum. To ensure safe access to we decided to establish a partnership with the local village community of Ban Mae Lai to develop a network of nature trails for our mutual benefit.

Benefits to the Ban Mae Lai Community:

  • Employment in constructing the 1m wide concrete pathway, bamboo bridges, and steps around the 17 waterfalls, spread along the main 3km long Pang Soong Nature Trail that ran from 1000 m.a.s.l. to 1600 m.a.s.l. through ecologically rich community owned forest.
  • The possibility of grant funding subsidised by donor funding and volunteer labour to cover construction costs, and the development of a nature trail guidebook in English and Thai.

Note*Track of the Tiger T.R.D. established a non-profit foundation, (Voluntourists Without Borders) needed to attract donor funding and manage those funds transparently.

  • The opportunity of employment as community forest guides remunerated from trail fees paid by visitors using the trail for educational or research/study purposes.
  • The opportunity based on improved access, to establish a viable community agroforestry project as a sustainable alternative to the illegal hunting that was taking place and was taking a heavy toll on the ecosystem.

Benefits to Track of the Tiger T.R.D.

  • The development of safe nature trails and a trail guide through a fantastic environmental education resource that started from the doorstep of the company owned Pang Soong Lodge.
  • Shared benefit from a PATA Foundation grant to cover the cost of building build the main nature trail.
  • School groups choosing the work on the nature trail construction task as their service-learning project.
  • Studies of the project conducted by post graduate students in sustainable development.
  • Designation of Pang Soong Lodge as an IB Teachers Environmental & Biology Studies Workshop.
  • Having the project awarded the coveted SKAL Ecotourism Award 2006.
  • The development of and revenue from a venue and activities (CSR & Team Building) programmes for our corporate client base.

Benefits to Development Partners

  • Education - A valuable environmental education and service-learning resource for schools and universities.
  • Corporate - A platform for viable CSR and Team Building Projects.
  • Local Government - Benefitted in numerous ways.
  • Better control over illegal hunting and deforestation.
  • A catalyst for responsible tourism development.
  • Shared research.
  • NGOs
  • A training venue and interested audience for endangered species protection/monitoring training.
  • A training venue and interested audience for the benefits and value-added options from agroforestry products.

Funding & Awards - Initial grant funding was provided by the PATA Foundation. Further funding was provided by visiting schools. Revenue was generated for the community from trail entrance and guide fees. The project won the SKAL Ecotourism Award for 2006.

A Springboard to Bigger Things

In order to implement the development model beyond Pang Soong Lodge, and to better reflect the broader development partner group we envisaged for that expansion, VWB was renamed and re-registered as The Volunteers Without Borders Foundation in September 2011.

VWB provided the non-profit foundation umbrella for the CS/service-learning projects undertaken by our Track of the Tiger’s sister company The Maekok River Village Resort & Outdoor Education Centre, in Ban Thaton, Amphur Mae Ai, Chiang Mai.

The Centre and its International Schools client base injected some US$ 5.0 million, and hours of hands on labour, into building some 150 projects (toilet blocks, classrooms, kitchens, clean water systems, a school for the disabled, and a bursary system for disadvantaged students) in the Mae Ai area. The Thai Education Department bestowed VWB & The MRVR an award for its contributions and the work continue.

Next the RTA was formed to focus on responsible tourism development, and the same core collaborators have established the Sanpatong Experiential Education Centre some 30kms outside of Chiang Mai City, as a demonstration and training centre for its pilot project, the development of the Sanpatong Tourist Route, with the support and benefit sharing of our growing network of RTA Development Partners

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