Twenty-two years ago, the local government developed a plan to turn the Lao lowland, source of the Kuong Xi waterfall, into a tourist destination. Located 13 miles from the center of Luang Prabang, the village of Tin Keo fell into that territory. Yet, this community of fewer than 500 people, including 90 Hmong residents, remains very poor in comparison with its neighbors.

Water has long been an issue for the village. Laos is a nation where water is plentiful, but, outside of urban areas, there is little infrastructure to make that water clean and accessible. For Tin Keo, water sources were distant, and there was no reservoir within the community to use year-round. Water had to be carried from distant sources every day. Additionally, the local people raised pigs, cattle, and poultry and had gardens—all of which needed water on a daily basis. Women and small children were often tasked with carrying drinking water by hand from rural collection sites, impacting access to education and economic growth, as well as their overall quality of life.

Travelers visit Tin Keo on Overseas Adventure Travel’s Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia adventure, and the village has been a project site for Grand Circle Foundation since 2013. In 2016, the Foundation announced that it would fund a water reservoir for the community. When the chiefs shared the good news, villagers volunteered their labor to support its construction.

On the work day, all the villagers brought their own equipment to the construction site. Women cleared and weeded the ground, and men carried sacks of cement, sand, gravel, and aluminum tanks. During this process, all were smiling, laughing, and making jokes with each other, while working tirelessly.

Within a week, the project was completed. Adults and children alike gathered to feel the water, wash their clothes, bathe their children, and carry water home. It was a happy day!

Another memorable moment occurred on January 13, 2019, when Phet Panthavong, O.A.T.’s regional Operations Coordinator, led Laotian Trip Leaders, local vendors, and travelers on a life-changing experience: the opening ceremony for new community toilets financially supported by Grand Circle Foundation.

O.A.T. associates and travelers themselves had contributed to the construction of eight new toilets. As soon as they arrived at the site, travelers grabbed hoes and shovels and joined the locals in the work, while others helped villagers clean and paint the water tanks. The day was filled with what Phet described as “sweaty hands and smiling faces.”

According to Phet, at the celebration ceremony, the villagers were “overwhelmed with joy and happiness” at the improvement to the local sanitary conditions. He summarized the event, saying, “The work we have done for the community will improve their quality of life, enhance our relationship, and clearly recognize and confirm the warm and friendly hospitality of the community.”

Your support for Grand Circle Foundation’s WASH initiative can have a big impact in communities like Tin Keo. Please help us provide clean water and sanitation facilities to villages around the world. As this story shows, your generous donation can help change lives.