When we started, back in 2012/2013, our efforts were focused on helping a very special community in Southeast Asia. Huayjakan village is located in Mae Hong Son province in the mountainous area near the Myanmar (Burma) border. 2500 Lisu and Lahu Hill tribe members share a spring-fed pond developed for them by Rotarians and experts from Engineers Without Borders from Northern Thailand. The problem is that the water is contaminated with toxic levels of fluoride, E.coli bacteria and other pathogens. The gathering of water and the wood to burn so that water can be boiled, leaves little time for schooling or productive work.

These are very poor people, without Thai citizenship or benefits. Refugees from Tibet, Burma and China, the self-identity of all the Hill Tribes, rather than defined by borders is one bound by links of kinship, customs, language, dress and spiritual beliefs. Due to the isolation of the Hill Tribes, customs and traditions remain unchanged that go back centuries. The Hill tribes do not write and therefore all their folklore, knowledge, wisdom, customs and the minute details of their lives are all passed by spoken word and committed to memory.

 
 
LISU women in
Celebration costumes
  LAHU children

In the modern world, the arbitrary constraints of global geopolitics have obliged the Akha, Karen, Lahu, Lisu, Yeo, Padong and Hmong to accept an external national identity, while their instinct for tribal survival pushes them to find strategies to preserve their own cultural integrity. Huayjakan village represents this preservation.

The Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand are amazingly skilled artisans, producing a wide array of products such as basket wear, weaponry, musical instruments, tools, weaving, embroidery and the finest of silver. With the establishment of a robust water utility business, these two tribes at Huayjakan can sustain a higher level of health.
 
We also installed a system at a large school in Omkoi District, the poorest in Thailand. These 1000 students and teachers, from the Karen tribe, only had light brown water to drink from the community systems, so they were spending much of their household income of $1/day on bottled water. Now, with the SunSpring installed, plans are underway to plumb the purified water into 4 school buildings, giving them access points for pure, safe water for the first time. In addition, the parents association will be bottling and selling the surplus water for school fundraising.

H2OpenDoors and Rotary have the highest admiration for the cultural diversity represented in these communities. We strive to help and guide the villages to become self supporting without compromise to their rich heritage. Each year we have gone to various locations throughout the world. The Philippines, Guatemala, central Mexico, rural Haiti. Coming up is Nepal, back to Guatemala, Mexico and in April of 2016, 40 people will join our expedition to Cuba. Want to join us? Email Jon Kaufman at jon@H2OpenDoors.org!