Our first projects were in Lahu hill tribe villages in northern Thailand (2005-2007). Working with a local NGO, Faith International, we helped construct two water systems and a school during this three-year period. Our first year project included 7 students 1 faculty member and 1 community partner travel for construction. By 2011 we had grown to 29 students, 2 faculty members and 11 community partners who traveled.
Fort Lewis College began working in Laos in 2008 in cooperation with the United Nations, UNESCO, working with villages associated with the proposed Plain of Jars World Heritage Site. We have completed our work in this partnership and are branching out to assist other communities in the region. Our goal is to help needy communities implement sustainable water and sanitation projects in the Xieng Khouang province located in north central Laos. The Paek and surrounding districts have been described as the most impoverished in Laos, one of Asia's poorest nations. In 2006 the annual family income in this region was estimated to be less than $500 per household (4-8 people). Comparing this to the United Nations extreme poverty benchmark of $1 per day per person puts these villages in perspective.
The communities of Chimborazo are located in central Ecuador, northwest of the city of Riobamba high in the Andes Mountains. They are literally located on the slopes of Mount Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador. With villages situated an average elevation of 3600 meters, these mountain people are mostly subsistence farmers growing corn, potatoes, barley and raising sheep, dairy cows and alpaca. We are working in numerous communities in the area. Some are close to a paved road with frequent bus service while others are more remote and simple transport is a routine challenge. Improved potable water and sanitation are the highest priorities in these communities. All the communities are indigenous, Quechua people.