The Ecotours project has been developed to generate funding for our projects which are not in a position to finance themselves, as well as give people the opportunity to experience life in a completely different culture.
The project has two distinct parts - volunteering and ecotourism.
Volunteers come to teach English language, or work on manual labour projects - both programmes help to achieve our aim of educating the youth in the hilltribe communities. The money paid by a volunteer covers the costs of living and working here, and any residual fee is added to the central fund to help maintain the other projects, or used for emergencies. Volunteers can come as individuals joining the scheduled programme, or as organised groups working on a specific project.
Tourism is a vital industry in Thailand and for many people the unique culture and way of life of the hilltribe people is a prime attraction. Capitalising on this interest, many trekking companies have exploited hilltribe villages by making them into cheap tourist attractions while paying host families as little as 50 cents of a forty dollar trekking fee. In the end, neither the tourist nor the village - only the trekking company - benefits from this arrangement, as the village abandons that which makes it special and becomes an unauthentic diorama for tourists.
The Mirror Foundation recognises that the lifestyle and culture of the hilltribes are special and that the penetration of tourism is inevitable. But we also believe that, if handled in a culturally sensitive way, tourism is a fantastic way for hilltribes to pay for their children's schooling costs while sharing their culture with the world. Furthermore, we believe that many tourists want to give back to their hilltribe hosts, but don't know how.
We encourage guests to take an active role in village life. Hilltribe people are warm and welcoming - with just a smile and a willingness to help out in any way possible, you can form true bonds with your host family in just days. By expressing a genuine interest in their culture you will also be giving the most valuable gift you could give, helping them rebuild cultural pride lost in the face of modernisation.
More information can be found on our dedicated website: www.thailandecotour.org