Openmind Projects is an NGO that operates in Thailand, Laos, Nepal, and Cambodia. This unique organization transforms the disadvantaged in Southeast Asia into independent lifelong learners
I was looking for an experience with an NGO because visiting a country for just a few days didn’t seem enough. I didn’t expect to be a tourist, but to “live the country” I was traveling to.
Collaborating with a non-governmental organization was the perfect opportunity to both travel, know new people and their different realities, and share my own. I did lots of research and Openmind Projects was the one that caught my attention the most.
The richness of its programs, the strong network between trainees, volunteers, and local people, its efforts to make a tangible change in direction of a better future for the youngest were key.
However, I couldn’t leave to join them on-field. Not yet, at least. But we video-called and it was such a great experience to listen to the story of OMProjects by its own co-founders: Sven Mauleon and Gaweechat Joompaula. One from Sweden and the other native to Thailand work together in the direction of a better future for the youngest.
Here is the interview with Openmind Projects to know more about this great reality:
How did Openmind Projects come up?
Openmind Projects was conceived as a way to help underprivileged village kids to better learning opportunities. Everything started with a pioneer IT project in Isan, Northeast Thailand, based on the idea that IT can be the poor man’s best help to learn out of poverty.
This first project involved two orphan homes and a village, and later on the IT in Isan became Openmind Projects. Our philosophy is simple: Learn by Doing
What do you believe are the main points for the development of sustainability in Asia?
Learning is sustainable only if learners own it
We believe in lifelong learning, knowledge, awareness, about progress, nature, democracy, freedom, equality. In the 21st Century, young people need to learn skills, not only be taught facts. They need Digital Literacy, Problem Solving, Thinking, Communicating, and Team-working skills.
What is your mission?
Helping people to learn, motivate and give them confidence.
What are Openmind Projects’ goals?
Our main goal is to create Learners, capable to think and using their skills for a better life. We do so through our 3 main campaigns: creating learners at our Camps, dare to dream at our Training Center, and empowering village women and entrepreneurs through fieldwork projects.
Our mission is to fight poverty and create equal opportunities, giving both girls and boys the tools needed to realize their dreams with their own power.
Did you find any difficulty along the way? Which ones?
The major problem for a small NGO is funding and limited resources.
OMProjects has a Training Center and Learning Camps. What is it about?
Our Training Center in Nong Khai, Thailand, is our administrative center where members, volunteers, and interns actively participate to improve trainees’ lives. Every trainee at the center is sponsored for their education and living costs. In particular, our ambition is to provide them with the essential 21-st century skills, using IT and English as tools for future learning and working.
Learning Camps, instead, are opportunities for campers to learn in teams supported by our staff and volunteers. We guide them in exploring issues such as Climate Change, Pollution, Technology. As a matter of fact, in 2018, we hosted more than 300 campers and raised around 15,000 dollars to run the camp.
I know you believe in climate-change awareness. Tell me more
We believe the most urgent issues today and tomorrow are inequalities, health, welfare, education, and climate change that will impact the poor much more.
Have you registered any tangible outcomes from your projects?
The most tangible outcomes are successful Openmind trainees and campers going on to study at universities or better jobs. There’s great satisfaction in knowing that they like OMProjects.
We’re also very proud of all the successful support in saving sea turtles in the Andaman Sea, and the recognition from international organizations.
Are you currently working on creating an ecotourism project?
Unfortunately, Covid has stopped these projects for the time being. But we hope to start them soon.
How, in your point of you, can ecotourism develop in Asia?
Creating environmental awareness amongst the young generation. We always do that at our camps. Let campers search, learn, suggest what to do about pollution, global warming, threatened animals and plants.
What’re your next steps/near-future goals?
Providing online learning opportunities and programs together with international volunteers and supported by a major international IT company, for isolated villages and migrant kids.
In spite of Covid, our work is not interrupted. With Cisco technology and volunteers, our alumni, and other volunteer friends we work to offer online learning opportunities to village children.
I can’t wait to join this wonderful and determined team. It’s incredible to think how each of us can make a change in direction of a common better future. And you, what are you waiting for?
Cover image: photo by Aleksandar Popovski on Unsplash