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Get Your Compass Out... Set Your Heading North By Northeast!
When it comes to passion for VolunTourism, Nick Ascot has already earned his place in the "VolunTourism Hall of Fame." Nick recognizes that business reflects the well-being of the people and the environment in which one operates. Healthy communities & natural surroundings mean good business. His VolunTourism initiatives at North By Northeast Tours focus on strengthening both.
For this issue, I would like to recognize the work of Nick Ascot, Founder of North By Northeast Tours (NXNE). He is one of the most conscientious VolunTourism Operators with whom I have had the privilege of connecting over the last two years of publishing The VolunTourist. It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to him and the NXNE team to kick off 2007!
A Brief History & Background
North by North East Tours was founded in 1997 by Nick Ascot. We began as primarily promoting Isan (Thailand’s northeastern region), but quickly expanded to Laos, where we have an additional operations office. Nick is a long-time skydiver who first came to Thailand 20 years ago and became enamored with all aspects of the Kingdom. This love translates itself into a strong desire to help the people whose villages we pass.
Why voluntourism? It is sustainable, which fits in to our philosophy of responsible travel. The easiest path is not always the right one. If we wanted to, we could pass thousands of tourists through coaches along the same worn, tired routes that everyone does, but in 20 years what will those destinations be like? Not worth seeing, that’s for sure. Overdevelopment ruins the very character of a place that tourists enjoy seeing. So, it is essential that tour operators and locals must work together in managing a destination for their collective futures.
Unique Volunteer Activities
NXNE strives to create unique tour product wherever possible. Voluntourism gives us that edge.
Each year thousands come to relax on any one of Southern Thailand’s spectacular beaches. Yet a few days of that typically leaves many feeling oddly disconnected from the vibrant culture around them. Especially in light of the tsunami, there has been a greater interest in helping rebuild and we created a successful program to assist the rehabilitation of a school for marginalized Sea Gypsy children, overlooked by the government and other aid programs. Voluntourists taught the children, planted vegetable gardens to supplement the kids’ lunches and repainted several buildings.
Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT
Laos remains quite far behind its neighbors in terms of development. Lack of access to education, clean water and basic necessities means there is much work to be done. One of our expert guides came to us with an idea to help out his brother’s village. It is so remote there aren’t even roads to it; one must ride the river for several hours. The one-room village school had only one teacher who taught 1st and 2nd grades and was overflowing with children. Everyone wanted to learn, they just didn’t have the means to it. Luckily we found voluntourists eager to help build an additional room on the school and fund sending several other villagers to train to teach the new grade levels.
Unique Tourism Activities
In Thailand, it’s quite easy to incorporate great, innovative tour product into a voluntour because the infrastructure is there already. Elephant rides, skydiving, and cooking courses are readily available. Sometimes the best ideas, though, are also the simplest. In a village homestay situation, guests have helped teach English in local schools by day, and at night, learned traditional local dancing and music. These things may seem arcane and difficult, but the local people are anxious to share their knowledge and help make it quite easy to learn. In a week’s time I saw dancers as good as the villagers. On the last day, we gave a farewell dinner and our voluntourist dancers performed for local government officials. Everyone was helped: the village gained more recognition in the local government, the officials were proud and the voluntourists got an outstanding memory to take home.
Each NXNE VolunTourism Itinerary is custom made to incorporate your goals and objectives and to honor the needs of the communities and surrounding areas in which NXNE operates. NXNE has the following posted on its web site:
Thailand enjoys a well-developed infrastructure & political stability, while Laos is clearly some years behind in some areas. In both countries; however, there exists many areas where the local communities who so graciously welcome our guests do not enjoy basic services. Here a little bit of help & effort on the part of our guests goes a long way!
Why bother? NXNE was founded on the concepts of sustainable tourism; conserving the environment and improving the well-being of local peoples. Travel is a two-way exchange.
There are several ways you can help:
Traveling alone? English teachers are always needed in Nakorn Phanom province. Sleep in peaceful Nakorn Phanom city, commute to surrounding rural areas and enrich the lives of Isan children. We welcome all requests for stays longer than 2 weeks. Sound good? Please fill out our survey.
Traveling with a group? Many more options are available.
- Cultural Conservation
- Rural Development
- Tsunami Relief
- Medical Assistance
- and other appeals requested by the Thai and Lao peoples
We arrange programs for many levels of activity and difficulty with a balanced amount of relaxation and sightseeing. Please fill out our survey and let us know your groups details.
Web site: www.north-by-north-east.com
Nick Ascot - firstname.lastname@example.org
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