Andaman Discoveries Blog

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Nat the Uniter!

N-ACT Hosts Educational Events

“It’s important for those in our tourism network to meet regularly to exchange ideas, support one another, and share information,” believes Nattaya “Nat” Sektheera of North Andaman Community Tourism (N-ACT). Her conviction was the driving force behind two very busy months organizing a guide training, study trip, and network meeting with members from nine communities.

With three days of expert facilitation from the Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute (CBT-i), village guides were trained in showcasing village attractions and practicing the “safety, meaning, and service” (SMS) philosophy. The guides strengthened their knowledge through role play activities.

To improve their administrative, hospitality, and financial management skills, villagers traveled to the Koh Lon Homestay in Phuket for a study tour. The study tour participants engaged in hands-on activities such as reforestation and inspecting and learning about the operation of a local dam. “We’ve been able to use ideas from the Koh Lon study trip and implement positive changes to the appearance of our homestay guest areas,” said Manee Kong Gim.

Finally, a network meeting provided a chance to tie everything together by communicating recent news and encourage each other’s activities. N-ACT staff informed the group about recent FAM trips, lessons learned from the study trip, and the outcomes of the recent Homestay Standards meeting in Bangkok.

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Setting the Standard

Establishing Sustainable Tourism Policies

Representatives from Andaman Discoveries and North Andaman Community Tourism (N-ACT) met with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), village leaders, and responsible tour operators in Bangkok recently to design and implement a new sustainable-tourism standard for Thailand. The group established and ranked policies in such areas as service and safety, resource management, cultural heritage, and economics. ”The new standards include homestays, and are a good start towards establishing guidelines to help villagers interested in community tourism,” said Nattaya Sektheera of N-ACT.

The meeting was part of a project called the Corporate Social Responsibility and Market Access Partnerships (CSR-MAP) for Thailand Sustainable Tourism Supply Chains, and is funded by the European Union. The project targets suppliers in the Thailand tourism industry, which offer sustainable-tourism products, as well as local Thai communities, which have developed community-based tourism (CBT) programs, and European tour operators with a firm commitment to support of sustainable tourism.

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Samoan Tsunami Relief

More Support Needed

On September 29, a deadly tsunami struck Samoa and American Samoa, wiping out whole villages and sweeping boats inland and cars and people out to sea, and killing scores of people in several islands. The same devastating phenomenon five years ago in the North Andaman region spawned the work of Andaman Discoveries, and so we are keen to help.

Our friends at Seacology are raising funds to help recovery in the local villages where they have projects. Susan Racanelli, Seacology Development Director, reports:

(Read Susan's full account: Part 1 and Part 2.)

With the proceeds of the Samoa Emergency Relief Fund, we will assist the islanders with the projects they have identified are most necessary. Those villages are: Satapuala village, Upolu Island; and Falealupo and Tafua villages, Savai’i Island. We are anticipating that all of the villages will need repairs to public facilities and basic infrastructure. Seacology has chosen to target three villages where locally-based volunteers live and work, and can monitor the relief effort. Seacology ensures that all money raised will go directly to assist victims of this devastating tsunami.

To donate now, please visit

For the Indonesian tsunami of 2005, four of our projects and the villages surrounding them were hit. Of course, it was different for each village, and thus we will have Cedric, our field representative, ask the Samoan villages what they need. In general, the islanders and field representative feel that additional funds should go to help the poorest families and restore infrastructure. Seacology is a nonprofit that partners with island communities to preserve threatened environments, species, and historic cultures; and has been working in Samoa for nearly 20 years.

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Good Things Come in Threes

Volunteers Contribute at Local Projects

Andaman Discoveries would like to give a special thank you to three volunteers who donated their time to make a big difference with three important projects. Michelle (UK) taught sign language; Adam (UK) helped with construction; and Leo (Netherlands) taught English in a remote village.

By volunteering their time and unique skills, each of these people left a permanent mark on the lives of those they touched. Michelle explored differences between American, Thai, and English signing with the students at the Disabled School and Southern Thailand Orphanage. “It is an important lesson for the children … that because someone is deaf or is not the same as us, they are still able to live life the same as us,” said the director of the orphanage.

Adam’s contribution at the orphanage was more physical but equally significant. He not only got his hands dirty digging drainage troughs and breaking ground on a new bungalow, he was also an excellent role model for the children. “Volunteers like Adam set a positive example and are great role models, especially to the boys, who often lack male mentors. The children learn the importance of giving back to society,” said Mimi Cheung of Andaman Discoveries. The children respected Adam’s kind and gentle personality, and many tears were shed when he said farewell.

Leo, who is cycling around Southeast Asia with only two small bags, first contacted us in March about volunteering. Armed with our Thai-English phrasebook, a dictionary, some pencils and paper, we sent him into Ban Na village for a week. After the experience Leo reflected, “It was meant to be. I had such a wonderful experience, being totally submerged into the village way of life. I had to learn to slow down the pace and do as they do. We had so much fun learning and interacting with each other. I feel very privileged to have been allowed into their homes. They made me feel so much like part of their family.” Leo plans to return in January 2010 to continue teaching in village or at one of our other projects.

Feeling inspired? If you’d like to contribute your time by volunteering, please contact us to learn more about how you can get involved.

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