Amy Poulton from our supplier, Wayfairer Travel shares her opinion on the issue of poverty in Laos: "Laos suffers immensely from poverty, which has a strong correlation with the UXO (unexploded ordnance) from the Vietnam War and other conflicts, still present, even today. Agriculture (the mainstay of Laos’ economy) and improvements in infrastructure are greatly impeded by UXO, and whilst a UXO accident can cripple an entire family, the rewards of finding valuable scrap metal still tempt many Lao people to go looking for unexploded bombs illegally. Read more about the UXO issue in Laos below.
Despite Laos’ heartbreaking history, you’d never know it from visiting the country or meeting Lao people – they are modest, welcoming, incredibly laid back and always courteous.
You can help by choosing to stay in locally-owned and managed accommodation (trickier than you may think – for example, many guesthouses in Luang Prabang are actually run by Vietnamese), spending your tourist dollars in local restaurants and bars, and keeping an open mind. There are also many initiatives that are aiming to improve literacy in Laos, especially for the younger generation. In Luang Prabang alone, you can donate supplies, money and time - practising languages, especially English, with a native speaker is much sought after, even in Laos’ bigger cities - at Big Brother Mouse, MyLibrary and the Luang Prabang city library.
Before your visit, check out the Pack for a Purpose website, which partners with accommodations and tour operators around the world, who are in turn partnered with charities, schools, orphanages or other organisations that need supplies – often stationery and toiletries."