The Hills Have Smiles: Working with the Mirror Foundation

The Hills Have Smiles: Working with the Mirror Foundation

Written by Jessica Young and Sidney Jhingran, 2014 Southeast Asia: Animal Conservation. 

It is common to see Akha women walking down Khao San Road in Bangkok or the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. Thailand’s busy markets– especially those which cater largely to foreign tourists – are where many hilltribe women make a living selling little trinkets, bracelets, and clothing. They must give up their traditional lifestyle and most struggle to secure an adequate income for their families. Structural inequality in Thai society denies thousands of hilltribe people access to citizenship, healthcare, and education. Consequently, Thailand’s ethnic minorities are amongst the most marginalized and vulnerable in the entire Kingdom.

The Mirror Foundation, a Thai NGO based in Chiang Rai, works with many hilltribe communities in northern Thailand and employs various projects to promote and defend the human rights of ethnic minorities. Their work is underpinned by values of self-determination and empowerment, and aims to help the people of the area make a better life, whilst retaining their cultural identities.

Mirror is one of OG’s longest standing partnerships in Southeast Asia, and we’re excited to share with you what we accomplished this year. We returned to the Akha village of Ban Bhukou where we embarked on the task of completing the homestay accommodation which was begun by our early summer group. The long term aim of the project is to provide opportunities for employment, supplementary sources of income, and to help encourage and retain the younger generation, and built a strong and sustainable community. After nearly a week of intense work, we can proudly say that the homestay is just about done and functional! We built a water tank (for a clean water supply), laid pipes, mixed tons of cement, and painted murals. Instead of telling you about it, why not just watch this video?

A HUGE thanks to the Mirror Foundation for creating this video and, of course, for giving us the opportunity to be humbled by this experience. And a HUGE thanks to the village of Ban Bhukou for welcoming us to their community.


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