Tucked away in a quiet street behind the small-yet-lively town centre of Vang Vieng lays the house of FruitFriends, an organisation in Laos that specialises in educational and agricultural projects that help the local community. FruitFriends welcome visitors from all over to participate in their fairstay and get a taste of local life while supporting their cause.
FruitFriends was founded in 2012 by a Belgium couple, both of which are members of the Belgium NGO Laat Laos Leren, an organisation that, in 2011, had assisted with the construction of a primary school in one of the local villages here in Vang Vieng. After the success of the first school the couple decided to set up a social enterprise as a way to generate income to build and maintain a Secondary school in the same village, and so FruitFriends was founded.
The aim of FruitFriends is to generate income to facilitate not only the construction of the school, but also ongoing educational and agricultural projects in the community. Their current successes include providing employment to local people, providing English lessons to students and developing fair relationships with local farmers in the community. They have also recently completed their own organic farm with the aim to educate farmers about sustainable farming methods that will maximise their crops for a beneficial future.
Not only is the aim of FruitFriends to assist the projects financially, they also hope to invite travellers into the community and give them a taste of Laos, the local way. While in Vang Vieng you are invited to spend some time at the FruitFriends fairstay, a concept similar to a homestay whereby you will be able to stay in the house with the long-term volunteers, eat with them, assist them with their activities and become a part of the FruitFriends family.
The fairstay package includes accommodation in a pleasant room with a fan and western bathroom, and 3 meals daily cooked by the lovely Boun, the house’s resident chef. She has a knack for local food and each day will cook up a range of meals to satisfy anyone’s taste buds. Each day you will eat the traditional Laos way, sitting together around a small table, passing around the sticky rice and exchanging words in different languages. It’s not too long before you feel like you’re at home, while also supporting a great cause.
Ask people about Vang Vieng and you may get reference to the town’s infamous backpacker scene, involving days tubing down the Mekong and nights spent at the raucous bars that line the riverbanks. Peel those stereotypes away however and you’re left with a relatively quiet town, located in one of the most scenic areas of Laos, tucked away between luscious, green mountain ranges.
By choosing to stay at the fairstay you can spend your time in this attractive town with many activities to suit any traveller, while helping to provide education to those who need it most. There is even the opportunity to assist the volunteers with some teaching at the school, or gardening at the beautiful organic farm located outside of town if you like, the choice is yours.
I spent two lovely days with the people at FruitFriends and would highly recommend their fairstay to anyone passing through this lovely city. You can find out more information on their website.