RESPONSIBLE . ETHICAL . SUSTAINABLE
Many people who visit Sapa become inspired to give something back. With the help of four Australian volunteers, Shu Tan, a young single mother from the Black Hmong tribe, was able to turn her dream of helping her people into a reality. Working together, they funded the first Hmong owned homestay in Sapa and established a socially conscious trekking service. Running on the social enterprise blueprint, Sapa O’Chau put the money earned back into the community through projects such as providing winter clothes to children and improvements to the village schools.
Later, Shu decided to tackle the problem of illiteracy among Sapa’s young tour guides and street vendors, many of whom never had the chance to go to school. With the help of a Norwegian anthropology student, she organized informal English night classes for a small group of enthusiastic youths in a room provided by a local hotel. As these Sapa O’Chau classes grew in popularity, so did the need for more facilities. In the summer of 2010, the Sapa O’Chau boarding facility opened.
Sapa O’Chau Today
Today, Sapa O'Chau Travel Social Enterprise is the only tour operator in Vietnam that is officially registered as a social enterprise. Sapa O’Chau runs on the same social enterprise principles on which it was founded: working hard and giving back to Sapa and all ethnic minorities. It is made up of five inter-connected pieces: the boarding facility, the hotel, café, the Hmong handicraft store and the tour operation. These are administered by our dedicated Founder and Director who is in Forbes Vietnam's 2016 30 Under 30 and shortlisted for 2019 Women of the Future Awards - Southeast Asia Social Entrepreneur.
The roadmap shows Sapa O'Chau beneficiaries and the effects it has on its beneficiaries. The direct beneficiaries are trekking guides, homestay owners, high school students, vocational students, craftswomen and volunteers. These are driven by the trekking operations, hotel operations, cafe operations and Hmong handicraft workshop. Sapa O'Chau is trying to get ethnic minority high school age students back to school using a holistic approach. When the children attend school, the family will need to hire extra help for the farm. Hence, if Sapa O'Chau creates job opportunities for parents of these children, more children can attend school. These students can have better job opportunities after completing higher education. The land is not as fertile due to the erosion of nutrients as rain washes them down the steep slopes where the crops are cultivated. The land is being divided into smaller and smaller portions as land is handed down from father to sons. What choice do they have?
At the Sapa O’Chau boarding facility, we help students who would otherwise not be able to complete their education due to financial or geographical limitations. There are only kindergartens up to secondary schools in the villages hence village students need to walk at least 15 km to Sapa Town where the high schools are. Sapa O'Chau boarding facility provides the accommodation, meals and government school fees with funds mainly from our social enterprise businesses and some from grants and donations. Our students attend the government high school to obtain certification and enrichment lessons with our volunteers at our Sapa O'Chau boarding facility.
With the help of international and local volunteers, we focus on conversational English of our students. We also carry out Vietnamese Literacy, Arts and Crafts, Mathematics, IT Skills and Life Skills classes subject to availability of volunteers with these skills. As always, Sapa O’Chau is reliant on volunteer support to sustain our teaching requirements.
We help our students enroll in Vietnamese schools, excel in their studies and take advantage of opportunities offered by other organisations. Further vocational training is available through our links with local businesses and NGOs. Most of our students want to be tour guides or work in other ways within Sapa’s tourism industry. As a result, there is a real sense of symbiosis within the different parts of the Sapa O’Chau project: from trekking to teaching; to homestays and homework.
Our mission is to promote learning, provide sustainable employment, and empower our community.
The boarding facility has classrooms, a learning library and a computer lab. We are always looking for qualified teachers to help meet our training requirements. If you are interested in volunteering please see our how you can Support Us.
The Sapa O’Chau Café is the hub of Sapa O’Chau’s activities. Drop in for a drink or snack, meet some of our students and trekking guides, book a tour or learn more about what we offer and how you can get involved. The building contains our hotel, administrative offices and our café on the main floor. This means you can stop by to meet Sapa O'Chau volunteers, get some information on our authentic homestays and treks, or simply choose from a great selection of teas, coffees and light snacks!
With indoor and outdoor seating available, you can also just stop by to sit down and relax!
Sapa O'Chau is proud to be the first ethnic minority-owned and run international tour operator in Vietnam! This is especially significant in Sapa's ethno-tourism industry. As the ambassador of responsible tourism, Sapa O’Chau Trekking & Homestays has a team of trained English-speaking ethnic minority guides. Our team of expert English-speaking ethnic minority guides has years of experience and will lead you through Sapa's famous terraced rice fields, past waterfalls and mountains, to authentic homestays where you will be welcomed by local families and experience what traditional life here is like. We have a wide range of itineraries to satisfy all of your requirements, from half-day and one-day tours of nearby villages, market tours and mountain climbing, to weeklong adventures of north-west Vietnam. We love Sapa and want it to be the highlight of your holiday.
That’s not the only thing unique about us. We are also the only not-for-profit tour operator in Sapa, which means that after covering our costs all the money you spend is going to support our community. Sapa O’Chau is a leading social enterprise in Vietnam and tours are our main source of income instead of depending on donations. You and our high profile international partners are helping to change tourism into a more ethical, responsible and sustainable industry.
Our guests “Come to Sapa and leave more than just footprints…”