The Openmind Projects Story
Openmind Projects, a small organization with great ideas and great people
Openmind Projects is a nonprofit NGO, charity, based in Thailand. We started in 2002 with the mission to help people to better learning opportunities and the idea that IT can be the poor man’s best help. Poor, young people in Southeast Asia have limited access to good, if any, education. So they end up as poor farmers or in low paid, sometimes risky jobs in factories, construction or the tourism business.
Openmind Projects was born as www.itinisan.org, as a pioneer computer training project in Thailand. How to give poor young people another chance to learn by using computers and Internet. The first three projects were two orphan homes and a village. We placed computers in the orphan home libraries and on the kitchen floor in a village house!
Sven Mauleon, from Sweden, asked Gaweechat Joompaula, a rice farmer son from Thailand, to help the kids to learn by showing them, not teaching them, what they can do with a computer. We called it DED, Demonstrate (to make the kids interested) then let them Explore by themselves and find out, Discover, (learn) what they can do. Learn by Doing!
Our ideas worked!
Children liked to learn like that! Ever since then we apply our Learning by Doing philosophy to all our learning projects and work, teaching English to local children or teaching Thai, Lao to volunteers, with our trainees and at our camps!
Openmind Projects Training Center in Thailand
This is our hub, our learning and development center for all, our trainees, volunteers and staff.
- This is where we invite young people from Southeast Asia on scholarships as our trainees to prepare for a better future.
- This where we invite young campers to learn about the world, to learn online, improve their English and become independent thinkers.
- This is where we welcome our volunteers to start with a free training week before they go on to their volunteer missions.
- And this is where many volunteers stay on to help our trainees, us, and schools in the area.
• Staff Office
• Training Room for trainees and volunteers with computers with internet. Small library.
• Rest areas
• Ball court
• Kitchen and Eating area
• Wi-Fi everywhere
• Organic garden
Openmind Projects Cofounders - East meeting West
Sven Mauleon, from affluent Sweden, and Gaweechat Joompaula, from a rural village in Thailand, are the co-founders of Openmind Projects. They set out together to find ways to use IT to help the poor. Sven’s focus is on developing the organization and the way we work, train and help people. He brings extensive international and Thailand experience to Openmind Projects. Gaweechat is now our operating and IT manager, a self-taught and true role model to local people!
Sven: ‘I had an idea to bridge knowledge divides between rich and poor with the help of IT. And now we bridge culture divides between local people and overseas volunteers too!’
Gaweechat: ‘I grew up without electricity in my village but I got a chance to learn to use computers to help other people. We believe in learning by doing. Let people like me take responsibility and learn from their trials and errors.’
Openmind Projects. Milestones and Recognition
Better learning methods
Fundraising to help more people
Our first ‘Mobile Camps’ for isolated Karen, Burma migrant students in the Thai Myanmar mountains, thanks to international sponsors.
They were very successful and popular and school will look to find finding for more learning camps in 2017.
Openmind Projects was invited to take part in an international campaign by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, “The Little Big Project”, to encourage volunteering in Thailand.
Openmind Projects won overwhelmingly with over a million votes winning 5000 USD which we donated to save endangered sea turtles.
We began to arrange for our own Learning Camps at our Nong Khai Center.
We connected with Burmese and Karen migrants, stateless, by the Thai Myanmar border to support local projects by recruiting volunteers to go there to help and donate computers to local projects.
We also began inviting Karen and Burmese students to our Training Center.
We were a finalist in the Stockholm Challenge, ICT for Development in 2008. Generous sponsors helped us to bring a group of five to present Openmind Projects work in Sweden.
We began inviting students from Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia to our special Learning Camps at our Training Center.
We improved our learning methods and began training our trainees to help run our Camps.
On to Cambodia
Openmind Projects visited Cambodia and Nepal, and decided to work with some local projects, and to invite trainees to our center and recruiting volunteer to the projects.
We were approached by CNN. They wanted to recommend Openmind Projects as one of the 'Be Your Own Change' initiatives.
We moved to our new Training Center, a former fitness center, which we converted to a Training Center!
We went to Laos, invited to support sustainable ecotourism and community development.
With volunteers we designed a website to promote Lao ecotourism, trekkingcentrallaos.com
And volunteers began to go there to help local villagers.
As a result, Openmind Projects initiated an ecotourism, community project in Northeast Thailand. We designed a website and made a video. Now the homestay is recommended by Lonely Planet, Ban Kham Pia , as one of the best in Thailand!
Openmind Projects expanded to South Thailand. We conducted teacher workshops and met national parks. After the tsunami on 26th December, 2004, Openmind Projects was one of the first organizations to help bring aid to people.
We changed name from IT in Isan to Openmind Projects, and designed a website to invite our own volunteers to help Thai village schools and children to learn IT and English. We have always practiced learning-by-doing, task based learning. Let students learn some skills and then apply it immediately. Or ask them to solve a problem, and to find out how to solve it. No traditional rote learning by heart!
Our initiatives were featured in The Bangkok Post and recognized by UNESCO.
And we opened our first very modest Center for trainees and volunteers.
And introduced our first volunteer training program.
We were invited to present our findings at an international conference, Closing Gaps in the Digital Divide, hosted by the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok and sponsored by the Asian Development Bank.
As a result international volunteers contacted us to help us.