Voluntourism / Photography Workshop – Dali, China­

[ 0 ] February 3, 2013 |

It always amazes me how the smallest gestures somehow end up yielding the most profound impact. Dali was one of those experiences for us. It all started several months ago. Alison and I received an email from Daniel Anggara from the Muskoka Foundation. Following the mantra, “doing good as you go”, Muskoka focuses on connecting travelers with various partner organizations around the globe. Daniel had been reading our blog and was particularly interested in some of the volunteer work we had done in Uganda. After reading our working itinerary on-line and realizing that we were scheduled to arrive in South East Asia (Daniel’s home and base of operations) in the next couple months he reached out to us about partnering up with Muskoka to do something with one of their partner NGOs. After months of communication the perfect volunteer opportunity soon fell into our laps.

Muskoka Foundation Photography Workshop - Dali, China 2012

Muskoka Foundation Photography Workshop – Dali, China 2012

Based in the small town of CaiCun, situated just east of the city of Dali in China’s Yunnan province, Rishi Labs is a mash-up of socially constructive ideas. Rishi is part artist retreat, part working café, part guesthouse, and part vocational job training center. Six Chinese teenagers, all between the ages of 16 to 20, were currently living at Rishi when we arrived. After aging out of a local orphanage, Rishi Labs decided to take them in, providing them a place to stay as well as teaching them some useful vocational skills. Mauro, the resident chef at the café, was a recent transplant from Italy. Mauro had been brought in to both run the café as well as teach Rishi’s residents cooking techniques in hopes that they would be able to leverage these skills to procure a restaurant job in the neighboring tourist mecca of Dali. In hopes of expanding their skillset beyond just cooking, Muskoka had sent a digital camera to Rishi a few months ago hoping that someone down the road would be able to teach some of the Rishi residents the basics of photography. That someone just so happened to be us.

hanging out at Rishi Labs

hanging out at Rishi Labs

Quirky Rishi Labs

the quirky enclave of Rishi Labs