The ethnic minority owned social enterprise in Sapa
Sapa O’Chau is a social enterprise founded by Shu Tan, a young woman of the ethnic minority of the Black Hmong. The idea started off with Shu being a local guide speaking English and taking tourists to discover the remote villages of the minorities in Sapa. Soon she realized that responsible tourism could help the local communities economically but also would protect and safeguard their culture and tradition.
Today Sapa O’Chau has grown to a successful social enterprise with the goal to improve the life of the minorities in Sapa by education and to preserve their cultures by making them accessible to tourists.
The Sapa O’Chau School and Center
The Sapa O’Chau school and center is not a school in the traditional sense. In the remote villages surrounding Sapa Town, the government provides kindergarten and primary schools. The Vietnamese highschool however is located only in Sapa Town, which means that the kids have to travel every day approximately 15km from village to town.
In order to support families to overcome financial or geographical obstacles to send their children to highschool, Sapa O’Chau has set up a boarding facility which fosters the student’s education and helps to make better use of their time. Free food, accommodation and a variety of enrichment classes are provided to make sure of their highschool certification and further educational success. Volunteers from all over the world teach conversational English, academic or technical subjects, and thus contribute to the constant development of the students.
The Sapa O’Chau school and center is mainly funded by the trekking and homestay services, the Sapa O’Cau Cafe and the Hmong handicraft store.
Trekking with Sapa O’Chau
Sapa O’Chau collaborates with all ethnic minorities in Sapa, which are Black Hmong, Red Dao, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho.
When going on a trek with Sapa O’Chau you can choose from a variety of options depending on your available time and needs or interests. These can be half a day, full day or multiple day tours. All the guides taking you through the breathtaking surroundings and sceneries have been trained at the Sapa O’Chau school.
You will learn about the villages and the people from local guides who have been raised in this beautiful place and who know the traditions and customs best.
Homestays with Sapa O’Chau
Depending on your interests, you can combine your trekking experience with an authentic homestay at one of the selected host families in the villages.
This experience will bring you as close to the local life and ethnic cultures as possible. You will be able to immerse into their culture, see and learn new things and at the end of a good day’s walk chink glasses of rice wine while having dinner with your host family.
If you would like to learn more about what a trek and homestay with Sapa O’Chau looks like, please read my own personal trekking experience including a Red Dao wedding!