Ecotourism Training Center: Khao Lak, Thailand

The ETC started with an ambitious mission to provide substantial career training to disadvantaged young Thai nationals affected by the Tsunami Disaster, and to provide positive force in rebuilding the local community, including engaging the students in environmental conservation projects and providing constant positive news media for the rebuilding effort.  Located in the worst hit area of Thailand, our center has emerged as one of the Khao Lak area's 'bright spot' programs. A 9 month intensive training program focused on English language and Computer literacy, Advanced Emergency Care, and Marine Conservation, culminates in certification as a PADI professional undersea tour guide. The training enables our students to seek professional employment upon completion, and to help protect the local coastal environment.

At the time of this writing the ETC is in it's 3rd year of operation. The program has supported by many private donors, and by several institutions, including OpUSA, The French Red Cross, Kenan Institute Asia, UNEP, EU, BAAC Bank, Amistad International, MCI Communications, Invision Communications, PATA, Intrepid Travel Foundation, PADI and Soforthilfe.

The long term goal of the ETC is to become a leading force in building local capacity for marine conservation efforts and providing steady educational outreach to local communities regarding the link between the health of their coral reefs and economic health of their local economy. The ETC plans to expand it's successful model throughout South East Asia. These goals are closely aligned with the conclusions of a growing body of scientific research on coral reef conservation indicating that successful global reef conservation must be achieved at local levels. The ETC partners with many local and international agencies involved in reef conservation and provides undersea labor and service to both government and non government efforts alike. Past projects include working with  the PMBC (Phuket Marine Biological Center) UNEP Green Fins Program, Reef Check International, The Royal Thai Navy, The Chulabhorn 36 Marine Park, and Thai National Marine Parks for both the Similan Islands and the Thaimuang National Undersea Park of Phang-Nga Province.

The students of ETC are all economically disadvantaged young adults from Phang-Nga and Phuket Provinces many of whose homes and families were devastated by Tsunami.  They range from ages 17 to 34 The majority of our students had not completed any formal schooling beyond the primary level, most had extremely limited English skills, and most had never used a computer prior to ETC.  Now each is uniquely qualified to command a professional career in the area’s leading industry with a substantial list of accomplishments, an impressive range of professional and technical certifications, and a resumé that most never dreamed possible. Besides gaining a foothold in a professional career, our students sign a formal service agreement creating a core of undersea conservation specialists and are on call to support their national parks services and coastal communities with both service and educational outreach programs for several years beyond graduating from the ETC program.

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Our classroom moves around

on the ocean...

in the Mangroves...

on the river.

Along the way, we've cleaned

up 35 tons of debris, fishing

nets, and garbage from the sea.