San Sa Ho commune project historical facts
San Sa Ho commune deserve +3000 people (from 3 villages)
Hello world, my name is Steven, I am French Canadian living in central Vietnam since 2007. I discovered Cat Cat village in November 2010, I wanted to check my emails with my phone but there was no internet access available, no Wifi and no 3G and I was wondering how does such a thing was possible ? Why this village was so “isolated from the world”, being just a few minutes from a major tourist city (with access to basic services) I have been a webmaster (working on the internet) for the last 15 years and the life-changing potential of the Web is clear to me …
However, there are still barriers preventing billions of people from creating, communicating, collaborating, learning and growing through the use of the internet and Cat Cat village is part of it. So I gave it some thought in finding solutions to offer these great people more opportunities for a better future … Globally, this is how the Cat Cat project was born.
About this internet project (wonderful project)
The world is full of amazing people and there is many people just like myself who want to help these local people there but don’t know HOW. I like solving problems and I have just identified one, looking for solutions seems obvious the online world could be part of the answer by using Internet to reach the masses !! I am a believer that “Science and technology coupled with men of good will is one way to solve hunger and poverty worldwide” and I can’t wait to prove my theory. I realized this “village project” could be easily duplicated with other villages and I ended-up covering most of ethnic minorities villages of Sapa district (and more) which now represent a unique domain names portfolio.
San Sa Ho commune (the first reflexions)
– Connect the village to Internet : By wireless or 3G network.
– Offer Mobile Phones : So they can ALL access the internet.
– Improve the schools : To have a place in the village for Internet performing.
– Educate : Teach villagers how to access, use, search and perform on the web.
2 months after (on January 1st 2011) I went back to Sa Pa and that’s when I had the idea of CatCat.com. Luckily for me, the web address was for sale. Luckily for the village, I am a man of action so I went back to Cat Cat village on the 2nd (for my 2nd visit) looking for inspiration (wondering what I could do with such a great internet address) other than offering everybody an online identity with addresses such as “email@example.com” and I had many web possibilities on my way back home :
1) A simple information site | 2) A daily pictures blog | 3) With a members area
4) Making money showing online ads the traditonnal way | 5) Buy local articrafts online,
6) Publish online souvenir picture for 2$ | 7) Donate money to help local people,
8) Support a local person | 9) Contribute to the village | 10) Sponsor a villager project
11) Trekkings with locals | 12) Donation Boxes | 13) Black Hmong gallery | 14) All of them
Moving to Cat Cat village (in the rice paddies)
On February 5th 2011, I decided to leave my comfortable China Beach lifestyle in Da Nang to move in the clouds of Sapa (with the intention of not leaving the place for a whole year) First to be closer to Cat Cat village and learn more about the culture of the Black Hmong people, and to make sure my idea was good enough to become a project. I spent most of 2011 in the village itself where I developed an original fundraising campaign, both locally and online with measurable results, I designed a shop (and more) to make visitors aware about the existence of the websites and make the world understand that 100% of their contribution will benefits directly to villagers, opposed to any fundraising operations I have witness so far where people are donating money and don’t know where it is going … So, I am still working full time on the project, dedicating to most important resource there is (my time) building a résumé-website and creating innovative ways to help developing the village.
Summer of 2011 (the planning)
April 1st 2011, I was starting to meet the local authorities to get my project in place when I have meet an incredible person, and I realised that my vision was “years in advance” and before the villagers can use Internet : they first need to read and write and my priorities changed. One of my objective consist to expand the learning capacities with an IT initiation class in San Sa Ho commune. The Cat Cat project became the San Sa Ho project.
Autumn of 2011 (the nightmare)
It was the final countdown with the paperwork procedures, I dealt directly with the San Sa Ho commune for the work contract and I’ve obtained a work permit from the Lao Cai province but encountered problems with the immigration who refused to make a 1 year extension on my visa. (tourist/business complications)
Winter of 2011 (the beach)
Blocked in Thailand, I enjoyed the beaches for 2 months before returning to Canada for Xmas with the family, while continue developing the web project because there is still a lot to be done…
San Sa Ho progress 2011 (and some milestones)
01/03 – Discovered Cat Cat village
06/06 – Discovered San Sa Ho school
08/08 – Discovered San Sa Ho hospital
08/22 – Moved to Cat Cat village
09/22 – Founded our shop in Cat Cat
09/30 – Work contract signed with San Sa Ho commune
10/12 – Work permit obtained from Lao Cai province
10/15 – Fundraising campaign ready
10/21 – But block in Thailand with visa problem
12/17 – Setup new headquarters in Canada
12/31 – Chúc mừng năm mới
Spring of 2012 (the new challenge)
Looking for alternatives ways to make this project working, I continued anyway (13,000 kilometers away) until the end of my contract with the commune. Tour operators in Vietnam has been contacted regarding the collection of web properties, NO response was received (same results with a rental offer) I came to the conclusion that I’ll be better to work on the tour operator project myself to remain independant. I used LinkedIn to make relationship with people involved in the travel industry, charitable activities and sustainable tourism. It became obvious the domain names were perfect for a tour operator company strategy so I went in this direction : Looking to partner with someone creating a new company (for the locals) or setup a branch office in Sapa for an existing national operator and such alternatives…
2012/11/01 – Work contract terminated (project update)
I learned early in the process it could be a LOT easier if it was not an “individual initiative” but a Vietnamese organization, person, company with the same project. Foundations want to support but are blocked with their guidelines. Other organizations showed interests but did not follow because of their respective daily occupations. Some asked us to contact again in 4 months, while others said 2 years. A lot are talking but few of them do (a lot of excuses but a few results) Obviously, not having an official status have most closed their door on us.
It was a great learning experience and I’ve meet a lot of wonderful people in the process.
Simply said : The majority want to contribute but nobody can help get started (sad but true) I’ve dedicated a full year trying to find good-will like-minded people and it lead nowhere. I am now putting the “community projects” in stand-by, in order to focus on the “business activities”.
First things first : having an official status with the proper authorizations is the foundation of everything.