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Richard Reece

Laos  
Village Focus International
Joined March 2021
Interests: Community / Customary Land Rights, Education, Environmental Justice, Gender-based violence, Livelihoods, Policy Advocacy, Women's Rights
Rick Reece is the co-Founder and Executive Director of Village Focus International), an international non-profit organization, created in Laos, that is a regional leader in the fight against human trafficking and in promoting land and natural resource rights for village people throughout the region. He has been based in Asia for most of the past 32 years, including the past 21 years in Laos.
In1982, Rick began his international journey by accepting a job as the Assistant Director of the Sendai Student Center in Sendai, Japan, a job that included a travel-study program for Japanese university students that included visits to a number of South and Southeast Asian countries over the course of two years. These adventures, which included Thailand, Malaysia and Laos, were an on-the-job introduction to life in the developing world and set the stage for a life working in international development. They also led to a love affair with Asia –- specifically Southeast Asia – that continues to this day, both in regard to his professional and personal lives.
Masters degrees from the University of Michigan (Asian Studies, 1989) and the University of Oregon (Public Policy, Planning and Management, 1998) bookended nearly five years in the Philippines, including three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer and two working for a local non-profit organization in a small island province. Rick lived for all five of these years on tiny Itbayat Island in Batanes Province, the northernmost inhabited island in the northernmost province of the country, and a place hit by an average of a dozen typhoons each year. The island is among the most isolated and inaccessible of the country, with 100-300 foot cliffs all around and not a single beach, often out of contact with the rest of the world for months at a time. During Rick’s life there, from early 1992 to the end of 1996, Itbayat had no electricity and no running water, and Rick’s challenge was to work with the local community to build a domestic water delivery system for the island’s 3000 inhabitants. Three years after his arrival all island households had a gravity fed water spigot at their homes, a testament to a spirit of community mobilization that was the single most influential experience in shaping the professional vision and future work of Rick, and eventually led to the founding of Village Focus International.
After two years in Laos, Rick and his small team of Lao staff members created what was then and remains to be the only international non-profit organizations started in Laos, continuing and expanding upon the work of World Education. Today, more than 20 years later, Village Focus International (VFI) is known throughout the region as a leader in Laos in the fight against human trafficking and in the promotion of land and natural resource rights for the most land and food insecure people in the country.

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