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Village Focus International

Vientiane, Laos
Joined March 2021

Village Focus International works in Laos as a leader in the fight to improve land, natural resource and food security, and against human trafficking and other forms of violence

Presence in: Laos
Focus: Community / Customary Land Rights, Education, Environmental Justice, Gender-based violence, Livelihoods, Policy Advocacy, Women's Rights

Village Focus International was created in Laos, and is a registered 501(c)(3) organization in the United States. In 2000, we became the first international organization to be founded in Laos, and worked in Cambodia for 10 year. VFI has worked in more than 300 remote and vulnerable villages, and focuses on local leadership development to bring about positive fundamental social change. VFI operates two programs: Land & Livelihoods (land, agriculture, land investment), and the Protection and Empowerment of Women and Children (human trafficking, education, village youth). VFI’s average annual budget is USD1.5 million, with an average of 50 local staff members. VFI has remained true to our founding spirit: to emphasize and support local leadership, decision-making and ownership.
Our PEWC program focuses on counseling and care for survivors of trafficking, and on the creation of livelihood opportunities and skills to prevent trafficking. In 2020 we expanded to include support to males, with focus on both trafficking survivors and those we deem to be vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.
Our L&L program, particularly our Rights-LINK (Land, Information, Networking and Knowledge) project, remains the national leader in land and natural resource rights in Laos. We continue to emphasize partnerships – with government, civil society, and the private sector – in addressing land issues. L&L is increasingly focused on food security as well, especially using the Green Earth Center — VFI’s 40-hectare training farm and demonstration center – as a venue for helping farmers develop practical strategies to address increasing land pressures with innovation and creativity.
VFI also operates a 40 hectare demonstration farm and training center in southern Laos, call The Green Earth Center. This facility, unique in Laos, is designed to benefit vulnerable communities, other INGO and NPA partners, the private sector, as well as our Lao government partners.

People Associated With This Organization

Richard Reece

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.
Richard Reece is the network champion (main point of contact) for Village Focus International.

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