In January 2012, together with a group of friends (Seksan, Chris, David & Yew Leong), Joseph went into a journey of assisting his college buddy, Ajarn Cagino who became a forest monk to design an orphanage in Maehongson, Northern Thailand.
The remote province of Mae Hong Son, located in the mountains of the northwest of Thailand that border Burma, is one of the poorest areas in Thailand. Its population includes many different ethnic groups, amongst which are a number of impoverished tribal peoples. These communities are under increasing pressure from such problems as deforestation and drug trafficking. Many of their traditional cultural forms are unsustainable in the modern age and people are often confused as to how to adapt to the rapid changes all around them. Stress-related ailments are constantly rising. Long traditions of self-sufficiency and mutual aid have slowly diminished.
When a group of wandering forest monks walked through the area several years ago they met with local lay Buddhists seeking ways to help the tribal communities. This meeting provided the impetus form a number of projects, aimed at applying Buddhist approaches to dealing with the problems. Retreats for children were developed in which reflections on wise relationship to the material world wree coupled with instructions on developing inner peace and understanding.
Initially, funding for the projects undertaken was kindly provided by Ms. Crystal Lau, a Malaysian lay Budhist and sister of Ven. Ajanh Cagino, one of the mainstays of the programme. However, as the projects increased in number and scope it was felt necessary to establish a foundation. Dhammagiri Foundation thus came into being, wiih the intention of putting this work on a more organized footing and giving the opportunities for others to participate.