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Water-powered grinding mills have played an important role in rural Tibetan culture, not only as a place to grind corn, but as a site that brings the community together. With modernization, however, many mills have been replaced by more convenient electric methods. This, combined with the recent trend of younger generations moving to the cities for school or work has loosened the social bonds within communities and contributed to villages becoming depopulated.

Today, rural communities are starting to realize that mills not only served practical everyday purposes, but also played an important social role in maintaining traditional community life. Local residents are often happy to restore mills for grinding corn as well as to revive the bonds between their scattered communities. Water mills have become a bridge to bring back these lost traditions of being together and a sense of community.

Rebuilding water mills to revive traditional communities is one of our main voluntourism projects. Dragon Expeditions sees water mills as a tool to revitalize local communities and revive cultural traditions that are in danger of being lost in the process of modernization.

Our voluntourism trips bring service-minded travelers like you to rebuild watermills in places where depopulation is taking place rapidly. On a recent trip, Dragon Expeditions staff, together with volunteers from England and China, helped to rebuild the waterwheel in one of the mills in the Tibetan village of Layue in Danba. Volunteers worked alongside local traditional craftsmen, using traditional tools long since gone in the West. Volunteers got to live with local families and were immersed in local culture and traditions. The group and community celebrated the completion of the water mill with traditional song and dance special to this area.

If you like to be involved in such a project or if you wish to have more information about it, please contact us directly at : voluntourism@dragonexpeditions.com