Four Winds Lao is a company registered in Lao PDR. It was established in 2011 as a partnership between Australian and Lao shareholders who aim to develop retreat facilities as a vehicle for generating significant community development in Lao villages.

The vision behind its establishment is the view that communities can develop rapidly and sustainably through the encouragement of small and medium size enterprises that provide income and training opportunities that builds the capacity community members associated with the enterprise. 

Peter and Semone Cowham are two of the five company directors. The three Lao Directors are from remote villages in Northern Laos. Peter and Semone worked for over ten years in Non-Government Organizations in Central Australia managing and delivering government funded community development programs for Aboriginal desert communities. Traditionally, funds for such projects come from the Federal government and are passed on to the Territory or State governments. The Northern Territory government takes an acknowledged administration fee of 55% of all funds forwarded. Less than half of the intended funds actually get spent on the intended projects.

Peter and Semone experienced first hand the dismal outcomes that followed inevitably behind the myriad of expensive CD  projects that were to supposed to bring improved life and opportunity to Indigenous Australians. Without community ownership, backed up by effective education and training and reward for individual initiative, thirty years of government coerced community development has been an abject disaster, to such and extent that the Federal Government launched a military style intervention into Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory in 2007. 

The intervention programs have since repeated the failures of previous decades while suspending the Racial Discrimination Act and individual rights of Indigenous Australians. Now in its sixth year it has produced little discernible change in the quality of life and opportunity of those people it sought to help. The social disintegration continues. The alcohol abuse, the violence, the low literacy levels, the high unemployment, the low life expectancy and overall poor health of the Indigenous community continues.

Peter and Semone left Central Australia in 2010 and travelled to South East Asia convinced that there was a more effective way to deliver community development that was more balanced, less expensive, more sustainable and just. Upon arriving in Lao PDR they soon dismayed to see that a similar thing was happening there as had happened in Australia. NGOs from around the developed world have been and are pouring millions of dollars into well intended but poorly delivered community development projects which actually exacerbate community dependence and relieve the Lao government of the responsibility of delivering effective education, health, municipal services and community welfare.Funds deriving from foreign NGOs account for 30% of the Gross Domestic Product of Lao. Due to a variety of reasons and overt corruption, less than half of this is actually spent on the intended projects. This bears an eerie similarity to what was happening in Australia though social consequences ane not as bad.


Firstly, we accept that an effective way to development a community is the profit incentive. There is no such thing as a not for profit organization. An organization that does not operate efficiently does not exist for long and cannot achieve its long term aims. It is what they do with their profits that sets them apart from the corporate world.  There is nothing wrong in using this principle and apply it to community development. We seek to establish successful medium and small size enterprises that engage the local community in the enterprise by providing direct employment, education and vocational training opportunities. This involves long term investment and collaboration with partnering communities.

Secondly, we also recognize that there are immediate needs that should be addressed as an act of dana (giving). For example, a child who has inadequate clothing in a cold winter may not have the time available to them to be able to complete an effective education. 

Thirdly, we realize and embrace the fact that religion can have a major influence in our lives. As a Buddhist organization we are guided by tenets of Dhamma and actively support the local temple in  village. More than any other single thing, the religion is a unifying force in Laos and part of the community fabric that should not be underestimated.

We therefore see successful community development as being a mix of profitable enterprise, education and dana. We are developing a range of projects commensurate to these ideals.

FOUR WINDS GARDEN RETREAT LAO ZAYABURI ROAD, BAHN PAKSI, LUANG PRABANG is the major community development enterprise being undertaken by Vinyana Group in Lao PDR.


Sponsorship for Lao high school girls

Tuk Tuk for tourist business - Luang Pra Bang

Clothes for Kids - Northern Lao

Students' Dormitory - Muang Ngoi Gow School

Medical Kits for Clinics - Northern Lao

Village freight enterprise - Muang Ngoi


EVENTS IN 2012 / 2013 - 

  • MEDITATION SESSIONS - Introduction to Theravada Buddhism information sessions held at 55 Ban Xieng Torng, Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. Travellers from Australia, England, United States, Argentina, Italy and Russia experienced their first contact with the Dhamma.
  • CLOTHES FOR KIDS DANA PROJECT Distribution of 40 kilograms of clothing to children in Muang Ngoi Gow and Sop Jaam villages located on the Nam Ou River in Northern Lao in June 2012, Our second distribution of 40 kg of childrens clothes was completed in February 2013. We clothes were distributed to the school aged children at  Sop Gorng village on the Nam Ou River. Thanks to all those who have contributed.
  • MEDICAL KITS FOR CLINICS DANA PROJECT - Donation of a blood pressure kit and assorted medical supplies to the village clinic at Muang Ngoi Gow in Northern Lao. The clinic at Muang Ngoi has opened a four room hospital built by The Bamboo Schools group based in Germany. This facility will provide place for patients to be treated instead of being sent to the Norng Keo hospital.
  • DISTRIBUTION OF BOOKLET "The Tathagata - Buddhist Guide to a Decent Way of Living" - We have been distributing the booklet at market stalls in Sydney and Cairns area.
  • VISIT TO WAT BUDDHA DHAMMA - We travelled to Wiseman's Ferry, near Sydney, to pay our respects at WBD, the first Forest Monastery established in Australia (in 1978) by Pra Khanti Palo, Sister Aya Khemma and the community of lay supporters. Six bhikkhus and one samenari (female novice)  spent the Rains Retreat at the Wat which is located in Dharug National Park.
  • 2013 JOURNEY TO LAOS - Reports on our recent journey to Buddhist locations in Thailand and Laos (listed below) can be read on the new current affairs page on this site. We will provide regular updates of places and events of interest to Buddhists and those planning a such a trip.
  • VISIT TO PAH PONG - Ubon Ratchatani, Thailand.
  • VISIT TO WAT PAH NANACHAHT - International Forest Monastery, Ubon, Thailand. Jan 17, 2013
  • VISIT TO WAT SISAKET - Vientiane, Lao PDR, 26 Jan, 2013
  • WAT OGART SAYARAHM - Muang Ngoi, Lao PDR. Feb, Apr. 2013
  • WAT XIENG TORNG Luang Pra Bang, Lao PDR. March 2013
  • VISIT TO WAT PAH CITTA BHAVANA - Saka of Wat Pah Pong located near Dorn Muang Airport, Bangkok. 17th Apr., 
  • BODY, MIND AND SOUL EXPO - At Tanks Cultural Centre, Cairns on 30th June 2013. As the body is getting past worry and since there is no soul, you will find us in the "mind" section.

Pre-Loved Children's Clothes

In 2012 Mekong Silk Crafts subsidised costs and facilitated the distribution of donated pre-loved clothes for children in remote villages in Northern Lao.

Clothes being distributed to young children at Sop Jam Weaving Village, North of Muang Ngoi, North Lao in 2012.

In 2013 we distributed 40 kilos of clothes in Sop Gorn, a small village near Muang Ngoi, Northern Lao. There were many more children waiting outside the house, hoping to get something.

Children walking to a village house where the clothes were being distributed.


Raising Funds to build Dormitory at Muang Ngoi, Lao

 Dormitory block at Muang Ngoi School

Current boarding accommodation at Muang Ngoi School, Northern Lao

FOUR WINDS GARDEN RETREATS LAO is a provider of personal development retreats in Laos and Australia


Four Winds is a newly established company building a base of operation in two countries, Australia and Laos. In Laos PDR we trade as "Four Winds Garden Retreats Lao".

We aim to work closely with nearby villages providing employment and training to locals. A distribution of profits will go to support the village school, community development and temples.


Tourist Transport Project

In September 2014 Four Winds supported the establishment of a new enterpise Luang Pra Bang. Four Winds Provided 50% of the funds to purchase Diahatsu  two seater tray truck known in Laos as a Tuk Tuk. The balance of the cost was raised by Nai Sivorn and his family. Vorn had a small plot of land that was resumed by the Lao Government as the new dam on the Khan River neared completion. The compensation wasn't much but it was just enough when put with the funds Four Winds was able to contribute to buy the Tuk Tuk. 

Sivorn will now be able to retire his old three wheel jumbo which has provided his family income for over ten years transporting people around Luang Pra Bang. With his new Tuk Tuk Vorn will be able to get a licence to transport tourists from LPB to the beautiful Kwang Si Waterfall, 40 kilometres away. This is much more lucrative and will enable Vorn to finish building his house for his wife and 2 children.