Mechai Viravaidya began his non-profit work in 1974 to address the unsustainable population growth rate in Thailand. A variety of humorous and innovative methods were utilized in conjunction with mobilizing and educating a network of rural schools and village communities to make contraceptives available throughout Thailand. When HIV/AIDS first appeared in Thailand in the mid-1980s, similar methods were used to launch a major prevention program.
Following his success at promoting family planning and HIV prevention, Mechai has aggressively approached the problem of rural poverty by empowering the poor to build sustainable entrepreneurial capacity, community empowerment for health, and income generating activities at the village level.
In 2008, he established the Mechai Bamboo School in Northeast Thailand, to re-engineer rural education. The school acts as a life-long learning center for all members of the surrounding communities as well as a focal point of social and economic advancement. Through partnerships with the private sector, the Bamboo School assists over 50 rural schools to become centers for community development.