Why we are Helping and how YOU can get involved

The remote villages of Laos have never recovered from the 'Secret' war of the 1960's. While rich in culture and tradition, their education, healthcare and hygiene conditions are severely lacking. The average lifespan is only 56 years and average age is only 20.8, caused by poor quality water, poor hygiene and general poverty. BUT with your help we have already made a difference in the lives of over 2700 villagers.

We have built schools in the villages of Pha Yong and Had Chanh, and a 3rd school located in Done Lom is under construction. We have also distributed over 200 water filters systems and completed hygiene training for three entire villages. Each family is required to take this course before a filter is provided, in order to promote a longer, healthier and happier life. A new water source including a dam, water tank and taps has been completed, as has our first bank of hygienic toilets.

It doesn't stop there. We have requests for 34 new projects and with your help, will do what we can to support as many requests as possible.

You can help in so many different ways. Before you do though, note that less than 5% will go to direct overhead costs, contrary to many NGO's who's overheads can reach 80%. Sponsors for every project will receive emailed pictures and details of how the money was spent.

Here are some examples of how you can help with your financial contribution.

- $55 buys a water purification filter for a family of 8.
It will also include your name on the water filter and a picture forwarded to you with the family and the filter unit.
- $12,500 US buys a school for grades 1, 2 and 3. Perhaps you would like to sponsor or assist us to sponsor a school.
- $4,000 US (approx) buys school tables and desks for a three room school and a two-room kindergarten.
- $700 US (approx) pays for a teacher for one year
- $50 US buys education for one child for one year including school fees, 2 uniforms, shoes, backpack and school supplies.
hygienic washroom facilities rane depending on the number of stalls and start at about $3000, but are critical to prevent more disease.

If you would like to become involved and to help the people of rural Laos help themselves lead a more fulfilling life, please email us at AdoptaVillageinLaos@gmail.com. Official Tax Receipts are not yet possible although we hope to receive charitable status this summer. Meanwhile we would still love to hear of your interest.

Please help............we cannot do this alone....

Meanwhile, please enjoy our updates below.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ban Pha Yong Project

Ban Pha Yong Project

Population: 83 Families (approximately 400 people)

Children: 96 to age 13

Location: Northern Luang Prabang Province. To get there from the city of Luang Prabang, it is about a four hour truck ride travelling north to Nong Khiaw, then about a 1 hour fast boat ride, continuing north along the Nam Ou River. From there you trek on foot through jungle and across rice fields for about 1 1/2 hours depending on how fit you are or how adaptable you are to the temperatures.

Recent History: The Khiaw tribe, originally from the hills and Mong tribe from the valley below, joined together so that their combined size would attract Government support. Individually, the tribes were too small. The Government forced them to move twice in the last 8 years and the village currently sits on a plateau of sorts surrounded by scenic but deadly hills, due to unexploded armaments left over from the Vietnam war. With Government aid, the village received a good water supply, although not clean, and a primary School for grades one, two and three. For further education, the students are forced to move to another village.

Current Conditions:
The average farmer here makes very little. I have heard of annual income as low as $16.25 per year, but will endeavor to get the actual number for this specific village. Most are forced to find additional income through the sale of poultry and pigs, handwoven items etc. The cost to go to this school is $2.50 per student of which approximately 10% of the kids cannot afford to go. Extreme poverty is obvious.

Source of Support: Income from sales of excess rice, chickens and pigs.

Diet: Generally what is found in the jungle - bamboo shoots and various greens, banana and sometimes fish, from a local pond or stream. Sticky rice is their staple (grown on the hills) and steamed rice (grown in low lying areas). They also eat the ends of a small vine plants often found growing as weeds between the rice plants in the fields. They do not eat eggs because they need the chickens. They rarely eat chickens or pigs, preferring to sell them.

Priorities according to the village chiefs:
First - Kindergarten school so the families don't have to take them and tend to them in the fields while they work,
Second - Clean water - currently they boil all drinking water but there are still many contaminants,
Third - Hygienic Washroom Facilities. Currently each home has a hole in the ground behind their home covered by a poorly constructed bamboo shelter. When the hole is full, they cover it and move the shelter.
Fourth - Healthcare. It is about a 2 1/2 hours trek and boat ride from the nearest help, or several hours to the nearest hospital. They specifically requested a doctor or nurse.
Fifth - Tourism as a means of income for the village. The chiefs and elders have spoken about it for some time but their knowledge of how to start up and resources are extremely limited.

Our involvement will be to directly fund the first three priorities as identified by the village chiefs. We will also research the possibility of putting them in touch with a Healthcare Foundation. Upon our return in December, we will take a closer look at what will be required to develop tourism in this remote village. It won't be easy. Generally speaking, backpackers usually travel light (including their pocket books). Those that have spending money to buy crafts etc., generally avoid the long jungle treks.

Pha Yong Kindergarten School - Phase 1

Cost: equivalent to $9450 USD
We have authorized the plans and funding to add an extension of two rooms onto the existing stone block school. We also believe that the Government will fund school teachers, when and if grades 4 and 5 become possible. The Director of Education states that there must be 15 students per class before they authorize funding. The village must pay the educators for the first three years before they will consider such request.

Additional Funding will be provided for the roughly 10 students that cannot afford to go to school. Estimated cost is $25/year for the 10 students. The chiefs think it possible that the few families still living in the hills will relocate to the village with the promise to educate their kids, so this amount may change.

Additional Funding will be provided for the Kindergarten teacher. We have agreed to fund for the first year and will discuss the requirements for the following year. The average cost for a school teacher is about $700/year. This is probably a bit high but needed to attract the teacher to the village who will still have to build a home which averages about $1300 USD

Additional Funding for Furniture: Current quotes are almost $4500 USD to cover the original three rooms and the two new ones, since the Government did not provide funding for furniture. They are currently using makeshift tables in two of the rooms and floor matts for the third room. The cost is considered extremely high, even taking into consideration extensive shipping costs so more quotes and pictures of the furniture have been requested.

Clean Water - Phase 2 (running concurrently with Phase 1)

School - there is a water source at the school with two squat toilets however no hand-washing basins. We will be reviewing a protoype of a new design for the basins in September. If unsatisfactory, we will fund the construction of two handwashing basins that will incorporate a Water Filter System valued at $44USD plus shipping. Shipping costs to Luang Prabang City are about $2 per unit. We are waiting for shipping estimates for the rest of the journey.

83 Homes - We will be funding 83 water filter systems ($44USD) plus shipping costs, one to each family in the village. The total cost estimate is $3652 plus shipping.

Hand-washing Stations - We have not approved funding for this portion of the project yet. The requirements will be reviewed in December/January and costed at that time.
A general guess would be about 20-25 basins and water filters required throughout the village because we will be building multi-unit washrooms to save on cost.

Prior to delivery of the units, one adult member from each family will be required to take a hygiene course and to understand the maintenance requirements of the units.

Hygienic Washrooms
The general thought is that we would fund the building of washrooms containing several toilets for up to 8 or 10 families, depending on the proximity of the homes to each other. The planning for this phase of the project has not been started yet. However the walls will be block walls with tile roof and hand washing stations. We will be reviewing sites for the sceptic beds, requirements for getting water to the toilets and hand-washing stations etc.

It is unfortunate but I am not an expert in this field and although I understand their need for a nurse or a doctor, the best I think we can do for them is liase with a Foundation or charity who's primary funding goes to healthcare. I have since been given some information of such a Foundation and will endeavor to discuss the village needs with them during my next visit.

In order to help the village sustain their livelihoods and to somewhat improve the village wealth to the point where they may no longer require future financial support, I am looking at different options. There clearly is a lot of work to do here in order to prepare the village for tourist type activities - the first one is access and this will be costly in order to attract more tourists with money. Backpackers would certainly enjoy the village but they generally don't carry much in the line of spending money. The other major concern is to find a happy medium between tourism and culture. We do not wish to contaminate the village customs and culture with tourist demands. I do not consider this as a critical fundraising project at this stage. Investigation may well lead to some sort of local Government support. I have decided not to treat this as part of the overall project but will work on this as a personal interest project.

Update as of July 28, 2010
After many days of trying, I was finally able to contact our liason in the village. Cell phone connection is extremely limited. The monsoon rains have created havoc in the village and there is no access to the outside world at this time, except on foot. The last truck load of building materials took three days and no sleep to arrive. The truck got stuck several times on the muddy riverbanks. More building materials are required but the villagers will have to wait for a considerable dry spell before attempting to bring more building supplies in. As a result, the building construction is going very slowly. It is still too early to tell if the building will be completed on time, in December.
Sickness has run rampant in the village although the people that we know appear to be on the mend.
I still am unable to get pictures of any progress. The closest village with internet access is Nong Khiaw and their internet communications are down as well.

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