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.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Traditional Dress

Lisa McCoy from Gravenhurst, Ontario and Pauline Johns from Australia arrived on Christmas Day. In fact their flight arrived a half hour early - unheard of in these parts! What a pleasant surprise. I expected that we would be waiting close to an hour before we would see their faces through the arrivals window but they were waiting for us! We had our own entourage including Bounmy's mother from Pha Yong Village to greet them at the airport.

From the airport we dropped off their luggage at the house and enjoyed a celebatory drink with them before heading downtown to a French restaurant and cafe to get them something to eat. They were a little shocked, OK well may be quite shocked at the whole experience. They had been to Laos before but were not expecting private bedrooms, let alone private bathrooms and internet, and a French Bistro to enjoy a Christmas dinner. I would imagine that their accomodations in Cambodia were similar to the village huts we stay in during our travels. Anyway, they are anxious to get into the villages and prefer to skip the touristy things that I had planned for them so that is what we will do AND they will have the experience of celebrating Khamu New Years at Had Chanh and Pha Yong village, complete with traditional costumes.

Speaking of traditional dress, I promised you some pictures of the Mong tribe traditional dress. When we did the official school opening in Pha Yong village, the Mong tribe showed us deep respect by wearing the traditional uniforms and their children in school uniforms.

Above: Chief's Administrator
Upper Right: 1st Chief - Pha Yong Village
Bottom Left: Mother and Daughter all dressed up for the occasion.

These are pictures of the 1st and 2nd chief of Had Chanh Village

The following are pictures of some of the school children, taken with the school water filters.
Pha Yong School (Above)
Had Chanh School childrent in front of their school (Bottom)
So we are now off for breakfast on Boxing Day and hope to show our guests a high school and a hospital so they can get the true feeling of the struggles facing them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tours with Ted, Jennifer H, Jennifer M and Mike

Now that our first group has left and I have successfully managed to email most of our wonderful sponsors for the forst two villages, namely HadChanh and Pha Yong with a photo of family members with their new water filters, it is time to relive the experiences and time for reflection.

Of course there had been a lot of preparations for their arrival but it was so wonderful to be able to share real experiences with our truly amazing guests. As a short recap, Jennifer Mercer, proprietor of Jenn's Dance It Up Studio, Jennifer Hawthorne who offered to teach English and Ted Amsden our infamous photojournalist from Northumberland Today.
Ted was a real trouper carrying his camera luggage everywhere he went - I seriously doubt that I would have been able to lug it around and still enjoy myself but he did and never complained once. In fact he stated a couple of times that he would love to come back. I asked him to tell us what his greatest memory, good or bad, was and he said the destitute feeling he had when visiting a 10 bed hospital about 25km from Luang Prabang. I think all of us were in shock over that one. We had never experienced anything so bad.

Note that this was the cleanest room of the entire hospital and with no water except when it rained.
Being the cleanest room, imagine the birthing room and the examination room - we were told they do surgery there but I think it is more for cuts that require minor stiching after looking at the tools they use. Nothing was clean and everything hazardous is either burned or buried on site in the backyard of the hospital. Needless to say we won't be putting a well there.

In fact nobody complained at all and just went with the flow. Jennfer Hawthorn was game for anything, wanted to experience everything and I believe, enjoyed every single experience. She mentioned that her most joyious moment of her trip was the teaching of English in Pha Yong Village to the school children. I tried my hand at it because there were two classrooms of students to teach and I certainly didn't have the knack that she did - If I sang like she and Jennifer Mercer did I can tell you the kids would have run out of the class howling. I will post a couple of pictures of this once Ted has had a chance to review them.

Jenn Mercer...better known as Diva Jenn. What can I say about her? She was cheerful the entire time and it couldn't have been easy while expecting a child. She was a bit taken back by some of the food that was being offered like a pigs head and wasn't too impressed with the hygiene in the villages but Diva Jen came through with flying colours. Lots of pink to be specific. The kids loved her as you can see below.

Here is a sampling of some of the other highlites and lowlites of their visit.

Having fun with the Governor of Muang Ngoi District during the official opening of Had Chanh School. Wonder who had the most Baci strings?

Obviously Mike - he cheated because he still had the ones on from our previous visit.

What a sight. This is what we saw as we arrived after a 1 1/2 hour trek to the school in Pha Yong Village. New addition to the school looked perfect, water filters for every family and the school and the Canadian Flag flying high. Jen Hawthorn went a little soft when she saw the flag.

This is the new location for the school in Done Lom Village. It is waiting to be checked for bombs and landmines before clearing the land.

In this barren area a school once stood. In fact I received a picture of it back in June and it was in desperate need of help. The school finally succumbed to the rainy season and it had to be taken down completely for safety purposes. The village has borrowed the open aired community centre from the government, seen in the distance.

These pictures are of a secondary and high school for a district located about 20km from Luang Prabang. The left picture shows class being held in a storage unit under the school. We discovered major termite damage. Even some of the beams looked like they were rotting right through. they have only asked us to help them finish off a separate building to hold three classrooms at a cost of about $6,000USD plus there are only 6 toilets for 1300 students.
They not only need classrooms and toilets, they need a new school.
There are so many more pictures I will be sharing with you. In my next entry I will provide pics of the village chiefs and traditional costumes in celebration of their New Year, held early in honour of our visit.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Longest Hour

This last week has been interesting, frustrating at times, emotionally fulfilling at other times. For some reason all the days run together - I cannot remember one day from the next because they do not take weekends off, except for the banks and government institutions.

Anyway, sometime early last week Somnuek the manager from Le Belair Resort and Hotel, took me to Nong Khiaw, a short 2 1/2 hour ride, to meet some of the officials I will be working with in the future. We met with the General Manager of Education and the General Manager of Hygiene and Water. Both expressed their gratitude for our support and interest in the Muang Ngoi District of Luang Prabang. It appears they had done their homework well and were prepared and waiting for my arrival. Before I left, I had 11 new school projects they requested assistance for, and 6 villages that still had no reliable water source. I can only imagine how the villages survive. I will be trekking to many of these villages to see for myself of course but one of them is a five hour trek each way! What is worse is that it appears that the school there is in the worst shape of all of the villages so I have no choice but to go there first.

Next was a meeting with the Governor of Muang Ngoi who was considerably late and as an apology, took us for lunch to get to know me a little better. He knew that we had accidentally skipped some of the government processes and joked with us saying that he wished we would do more like that because it saves them a lot of red tape. This is of course translated from something that if translated word for word into English would mean something like 'we stole two schools and wishes we would steal more'. The local government priority there is to build as a minimum, temporary access roads to the remaining 48 villages that do not even have that. Naturally he asked for our assistance with whatever we could do to help - otherwise it is going to take 10-15 years.

I am still waiting to receive pictures taken with these wonderful people and will edit this post when I receive them.

Now to my longest hour....

This day started one day late to begin with. The water filters were to arrive in Luang Prabang the previous day and they had requested someone to go with them to Nong Khiaw because they didn't know the way. So we sent for Khamlath's father who came all the way down from Had Chanh village - later we found out he wasn't needed. The filters arrived a day late. Once we were informed of this, there was no way to contact Pha Yong village. After many, many calls, reception to the village just wasn't there. The only way to contact them was by public radio broadcast and that is exactly what happened. By the time the radio announcement was made, all the villagers had already made the trek to the river when someone heard the radio announcement. Wow....I wondered how they would react when they saw me but there was no need to worry.

So, one day late and, an extra passenger that didn't need to be there, we left at 7am in the morning. We drove 5 minutes and found the truck on the side of the road, partially unloaded trying to fit two blackboards into the back of the truck. They had picked someone up along the way, presumably to make a little money on the side and that person had bales of string she was taking to Nong Khiaw. Another half hour went by as we mounted the blackboards to the top of the van and we were off again to pick up two ladies (Bonnie and her stunning daughter Penelope from LA) I had met at the hotel, to share our adventure.

So, everyone aboard, we headed out to catch and beat the truck to Nong Khiaw so we could hire local labour to unload the truck and load the boats. We had driven for about an hour before we heard a pop - it sounded like one of the strings holding the blackboard may have popped so we stopped again to take a peek - nothing apparent so we drove for another few km until I started to hear a rubbing noise. It sounded like the back tire was rubbing so we stopped again. Sure enough, the back passenger wheel was rubbing against the back of the wheel well. Immediately I knew what the popping noise was. It was a mounting bolt that had popped and the whole rear axle had shifted. Crap! In hindsight I should never have let the ladies back in the van - this was indeed serious. For some reason, we got back in the van and crept along for probably no more than 5 minutes and wouldn't you know it...there was a little shack on the side of the road that just happened to do motor bike repairs but was obviously versatile. He took a look, figured he could fix it although he didn't have the bolt we needed, so he welded one! An hour later we were back on the road and I was expecting to be hit hard being a 'phlang' (meaning foreigner) and all. It cost equivalent to $4. Yes, only four dollars!

Once we got to the dock, laborers were easy to find but we all pitched in. Instead of two boats we needed four. Here are a few pictures.

Now it was time to man the boats, one or two of us in each boat. Of course I got the tippy boat - not being a strong swimmer, I can tell you the next hour was perhaps one of the most harrowing experiences I have had. Even starting off I thought we were going to tip over. I think the captain of the boat did too - he had this sickly, worried look on his face the whole time. I wished I'd had a camera. Every time we came up to a turn or hit a bit of current, we both had to lean over to keep the boat ride side up. In most places the river was not terribly deep and the driver hit bottom several times so I can't say I was worried about surviving the trip...but the water filters that I had worked so hard to raise money for, the endless hours of planning and organization of various fundraisers, the stress of preparing for the trip, the upcoming projects, the meetings......
As we rounded the last bend in the river and approached the shoreline nearest Pha Yong Village, my emotions got the best of me. There they were, 83 families, their kids, the two chiefs waiting on the side of the river. All of a sudden everything led to this amazing, remarkable...in fact there are just no words to describe this event. I wish you all could have been there. Even one of the ladies I think was a little teary eyed. Every bit of effort by myself, Mike and all those that helped us was all worth it. I am awaiting a couple more pictures from the ladies but I won't get them for a few weeks but I will edit this blog entry and insert them - I know that they took some pretty awesome pictures as we approached the shore.

After Pha Yong we continued to Had Chanh Village and helped bring everything up the river bank to the village. In the evening a baci was held in honour of two visiting ladies. This was a memory for them that will never be forgotten - in fact they said it was life altering for them. For once I could say I actually knew how they felt. I sure hope they contact me.