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.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Hill Tribes with Governor Bounsom

Last week was pretty exciting for me. With Huephan Village Water Source construction well under way, I was free to return to the Muang Ngoi District to continue my efforts up there. Once I reached Nong Khiaw, I managed to purchase and transport about 1700 metres of barbed wire fencing to Pha Yong Village. This was to be able to clean up the school yard from grazing water buffalo, pigs and chickens. While there I met with the Mong and Khmu chiefs to discuss plans for the hygienic toilets for the village. We walked through every potential site and fortunately they have lots of land for sceptic fields. I will just be building one bank of toilets this year and see how the villagers maintain it before committing to and adding 10 more banks of toilets throughout the village.

I did the same with Had Chanh Village and while there, took a closer look at their school to see what needed improvements. I finally revisited Done Lom Village to give them an update and see the progress of the land they were to have prepared for the school. I was pleasantly surprised to see the land was ready to begin building. The problem was that I was not! I was still waiting for the final approval stamps which I had been told just needed the chiefs stamp. Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I returned to Nong Khiaw, met with the various Government departments and managed to get approvals for Done Lome before I returned to Luang Prabang.

It was Valentines day and Madame Bountom (the governors wife who is head of the primary school education department) was in Luang Prabang, so the governor had invited me, along with some of his deputies and friends to join him for dinner, followed by a game of Patong. The more drinks I had, the worse I got at Patong and I was the Governor's partner in the game. Okay so I really sucked at it BUT once I stopped drinking and sobered up a bit, I actually did much better.

I also spent a day visiting Khew Khan Village and Huena. These are two villages that had requested schools but none had actually provided a proposal. Still, I knew I wouldn't be back there before I left for Canada so figured I would take a look. Tell me what you think. Do you think they need a new school?

Kew Khan - This one room school is in relatively good shape on the outside. They have asked for a 3 room school with toilets.

Left: Huena Village School - my translator took the picture and I should have had it taken from a different angle. During the rainy season, you can see why there would be no classes held. It would be pretty hard to stay dry with the driving rains and wind. They have asked for a three room school with washrooms and a kindergarten.

I should note here that these two schools are the best you will see.

The following day I headed up with the Governor, his wife, a deputy, a school teacher and my translator to the mountain tribes of Ngoi. Wow, what an experience. I can't say that I have ever been closer to a governor in my life....physcially. There we were four of us squeezed together in the back seat of a pick up truck. the back of it was filled with vegetable and food offerings to the poorer tribes and family of the Governor. We visited 6 villages in one day, namely Phon Kham, Phon Savanh, Ban Phon (The governors home village), Heu Kheun, Lao Souh and Pho Vieng.

Here are some highlites of the trip.

Left: Do you think these guys would stay away from joining us for lunch? No way, despite many attempts at shewing them off.
Right: Main Street in Ban Phon, the Governors home village.

Above: Ban Phon Primary School. There will be at least two more villages moving to Ban Phon, one of them due to the fact that their village will be 35 metres underwater when the Nam Ou, 7 Tier dam gets built. They have asked for a primary school and secondary school.

Upper Left: Amazing scenery in between the mountain villages
Upper Right: Village folk in Ban Phon.

Upper Left: From Left - Deputy Governor, Village Chief (in front), our driver, Governor Bounsom, a teacher from Lao Sou and Director of Primary Schools for Ngoi District Madame Bountom.
Upper Right: An inside look at Ban Phon school

Upper: village kids and some amazing mountain scenery.

Phou Vien Village School - they are asking for 2 more rooms - what they need of course is a 3 room concrete block school.

Upper Left: Phou Vien School with a scenic view
Upper Right: A Cloud of dust followed us wherever we went.

Above: Lao Sou Public School. As you can see,it is falling apart. Note the black goat!
Another view of Lao Sou School.

The visit to the last village was pretty amazing. It was a Mong Village and once they found out that we were there to discuss the provision of a new school, to say that they were pretty happy would be a gross undertatement. We did not have the time to stay for Bacci, but they delivered a live goat to the back of the truck. I definitely should not have looked into its eyes, knowing that we were going to be eating it!

So much for the black goat!!! Why did I have to look into its eyes!

I felt pretty guilty the next morning.....barbecued goat is absolutely mouthwatering, but I kept seeing the big black eyes. I was with many of the Governor's closest aids and friends, a couple of whom spoke English which was a real treat. Mind you the Governor himself is getting pretty good at English too.

After a full meal of the best barbequed (black) goat I ever tasted.

The Governor and myself are at the back - the rest are deputies, close aids and friends.

A last memory of the trip.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rotarians from Whitby Sunrise Club

I can't believe how fast the time has flown by, with only 6 weeks to go before I head back to Canada. What is worse is that I haven't updated this blog in over a month!

It was only 3 days after Sammy and Kate left, when 7 Rotarian friends from the Whitby Sunrise Club came for a visit. Their adventure started right in the airport. Poor Mark and Leslie! There they were, sitting in the Immigration office looking quite forlorn and trying to use Canadian logic to talk their way out of a $200 fine each for not checking the expiry date on their passport before they left. With some luck I had brought the hotel manager to greet them and with his influence we were able to knock the fine down to a total of $300. Perhaps a minor consolation but better than nothing for sure.

Left to Right: Rotarians (and spouses) Buncha Putchana (president of Bangkok Rotary), me, Leslie Burton, Mark Chipman, Craig Howie, George Punyaprateep, Deborah Murray and husband Robert Ellis.

The picture on the right is Le Belair Hotel Manager Somnuek Bounsa who negotiated a discount for Leslie and Mark.
They were only here 3 full days and I knew that Rotarian George Punyaprateep had taken them on a grueling adventure in Thailand, so I didn't want to overload them with too much.
The first day, I took them to a couple of villages, the main one I wanted to show them was Ban Huephan, where the villagers have been forced to trek kilometres to get water. Fortunately, I had received all necessary approvals the week before to be able to officially announce this and the start of construction to run a new water source to the village from a river located about an hour's trek away. The villagers were waiting for us of course, including the Ou District Governor, with open arms and our Rotarian Guests had their first Bacci experience. For those of you who have not read in my earliest blogs about Bacci, it is quite an extraordinary experience and quite humbling I might add. We are generally treated like their Buddah with prayers to us, lots of chanting, and lots of ritual involving string tied around our wrists as they pray to us. I have really shortened this but if you would like to understand more, please take a look at my earliest blog entries.
Here are a few highlights;

(left) The fellow in the centre is the Governor of Ou District. The district is located North of Luang Prabang.

During Bacci, the Rotarians were watching me very closely to see what I would dare to eat, since the hygienic conditions were non existent.....yet. I can certainly tell you that they ate very lightly and some were quite good at hiding the food handed to them so they didn't have to eat it. We have plans to distribute a water filter system to every family in the village and to teach them about hygiene, but more about that later.

Here are some highlights from Day 2 of their visit and it features the new village of Nong Buekhon whereby 300 families are being moved here from several villages around. The Government has found a sponsor for building two water tanks that have been installed already, and various Taps throughout the new community. They are still seeking sponsors to finish a primary school, secondary school, hygienic toilets and the completion of a road system throughout the village. This is a huge project. With equal personal donations from all of the visiting Whitby Rotarians, we managed to purchase and distribute 200 blankets and mosquito nets to the village, to add to the 180 blankets and mosquito nets I donated along with the owner of Le Belair Hotel a couple of weeks earlier. They are still in need of more so that each family has a blanket and net. I might add that I received a couple of phone calls the following day saying that we were seen on the local TV station.

The fellow on the right is the Governor of Luang Prabang District.

Below is the District Governor and staff with
the blankets and mosquito nets

The final day was open for everyone to see and feel the heritage city itself. Some went golfing, others went bicycling and we all met up for dinner together that night. I am pretty sure that Laos left some lasting impressions, and they have vowed to help me further our cause here.