Supporting schools and artisans in Laos

On April 26, I met with SouLy from SEDA in Vientiane, Lao to visit one of the schools in Ban Phao (or Phao village) that received GlobalGiving funding for renovation and to visit participants of the Micro-Credit weaving project.

at the SEDA supported school

at the SEDA supported school

This village’s income generation is mainly from rice production, cassava, vegetables, and potatoes. The town consists of mostly farmers supplying these items to cities. In this town, there is an elementary and middle school but no high school – the children have to go to the next town for high school. Before renovation, these classes were held in flimsy buildings that were practically huts with dirt floors.

Walking around, I could hear laughter see kids playing and teachers congregating. A horn was blown, and the students were being called back to class. These classrooms were no longer held in huts, but in solid structures allowing the children to study and learn in a sturdy and safe environment.

I sat with two of the students who spoke to me about SEDA and the volunteers SEDA brought through to teach – they said they learned a lot of things like English, numbers, months, fruit, and conversation in English. One girl even said her favorite subject was English because it helped her to understand others that speak it. The teachers were happy to sit and speak with us also sharing their needs with us – the school currently needs science equipment to turn theory into practice, books, a library and computers.

speaking with students

Speaking with 2 students

classrooms receiving renovation

Classrooms receiving renovation

Renovated Classrooms

Renovated Classrooms

After visiting the school, we went on to visit participants of the Weaving Artisans – Micro Credit Project. SEDA was working with a specific village where the women are wives of handicapped military veterans – therefore usually the main income generator of the household.

We visited 3 women who benefited from and were part of this project. All three were highly grateful and dependent on the support of SouLy and SEDA for marketing and selling their work. Tuh, the 1st woman to participate in this textile project in thie village shared some of her beautiful work. She spoke about her current situation while we all sat on the front porch next to her large weaving machine. Tuh was an orphan who went to work at the handicapped veterans camp where she met her first husband. Now Tuh was a widow – twice she was married and both times they passed away leaving her alone to support herself and her children. I asked her what she was able to do with the money earned – and she said finally buy a computer for her kids.  She had been a weaver before, which is a tradition passed down, but now with the market testing of quality, color etc. SEDA helped bring her products to the market.

After, we met with another woman who was part of this project. We sat with her and her husband while she weaved. Her husband had lost both of his arms – but one wouldn’t notice from the great big smile he had when he greeted SouLy and myself upon arrival and sat laughing and talking with us. Both husband and wife were warm and welcoming eager to speak with me despite the language barrier.


visiting the first SEDA weaving participant

visiting the first SEDA weaving participant

a weaving artisan with her husband

a weaving artisan with her husband

Creating beautiful and intricate traditional Lao skirts

with a SEDA weaving participant

with a SEDA weaving participant
 
The final product
Finally, we went to explore the local market so I can learn a little bit more of the culture through food, smells, and sounds.
 
Choosing from a variety of rice – who knew there were hundreds of types 
At the market in Vientiane Laos
Yummy dried frog dishes in the market…
… or perhaps you prefer beetles, grasshoppers, and grub worms?
I would like to thank SEDA and SouLy for her support and hospitality in accompanying me to visit this project, experience how GlobalGiving funds were used, and learn more about the Lao culture.
*SEDA is now a for-profit entity called Guo Angkham Technical Expertise Ltd. (GATE)
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