Projects on the Go

I didn’t realize just how far behind I was with my updates.  Once I looked through several file folders of pictures, I understood why I always seemed to be busy.

First, here is a picture of the second student we are sponsoring thanks to our generous sponsors.  I would like him to thank the sponsors personally and he will but he has only gone through his first semester in a 5 year English course.  So I will be patient until he is a bit more confident with his writing skills.

Last year we provided him with a dictionary, and a little extra cash to help him through his last year of secondary school. His father suffered a stroke during his last year of teaching so it has been difficult for the family.

Last year we provided him with a dictionary, and a little extra cash to help him through his last year of secondary school. His father suffered a stroke during his last year of teaching so it has been difficult for the family.

As part of our ongoing efforts to teach hygiene to the families of whom we distribute water filter systems to, and to help some of the poorer families, we have been really fortunate to receive donations of clothing that is light enough to take with us in our suitcases.  In reference to the water filter systems, it is critical that the villagers listen to the entire course so we advise them that there will be a test at the end, and the winner will receive a jersey if they answer our questions directly.   Steve and Teri-Jo Ashton from G.Facey on Walton Street were so kind in offering us sport jerseys that were left over from the various leagues and tournaments from the summer.  They are fantastic and so are the jerseys because they are easy to wash and no ironing needed!

Mother and Son.  I had thought that some of the jerseys might be too small but nope.  These are perfect for the adults too!

Mother and Son. I had thought that some of the jerseys might be too small but nope. These are perfect for the adults too!  I need to make a point to take more pictures of the jersey recipients.

We completed our first distribution of water filters for the season, just in time for Christmas, as we had 97 orders.  This distribution was done so those who donated could give pictures of the receiving families in lieu of Christmas gifts – there sure is a huge demand for these now.  There are so many people getting sick from the boiled water they drink so the demand in these rural villages are greater than ever.  In fact we had to reduce the number of filters to be distributed to a couple of the villages.  We still need another 70 for one village and about another 90 for another village.

In this picture, we did the distribution during the day so the students were not available for the pictures.  There were two reserved for the school so as we approached, the kids were working under the supervision of their teacher to build a trench leading to the school.

School isn't ALL about classroom training!

School isn’t ALL about classroom training!

Here are the kids!  We wondered where they were when we didn't see any around for pictures.

Here are the kids! We wondered where they were when we didn’t see any around for pictures.

We revisited Ban Na Lea to see if I could get a good internet connection.  Ideally it would be great to do a live broadcast from the village itself to the great folks of Toronto and area for a fundraiser hosted by the Rotary Club of Toronto Twilight on February 22, 2013.  We had hoped to be there for about 20 minutes but that wasn’t to be.  The villagers were so proud to see us again that we couldn’t just leave.  They slaughtered a duck, went through 1 1/2 bottles of Lao Lao with flavored herbs (helps make it go down easier) and lots of conversation and fun.

This should have been included in my last post but it just shows you the welcome matt they provide to us.

This should have been included in my last post but it just shows you the welcome matt they provide to us.

Art Quickenton, front and centre enjoys some of the local food after baci...well sortuh.

Art Quickenton, front and centre enjoys some of the local food after baci…well sortuh.

Ah yes, dancing too.  The women sure had a lot of fun, as did we...

Ah yes, dancing too. The women sure had a lot of fun, as did we…

It was also wonderful to see the kids drinking the water from the water filtration units.

It is always so fulfilling to see the filtration units in action as the kids enjoy filtered water.

It is always so fulfilling to see the filtration units in action as the kids enjoy filtered water.

All of our efforts are rewarded when we see images like these.

All of our efforts are rewarded when we see images like these.

In the end, two of us managed to get away from the group to test the communications.  We tried everything.  Apparently the area is expecting 3G but it isn’t there yet.  Instead they have a previous version called E.  It is only good for simple and short voice communications.  It was indeed disappointing news.  Instead I will be preparing a video of the village and while I will do a live broadcast, it won’t be from the village.  I also got a good look at their water supply.  It dries up from late April through June or early July.  They think they have a solution but I asked them to go through their hygiene (water) department and then send us a written request signed by the Department.

While we were distributing water filters, of course we provided a lot more.  Mike’s friend from Toronto, Mike Ecclestone, received a donation for us of about 40kg’s of beanie babies.  Needless to say Mike could bring very few clothes with him since 44kg is the max without additional baggage charges.

I wonder who is having more fun!

I wonder who is having more fun!

It is so difficult to get villagers to smile for a photo but before and after is a very different story.

It is so difficult to get villagers to smile for a photo but before and after is a very different story.

With each water filter we provided toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss, thanks to Dr, Anna Tucka and Altima Dental from Port Hope.  Yes, the families share toothbrushes - usually there is one per family, now there is at least two!

With each water filter we provided toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss, thanks to Dr, Anna Tucka and Altima Dental from Port Hope. Yes, the families share toothbrushes – usually there is one per family, now there is at least two!

We also made a return to Hat Kham Village.  One caring couple decided they wanted to donate additional desks to the school because we were 15 short due to a budget shortfall. The desks were provided to the students of Hat Kham in lieu of Christmas gifts for Hugh and Linda’s sons and daughters.  We mounted nameplates in each desk but because they were done in brushed aluminum, we could not get a decent picture until we rubbed blue chalk into the grooves.  It worked!  We were able to enhance the images enough to get some decent pictures.

The school kids really had no idea why they were needed for picture taking, especially on a Saturday!  All was forgotten once the bags of candy were brought out.

The school kids really had no idea why they were needed for picture taking, especially on a Saturday! All was forgotten once the bags of candy were brought out.

We have also been working on a number of other projects to get through the usual red tape that we all go through in our respective countries.  I am pleased to announce that just yesterday, was the official start of Phase 2 of the Nong Boakham Secondary School.  They estimate that it will take 70 days to complete two additional classrooms and separate boys and girls latrines with running water.  I have not been there since I returned to Laos but will do so once our next visitors arrive on a few days.

I have also been going through the normal hoops to try to get the Phase 2 Meung Luang Hospital Upgrades started.  I think we are still a couple of weeks away from that.  It appears that the formal request was not properly authorized by the Government – the hospital skipped as step.  The Government has approved the new roof but we are still looking at the other items.  They would prefer to tile only the patient rooms, skip the special garbage bin and use the remaining funds for stethoscopes, a blood pressure unit and a sterilization unit.  Once I have the exact costs of the changes I will go back to our sponsor to seek approval of the changes.

The last project that I still need to start is a continuation of the Pha Yong Toilet project.  I was hoping to build at least 3 units but we are still $1600 short of our targets.  This may result in a reduction of the number of toilet banks we wish to build this year. I am also awaiting matching grant funding from the Rotary District 7070 but hopefully that will be coming soon.  So I will hold off on that until I hear more or some magic, generous donor pops out of mid air.

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