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