Add Your Light……Katang Xieng Solar Project

We are so honoured by receipt of a substantial donation by Add Your Light Foundation who provided us 35 solar panel systems, to light up the huts that had no electricity.  Katang Xieng is the village I mentioned in earlier posts that had no water in the village (and a steep trek to get it), no electricity, no toilets and their school huts looked like they were about to collapse in the next storm.

I suppose it would hard for the villagers to think that a dream was coming true for them.  A few Phlangs (foreigners) show up at their village, take stock of the situation then make a commitment to try to help them.  Would you believe what you were told?  Well I can easily say now that they do have hope.  They originally asked us to help them get water to their village because their requests from the hygiene office in Nong Khiaw hadn’t yet done anything about it.  A short meeting with the office however changed all that.  The hygiene office agreed to send their engineer the very next day to put together engineering diagrams and a formal request to us.  In the meantime, I decided to send up our employee with two hired hands including a student we are sponsoring to the village to install additional solar panels. The decision was made to send them up without me so that I could test the employee (he had been previously trained on the panels) on his abilities and it was also as a cost savings measure for me.  Prices easily doubled when I was around and I hadn’t raised any money for the costs of transportation, accommodation, etc., due to the unexpected donation and the timing of if.  The other reason was that I wasn’t excited about having to stay in the village overnight.

Here are some of the highlights of the village installation but first, here are a couple of examples of the one of the poorest family homes, even though they are ALL poor.

Hard to tell isn't it but it is not uncommon in these huts to walk on a slope when you are inside.

Hard to tell isn’t it but it is not uncommon in these huts to walk on a slope when you are inside.

You can't help but wonder what happens during a rain or wind storm.

You can’t help but wonder what happens during a rain or wind storm.

Leung lends a helping hand to run cable to the lights

Leung lends a helping hand to run cable to the lights

This was Siphan's first shot at running the project on his own.  He did a great job!

This was Siphan’s first shot at running the project on his own. He did a great job!

Oudone (our sponsored student) installs the panel on top of a post that was preinstalled by the villagers.

Oudone (our sponsored student) installs the panel on top of a post that was preinstalled by the villagers.

Ligths...Camera...With some anticipation, Leung completes the wiring of the lights.

Ligths…Camera…With some anticipation, Leung completes the wiring of the lights.

Action....Let there be light, and there was light, thanks to Add Your Light Foundation!

Action….Let there be light, and there was light, thanks to Add Your Light Foundation!

I should note here that the villagers share what they have with each other, which isn’t much.  The guys installed 4 systems but by request, they managed to cover 8 huts.

Now there are a couple of happy guys after the first two installs were completed

Now there are a couple of happy guys after the first two installs were completed

It was a difficult day for them and they were pretty happy it was over.

It was a difficult day for them and they were pretty happy it was over.

Each Family of the 8 huts made dinner for installers!  This meant 8 dinners....and it is hard to refuse because the villagers need to be able to show their appreciation

Each Family of the 8 huts made dinner for installers! This meant 8 dinners….and it is hard to refuse because the villagers need to be able to show their appreciation

This was in one of the teachers huts - they were so grateful to get light at night to prepare their student lessons for the following day.

This was in one of the teachers huts – they were so grateful to get light at night to prepare their student lessons for the following day.

It may be my imgination but these look like massive frogs on steroids

It may be my imgination but these look like massive frogs on steroids

Breathtaking timeout....

Breathtaking timeout….

Nieghborhood kids posing for a photo - with the promise of a treat of course.

Nieghborhood kids posing for a photo – with the promise of a treat of course.

Kids band to gether to watch the show.

Kids band to gether to watch the show.

Celebration with Lao Hine, a sweet home made wine - not so enjoyable for Oudone though.  Personally I stay away from the stuff - lots of bacteria in it.

Celebration with Lao Hine, a sweet home made wine – not so enjoyable for Oudone though. Personally I stay away from the stuff – lots of bacteria in it.

Wow!  I have never seen so much Lao Hine in one place!  I couldn't imagine walking after that.

Wow! I have never seen so much Lao Hine in one place! I couldn’t imagine walking after that.

Leung takes a last shot of Oudone, after a hard days work.

Leung takes a last shot of Oudone, after a hard days work.

 

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Baci – 3rd and final article in the series by Karen Longwell

While the villagers generally do not have anything monetary to offer as their thanks for all of the projects we do in order to make their lives just a little bit better and to give them hope, they do provide offerings and celebration through a religious ceremony referred to as Baci.  It is customary and mandatory in their eyes to assure continued support for their culture and to pray for the good health of their sponsors and donors.

Mike and I enjoyed our first Baci 3 1/2 years ago in the remote village of Pha Yong, nestled in the majestic mountains north of Nong Khiaw along the river Ou.  It had just turned dark and there were about 40 of us in a very small hut on stilts, with one window.  As the ceremony  started there was chanting and prayer.  The first prayer required us to raise our hands above the ceremonial baci tray, palms down, as the elder chanted and demanded the release of all bad luck in the room, whilst brushing a cotton string over our hands.  He then crumpled up the string and through it out the open window.  You would not believe what happened then.  It was like a Hollywood movie!  Before the elder had a chance to continue the cermony, there was a huge blast of thunder, lightning, powerful rain and the wind picked up blowing all the dust from the rafters above us all over the place until someone closed the window.  Even the villagers were shocked – can you imagine how Mike and I felt!  Overwhelmed would be an understatement!  The elder seemed surprised but then continued with the ceremony.  At the end of the ceremony we were given the food and drink (Lao Lao) offerings of the village, followed by beer Lao, food for all and amazing singing.   To learn more about this ceremony, please click on Karen’s article below.  Enjoy!

AAVIL news Baci Thanks

Metroland Media – Northumberland News and Whitby This Week

I have mentioned Karen Longwell a number of times in my last few posts.  Karen is now back in Port Hope and has submitted two full page articles out of a series of three although I am sure she has enough material to do 10!  I bet she had a really difficult time trying to narrow down her focus.  Here are reprints of her first two articles. Please click on the links

AAVIL news – Precious Water

AAVIL news 1 – Bringing Hope

I am looking forward to seeing the third article.

Nong Khiaw Education Compound and Katang Xieng Village

Our most recent trip was to deliver furniture to the Education Compound located about 3 hours from Luang Prabang.  This room is used to teach the teachers from all of the small villages in the district and to hold various other meetings.  They had chairs – but no desks, plus it got so hot in the summer, a lot of teachers wouldn’t show up because the air was hot and stale.  We provided a low cost sound system, fans, a podium and desks.

It was hard to believe that there were 30 tables and a podium on that truck.

It was hard to believe that there were 30 tables and a podium on that truck.

We had lots of help!  Cool!

We had lots of help! Cool!

Just about done

Just about done

Looks great doesn't it?

Looks great doesn’t it?

Fans are mounted and working, sound system is running and desks are in order

Fans are mounted and working, sound system is running and desks are in order

Madame Bountom (Director of Education) and Mr. KhamPhou (assistant director)

Madame Bountom (Director of Education) and Mr. KhamPhou (assistant director)

With sincere thanks to our sponsors!

With sincere thanks to our sponsors!

Presentation of Certificates to our top sponsors for this project.

Acceptance of Certificates on behalf of our top sponsors for this project.

We revisted the poorest village we have seen yet and installed our first solar panel to give them hope.  While we were working away, Mike took some great pictures and kept the kids occupied.

We revisted the poorest village we have seen yet and installed our first solar panel to give them hope. While we were working away, Mike took some great pictures and kept the kids occupied.

Yep - thes are rats, purchased by a guy who came up with a box of ice cream cones to try to sell to the villagers.  We bought one for each!

Yep – thes are rats, purchased by a guy who came up with a box of ice cream cones to try to sell to the villagers. We bought one for each!

A nice big chunky rat - no thank you...

A nice big chunky rat – no thank you…

The travelling salesman had just enough ice cream for the whole village but not the hosts!

The travelling salesman had just enough ice cream for the whole village but not the hosts!

That's a way Inever thought of to keep the kids busy!

That’s a way Inever thought of to keep the kids busy!

Not exactly our idea of a toy but it works.

Not exactly our idea of a toy but it works.

Shaking the rice to remove the loose chaff

Shaking the rice to remove the loose chaff

Faces

A Whole Lot of  Faces!  We were a bit concerned with Mike because head lice runs rampant there.

A Whole Lot of Faces! We were a bit concerned with Mike because head lice runs rampant there.

You can get an idea of the lackof hygiene in the village - notice that one of the fingers has been partially amputated

You can get an idea of the lackof hygiene in the village – notice that one of the fingers has been partially amputated

This was our last Lao Lao together before Linda and Hugh headed off to snowier pastures.

This was our last Lao Lao together before Linda and Hugh headed off to snowier pastures.

Hospital and Secondary School Updates, Bears and More Water Filters

Luang Prabang District hospital phase 2 has yet to be started due to some unforseen delays.  We are hoping to get it started within a week or I will have to postpone until next season.  With only 6 weeks to go before my departure it isn’t a lot of time to replace the hospital roof and tile the floors.  I did take our directors and guests to see the hospital though.  Please note that all photos were provided by Karen Longwell.

Linda inspects the hospital ward to be tiled once the roof is done. It is a bit hard to see but there are many holes in the roof, some of them just pin holes at this point.

Linda inspects the hospital ward to be tiled once the roof is done. It is a bit hard to see but there are many holes in the roof, some of them just pin holes at this point.  The wood inside is also rotting.

It is always great to see the filter in use.

It is always great to see the filter in use.

Hugh and Linda weren't exactly impressed but it is still better than the villages where there isn't even water.

Hugh and Linda weren’t exactly impressed but it is still better than the villages where there isn’t even water.

We tiled this floor last year and ran water into the room (into the hospital too for that matter).  Linda inspects the baby weight scale

We tiled this floor last year and ran water into the room (into the hospital too for that matter). Linda inspects the baby weight scale

The reception area is also destined for tiling the floor.

The reception area is also destined for tiling the floor.

Life with our good friends wasn’t always work and inspections though.  We did manage to make it to Kuangsi Water Falls park for an afternoon and enjoyed the bear reserve.

Does it look like someone you know?

Does it look like someone you know?

Taking a snooze in a bear hammock.

Taking a snooze in a bear hammock.

Back to Work.  On our way back from Hat Kham School opening and the distribution of water filters for the village of Sup Khong, we distributed another 25 water filters (to cover only about 20% of the village).  These are the very poorest of the villagers – they get their water from a contaminated pond.  I wish we could have done more but we had to try to get to the most desperate. We need over 450 more water filters to finish off this village and two others.

 

Thanks to our wonderful volunteers it took us about 20 minutes to get ready

Thanks to our wonderful volunteers it took us about 20 minutes to get ready

Just about ready to go

Just about ready to go

Class is now in session

Class is now in session

I put sparkles in his hand and I was surprised how quickly they spread to others - great demo for training on the spread of bacteria.

I put sparkles in his hand and I was surprised how quickly they spread to others – great demo for training on the spread of bacteria.

Yep, it worked well - before we left I am sure 60% of these villagers had sparkles everywhere!

Yep, it worked well – before we left I am sure 60% of these villagers had sparkles everywhere!

Was it something I said?

Was it something I said?

I love this pic.  We had just enough toys left too.

I love this pic. We had just enough toys left too.

Nyim Nyim  (Smile for the camera).  Villagers show their appreciation.

Nyim Nyim (Smile for the camera). Villagers show their appreciation.

Next was Nam Khan Village – we were only able to distribute 10 water filters – our last ones.  Still, they were so appreciative and we will be back with many more – If I remember correctly, this village has roughly 185 families so 10 didn’t go very far.

Watching the Show

Watching the Show

Villagers inspect the sparkles that were just dropped in their hands.

Villagers inspect the sparkles that were just dropped in their hands.

Siphan is the apprentice trainer today

Siphan is the apprentice trainer today

Now it is there turn.  I picked out someone in the audience that was trying to avoid eye contact!  She answered the skill testing question with flair...and got her sport shirt, thanks to G. Facey in Port Hope.

Now it is there turn. I picked out someone in the audience that was trying to avoid eye contact! She answered the skill testing question with flair…and got her sport shirt, thanks to G. Facey in Port Hope.

Coconut Refreshments for us.

Coconut Refreshments for us.

Karen - you did it again - what a wonderful shot.

Karen – you did it again – what a wonderful shot.

3rd Baci in three days!  We felt bad because qw couldn't make it in time for their Khmu New Year celebrations the day before.  They were still appreciative though.

3rd Baci in three days! We felt bad because qw couldn’t make it in time for their Khmu New Year celebrations the day before. They were still appreciative though.

Baci continues with the string ceremony

Baci continues with the string ceremony

How enticing don't you think?

How enticing don’t you think?

We managed to get Nong Boakham Secondary School Phase 2 going about a month ago and went for an inspection just a couple of weeks ago.  I will be heading back in a couple of days for a further inspection.

The kids had been asking for a soccer field and since I had the big equipment there to level the ground for the school addition, I couldn't say no - the field used to look like the landscape you see in the distance.

The kids had been asking for a soccer field and since I had the big equipment there to level the ground for the school addition, I couldn’t say no – the field used to look like the landscape you see in the distance.

This will be a two room addition.  Next year we will add a staff room and library...we hope

This will be a two room addition. Next year we will add a staff room and library…we hope

Karen3 253a

While the construction was going on the students were just finishing their mid term exams.

While the construction was going on the students were just finishing their mid term exams.

This is a temporary classroom (two grades) until we finish construction - located right in front of the construction zone!  Noisy or what?

This is a temporary classroom (two grades) until we finish construction – located right in front of the construction zone! Noisy or what?

Students are heading to the front of the classroom with their finished exam papers

Students are heading to the front of the classroom with their finished exam papers

The village is still struggling to fix their water supply.  Meanwhile, after class the students have to go down to the Mekong river to bring back water to fill up the construction trough for the manufacture of cement....yes, the villagers have skin in the game.

The village is still struggling to fix their water supply. Meanwhile, after class the students have to go down to the Mekong river to bring back water to fill up the construction trough for the manufacture of cement….yes, the villagers have skin in the game.

Thanks you Karen Longwell for the amazing photos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Karen!

The sometimes elusive Karen Longwell of Northumberland News is an amazing photo journalist.  She has already submitted two articles on her trip here in Laos and they have been published in Whitby This Week and it is possible that Northumberland Today will publish at least one of them today.  Karen has a golden heart, an eye for the perfect shot and never complains about anything.  She has been a real trouper.  We all miss her, that is for sure.  So let’s see who she really is.

Just to get you warmed up, this picture is in Nong khiaw where we enjoyed dinner together.

Just to get you warmed up, this picture is in Nong khiaw where we enjoyed dinner together. Left to right – Karen Longwell, Oudon Sivathjana (university student sponsored by Adopt A Village in Laos), me, Bounmy Phantavong (university graduate that was sponsored by AAVIL), Rotarian and AAVIL Director Hugh Parker, and Linda Goldie (Rotarian and Director of AAVIL)

Maybe...

Party Animal…..Maybe…

DEFINITELY Funloving

DEFINITELY Funloving

Always smiling with laughter ready to go

Always smiling with laughter ready to go

I have so many pictures with just a peek - I don't think she is trying to be elusive here.

I have so many pictures with just a peek – I don’t think she is trying to be elusive here.

 

Sporting her new hat as an offering from the village - apologies for the picture quality

Sporting her new hat as an offering from the village – apologies for the picture quality

Karen, doing what she lives for...

Karen, doing what she lives for…

Always willing to try out new experiences.  I think this was a special one for her.

Always willing to try out new experiences. I think this was a special one for her.

Spiritual and Respectful

Spiritual and Respectful

Karen at Work and loving it.

Karen at Work and loving it.  Look at the kids too….

It takes a lot of hand signals to get the villagers positioned for the camera

It takes a lot of hand signals to get the villagers positioned for the camera

Taking pictures so we could email them to the sponsors.

Taking pictures so we could email them to the sponsors.

This shot gives you an idea of the commotion we created by being there.

This shot gives you an idea of the commotion we created by being there.

Love this behind the scenes shot!

Love this behind the scenes shot!

Strings of prayer offered to  Karen - it is quite moving.

Strings of prayer offered to Karen – it is quite moving.

Dancing was just about to get underway.  Karen of course joined in for a short time but spent most of her time taking eloquent pictures of others.

Dancing was just about to get underway. Karen of course joined in for a short time but spent most of her time taking eloquent pictures of others.

 

Karen pays her respect and shakes out her horoscope for the day

Karen pays her respect and shakes out her horoscope for the day

I am setting the scene here.  Linda does a perfect release of the bird on top of Phousy mountain.  It reminds me of the opening credits of the Mary Tyler Moore Show where Mary throws her hat up into the air as a carefree as a bird.

I am setting the scene here. Linda does a perfect release of the bird on top of Phousy mountain. It reminds me of the opening credits of the Mary Tyler Moore Show where Mary throws her hat up into the air as a carefree as a bird.  Some of you should remember the show.

I couldn't stop laughing when I saw this.  It reminds me of the Rhoda Show opening credits (following the Mary Tyler Moore show) where Rhoda tries to emulate Mary throwing her hat into the air but instead it falls in a puddle.  Does anybody remember that?  Karen opened the cage backwards so the birsd flew right towards her instead of away.

I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw this. It reminds me of the Rhoda Show opening credits (following the Mary Tyler Moore show) where Rhoda tries to emulate Mary throwing her hat into the air but instead it falls in a puddle. Does anybody remember that? Karen opened the cage backwards so the bird flew right towards her instead of away.

Having fun at the Bear reserve in the Kaungsi Waterfalls park.

Having fun at the Bear reserve in the Kaungsi Waterfalls park.

And that’s Karen Longwell.  Thank you Karen.