January 2014 Updates Continued

During our many village trips throughout January and early February, we were pleased to run across the child in Hat Kham who I had taken to the hospital.  As mentioned two postings back, the poor little kid had a sizeable infection under his ear and it was getting worse.  He is doing well and back to normal now as you can see below.

You can see that there is only a little bruising left.  I can only imagine the agony he went through when they cut it open with no freezing.

You can see that there is only a little bruising and minor swelling left. I can only imagine the agony he went through when they cut it open with no freezing.

We also trekked to the Ban Na Lea Water Source for a second time.  It wasn’t exactly an easy climb and I had to do it twice  The first time I went, the villagers felt they didn’t need an engineer but after studying their plan and discussing options with them I realized that they really didn’t know how to build a dam and weren’t planning to build one anyway.  Despite their expectations of me making a decision, I am no engineer so my decision was to hire an engineer.  We returned a couple of weeks later with a hired engineer, laid out new plans and are just in the contract preparation stage in hopes of getting started in the next couple of weeks.  We also trekked to the PhonSavanh Water Source to check on the progress which was coming along fine.  I have heard that the dam is finished so it looks like another trek coming up.

We have had a lot of amazing visitors.  Massimo and Serena from Italy have been assisting in the build of Hat Kham School addition.  Each year they do an annual fundraiser under their charity ‘Ink For Charity Projects’ (You can find them on Facebook)

Charlotte and Marcus from France, are just about finished a playground at Hat Kham as well and Ian from New Zealand goes anywhere we need him the most.  We also had a delightful visit from Patti Lee and her husband Marty.  Patti, along with Barbara Seagram and her husband teach bridge and hold bridge tournaments throughout the year to raise money for water filters and schools for Laos and Cambodia.  I think last year they raised more than 100 water filters plus several school sponsorships.  Last but certainly not least, Laetitia and Nicholas from the Toronto Twilight Rotary Club to celebrate the official opening of the school in Na Lea, completely sponsored by their club.  Here are a few highlites from the official opening.

Lots of prayer by the villagers and then the string ceremony.

Lots of prayer by the villagers and then the string ceremony.

Laetitia and Nicholas from the Toronto Twilight Rotary Club

Laetitia and Nicholas from the Toronto Twilight Rotary Club

Patti receiving spiritual strings from one of the female villagers

Patti receiving spiritual strings from one of the female villagers

Dancing, Lao Whiskey, Beer Lao and more dancing

Dancing, Lao Whiskey, Beer Lao and more dancing

So far, I have attended 6 Baci ceremonies, some more spiritual than others.  I did miss one though.  I took two of our guests to a guest house for the night while several guests decided to stay in the village overnight.  Apparently there was another Baci for them the next morning!

We headed up to Hat Kham for another inspection to make sure things were on track.  We have been told that they will have the school ready for painting in just 10 days.  Perfect timing for our guests from Port Hope/Cobourg to arrive, Renee and Peter McLaughlin.  Just in time to help us paint.  One wonderful thing that happened was that once the foreigners were seen helping to build the school addition, all the villagers came out to help too.

The remaining cement blocks were delivered just three days before.  they didn't waste anytime using them.

The remaining cement blocks were delivered just three days before. they didn’t waste anytime using them.

Almost ready for painting!

Almost ready for painting!

 

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January 2014 Project Updates

It has been a whirlwind of activity since my last post.  It seems there is never enough time to update this blog.  We have had a lot of wonderful visitors and sponsors throughout the month and into February.  We have been through almost freezing weather (2 degrees) and back into the traditionally warm temperatures we expected.  I have also been to a wedding, 6 baci ceremonies (in fact it is hard to type with so many baci strings wrapped around my wrists), and am working on the completion of three major projects.  Having said that I cancelled one school addition (corrupt school director and I didn’t want to get caught) but am putting the funds towards enlarging a water project in Ban Na Lea which should start in the next week or so, if luck prevails.

At the beginning of January and after delays caused by a broken down van and yet another one because the boat driver wasn’t there when we finally arrived, we finally made it to Pak Jeem, hours after we were supposed to arrive.  Our sponsored teacher Khamdy, all the teachers, the secondary school director and the village chief were all there to greet me.  The purpose of this visit was to deliver the uniforms to all of the sport players for the school.  I originally received uniforms from Afrisoccer but realized they were too small for the players and ended up have to sponsor the team myself.  I found out that these players (male team and a female team) play a variety of sports.  They are judged on 5 sports – Football (soccer), Rattan Ball, Volleyball, Boon (similar to bocci ball) and Folk Dance.  Due to translation issues, I can’t figure out who won what although I was able to determine that these Pak Jeem teams won 5 top awards for the entire District – I just can’t figure out which sports they won out of a total of ten.

Team Pak Jeem!

Team Pak Jeem!

Immediately following the distribution of team uniforms the chief, teachers and students held a baci for us, in prayer for what they hope to be another amazing season.

Once the formal part of the baci was over, every teacher and student participated in the string eremony - it felt like I was in a zoo for a while!

Once the formal part of the baci was over, every teacher and student participated in the string ceremony – it felt like I was in a zoo for a while!

We were supposed to visit three sites that day but due to the delays, it was already getting dark when we returned to the main road.  We tried to book a guest house in PhonSavanh at the last minute and quite frankly I should have stayed at Siphan’s mom’s house – it would have been more comfortable than the guest house we found.  The one I usually stay out was fully booked for the Khmu New Year.  What was worse was that it was only 2 degrees, a draft coming through the shutter and only a thin bed covering so I shivered myself to sleep.

Anyway, the next morning we inspected the work done in PhonSavanh for the new water source and trekked to the source to see where the dam would be built.

4.8 km was provided by AAVIL with another 1.2 provided by other donors.

4.8 km was provided by AAVIL with another 1.2 provided by other donors.

It was a bit of a trek to be sure, especially going uphill through the river in parts, muddy slopes, under fallen tree trunks and few footholds.

It doesn't look like much but the pipe ends here.  This is where the dam will be.

It doesn’t look like much but the pipe ends here. This is where the dam will be. The pipe is already doing its job and as soon as I loosen the bamboo pipe I can hear the suction of the water flow below it.

We headed up to Hat Kham to deliver a few more water filter systems, provide hygiene training to new families and to inspect the construction of the school addition.

Once the project got started, the progress was quick, especially with a small team there to help.

Once the project got started, the progress was quick, especially with a small team there to help.

This is the progress after just three days.  As soon as the villagers saw that foreigners were pitching in, they all wanted to help.  From left to right (above), Serena and Massimo (from Italy), Souk (Chief Builder), Ian (Australia), Charlotte and Marcus (from France.

Construction Of the addition for Hat Kham School

Construction Of the addition for Hat Kham School

Kids hanging around the construction site.

Kids hanging around the construction site.