With the arrival in Laos for another exciting season of projects for Clean Water, Toilets and Schools, I can’t help but wonder where all the time went over the spring, summer and fall months. Over the summer we did 41 presentations (including 15 in the Vancouver area) and 5 fundraisers. While we are still awaiting for results from a few of the proposals, we were able to reach many of our targets including a school, a major water project, 2 toilet banks and funding for children to go to school. And, we are just about there for a second water project, just $1000 away from target. For our water filter campaign, we managed to reach our target for the first distribution of 260 water filter systems (distribution in 10 days) but are scrambling to reach our last target for the year of another 240 by February 1, 2015.
What surprised us the most was our annual used book sale. As usual, there was a long line-up when we opened and with over 15,000 used books to choose from (all categorized) we sold $6400 plus gained another $1650 in direct donations for our projects! Between the two used books sales that we did, we netted over $11,000. Pretty amazing!
Indeed it was back breaking labour but with over 2 dozen volunteers to assist in set-up and take-down, many hands made light work.
Our annual Capitol Theatre event was a lot of fun for everyone who attended, featuring Brandon The Hypnotist, trained in Las Vegas and Miss Conception, a popular drag queen from Toronto. Their performances were outstanding. It was unfortunate that those who took pictures for us, haven’t sent us any.
I have to admit that I do not miss the cold Canadian climate one bit and was counting the days where I could walk around without a heavy winter coat. I was expecting lows of 2 – 4 degrees at night here but with highs of 30 (C) and lows of maybe 16-17 (C) at night, I am in a dream world. I sure miss the food I am used to though.
What’s next? In the first three days of my return, we managed to get three sets of contracts signed by all parties for a water project, a school and toilet banks in Katang Xieng, located in the highlands. While there has been no rain at all since I arrived, the same cannot be said for the highlands. The transfer of materials has not been easy to say the least. One of our trucks was so badly stuck in the mud that the driver slept in his truck overnight as he waited for the villagers to trek down early in the morning to dig him out! It still took him another 6 hours to return. Fortunately the skies cleared and he was able to make two trips the following day. I had expected to take our first visitors up to Katang Xieng to check out the progress but thought wiser of it. The last thing I want is to also get stuck in the mud or in the village overnight without a water supply, proper hygiene or toilets.
Here was our team including sponsors from Italy (Massimo and Serena), San Francisco, France, Sandra Macklin from Port Hope, and of course our locals Siphan (AAVIL Co-ordinator) and Oudone, our university student. Sandra mentioned a couple of times that she was going to find it very difficult to explain the culture, the sights and experiences of Laos citing that it is so different than Vietnam and Cambodia.
In just 10 days, Mike Yap will arrive with two more suitcases of gifts, followed the next day by Art Quickenton from Boone, North Carolina with toothbrushes, just in time to assist with the distribution of our first round of water filter systems of the season.