Pak Mong Water Project Completed

During this last week, we were visited by another group from Canada, just in time for the celebration of the conclusion of our second large water project at Pak Mong Secondary School.

From left to right; Kevin (Saskatchewan, Canada), Steve (Whitby, Ontario, Canada), Primary School Director, Pierre (Wellington, Ontario), Secondary School Director, David (Orillia), Megan (Toronto), Michelle (Wellington, Ontario)

The official pass-the-torch, or shall we say pipe wrench to mark the handover of the project to village and school officials. From left to right; Village Chief, Primary School Director, Secondary School Director, Steve, Director of Hygiene for Nambak District and Engineer.

Primary School Students performing for the guests of honour

Then it was the Secondary School Student turn at dance.

…and a baci ceremony. The students had been sent home with roast goat to share with their families for lunch, as thanks from the charity. It is they who did all 5km of trenching and burying of the pipe.

At the back, we had added a second pipe to go to the village also. With not enough water in the village, this output pipe was located about half a metre about the pipe going to the school so the school wouldn’t suffer from the village using all the water. We were only aware that the village didn’t have enough water during the final stages of construction.

The sign’s final resting place, mounted to the school wall.

This water project was made possible from a special grant from Global Change For Children, the Kitchener Grand River Rotary Club, the Ancaster Rotary Club, 8 clubs from Rotary District 7070 including Ajax, Bowmanville, North Scarborough, Pickering, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Whitby Sunrise and Uxbridge.  We wold also like to thank a Malay Group from Johore Malaysia, Kevin Hope In Loving Memory of his wife, Fay, Renee and Peter McLachlan and Dave Henderson for all of their support.

We headed into the very rural village of Dock Lao, only accessible by truck or tractor.  We opted for the truck of course.

From left; Bounsom, Pierre, our driver who couldn’t take the minivan, Kevin and David. The rest of us stayed in the front.

Dock Lao was perhaps our most unusual village in the more than 45 villages we have distributed water filters to.  They were extremely grateful and humble. but a large percentage of them were blind.  While the pictures were taken, 11 people of the 65 families were blind (at least one blind eye), 2 had medicated strips on their foreheads and one child was mentally challenged.  Even the person who performed the baci ceremony was legally blind and was only 26.  Siphan mentioned that his diction was above and beyond the elders abilities with the traditional Khmu language.

I wish we could find out more about what has caused so much blindness in this village.  It could be hereditary.  We also noticed that their main crop is the sap from specific trees, or resin.  Siphan confirms that it is used as glue or an additive to glue, so one can’t help wonder if the way the glue is extracted from the trees and prepared for shipping.  They generally scrape it off the outside of the bark and bagged for shipping. It is the villages primary cash crop and funds used to bring electricty and a road several km to the village.

Both Mother and Daughter are blind.

Filter for the primary school

On the way back we stopped at a central location for distribution of another 22 water filters at Siphan’s farm.  Each of these villagers lives outside the village, likely nearer their rice fields.

Do you think this fellow seems grateful?

With the last of our guests pretty much gone for the season, we are now busily doing the bookeeping, preparing a series of reports and reviewing the many requests we have received for assistance.  We received another 10 requests yesterday for water related projects and have heard there are more coming…a tad overwhelming.  Our cutoff is just a week away for requests for next season, because our own deadlines are looming.



Village Trips with Guests to Meung Xuen, Huey Hang and Had Houan

Just a couple of days after our previous group headed home, the next group arived from Canada, and Thailand.

From Front to Back; Tar (Thailand), Mike (Canada), Christine (Canada), Kevin (Canada), Keo, Siphan and Somnuek (Laos)

First stop was to the village of Meung Xuen, a rural village across the Ou river where we had provided a permanent water supply a few years earlier.  With our pilot project to try to get more girls to attend secondary school, now over, it was decided this village would be an ideal location for the next phase.

The men did not participate in the feminine hygiene training of course so Keo (Siphan’s girlfriend) and Christine were delighted to participate. Siphan was there to assist in the translation for Christine.

The girls were pretty happy to receive the feminine pads and we asked them to contact their friends who are not going to school, to enroll in School for September.

With an overnight stay in Nong Khiaw, we headed downriver by boat to the villages of Houay Hang and Had Huan.  In both villages we also delivered replacement pipe and other materials so their dams could be repaired or replaced.  Had Huan is ongoing and pictures will be posted in the near future.  Our guests were truly impressed with the villages and their culture.

Both villages performed for us.  Here are a couple of highlites.  It was a bit of a challenge to distribute filters to both villages in one day, as they really wanted to celebrate their good fortune and offer their gratitude.

Keo, with one of the dancers

This is just one of over 150 systems distributed that day.

Unfortunately, not many pictures were taken in these villages, due to the flurry of trying to get a picture of every family with their filter.  More will be provided upon the conclusion of the water projects.

Highlights from our Ladner, Italian, Danish and other Canadian Guests

We have been overwhelmed by the number of urgent requests from various villages across Nambak District for permanent water supplies, significant repairs to existing ones (damage caused by the August monsoons), water filters (over 1200 in the last month), and school support for the most part.  We received 10 requests yesterday alone!

As we continue to review and summarize the requests, I am happy to report that we have made significant headway with several completed projects this season.  Here are some highlights from a diverse group of people who visited us in early February to assist with the distribution of water filters to four villages in four days.

On Day 1 of our field trip, 200 water filters were distributed to Ban Xiengda, the same location the Ladner Rotary group sponsored the constrution of a permanent water supply for this large village.  There is our team at the very back.

Our Amazing Group of Volunteers and Donors. Clockwise from left; Siphan, Steve, Fabrizio (Italy), Beau (New Westminster, BC), Ricardo (Italy), Chris (Ladner) Kevin (Saskatchewan Canada), Diana (Ladner, British Columbia, Canada), Mike (Ladner Team Lead), Serena and Massimo (Italy), Penny (Ladner), Dawn (New Westminster), Kathy (Delta, British Columbia), Kirsten (Denmark).  Missing from the photo is Roland (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). He was behind the lens.

Villagers listen intently during the training session. At the end of the session several villagers were picked out of the crowd to answer specific questions and were given a Tshirt if they got the answer right. Roland is behind the camera.

After a Baci and celebration, we continued to Nong Khiaw for the night and then headed to Mokok, to distribute water filters and to do the official handover of Rotary Funded Water Project to the village.  In this village, we built a dam, about 5 1/2 km of pipe, a large water tank and ran water to Namduen secondary school and village of 78 families.  This was a special treat for our guests of honour.

What a reception! All 290 students awaited our arrival clapping in unison as we arrived. It was an emotional greeting.

Performers in traditional dress were waiting for us. Others presented flowers and the elders greeted as we entered the large tarped area.

Village Heads, Representatives and families. We can just imagine the number of hours they spent preparing for our arrival. Water, the key to life is no small matter.

Students rushed to get a seat. There wasn’t enough room for everyone but they sure squeezed in.

Several performances, lots of food (some of it edible) and wonderful people. Note the centre front dancer in her sock feet.

Soccer, rattan balls and nets were offered to the school director. Each of our team members were given a handmade scarf, as a small token of their appreciation. Thank You Rotary for allowing us to make this happen!!  We also distributed water filters to every family.

It was a long, fulfilling, emotional day.  Next up…Houay Phoung.

This small village also went to extra efforts to show their gratitude. They had heard about the miracle filters and had long requested our assistance.  His wife was likely preparing a meal for us.

It is not uncommon for some of the villagers to decline getting into the pictures.  They are afraid that they will lose their soul through the camera lens.  For each distribution, Siphan carefully explains to everyone that this is not the case.  Still, some remain skeptical.

These sweet chidren waited all morning so they could perform for us….and it was very hot!

Roland Drake was happy to return to Laos after a several year hiatus and thrilled to donate school supplies to every student in the school.

On our last day we stopped in the village of Thong Lom to teach about hygiene and distribute filters to every family. These filters were donated to the school. It was a weekend so there were only a couple wearing school uniforms.

It was the end of a long fruitfull trip for our guests and so we celebrated over dinner and shared our versions of what we had seen.

We compared Baci strings over a fountain after dinner. Can you guess which hand belongs to Siphan based on skin colour? Many of us can only dream of having darker skin tones

Finally, one of our annual visitors to Laos wrote a poem about her feelings and experiences in Laos, as she does each year.  This one really captured the true essence. Apologies for the formatting below;

“Mekong Mists and Dreams 2019

Caught again in the lure of Luang Prabang

The sun has risen and set once more,

On these travelers that dare to step thru Laos door.

Foreigners indeed from Denmark Italy and Canadian soil

Friends now, friends now forever loyal

We are but novices here in these ancients parts..

Laos smiled to itself knowing it would steal our hearts.

We have worked hard together, laughed and made the work play,

Bringing clean water and a desire for others to have a better day.

What Laos has given us can never be repaid.

The memories of ebony and crimson jackets of the Khmu

The smiles of the elders, the sparkling brown eyes of the child.

The towering mountains, the brown Mekong rushing wild.

Imagine having lived your entire life and never having seen these jungle mists rise

As you waken to the temple drums …oh so very wise.

We must turn again to the West..our homes and families are calling,

But we have family here now as well, but this family is as a Dream

And we will live in this dream forever.

Diana Cabott 2019″