276 Families Receive Life Changing Water Filters serving about 1400 Villagers

With the two main water projects (and a smaller repair) underway to supply water to SandLuangnoi and ThongLom with dams, water tanks, and taps throughout the villages, it began with another massive truckload of water pipe.

Meanwhile, a couple of wonderful Rotarians, Rob Fraser from the Rotary Club of Whitby Sunrise, and David Slocum with the Rotary Club of Orillia, assisted with the distribution of 276 water filters in 3 villages.

The first village of Keaup, was actually a little closer than had been estimated, in Chomphet District across the Mekong River.  The December distributions are generally a bit rushed so that emails with pictures of each receiving family can get to our donors in time for the holidays.  These pictures are often offered as Christmas gifts on honour of friends and family or in memory of a loved one.  It is also the time of year when we have fewer volunteers to do the prep work and distributions.  In fact, it was little difficult to take time out to get good pictures too. Sue Miller, also from the Whitby Sunrise Club managed to edit a video for us, provided by Rob Fraser so total credit goes to them.  Here is the link;

It was taken in the only space large enough to distribute filters…the temple.  Temples are a rarity in rural Laos. 76 water filters were distributed, including one for the temple.

Mother and Family receiving their water filter

The Monk received the filter on behalf of the Temple. He was somewhat disfigured and it is thought he is a polio survivor

The next village visited was MakPhouk, located several hours north of Luang Prabang City and almost to Oudomxay Province.  The villagers held off their Khmu and Hmong New Year celebrations to coincide with our teams arrival.  The reception for us was certainly beyond expectations, despite being an extremely poor village.  106 Water Filters were distributed and school supplies provided to all the students.

These two water filters were distributed for the primary school, a gift from Global Change for Children, located out of Vancouver, Canada

Distribution of School Supplies for each student, along with soccer balls, rattan balls and net. In the foreground, Siphan is handing out small cans of fish that will serve an entire family for a meal.

Here is a link to a facebook video. Credits to Rob Fraser and Sue Miller!

The next day was a pretty rough ride for about 2 1/2 hours from Nong Khiaw, to the Village of PhaThong.  It started off as a very foggy day but upon arrival the sun was very bright and very hot…trying to find shade was an impossible task so once the filters were ready for distribution, the pictures of each family were taken inside the community centre…even so lighting was a challenge.  94 water filters distributed here.

Lots of sweat in preparing these filters…

A happy family!

The team was honoured with hand-made bags.

 

 

Water Filter Pilot Project

David, from the Rotary Club of Orillia, and past visitor to Laos (last year) has been researching a different type of water filter on his own for rural villagers, hoping to supply a lower cost alternative than the one AAVIL uses.  There is a little more work in preparation of the filters themselves and certain pieces are sourced locally, but most of the prep work can be done before heading to the village, which is a great time saver too.  The goal is to find a lower cost solution so that more water filters can be distributed each year.  So this is a pilot project to see if they can withstand the rigors of daily use by the village families, especially the children.  If successful, the next phase (next year) will be to determine the cost of transportation and customs clearance into the country with larger quantities than the 60+ units he brought with him in his luggage.

David raised his own funds from family and friends, and donated a considerable amount of his own money towards them so we are certainly thankful for his support.

Our students, looking for extra income are taught how to complete final assembly of the filter units

The holes were drilled, stickers attached before the pails left our house…a huge time saver! This is the finished product (not including the bottle that was also supplied)

Villagers listening to every word during the demonstration.

Two students who assisted in the work for the day. They were very eager to take on whatever needed.

David demonstrates the simplicity of the filter usage.

…and continues with the backwashing element to the training, to keep the filter clean.

Of course hygiene training is not complete without teaching about how easily bacteria spreads. Using colourful sparkles to represent different bacteria, and watching all the villagers wash their hands in the same water as they all do, it was clear to them, just how quickly germs carry to the next person, even if they aren’t sick.

Now it was time to ask the skill testing 5 part question. Normally I would have given out free t-shirts for correct answers, but I discovered the ones I had were way too large to give out, so 10,000 kip was the solution ($1.25).

You wouldn’t know it, but they were a pretty happy village to receive the gift of healthier living. They sure were jovial before and after the picture.

One of the receiving families posing for the picture. They also received toothbrushes and toothpaste – this was supplied by the Rotary Club of Oshawa.

There has been a rather frigid cold front go through the country for the last few days. In Luang Prabang, nightly temperatures have dropped to 4 degrees at night (colder to the north).  With no heat in the huts and houses, or insulation in the walls, it isn’t long before the inside and outside temperatures became the same.  As such, we hurriedly supplied blankets and warm coats for any student that asked, whether they were our own supported students or not.  Poor kids were just freezing!  How could anyone deny them?  Fortunately normal temperatures will begin to recover in a couple of days.

Bang (left) and Bounsom (right) are two of our students near Ban Na Lea – last year of high school.

Yesterday a Lao Canadian, living in Ancaster, Ontario visited Luang Prabang, after coming in second place for her age group during a marathon in Vientiane, just the day before.  She came to Luang Prabang to meet relatives that she had never met before.  It turned out that her uncle lived just four doors from the hotel where she is staying, and another right around the corner.  When Vanh went inside their home, she saw a picture of her grandfather on the wall.  Lots of emotions to be sure….

It was amazing to witness this tearful meeting. Vanh is on the left.  We love stories like this!

 

 

2019/20 Season Well Underway

With 58 presentations completed and fundraising concluded for the most part, this year’s projects are finally underway.  It is hard to believe this is our 11th year!

First off, are a number of our secondary school students shown below.  What used to be a single point of distribution and purchasing of uniforms, is now fairly widespread across three districts.  Our organization currently supports 13 secondary students and two university students.  4 of these students should graduate this year, including a university student.

School supplies include school uniforms, pencils, pens, rulers, erasers, notebooks, backpacks, along with school fees.  There were also a couple of bicycles provided this year to students who needed new ones.

During the last few days, team members delivered 362 water filters to small trucks that were waiting at designated drop-off points, since the roads to the villages could not handle the size of the big truck.

Villagers were delayed in their arrival to their pickup point, so guess who had to unload the truck? Fortunately they arrived before offload was complete

Filters were delivered for the villages of Keaup (Chomphet District), Makphouk and Phathong (Nambak District) and Mokdo (Ngoi District)

The field trip also included 2 new villages to review their needs. Their requests seemed like fairly simple repairs but it was necessary to visit the villages for confirmation.  The first village was Phoung Jong who had requested 500 metres of pipe.  As it turns out, the river had dried up and they really needed a new water tank, new dam (sourcing from a larger river) and 5km of pipe.  $48,000 was a lot higher than what was stated so it will have to wait until next year.  Fortunately, there is a river nearby that the villagers are currently using and although it is more work for the families, it will be sufficient.  Here are few pictures taken in the village.

Construction of a tobacco drying tower

Villagers mixing mud and long grass for the covering of the structure…looks like fun!

Once the long grass is heavily encased in wet mud, it is hung over the crossbeams and molded into the layer below.

Finished structure – there are now 6 in the village.

Almost every village hut has a loom and most women were busily making scarves for sale at the Luang Prabang Night Market

Cotton drying, in preparation for making thread for the scarves

Current source of water for the village. This is where the villagers take baths and wash their clothes.  Notice the small square, that the two men are standing beside.

Close-up of the small box. It is a tiny well located beside the river to partially filter the dirty river water. the water in the box is about 16 inches deep and serves all the families in the village for cooking and drinking water.

The second village that has requested assistance is the village of Nammong.  It is on the main road heading towards Thailand.  The request was for 1.5km of pipe and the necessary connectors. The village consists of 3 parts, located across an 8km stretch.  It is the lower part that needed replacement pipe, along with some new pipe and also for approximately 50 villagers that never had water.  That can be done with the current budget.

It is difficult to see with the bright sun. This was just one of the many cracks in the pipe where considerable water was leaking

Another broken section of the pipe, beside the road, leading to the village

This location is at the bottom of the mountain and has been wrapped many times in an attempt to stop the leakage

The field trip was a particularly challenging one with so many villages and attempts to get the villagers together at designated times and places.  For the above village, there was a long wait while the upper part of the village celebrated the arrival of electricity to that part of the village, where there was a large party atmosphere and lots of drinking before they could meet with the team members.  This was a constant challenge throughout the trip.  By the time we made it to the last village for the day, it was already nightfall.

The villagers listened intently to our coordinator, as he read off the details of the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). Of course everyone there unanimously supported the requirements. This pictures show the chiefs taking copious notes. The MOU’s were signed in English and Lao. With signatures still required from the District Hygiene Office and Engineer, the chiefs agreed to get the final signatures so the project can be started to provide a permanent water supply to the village.  The largest portion of this project is being sponsored the Rotary Clubs in District 7010 (South Central Ontario)

The last village visit was to the village of Sandluangnoi, located way off the main road.  It is hard to imagine and likely impossible to make it to the village during rainy season.

The views were spectacular during the slow climb up the mountainous terrain

Arrival to the Village. It was a good reminder of why this village was selected over others. Severe poverty was evident from the first view.

Closer view of some of the huts

This is another village that has three parts to it – the overall chief in the main village, the second chiefs located in the other parts of the village, located km’s away. This picture is of the home of the second chief who is Hmong, has 5 children and is 27 years old….typical mud floor. Due to their extreme poverty, they felt bad that they couldn’t offer meat at lunch.  As such, we were only too happy to provide a few cans of fish which they devoured quickly.

Meeting in the same room with the villagers to discuss the content of the MOU. There was unanimous agreement of course.

We were invited to see their relatively new schoolhouse. Most adults in this village cannot read or write. The only teacher, now teaches grades 1-3…when he shows up.

It is obvious the students don’t go to school when it rains, with all the holes in the roof.

Inside the classroom – there are three blackboards, one for each grade.

With a mix of Hmong and Khmu, everyone gets along well.  Without the proper education however, it is a long road to bring the children to a level of education that is in tune with the rest of the country.  They sure need a proper school.

This village water project is primarily sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of District 7070 (Southern Ontario) and Private Donors.

In two days, the team will be testing out a new type of water filter, thanks to a generous donor from the Rotary Club of Orillia, to see if they can withstand the rigors of village life.  It will be tested in the village of Nalea with 52 families, located in Chomphet District, fairly close to Luang Prabang so we can keep a close eye on them.