Fundraising – Progress Report

It has been a bit of a challenge this year with so many volunteer functions happening this year.  But I did manage to take a fun filled week in Vancouver, with 10 presentations in 5 days and a quick side trip up one of the trams to take a birds eye view of the snow covered mountains, as we were driving towards Whistler…a moment of peace.  Thanks to Mike Storey and my sister Dawn from the Ladner Rotary Club, who organized all the presentations for me, I am forever in their debt.  I wish I had pictures, and if I go back far enough in my emails I am sure I will find a few.

I think I am roughly on target though, even though I got off to a late start.  Here are our projects approved for this year.

First, we have raised sponsorship for 12 primary school students.  Unfortunately 2 students dropped out – one went to Vientiane to work and the other, Somnuek who is quite a bit older than the other secondary school students finished lower secondary school but opted out of going to high school.  We also raised enough for 2 full time university student and a part-time university student who is trying to raise enough money (through working) to buy a motor bike and go to university next year.  Finally, we raised enough for Jouey to continue the second and last year of our program as a teachers apprentice, and Tongsi who has graduated from law school and entering his first year as apprentice. In total, we raised about $21,000 CDN.

Water Filters – we have raised 128 water filters out of our target of 500 for the fiscal year (ending June 30, 2017).  While it seems like a long way to go, we hope to raise 200 from another donor, bringing the running total to 328.  We are hoping to do one distribution just before Christmas and a second on in January.  If you are interested in donating a water filter for a rural village family, I hope that you will contact us.  The cost is $110 CDN or $80 US that covers transportation, the filter, stand and bottle.  In return, you will get a tax receipt (if donation is in Canada) and an email of a picture of the receiving family with your name on the label, or a name/phrase of your choice.  You can send email us a picture too if you prefer, to use as the label instead of your country flag.

Sample of Picture emailed to you as thanks for your donation.

Sample of Picture emailed to you as thanks for your donation. This is a perfect gift for someone who has everything they need at home.  It is a popular donation In Loving Memory of someone close to you, as well.

Next up is our large water project we are planning for this season.  We hope to raise enough to put a permanent water supply to a village that is spread across three hilltops in a rural district of northern Laos.  The plan is to build a dam at the source, run pipe to the highest peak into a tank and run from their to the other three peaks.  Tap towers will be constructed throughout the three hilltops.

We are hoping that this project will be primarily funded by various Rotary Clubs here in southern Ontario, across Canada and beyond.  The project is estimated to be $78,000 CDN.  To date we have confirmation from various clubs totalling $28,000 although much more is expected with presentations booked throughout the fall.  If we have to though, we may break up the project into two phases or, use donations from individual donors to help make this happen.

We decided not to do a school this year, due to costs and our low Canadian dollar, however we will be supplying desks for a school with a generous donation from Global Change for Children.  We also have a number of smaller projects we will look at, if funds permit.  One of them is to take a blind child to Thailand for tests to see if he will be a candidate for an eye replacement.  I have posted this picture before, but if he is eligible, we will likely start a go fund me campaign.  If not, we will look at options for training at a special blind school.

We are currently investigating to see if anything can be done and will take him (and his father) to Thailand when I have to exit the country.  I sure hope we can do something.

We are currently investigating to see if anything can be done and will take him (and his father) to Thailand when I have to exit the country. I sure hope we can do something.

We do have a number of other small projects we are considering and will advise further if positive decisions are made.  Last but not least, will continue to distribute free feminine pads to secondary school girls in hopes of increasing enrollment.

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Malaysian Group, not to be outdone

As part of the last distribution of water filters for the year, a lot of planning went into the visitation and participations by a large Malay contingent.  29 visitors in fact!  Siphan was a little nervous about managing this by himself although we hired a couple of local people to assist.  By all reports, they all came away with positive experiences.  The cooked for a village, they brought thousands of feminine pads for the secondary school girls, held activities with the students and of course distributed a lot of water filters.  Siphan delivered water filters to many villages prior to their arrival so they could spend more time with the villagers.  I am sure they would have a lot more to say if they wrote this article but most or all have said they would return in a heartbeat.

The Malay group visiting Nong Ein, a very poor village just north of Nong Khiaw

The Malay group visiting Nong Ein, a very poor village just north of Nong Khiaw

The Malay team, vowing to come back!

The Malay team, vowing to come back!

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Thrown from the Tractor

In July, we were excited to distribute another 250 water filters!  This brought the total number of family water filters distributed in one year to 764!  That’s about 3,820 people with clean water.  To get to this stage, The Rotary Club of Scarborough, Ontario matched all water filter donations received from their club members and friends of the club, over a two week period.  That was 58 water filters!  Also, our dear friends Barbara Seagram, Alex Kornel and Patti Lee hold an annual bridge fundraiser for us and raised well over 100 filter system donations!  They are such an inspiration.  We also had Daniel, representing a Singapore group, SG L.I.F.E. who donated 30 filters and another group from Malaysia who also donated a lot of filters.  But first, Daniel was kind enough to write his own blog entry!  so cool!

Thrown from the tractor

Got your attention. Right!!!

I was very fortunate to come across Web: adoptavillageinlaos.wordpress.com organization and was impressed with Steve and his local support group in Laos. Ours is a small group of individuals (SG L.I.F.E.) who believed in giving and bringing some happiness to the unfortunate people of Laos and to assist the children of Laos by providing them with an education so that they will have a better future. Although our contribution maybe small but it’s an initial step

Started the funding drive for our initial project for 30 water filters system for a remote village North of Luang Prabang. (an Unesco World Heritage site and was voted the 10 best places to visit). Steve’s organization had previously donated 30 water filters system to a village called Ban Lang Pha, a very remote village in the interior of Laos forest near the Nam Ou 2 Hydro Dam project. We were glad to sponsor the remaining 28 units to the 58 families living there and 2 other units were delivered to another village which was missed out previously.

Siphan in his red hat, the village head and myself at Ban Lung Pha

Siphan in his red hat, the village head and myself at Ban Lung Pha

Made my trip by flying from Vientiane Capital to Luang Prabang, an easy 50 minutes flight by  Fokker. Was met on arrival by a smiling Siphan, (Steve’s local coordinator) and immediately was taken in by his friendly nature and pleasantly surprised by his good command of English.

A quick check-in to the guest house (US$13/night with a Queen sized bed with air-cond and hot water) and headed off to the markets to purchase school stationeries for 60 plus primary school going children. Of course when you are dealing with kids, you need to add sweets and other goodies and we were glad to provide all these happy requirements. Bought some basic necessities (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and etc – things we all take for granted) for the villagers.

After a very simple dinner in one of the lanes at the famous Night Market of Luang Prabang, decided to call it a night as we have an early morning journey to Ban Lang Pha. Maybe I was too excited as I had a rather restless night and was kinda tired when woke up at 6.00am but on seeing the ever cheerful face of Siphan, I was eager to get moving. Siphan had earlier hired a minivan for the 2 hours road trip to a place called Ban Dong Nguen. Our boat ride was waiting for us to take us across Nam Ou river and we fully loaded the small little sampan (boat) to make the river crossing and our tractor transport was already waiting at the landing to take us to Ban Lang Pha which is a mere 18 km ride but took us over 90 minutes of backbreaking, tough and rough ride due to the treacherous muddy condition due to the rain that felled for several days before our visit. It will be a road trip that will forever remained in my memories.

Had to disembarked several times and had our things thrown off the tractor too

Had to disembarked several times and had our things thrown off the tractor too

The weather was kind to us as it would cloudy and whatever pain and suffering I had was easily forgotten on reaching the village and seeing the entire village welcoming us. It must be the red awful hat that Siphan was wearing. Haha. The villagers quickly helped us unload all the stuff and the village head organized the distribution of the water filters system to the families at their community hall. I had fun and was truly blessed to present the water filters to the individual family and was teasing and joking with them. I think they were surprised to see a Chinese man able to speak their language.

The villagers had organized a thanksgiving ceremony (Baci in Laos) for us to thank us for the gifts and luckily for me, I had no issues in eating Laos food they had prepared in our honor as I have lived here for over 3 years now. There was even a jar of their local moonshine ready for my consumption. Even had our fortune read by the village shaman. These villagers are really simple people even though they have so little but there always a smile on their face and readily will share their meals with you.

Dishes prepared by the villagers and I shall spare you the picture of a dish of raw blood

Dishes prepared by the villagers and I shall spare you the picture of a dish of raw blood

Took a tour around the village by the village teacher and was shown the pathetic rundown shack of a place called school. I was totally shocked at the poor condition and almost shredded a tear.

Me sitting in one of the classrooms

Me sitting in one of the classrooms

After giving out the goodies to the children, it was time to say our farewell and we informed the villagers that we will look into their request for the construction of a 2/3 classrooms and a pipe water system. Seeing the smiles and the happy faces of the kids made me forget about the long hard ride down from the mountain.

We survived the journey down from the mountain although we had to get off several times due to the bad condition of the jungle path and were almost thrown off as I lost concentration for awhile due to the intense hot sun and the light drizzle that accompanied us all the way.

Arrived safely in Luang Prabang in the evening and I actually looked forward to my next trip into the remote again this coming December. Hopefully we are able to meet some of their request but providing the kids with an education will be our top priority.

Love Laos Project

Thank You Daniel for your insight and for your amazing support.  More information about Daniels trip can be found on his facebook page at (Facebook: Love Laos Project)

 

 

Completion of our 2015/6 Projects

It has been a hectic time over the summer as we are challenged with  new fundraising season.  First however, let us bring you up to date on the last of the projects from last season.

It was a very foggy day, just in advance of the rainy season.  With the high altitude I suppose the school was in the midst of the cloud cover.

It was a very foggy day, just in advance of the rainy season. With the high altitude I suppose the school was in the midst of the cloud cover.

Inside one of the classrooms...in fact the final coat of paint took forever to dry.

Inside one of the classrooms…in fact the final coat of paint took forever to dry.

The school children show their gratitude to our generous donors.

The school children show their gratitude to our generous donors.

The last stage of the seasons projects was to build one last bank of toilets for the village in Pha Yong, bringing the total number of toilet banks to 11.  In total there are 25 toilets in the village.  We understand that the village is to be deisgnated a heritage village for purposes of inviting tourists to experience their way of life.  With Hmong and Khmu tribes, plus the surrounding scenery, and some pretty good infrastructure there now, it is a obvious choice.  As such we can all pat ourselves on our backs for helping the villagers achieve this goal.

Finished Toilets, with thanks to so many Rotary Clubs!

Finished Toilets, with thanks to so many Rotary Clubs!

We had hoped to be able to do one more distribution of water filters.  With our drop in the Canadian Dollar and the need to fill a truck (holds 250 systems), it was doubtful we would reach this target.  BUT WE DID IT!  See more in our next post.

Katang Xieng School Nearly Done

IMG_8836aWe had two additional visitors, Janice who is a Canadian living in Singapore and Renaldo, a retired registered nurse from United States.  I wanted to show them our projects so took them along for my final visit of the season to Katang Xieng for a progress update on the school addition.  They had just started working on the roof a few days before and I have to admit I was pleasantly shocked.  Not only was the roof finished, they had parged and painted the front wall of the school as of April 2nd and in time for us to enjoy a baci celebration and unofficial school opening.  They still have to finish parging and painting, put up the ceiling and then put a cement floor in but I was impressed.  There are about 3 weeks left of work to do on that.  I know that Lao New Year is right around the corner so they are trying to get as much done as possible.

Here are some highlights;

We lined up thenew desks with the students behind them. It was a Saturday wo it was a pleasant surprise that so many came to the school (maybe because they knew we would bring goodies)

We lined up thenew desks with the students behind them. It was a Saturday wo it was a pleasant surprise that so many came to the school (maybe because they knew we would bring goodies)

Our AMAZING sponsors!

Our AMAZING sponsors!

This desk was sponsored by Mattawa First Nations...wonderful!

This desk was sponsored by Mattawa First Nations…wonderful!

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Another view of the kids awaiting their turn to collect their gifts

Each Child signed the banner to thank one of our very special donors

Each Child signed the banner to thank one of our very special donors

Thank You Pat and Dennis for being such special and generous people.

Thank You Pat and Dennis for being such special and generous people.

The Rotary Room!

The Rotary Room!

The Faye Hope Room.  So many generous donors provided funds for this room in Loving Memory.

The Faye Hope Room. So many generous donors provided funds for this room in Loving Memory.

Italian Not For Profit, Ink For Charity and their generous sponsors.

Italian Not For Profit, Ink For Charity and their generous sponsors.

Global Change For Children from the Vancouver area in Canada.

Global Change For Children from the Vancouver area in Canada.

Our sponsor sign, now mounted.  Thank you so much!

Our sponsor sign, now mounted. Thank you so much!

This post may seem a bit rushed and it has been.  I am off to finish packing and then to the airport as I begin my journey home.  Watch for more updates.

 

Last Days with Joan and John from Scarborough Rotary

We managed to finish off the remaining smaller projects for the season, and with the school addition in Katang Xieng well underway, it was time to look at a number of projects requested of us, for next year.

All the projects we are considering are in the Nambak district which is about 2 hours north of Luang Prabang, although considerably further to the villages themselves because they are well off the travelled roads.  We took a minivan as far as we could go into the highlands and then were told that we would be transported by tractor.  We weren’t impressed – not everyone can do the tractor, depending on the terrain so Joan and John decided to stay behind, but, with some good luck, a heavy duty truck came instead – while not exactly comfortable for me in a small space behind the front seats, or Siphan and the chief who had to stand in the back but it was a welcome surprise that we could all go.  It was well worth it.  As we eventually got to the destination (about 4 hours in total), the village was waiting for us with baited breath, hoping for the miracle of water.

The village was pretty happy to see us.  People just kept coming...and coming...we met under a house for the meeting

The village was pretty happy to see us. People just kept coming…and coming…we met under a house for the meeting.  Siphan is making copious notes (in the right) for me.

We discussed the options and possibilities for water next season.  They had a dam but that was it.  No pipe, water tank, taps etc.  The most difficult issue was that there are three parts to the village, each on its own hill top.  With the engineer present, he explained that a tank would be built on the highest part of the village and have pipes run to the other two hilltops.  It seems fairly easy but over 9km of pipe to this section of the village is a lot..no wonder the cost estimated, is so high.  This is going to be quite a challenge to raise over $70,000…and this doesn’t include water filters.

Next, they took us to the current water source…I wasn’t sure I really wanted to go…especially when they started to chuckle to themselves.  I took the challenge.

This is a zoom shot that I took as we got to a viewpoint on the way down.

This is a zoom shot that I took as we got to a viewpoint on the way down.

This gives you some perspective of the terrain...so difficult.  I think it was the women and children that collected the water in the mornings and evenings.

This gives you some perspective of the terrain…so difficult. I think it was the women and children that collected the water in the mornings and evenings.

The size of the bamboo pipe was just the thickness of a baby finger, cut in half.  It must take foever to fill the jugs.

The size of the bamboo pipe was just the thickness of a baby finger, cut in half. It must take foever to fill the jugs. You can see the mother and kids in the distance.

Can you imagine having to climb that with a kid AND water jugs on your back?

Can you imagine having to climb that with a kid AND water jugs on your back?

They held a surprise Baci celebration of friendship for us.  As you can see, they slaughtered a chicken.  I think they hoped that we would remember them while we struggle with a decision.

They held a surprise Baci celebration of friendship for us. As you can see, they slaughtered a chicken. I think they hoped that we would remember them while we struggle with a decision. This picture was taken just before the baci started.

After heading to a guesthouse for the night, and struggling to find food for our guests to eat, we headed to two more villages the following day.  The first was to a village and school.  The school officials were waiting for our arrival.  We noted that the village seemed a little wealthier than the rest with many of the homes built with cement, a far cry from where we had just been the day before.  The school however was a bit of a surprise.  An organization built the school in 2009 but it was never finished – they never came back to officially open the school and the contractor took off.  I suspect he took off with the rest of the funds and promised to finish it but never did.

You will note that the ceiling is missing.  We also found out that the contractors only supplied 15 desks for the students...for the entire 5 room school, instead of 15 desks per room.

You will note that the ceiling is missing. We also found out that the contractors only supplied 15 desks for the students…for the entire 5 room school, instead of 15 desks per room.

As a side note, we will be attempting to contact the French organization that built it.  2009 is a long time ago.  It makes  you wonder if they are even aware.  Meanwhile we have applied to a Canadian organization for funding of the desks.

The kids exercise period.  I started to join in, to the kids delight, but John wouldn't go for it.

The kids exercise period. I started to join in, to the kids delight, but John wouldn’t go for it.

We visited a good chunk of the village too.  While some of the homes were bamboo, there sure were a lot of families that we would consider wealthy.  Without a formal proposal, complete with a survey, diagrams and a materials list, we won’t proceed until we get them.  Even then, we will have to find a way to simply subsidize it, as opposed to paying for everything.

Our last village was interesting.  It was located on a different range of mountain tops.  There were actually two villages.  The first village cut the water supply to the second village because there was a shortage of water.  The second village does have a tank though along with pipes in the village and taps (although dry of course).  We will again wait for the survey to see if the current dam will be sufficient to run a second pipe to the village but it will have to wait for another year because our time is running out.

Siphan, with the engineer in front of the existing tank.

Siphan, with the engineer in front of the existing tank.

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The first village, that cut off the supply to this one.

The first village, that cut off the supply to this one.

It was a tough week for us.  With Joan and John leaving us, Gary from Richmond Hill gone now and Ian from New Zealand also returning to his home, it sure is quiet here. I regret that we couldn’t do more with all of them but it is very late in our season and of course cashflow becomes the name of the game so we have to be careful.

We have one last trip to make with the last guests – one is here already and the other arrives in three days, then it is homeward bound for another fundraising season.  Having said that, I have been working with my airline consolidator since January 7th and they still can’t confirm a return flight for me.  They made a mistake when Korean made a schedule change.  The consolidator changed my flight – Instead of going from Luang Prabang to Hanoi to Seoul, Korea then to Toronto, they changed it so that I fly from Luang Prabang to Hanoi after my return to Toronto which is physcially impossible to actually fly.  As such, I still don’t have a confirmed flight.  It has taken forever and I am worried.

 

4 days, 3 nights in the Rural Villages

It has been a while since our last update and I attribute that to poor internet here.  I paid $140 US for fast internet (per month for 3 months) and it was fine for about 5 weeks and now I am lucky if I can even log on.

We managed to return to Nong Boakham for the final round of filters for the village.  Those who have read my previous entry about this village wil remember that not everyone was there to receive their filters, and several had been broken in transit.  So we were finally able to complete the village.

She would make an amazing poster child, don't you think?

She would make an amazing poster child, don’t you think?

As you can see, some of the families are pretty large, and all living in a small bamboo shack

As you can see, some of the families are pretty large, and all living in a small bamboo shack

With the arrival of our two newst visitors from The Rotary Club of Scarborough, we were excited for our next adventure,  Joan and John have been a delight to be with and while Joan is well seasoned, working in third world countries, I think it has been an eye-opener for John in some respects.

John and Joan, from Scarborough, Ontario

John and Joan, from Scarborough, Ontario

We started with an easy day by taking them to Kwangsi Water Falls and Bear Reserve, just 45 minutes from Luang Prabang.  Along the way though we stopped at a secondary school to review there request for additional rooms.  We looked at the sight and they had already installed the posts and roof.  Their request was for $4,000 US to finish the school.  Upon closer inspection, we found a lot of issues with their request.  First, the posts were very small, and the roof trusses and support beams were much too thin to hold the roof during the heavy monsoon rains so we would need to double up on the wood to give it stability.  The other issue was that there was no overhang to speak of…roof overhangs of at least 2 1/2 metres are standard with every school.  Despite our concerns, we spent the next day reviewing their request and putting together a full materials lists.  Our estimates were just over $18,000 US without consideration for school furniture or the material needed to shore up the roof.  We would also have to either rebuild the roof or construct a separate overhang.  In summary, I really don’t want to put our name on something that I consider to be substandard.  Their reason for putting in a much lower price was because they couldn’t attract any NGO’s to assist them.

Current structure, completed just a month ago. You ay be able to see the very basic construction of the roof.

Current structure, completed just a month ago. You ay be able to see the very basic construction of the roof.

After dinner and a good nights rest for our guests, we took them to the UXO Office (Unexploded Ordinance Museum).  To see the movie, still pulls at my heart strings.  The secret war was such a disaster for everyone and an embarassment for the US. Afterwards we headed back to my house and sorted through all the goodies our guests had brought, in preparation for our trip.  Here are just a few of the items.

Sport jerseys, socks, shorts, school supplies, dental products, toys, ballons, whistles. I thought I saw a kitchen sink too...

Sport jerseys, socks, shorts, school supplies, dental products, toys, ballons, whistles. I thought I saw a kitchen sink too…

The following morning we started out 4 day, 3 night road trip to various villages. Nothing is easy to get to of course so we took our time.  Our first stop was to visit a kindergarten in Phonsavanh and to distribute uniforms for a rather large team.  I have video too.

Cute as a button

Cute as a button.  Joan was rather impressed with the layout of the room…everything in its proper place.

Lots of goodies handed out, courtesy of our fellow Rotarians and friends from Scarborough

Lots of goodies handed out, courtesy of our fellow Rotarians and friends from Scarborough

Thanks to Afrisoccer in Whitby, Ontario, who receives used uniforms from the local sports teams, thse uniforms have a second life! We watched them playing too...it was hard to imagine 24 kids running after the ball..until now!

Thanks to Afrisoccer in Whitby, Ontario, who receives used uniforms from the local sports teams, thse uniforms have a second life! We watched them playing too…it was hard to imagine 24 kids running after the ball..until now!

One of the trip highlites and reasons that Joan and John came was to teach feminine hygiene and general hygiene to the secondary school girls. During secondary and high school, many of the girls drop out, often because the girls are embarassed during that special time of the month.  As cheap as they are, many can’t afford to buy the hygiene pads in these rural villages so we decided to start a test project for a year in hopes that more girls will attend school and the dropout rate will fall, especially if we provide the pads for them (on a quarterly basis).

108 girls all crammed into one classroom.

108 girls all crammed into one classroom.  John must have been making funny faces outside the classroom…kidding…we put him to work doing something else.

I started the session by teaching about bacteria, using my sparkle demonstration as described in my previous posts. Then I made a hasty exit so the girls wouldn't be embarassed that I was there.

I started the session by teaching about bacteria, using my sparkle demonstration as described in my previous posts. Then I made a hasty exit so the girls wouldn’t be embarassed that I was there.

Meanwhile John and local volunteers packaged up the hygiene kits in preparation for distribution

Meanwhile John and local volunteers packaged up the hygiene kits in preparation for distribution

Joan continued the course through our wonderful translator and Siphan's wife, Leung.

Joan continued the course through our wonderful translator and Siphan’s wife, Leung. Leung has been a teacher and was well respected.

I had actually thought that one of the ladies would come and do the handouts but they all seemed to disappear!

I had actually thought that one of the ladies would come and do the handouts but they all seemed to disappear!

As it happened, the day we arrived was the same day the school hosted a volleyball tournament. This kept the boys occupied and was a lot of fun to watch - lots of commaraderie, singing, chanting...just like home!

As it happened, the day we arrived was the same day the school hosted a volleyball tournament. This kept the boys occupied and was a lot of fun to watch – lots of commaraderie, singing, chanting…just like home!

We also walked around the back of the school to take a peek at the dormitories.  It is a rural village to begin with but many come from even smaller villages to live and go to school.

Standing outside one of the miniature huts. They cook and sleep here - minimum two students per bamboo hut. We did notice that a dormitory was under construction

Standing outside one of the miniature huts. They cook and sleep here – minimum two students per bamboo hut. We did notice that a dormitory was under construction

You will notice all the huts crammed together

You will notice all the huts crammed together

It is hard to imagine but with the new dorm, the kids have even less personal space but at least it is permanent and dry.

It is hard to imagine but with the new dorm, the kids have even less personal space but at least it is permanent and dry.

We continued up to complete distribution of our last water filters and then to Katang Xieng for an inspection.

The addition to the Katang Xieng School is well underway.

The addition to the Katang Xieng School is well underway.

We hope that the school addition will be almost complete by the time I head back to Canada in April

We hope that the school addition will be almost complete by the time I head back to Canada in April

Tonight we will take our guests to a Lao BBQ.  That should be interesting.