Fall Update 2018

It has certainly been a hectic summer and fall so far.  There have been lots of fundraising activities for our Laos Projects and other local projects in Southern Ontario.  Fortunately it looks like we are on target with our financial goals for the upcoming season.  We hope to do two water projects. First is to provide a permanent water supply for a new secondary school in Pak Mong, about 2 hours north of Luang Prabang, involving a dam, several km of pipe, water tank and taps to the toilets and handwashing stations.  The second is in Mok Kok involving a permanent supply of water to the village and to the secondary school there.  With approximately 5km of pipe, another dam and water tank, the village will have their first permanent water supply ever.  This village will get water filters too, so we hope to keep more children in school and that there will be more productivity from the villages.  We expect that the result of more productivity will be prosperity and longer lives, as we have seen in other villages.  In addition to the two water projects, we hope to raise funds for distribution of 650 water filters.  Finally our students are back in school too but it came with some challenges.

Due to a terrible season of monsoon rains, there has been a lot of flooding and mudslides in the area we work.  Just getting out of the Luang Prabang region, has been a struggle to get around a partially collapsed bridge. Some of the land abutting the bridge washed away too.  The result?  A 12 hour wait for the hastily constructed temporary road down the bank of the river and transport of 4 car ferries to get across it. This happened during the time we needed to get the kids outfitted and back to school for September.  Everything was delayed and some of the students couldn’t travel due to the high rivers or impossible roads.  Eventually our manager did get everyone back to school.

The students are shopping for uniforms, backpacks and school supplies.

A couple of students from Nong Ein received new bicycles too.

These students came from 4 villages. Because of the heavy rains, and poor phone service, only 7 students were able to make the journey that day. Siphan did manage to meet up with the others on other days. Pictures forthcoming.

Here is just a glimpse of some of the issues caused by the heavy flooding and mudslides.  While at least 2 dozen NGO’s and governments from Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos were all there to support a dam collapse in southeast Laos earlier, affecting 13 villages, only Bamboo Schools (a German based NGO) and us, Adopt A Village in Laos were able to assist a couple of the villages.  The Swiss Red Cross also came in to assist temporarily, thanks to a plea from Bamboo Schools.  We are told that Bamboo Schools will be moving out of Laos in December, after something like 19 years.  This is sad news in that we will be the only NGO in this area.

As you can see, they managed to get a piece of heavy equipment to clear the road.

The first village Siphan managed to make it to, just a few km north of Nong Khiaw, he found families living temporarily staying in a neighboring villages school. It is a pretty sad sight. I can’t imagine what must be going through their minds.

The villagers shown here are just a few of the families from the village that was evacuated after 4 homes were pushed into the Ou River.  The rest of the village was permanently evacuated after a large crack in the mountain behind them was discovered.  It is only a matter of time before the entire village disappears under the mud.  We understand that the village is beginning to rebuild in a farmers field.  While I haven’t received full details yet, my understanding is that the government arranged to buy land off of the farmer.  I am not sure what the financial arrangements are but the government had said that they didn’t have the money to buy the land.  That was about 3 weeks ago.

These are some of the supplies provided to the remaining villagers. Most had left to other parts of Laos to stay with friends or relatives. We provided blankets, bed matts, mosquito nets, hygiene kits and food.

We arranged for delivery of water filters too, however that was not to be.  The ferry boats couldn’t carry large trucks across the river so the filters ended up back at our house in Luang Prabang.  Instead, Bamboo Schools provided 50, however the lifespan on those are not expected to last more than a couple of years.

Siphan will be visiting another village that is in even worse shape.  The river has been too high so crossing has not been an option until just recently.  This village of 96 families lost 8 houses into the river plus their rice storage hut…meaning no food.  23 of the remaining huts were 70% damaged according to the government.  Unortunately there isn’t a lot we will be able to do since our budget for small project is now exhausted.  We will try to provide food as we can however, until their rice crops are harvested in the November timeframe…for those that didn’t lose their fields to the floods.

Siphan’s fish farm wasn’t spared either.  When he sent pictures, I couldn’t recognize where he was talking about until I studied them in detail.  For those of you that I have taken to his farm, the pond in teh distance and side river are now one lake!  Needless to say that his fish are gone.

Fortunately Siphans house in on a hill behind the camera

Another view

My heart goes out to all of these families.  I wish I could do more.

Still, we are so thankful that many people have stepped up to support us again this year, being our 10th!  With two more water projects, bringing our total to 14 villages with permanent water supplies, and hopefully another 650 families with water filters, meaning another 3250 people with clean water, we should be over 40 villages with water filters (23,000 people).  I should mention that Barbara Seagram and Patti Lee held their annual fundraiser for us and have raised 193 Water Filters!!!  We are ecstatic!  With our students, our last university student should graduate this year, and our first high school students should be graduating in 2020.

Now, on to more fundraising….we aren’t there just yet!

 

 

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Final Villages Trip for the 17/18 Season

It has been a bit of a scramble to fit in the last of the commitments for the various projects. Plus, with our budget starting to run low we squeezed everything in one last trip to the villages, before my return trip to Canada and our next fundraising campaign begins for the 2018/19 season.

First, we decided to head to Mok Kok (pronounced Moke Koke) Secondary School and village located way off the beaten path.  This was to review their requirements for a permanent water supply for next year.  As we got about halfway, the village chief called us to say it was pouring rain there and suggested we cancel the visit for the day – the mud roads would be impossible to navigate, so instead we continue north along the main road past Nong Khiaw to another secondary school located in the highlands.

Secondary School girls are thankful for their feminine pads. 146 female students. We try to visit quarterly.

Many of these girls would have stopped going to school during their monthly period and some would even quit school so it was nice to see so many female students there.

Afterwards, the teachers were eager to play boon (Khmu) with us (or patung in Lao).  I hadn’t played in about 10 years.  Siphan and I won the first game (thanks to him, not me) and lost the second game (thanks to me). We headed back to Nong Khiaw for the evening, since the rain had pretty much stopped us from going anywhere else.

Early the next day, we took the 2 1/2 hour journey to Mok Kok, and were lucky it didn’t rain, although there was still lots of mud everywhere.

Beside me are three english teachers and the school director. This is their shared office and dormitory at the secondary school.  Note the bamboo walls.

It should be noted that only 6 out of 17 teachers are actually on salary. The fellow (husband of the lady) still is not on salary, after 8 years.  So both are living on her small salary.  I did a video clip about the proposed project and will share it when it is edited into the main video that is being prepared.

From there, we headed straight to Ban Xiengda for a quick lunch and to inspect the completion of the project.  They still have a fair bit of pipe to bury but at least everything is operational and working well.

One of many newly constructed tap towers. They prefer this height so the younger kids can reach the tap.

Our amazing donors! This sign will be permanently mounted near the entrance to the village.

The water tank, now completed – I took a peek inside and sure enough, it was full of precious water for the village.

We took the truck as far as we could, then hiked down to one of the dams. There wasn’t quite enough pressure from one, so a second one was built.

The three compartments hold various sizes of gravel – more like rocks in the first stage, followed by smaller stones and then fine gravel in the last stage. The wooden gate is pretty much closed during this time of the dry season. The chief assigns maintenance duties for regular cleaning and inspection.

There were a lot of hills and valleys during this 5.5km run. The water line is suspended by steel cable supported by cement posts on either side so that the pipe doesn’t get damaged or washed away durng the monsoon season.  This had just been completed about an hour before we arrived.  I guess the engineer wanted to make sure we would pay him in full.

A few years ago we had seen the results of a water project that was completed by another NGO.  They ran the water pipe right through the river…and of course it was washed away during the first rainy season.  As a result, that village no longer had water.

With just a couple of weeks to go, we are busily completing a whole series of documents and closing reports for our many selfless donors.  Through so much amazing generosity, over 4,000 more rural villagers (this year alone) would be without hope of a better future.  Rotary Clubs from Southern Ontario, Gravenhurst, Lunenberg Nova Scotia, plus Ladner, Coquitlam Sunrise and Tsawwassen from the British Columbia west coast were the primary sponsors of the water projects.  Many, many more private sponsors and Friends of Rotary, plus Rotaract has helped us to help so many.  The prayers of thousands have been answered.  Thank You!

In a few days, I am off to Cambodia for some dental work, then on to Canada.

 

A Poem, by Diana Cabott

I would be remiss, if I didn’t include the latest poem our visiting poet from the Rotary Club of Ladner.  These were her thoughts;

The Third Tale of Laos

We were deep in the heart of Laos

The travel had been long, the road very hard.

Our families behind us..really only here a short time.

But surely enough for Bassi, Lao Lao and wine.

The pampas grass is as high, as the elephants eye.

And the mountains, well, they reach for the sky.

Some of us are young, and some of us are old.

The gifts we have brought to Laos 

It is to our hearts have brought the gold.

Looking back though I realize this trip was not the same

For this time a vision to me it came.

The vision I saw was not written in the sand.

No, in fact shining in the face of a man.

For I have seen serenity.

In the very face of a man.

They say he is humble.

They say a good man.

I don’t really know him, he is a stranger to me.

But clearly now, will no longer be.

Although these times will pass year after year

The memories we have now

Will always be clear.

7 Villages, Part 2

The excitement was in the air…at least for me. 3 couples arrived from our Whitby Sunrise Rotary Club after waiting for so many years!

I had prepared an itinerary for them of course – I think it may have been the first one that I didn’t have to change on the fly, due to accessibility, road, coordination and weather issues.  That in itself was a pleasant surprise.

We took it relatively easy for the next day-and-a-half, spending time in Luang Prabang City and Kwangsi Waterfalls for a swim.  I knew the next couple of days would be long, even though they are a slightly younger group and up for just about anything.

The next morning we headed north and then west to the distant rural village of Huey Yim to distribute 142 water filters.  It takes a good three hours to teach and distribute so there wasn’t much time to waste and since the drive there was about 2 1/2 hours, plus we needed to be back by dark.  I wish I had managed to take a few more pictures but my attention was drawn elsewhere.

As you can see, smiles didn’t exactly come natural to everyone.

The Team (L-R): Driver’s son, Siphan, Debbie, Mark, Second Chief, Barry, Third Chief, Steve, Kerry (hiding in the back), First Chief, Jeff and Sue.  While it doesn’t show in the picture, the mostly Hmong Tribe were all smiles when it came to accepting a gift for better health and longer life.

The next morning we headed off to the mountain village of Phoukou, the location of our Rotary club water project for the year…another very busy day!  This was a much bigger celebration because the official day for a permanent water supply had finally arrived and the village declared it a holiday so that all would attend the celebration.  This was wonderful because it meant we could get water filter pictures with entire families (rather than just one or two members, as with Huey Yim where most of the family members were in their rice fields, preparing for the upcoming season).

We started with the filter distribution for 83 families.  It turned out to be a bit more challenging with the entire village population there, but, you can see the results.

Barry, Kerry and Jeff joined in to the picture, for HMA Insurance, who sponsored the filter (and many others).  The average Hmong family size is not less than 6 – often around 10-12.

While it was going to be a late celebration, we knew we would lose the kids quickly, so we did a distribution of school supplies and canned fish for each student of the school, along with rattan balls and net, and a frisbee.

It started off quite orderly.

But soon, it was utter chaos! We couldn’t tell who were students and who weren’t. Fortunately we had enough supplies. It should be noted that all of the school supplies were donated by our amazing visitors, as with the Vancouver Rotarians the previous week.

The village was extremely grateful, but did have one more request for us.  They are sending a formal request to build a school there.  I am told that many of the classes are held under a tree for the year 1 and 2 students because they can’t walk the distance uphill to the upper section of the village, around 4km away.

Next up was the celebration and ceremony.

While the lighting wasn’t great under the bright sun, certificates of thanks were provided to us for the Rotary Clubs of Whitby Sunrise, Bowmanville, Adopt A Village in Laos and Siphan, with whom, made it all happen for the village.  There was also the pipe wrench transfer to mark the official closure of the project.

After the offical Baci ceremony, there was a lot of food. The chief had strategically placed a goat head in front of me! I had thought it was as a religious or symbolic gesture but it was more than that.

Debbie had just got over her urge to wretch when they tore apart a cooked chicken and gave the offerings to us and our team had just left the dining area, when I got called to return.  Thank God Siphan was there.  They had split open the head of the goat and were scooping out the brain, followed by the forwarding of the first scoop directly to my mouth.  I was having none of that of course and somehow, I managed to redirect the spoon to Siphan’s bowl, who ate it with sheer glee.

We continued the celebration with Beer Lao and cheered with the village families as we slowly worked our way through the crowd, then headed up a relatively small hill to the water tank.

I am sure the entire village would have climbed up there to be with us, if there was space.

Our work wasn’t over though.  It was time for some sweat equity!

We levelled the ground for the last water tap tower and this picture identifies exactly what I do best!… Pretend to manage the workers…lol

This was a great shot of Barry’s handiwork. Needless to say that the ground was very hard – the workers used hoes as Barry tried to use a shovel….perhaps not the same quality we use at home…

As part of the ceremony, we presented the sign to the village. They will mount it with a roof over it ar the entrance to their village. Thanks to all of our very generous Rotary sponsors from three different districts and from some very special friends.

While we were preparing the site for the last water tap, the wood forms had just been moved into place, in preparation for the mixing and pouring of cement.  I had been watching the heavy clouds form and could see rain in the distance.  Being in a mountain range, rain was easy to spot. The engineer came to Siphan and I, and gently suggested that we may wish to leave because the rain was headed our way.  It was warm enough and the rain in itself wouldn’t have been a serious issue, but we were reminded that the rain looked heavy enough that the road down the mountain was likely to be impassable!  That was all we needed to hear.  10 minutes later we were waiving our good byes to the villagers.  We actually made it down the mountain and onto the main road before the rains came….and boy did the come…in torrents.  By that time, we were only 15 minutes from the guest house.  Barry complained that a little bit of his shoulder got wet (he was against the back of the cab) and Jeff mentioned that his feet got a little wet (seated beside Barry).  The rest were absolutely drenched!  One of our guests did take a picture, and here it is.Thanks Mark for providing the picture.

Do you think this is inhumane treatment of our guests? Sue and Kerry still have smiles…or is that clenching?

During the last day in the villages, I wanted to focus on the culture and beauty of the north so arranged to drive to Nong Khiaw, had breakfast then headed to the boat dock.  From there we travelled to Meung Ngoi, checked in, had a refreshment and then headed further upriver to the location of the dam, under construction.

Enjoying a refreshment along the Ou River in Meung Ngoi with a great group of wonderful friends…note that Debbie had her secret little stash of rye in he mug, rather than Beer Lao…

Since river traffic was closed, a tuk tuk took us around the dam to another boat, driven by the Hat Kham chief.  It was pretty small for the group of us and very low on the water.  We noticed Mark was helping to bail the water out as we took the short journey to Hat Kam Village.  (We took three boats back) The scenery along the way was breathtaking as always and our visitors took a lot of pictures.

Miss Lai received the highest marks of her school and was invited to write an exam for the title for the District. Diana rom our Vancouver Group left some gifts for Miss Lai for me to deliver. As an award for her achievement, we also gave her a $50 US bill for her to cherish.  I doubt that she had ever seen one.

In addition to the scenic boat ride, I had wanted to get an update of the condition of Hatkham village – it had been a couple of years since I was there last and there has been a lot of progress, with the village plan to move to their new village location starting August 1st.  The dam developer is currently building new housing for each family, along with a school, water supply and electricity.  I didn’t ask but it is also normal for the developer to build cook huts and outdoor latrines for each family too….a vast improvement to what they have now.  It is expected that within two years, the school we built will be 75 feet under water in the planned reservoir.

After a night in Meung Ngoi, we headed back to Luang Prabang, stopping at Siphan’s fish and goat farm along the way.  Once In Luang Prabang, we enjoyed a farewell dinner together.  I sure miss them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 villages With Water Filters, 2 Water Supply projects and a Cultural Centre

With just weeks to go before my return, I think I can say that this season has been the most successful in our 9 year history.  With more projects in a season than ever before, more water filters than ever before and so many great friends who visited with us to make a difference in this impoverished part of the world.

After the last 3 weeks of village visits, and reporting back to each water filter donor, I can now catch up a little.

Our Vancouver team from the Rotary Clubs of Ladner, Coquitlam Sunrise and the Coquitlam Noon Club, a past exchange student from Belgium from our own Whitby Sunrise Club, along with other friends joined us for a whirlwind tour.  We started with a distribution of water filters to the rural village of Nakhaeng.  Some of us walked to the ferry and some went with Siphans truck to cross the Mekong River.  From there is was a 1 1/2 hour journey by oversized Tuk Tuk…well it actually took a little longer than that, because our Tuk Tuk broke down, so we had to wait for tractors to come and pick us up!  It didn’t seem to lower the spirits of our group though.  It turned out be a pretty busy day!

 

We did a hygiene course and distribute 66 water filters, for 65 families and the school.

Everybody was getting pretty hungry but we managed to squeeze a session to provide all the students with school supplies and a can of fish, along with rattan balls and a net, and a frisbee! From left to right is Mike (ok, his belly), Preet, Kathy, Andrea, Diana, Sandra, Beau and Dawn….sorry Mike.

This was followed by a typical baci ceremony (spiritual offering) and the singing chant was abbreviated so everyone could eat.  We had been delayed quite a bit by the truck so had to high tail it of there in order to get back to Luang Prabang for our Valentine’s dinner.

I knew we would be late so headed straight there from the boat, while people took showers, and the staff was kind enough to hold off the cultural entertainment for us….so kind.

Our team!

We headed north to Ban Xiengda the following day, where the large water project was being completed.  After checking into our guest house, it was time for some sweat equity!

It is amazing to see the entire Khmu side of the village involved in the water tank construction.

Here are Preet (Coquitlam Sunrise Rotary), Sandra Okeeffe (Ladner Rotary) and Vincent Schippers (past Rotary exchanged student from the Whitby Sunrise Club.

Ok, so we may have slowed things down a bit with the cement mixing and so forth, but we were good entertainment for the village…

We headed to the school for the celebration, baci and presentation, but wanted to have some fun with the students first…Can you guess what song? Head and Shoulders…

The teachers. Kevin was the teacher – we just assisted as you can tell.

Lots of speeches. Note that this school is not one of ours.

Everyone was presented with a small gift as a thanks for the support.

…and certificates of appreciation

We had done a lot already during this short trip but there was lots more to come.

Our team headed up to the village Huey Kheun to teach the villagers how to install solar street lights.  Siphan never ceases to amaze me with his aptitude and nothing more than a knife, a tree trunk and a couple of other pieces of wood….oh, and a few nails.

These solar street lights were donated by a very generous Singapore Group.  Each family was also given a solar light for their home (the smaller units shown in the bottom centre of the picture.

In about 20 minutes, the pole was prepared and installed with the light! Special thanks to Steve at the Alton Hotel in Singapore who has made a positive difference for this village.

Some of the team headed further to Katang Xieng, as they wanted to see the new school we finished last year (with one of the rooms being sponsored by Global Change For Children).  The rest of us headed back to Nong Khiaw because Siphans truck couldn’t hold all of us and a minivan would never have been able to make it, with the bad roads.

On the way back to Luang Prabang, we had one more stop to make.  Ban Nong Kham…for another distribution of filters.

56 families received these and of course, they wouldn’t let us go without another Baci ceremony and celebration!

As you can see, we accomplished a lot in just 5 days!  What an amazing accomplishment!  They all headed to Cambodia for some well deserved R&R.  Can you blame them?  Meanwhile I had just a couple of hours to prepare for our next group of guests!

 

Ban Phone Cultural Centre

This year has been a strange one.  Rain, cold (for Laos standards) and for some reason, we haven’t slowed down since I arrived at the beginning of December.  Fortunately everything is on track although our last project was delayed a little with the start date.

As we prepare for many more guests to arrive in two groups, I actually find my self pretty much caught up with the reporting, filter label sorting and preparation, and of course, computer work!

During this last month we were visited by a small contingent of a very generous Malay group that has been supporting our projects for three years now.  I had never met them because they always came at the beginning of the rainy season after I returned to Canada, but this season I had the privilege and honour of actually meeting them.  It is amazing how our cultures are so similar.

We distributed 38 of the 62 water filters their group had raised funds for, and officially opened the long awaited Cultural Centre.  They were the second largest donor for the project and villagers are, needless to say, ecstatic.  It has been a 3-year cycle for them in trying to find support.  The village elders and District planning department have also laid the path for the elders to be able to teach the younger generations from neighboring villages (and their own) how to weave approximately 40 different basket-type products, in addition to sharing their cutural stories of the past and keep their cultural Khmu identity – much has been lost over the years.  We also hope to develop this centre to present cultural activities such as song and dance,art, and perhaps teach the villagers to expand into silk weaving.  The planning and tourism departments are on board with us of course and even the tourism department in Luang Prabang is eager to assist by exchanging talent.  Finally the elders will also be able to assist in supporting their large families by selling their product to the general public and tourists.

The Cultural Centre in Ban Phone, complete with runing water and toilets.

I should mention that the majority of the funding was kindly provided by a member of the the Toronto Bridge Group, in loving memory of her husband and who wishes to remain anonymous.  We also received sizeable donations from the Ravaesky family in Caifornia, Christine Thammavongsa of Toronto, Kevin Hope in Loving Memory of his wife, Fay and quite a few others.

Two toilets in behind the Cultural Centre.  Don’t look at the hose (lol).  The water wasn’t actually hooked up to the toilets until the day after…

You really don’t want to know what they were cooking and preparing for us…most of which we didn’t eat. To the right is ‘Dokham’ being dried and is used for the making of brooms.

Much of our team is here with the Chief and other planning and tourism officials. Each of us was given a handicraft as thanks for our support. Unfortunately I was given a huge stucky rice basket which cannot possibly fit into my luggage.

…and the celebration begins with the Baci ceremony, honouring the donors. Each elder placed a string on both wrists, praying to us for good health, wealth and happiness, among other chants. Pictured here is Eva, graciously receiving strings.  This Malay group is a very humble group and true humantarians.

Donor Sign at the entrance to the village. Without them, this never would have been possible.  Special Thanks and huge shoutout go to Barbara Seagram, Patti Lee and Alex Kornel for raising funds for the Lao people through their Bridge teachings in Canada and abroad.

Our Vancouver Rotary contingent arrives in just one week!  Preparations are pretty much complete although we will reconfirm all of the accommodations and transportation for them, just to make sure nothing goes amiss.  They will be assisting us with the construction of at least one water tap and post, distribute 122 water filters, ALL of which were raised by them through various Rotary Clubs and Friends of Rotary there, and officially celebrate the opening of the water line and water tank for the needy village of Ban Xiengda.  It will be a busy few days!

Christmas 2017

What were you doing on Christmas Day?  I trust all of you had the best Christmas ever, with family and friends.  For me, I was with my Lao families and friends, although mssing everyone at home too.

We started off on Christmas Eve and headed up to Nong Khiaw for the night.  It is a place I like to kick back a bit and enjoy everything life has to offer.  It was nippy for us, dropping to 7 at night with no heat anywhere (restaurants are outdoors), but the comforter was nice and warm!

On Christmas morning we headed up with materials to Ban Phone, about 2 1/2 hours further north, as we near completion of the project.  It was pretty exciting to see!  You could see the villagers waiting in anticipation.  The Centre will be named the David Howe Cultural Centre and while handicrafts, primarily basket weaving for about 40 different products will be made, it will also be a teaching centre that will instruct the younger villagers how to do the craft, with an eyeful watch by the elders.  It is also an opportunity for the elders to tell the stories of the past, about the culture of the Khmu people so that their culture is not forgotten.  Further we hope to expand this into textile weaving, canvas art, music and dance, among other attractions.  This is the perfect way to assist the elders to continue with their valuable contributions for their families and the Khmu people.

We are told that the cultural centre will be finished within 3 weeks, including the washrooms which haven’t been started yet. Here are a few snaps.

The David Howe Cultural Centre, nearing completion.

A Villager shows his expertise in the magic of weaving a rice basket.

It wasn’t long before another villager joined him, anxious to show off his handwork too. Do you notice the netting on his head? No, it wasn’t to keep his hair in place. Funny guy – he had the left over netting from a bag of oranges we took for the group…

We headed back to Luang Prabang with many stops along the way.  One of them was to buy winter coats for a village family.  Another was to get the contracts for an upcoming water project in Ban Xiengda signed by the village chief, water engineer and District Hygiene Office.  A couple of Beer Lao’s later, we headed to a place just north of Luang Prabang to pick up the large sign for the centre.  It is interesting to note that this was done by students from a fine art school.  I was unaware they even had one here in Luang Prabang.

The students are all poor of course so were anxious to show us their aptitude and receive payment so they can spend it durig the upcoming New Year.  I was pretty impressed with the results.

Work in progress by a 4th year student.

Khammon, on the left, was the one that did all the work. The fellow n the right was asked to step in at the last minute because Khammon is very shy. I am so impressed that it took only a day to make and an extra day or so to finish. Now, we just have to figure out how to mount the sign at the school. There will be a second sign, not as fancy, to than all of our generous donors.  It should be noted that everything was done with chisels.