New Years 2017 Project Update

Happy New Years to Everyone…I trust everyone has had their best holiday season ever?

There has been a lot of activity since arriving back to Laos in late November.  I have tried to keep up but as you can see, the blog entries have been few and far between.  Nursing a bad cold and a touch of bronchitis (along with just about everyone I know here), I am well on the mend but will be wearing a facemask to make sure I don’t pass it onto our guests.

While it was a tough year for fundraising, we had a number of donations come through at the last minute that allowed us to go ahead with the planned water project.  With a combination of individual Rotary Club donations, a Rotary District Matching Grant, and many private donors, we were able to raise the funds needed.  This was a huge relief.  As a result, we have shipped 98% of the materials up to the rural village of Thong Thuen including a little over 9km of pipe.

The trucks from Vientiane were off loaded to a staging area about 3 hours from the destination, where the villagers set up an overnight watch to make sure everything was still there in the morning.

The trucks from Vientiane were off loaded to a staging area about 3 hours from the destination, where the villagers set up an overnight watch to make sure everything was still there in the morning.  The trucks to the village were much smaller.

The roads had significantly deteriorated during the monsoon season but eventually made it to Thong Thuen.  Fortunately just one truck broke down on the way back (empty).  Still, it was hours of waiting for assistance, as Siphan can attest.

The roads had significantly deteriorated during the monsoon season but eventually made it to Thong Thuen. Fortunately just one truck broke down on the way back (empty). Still, it was hours of waiting for assistance, as Siphan can attest.  That is a lot of pipe.

Once that was done, we had to worry about a planned trip for a large group of visitors, primarily from Canada.  Realizing that there was no way our minivans were going to make it up the terrible roads, and that tractors or small open trucks were going to be suitable, the villagers have repaired some of the road damage.  Even with that, it was decided to rent 4 x 4’s to give our guests at least some level of comfort…

So next it was our duty to do our Christmas distribution of water filters to 251 families (including one for a school).  The villages of Khon Kheun and Thand Khand were completed.  One of the villages was located across the river from Pak Jeem that we had done 2 years earlier and the other was a further 45 minutes past Pak Jeem (near the new dam).  The last few km’s were a little rough but not as bad as I was expecting.  Here are some highlites.

Arrival of the filters to Pak Jeem.  Now THAT's a big truck!

Arrival of the filters to Pak Jeem. Now THAT’s a big truck!

Boats being loaded for the short trip across the river to Khon Kheun

Boats being loaded for the short trip across the river to Khon Kheun

Filters being readied for distribution with the addition of toothbrushes, toothpaste, labelling etc.  You can see one of our volunteers, Bob, a Canadian now living in Thailand.

Filters being readied for distribution with the addition of toothbrushes, toothpaste, labelling etc. You can see one of our volunteers, Bob, a Canadian now living in Thailand.  Kevin from Saskatchewan was also there..somewhere.

We are ready to go!

We are ready to go!

This one was distributed to the school. (A new one is under construction)

This one was distributed to the school. (A new one is under construction)

A sampling of students from the school

A sampling of students from the school

The start of hygiene training for the villagers in Thand Khand

The start of hygiene training for the villagers in Thand Khand

Demonstrating how bacteria spread using the coloured sparkle technique

Demonstrating how bacteria spread using the coloured sparkle technique

Who wouldn't want to wash their hands after I poured the bacteria (sparkles) on their hands?  Everyone was happy to share the same bucket of water to wash..needless to say, not only did a lot of bacteria (sparkles) stay on the hands, they picked up more (different colours) from others.  We got the point across to use the water from the filter, not from a shared bucket.

Who wouldn’t want to wash their hands after I poured the bacteria (sparkles) on their hands? Everyone was happy to share the same bucket of water to wash..needless to say, not only did a lot of bacteria (sparkles) stay on the hands, they picked up more (different colours) from others. We got the point across to use the water from the filter, not from a shared bucket.

With Bob, Kevin, Siphan, Khamdy and myself, we wait for the rest of the large crowd of elders to enter before starting the Baci ceremony.

With Bob, Kevin, Siphan, Khamdy and myself, we wait for the rest of the large crowd of elders to enter before starting the Baci ceremony.

Since then, we have celebrated Christmas and New Years.  Meanwhile, the District Water Engineer arrived to the village of Thong Thuen.  Every single villager that could work, helped to run over 9km of pipe, through rough terrain and across a small river (a pipe bridge still has to be built across the river) did it in just 2 1/2 days.  We received over a dozen phone calls from the village that day.  To say they were euphoric would be an understatement.  They have only imagined water running to their village, in their dreams.

With running water, the focus is on the dam and the water tank, followed by the tap stations and village piping.

The first of our large group of guests has arrived.  We will be receiving many more over the coming days, at which point a new journey begins…stay tuned.

 

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2016/7 Fundraising Season Draws to a Close and Our Project Season Begins

While our Fundraising Season is pretty much complete, we haven’t quite hit our targets yet, but let’s get back to that in a moment.

First, we held two Used Books Sales in the Municipality of Port Hope and also in Whitby.  I had actually lowered our revenue expectations for the Port Hope Sale because I never expected a repeat performance from last year.  I was really wrong.  As usual, it was months of backbreaking labour in collecting, sorting into 40 categories, reboxing storing and then finally staging for the sale.  Last year we sold $7,600 in used books which was amazing.  This year, in 11 hours of selling, we sold $9,660 plus donations putting us way over $10,000…Fantastic!  The second sale in Whitby raised $2,700 which was lower than last year, despite adding a lot more street signs.  It could be that it was a beautiful weekend and few wanted to be inside.  Either way, the overall total was terrific.

In the early stages we had people lined up to the parking lot.  Once we opened, I counted over 350 people at one time...books are NOT a thing of the past!

In the early stages we had people lined up to the parking lot. Once we opened, I counted over 350 people at one time…books are NOT a thing of the past!

an amazing crowd

an amazing crowd

And an AMAZING team of volunteers with special thanks to Kathy Dennis for her expertise and Paul Miner for his expertise in Trains (a new category this year)

And an AMAZING team of volunteers with special thanks to Kathy Dennis for her expertise and undying support (In orange) and Paul Miner (far right) for his expertise in Trains (a new category this year).

Overall a Great Success!

Overall a Great Success!

This is where we are at the moment;

Student Support: $30,000 (approx.) – Target Reached

500 Water Filters – donations for 506 reached..yeaahhh!

Main Water Project:$78,600 – we are currently at $70,115, so still $8,500 short.  As much as I would like to, I just can’t afford to donate the difference.  If we can raise $5,000 of it though I will do it.  We have raised about $54,000 through Rotary Clubs and Interact Clubs with the rest raised through private and corporate donors.  Although it is getting late in the process, we hope to start the project by December 15, 2016.  The Village of Thong Thuen desperately needs water but it isn’t a project where we can only build part of a dam, or a smaller water tank or run 8km of pipe from the dam to the tank instead of 9km that we need.  We still have a few irons in the fire and really hoping for a bit of a miracle.

Small Projects: I reduced the budget from $10,000 to $7,000 to be able to put more funds to the water project.  We have raised $5,835 so far.  That may have to do.

Our first distribution is scheduled for December 17-19 of 253 water filters if we can fit them on a truck and will be distributing (and teaching hygiene courses) to two rural villages about 2 1/2 hours north of Luang Prabang. One is across the river from Pak Jeem, and the other is about a 1/2 hour north of Pak Jeem (past the new hydroelectric dam).  I know the villagers are getting excited with anticipation.  These are the last two villages in that area still to be done.

This years water filter distribution will raise our totals to 3,278 families, serving an estimated 16,400 villagers, the largest village being 257 families, smallest at 43 families.  The average village size seems to be around 90 families.

We have just prepared an itinerary for our main group of visitors arriving in January to assist us with distributing desks, water filters and feminine pads, among other things.  This year it looks like 16, possibly 18 people will be joining us.  Many of them have done their own fundraisers to assist with the projects.  We are getting excited and know that they are too.

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.

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!

DSC_0870a

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!

IMG_8836a

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.