There has been a flurry activity over recent weeks, albeit with smaller volunteer teams. Due to the coronavirus scare, most of our guests decided it was best to stay home this year, understandably.
With fewer people, we added a number of village visits to our itineraries. Due to the success of our water filter donation program we were able to fulfill requests to individual families as well, located in more distant and remote areas. These families are located in Ban Na, Houn District of Oudomxay Province, Pak Seng in Pak Seng District (LPB Province), Viengkham, Phouluang and Houay Thong, Ngoi District (LPB Province). We hope to get back to these villages at some point to do the entire villages.
Meanwhile, our team did a four day field trip starting with a very easy day of driving to Nong Khiaw and relaxing for the afternoon at Viewpoint Resort with a magnificent view of the village. Early the next morning however, we loaded into a boat and headed downstream to the Village of Lath An and distributed Water Filters to 55 families.
Left To Right: Kirsten from Denmark, Bounsom (Student), Steve Rutledge, Keo (Siphan’s wife). It was a very peaceful, beautiful ride with stunning scenery.
Filters and training are ready to go, as the bell rings (actually it was a tire rim) to invite the families to the newly constructed community centre, called the Ban LathAnn Meeting House.
These filters, as with the filters throughout the next three villages, were supplied by The Rotary Clubs of Burnaby and Ladner, BC, as well as many private donors from the Vancouver, Canada area. These students are posing with the filters for the school. Being a Sunday, the school was closed and the students were not in uniform.
With a short Baci celebration offered as their sincere thanks, we headed to the next village of Done Khoun. Done Khoun has 39 Families with a mix of Khmu and Lao families. What is unique about this village is that they have an extensive waterfalls system located about an hour hike from the village. A small charge by the village (with tour guide) and the help of funds from Tiger Trails, they were able to build this shelter for guests and community events.
2 more filters for Done Loum Public School.
After another baci celebration, we were able to return to our guest house just in time for sunset.
Returning to our guesthouse near Nong Khiaw along the Ou River.
It had been quite some time since our last visit through Lao Sao, in the mountainous region east and south of Nong Khiaw, and as expected, once off the main road, the dusty, bumpy ride up to the village took a lot longer than it had previously, due to deteriorated road conditions. It started off like any other normal day, but as we got closer, the clouds rolled in and about 15 minutes from our destination, the rains came. With a little slipping and sliding during the final 5 minutes on what was by then getting close to a washout, the truck persevered!
About 60 villagers were waiting inside and under the overhang of the small community centre that had seen better days. Yes, we got wet, but it stopped raining about 15 minutes later, yet left us with a bigger problem, which was where to prepare the filters. It is normally done outside but there was mud everywhere and taking pictures with muddy filters for our donors, was not an option. The filters were located in the chiefs house so the training was done in the community centre and the filters were prepared and distributed one at a time from the chiefs house. It was sheer pandemonium with so many Hmong families with their children trying to help and so little space to take pictures.
Teaching hygiene to the villagers before distribution, with special emphasis to talk about proper handwashing etc., from the filter instead of a shared bucket, and discussion around the coronavirus and hoof and mouth disease which is killing their animals.
Typical Hmong Family with their brand new water filter! 10-12 years of life for the filter, with proper maintenance.
Again we made it back just in time for sunset, in preparation for a very long day coming up, with 5 villages on the agenda.
With an early morning start the next day, we arrived at a school who had been requesting water filters for over two years. Ban Xang has around 300 primary school students with a pretty good mix of Khmu, Lao and Hmong.
The student body representative thanks us for the gift of clean water. The white patches on her head are medicated and used to reduce headaches.
Fortunately, it was still early, meaning it wasn’t too hot yet. When it came to teaching about the bacteria, represented by different coloured sparkles, every student wanted to participate…meaning it took a long time to sprinkle sparkles on everyone’s hands as part of the demonstration.
The donation of these filters was made by Global Change for Children, with sincere thanks.
Next up was Thong Loum. This was one of our main water projects for the year whereby two dams were built because of the drought conditions causing very low river flow, plus a water tank, lots of pipe and taps. Despite being way over-budget, there was cause for a lot of celebration in the village. We had no idea they would go to this much effort for us and they even slaughtered a pig.
A video will be prepared, showing the progress from beginning to end and it will be shared.
The inaugural pipe wrench was officially handed over to the District Head of Hygiene and the village as representation of the official ending of the project and handing over of all assets to the village. The pipe wrench will be kept by the village chief for future repairs.
School Supplies were distributed to the 1st and 2nd graders…plus quite a few preschoolers.
Now the fun part!
An offering to the spirits and to our team….not for the faint of heart or stomach…Pig head and tail!
The central offering to the spirits. The cotton strings were tied around our teams wrists for good luck, good health and long life.
The celebration continued with the senior students performing dance for us, plus lots of food and drink, as a small gesture of the heartfelt gratitude and of course more dancing by the rest of us. It was sad that our Ladner/Burnaby Rotary visitors couldn’t join in the celebrations with us. It sure wasn’t the same without them.
We would like to sincerely thank the 17 Rotary Clubs that participated with this project, leading with the Rotary Club of Orillia and a matching grant from District 7010, Clubs from District 7080, 5050, 7090 and of course 7070, plus several private donors who made this happen. See what we can do when we work together??? THANK YOU!
Our small group left shortly after the village dancing started, because we still had to somehow visit 3 more villages. Fortunately , the first one was just 20 minutes away.
not as many students at this school, but they were indeed grateful, more-so the teachers.
Our sponsored secondary student, Bounsom sitting by the school bell. It is surprising how well the sound carries.
Well dressed students!
On to Meung Xuen. We were already late as we were told that the school would shut down at 3:30pm instead of 4pm, so they had to wait for us as we drove another 20 minutes south, loaded up the boat with feminine pads, headed across the river and trekked them to the school.
This is part of a 3 year program to assist young women and increase the number going to secondary school. This is the second such project, after the huge success of the three year pilot project. These feminine pads were primarily donated by some very generous private sponsors. One of the conditions of continuance was to make sure the segregated girls washrooms were clean and outfitted properly with plastic bags and proper trash bins. They were perfectly maintained.
Our last stop included a short 1km trek to Ban Na Lea (Ngoi District). We had delivered fencing to surround a school that we had built (school sponsored by the Rotary Club of Toronto Twilight). Fortunately it had cooled down a little so the trek was pretty nice and so peaceful.
Fence ready for loading.
This year’s bridge, on our trek back to the Ou River. No pictures were taken crossing this bridge because we didn’t look very glamorous.
Back in Luang Prabang with lots of pictures to identify and edit, email, plus bookkeeping and reporting to do before we continue with the next field trip