Fundraising Season 2017/8 is Wrapping Up

While it has been quite some time since my last post, it isn’t because we haven’t been busy.  Our fundraising season begins on the day I return from Laos (last April) and ends when I step onto the plane to go back.  This time it will be for four months, with triple the number of projects, more water filters than ever before, our usual sponsorship of primary, secondary and university students, and some smaller projects.  At this point we have four groups coming this year, a Rotary Group from my home club, Whitby Sunrise, another Rotary Group from Ladner, Delta and Coquitlam, BC, plus a group from Malaysia and another from Singapore.

We are getting pretty close to our targets and there is still room on the truck for more water filters, so if anyone is interested in donating as a Christmas gift, just send me an email and I will make sure that you have a picture of the receiving family with your filter and label (so you can zoom in on the label to see the message or name that you chose).  Right now we have 614 water filters donated ($115 CDN each), leaving 37 to raise funds for so that we can distribute to 7 villages this year.  Please confirm that it is for Christmas though, if you need it for that.  Otherwise they may not get distributed until January or February.

So, for this year we hope to do a project in the rural mountainous village of Phoukoud.  This is fairly close to last year’s project, but further down the mountain.  We don’t have to build a dam, as we will run a pipe from the large water tank we built last year in Thong Thuen and run it through two pressure-release substations (so the pipes don’t explode) to Phoukhoud.  Here is a picture of the tank in Thong Thuen.

Thong Thuen Water Tank. The ditches are for the pipes runing into the village and one reserved for Phoukoud, further down the mountain

Phoukoud Village. There are two parts to this village but soon, both will have water running from the tank in the picture above (about 6.5km).  This project is sponsored by many Rotary Clubs.

Our second water project will be in the village of Xeingda.  Last year we distributed 60 desks, courtesy of Global Change For Children and distributed school supplies to the students.  The poorer half of this village (mostly Khmu) has no water and need to trek about 1 1/2km to get it.  This will be sponsored mostly by our West Coast Rotary Clubs with a little extra support from Rotary Clubs in Southern Ontario and a few private donors.

Villager in Ban Xiengda. The daughter will be taken to a hospital for an operation when she gets old enough (I believe it is around 4 or 5 years old). Another NGO will sponsor this.

At this point it looks like 20 Rotary Clubs in Canada and The Interact Club of Clarington, will be sponsoring one or both of these major projects.  We look forward to getting the kids to school, rather than trekking for water each morning and evening.  Each family will also get a water filter (good for about 12 years for a family of up to 8).  The water filters are sponsored by many kind hearted individuals…so no more diarrhea!

Thank You Rotary!

As another major project (now under construction) is a Cultural Centre in the Village of Phone.  The road has deteriorated over the monsoon season but they are still able to get materials up in the highlands….it is slow going though. The main purpose for the centre is for the elders to teach the younger people from neighbouring villages to learn basket- weaving.  There are about 40 different products that are made and the elders worry that their culture will disappear if they don’t carry the tradition.  This centre is being sponsored by a generous private donor, a Malay group of volunteers and a number of individuals from a Toronto Bridge Club.

The site of the new cultural centre. This ‘shell’ has been torn down. The centre will be open to the public for sale of weaved products and will be complete with toilets and running water.

As you can see, they need a centre to teach others. This hut is very small and there is not enough room or light.  Another issue is that if the students learn at someone’s home, they are expected to be fed.

A Master at work, making a rice container.  Rather stylish don’t you think?

We are also working on the possibility of doing two more water projects this season with the support of a Singapore group, so there may be another announcement coming.

Meanwhile, it is back to the final days of fundraising.

 

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Thong Thuen Celebrates the Completion of the Water Project

A few days following the visit of our 16 guests, we had the pleasure of receiving several more guests, Kevin (Saskatchewan, Canada), Cinzia (Switzerland), and a very, very special lady and good friend, Barbara Seagram (Toronto, Canada).  We had been planning for her arrival (and Kevins’) to allow them to experience a special treat with the Official Ceremony in Thong Thuen.

But first, we took the group up to the school grounds in Thong Thuen so Barbara, Kevin and Cinzia could teach at the bamboo school in the village (96 students including kindergarten).  Barbara had bought schools supplies and the materials for her craft project with the students.  What a treat it was for the kids.

Barbara, with the three school teachers.  Only one is getting paid by the government – the other two are still hoping to get on the government payroll soon.  Each of the teachers received a solar light (see the teacher on the right with her assembled unit) from Barbara to help them prepare their lesson plans at night.  In addition, Kevin, Barbara and myself gave the two ladies some extra spending money to help tie them over for a bit.  Barbara also donated an additional solar light to the head of the women in the village during the ceremony, a small thank you for all the work done by the women for the successful completion of the project.

The village chief standing in the classroom with the students as they wait for their art project to begin.

I wish I had pictures of Kevin and Cinzia but I was preparing for the distribution of the school supplies outside the classroom while they sang songs with the students including Old McDonald, Head and Shoulders and a couple of others.  The kids loved it!

Barbara also presented the school teachers with sports items including soccer balls and net, rattan balls and volleyball and net. The kids sure look happy. Remember that foreigners never go to this village and they have never been given anything before.

Each student received a pencil, pen, notebook, eraser, pencil sharpener, pencil crayons, ruler and canned fish (the fish will serve as a meal to be shared by the whole family), plus balloons and candy.

Next was the formal part of the official handover of the project to the village.  I am pretty sure that every single villager was there but lets look at the project first.

The dam: I was a bit disappointed that they hadn’t removed all the forms yet and much of it was covered with leaves due to the dry season causing the leaves to fall, but you get the idea.

The spillway – there was a lot of cement in this although you can’t really tell because the flow is under the cement spillway which is covered by leaves.

The completed water tank with a fence around it to keep the kids off.

One of 12 taps across the three hilltops of the village. Does she look happy to you?  She is reusing one of soft drink bottles to fill with water, hopefully for her water filter.

The presentation: The number of individuals, corporations, Rotarians and Rotary Clubs from all over Canada, made this happen. There are so many to thank and I will be doing this through separate emails to each and follow up presentations to whoever I can reach. THANK YOU!

Being the largest water project we have ever done, the struggles we and the villagers endured and the resulting success was rather spectacular.  The muddy roads at the beginning caused trucks to slide backwards, then wait it out, another truck slid back into a tree causing a fair bit of damage, and even two jealous villagers (from a neighboring village) cut the pipe almost 9km from the village are just a memory now.  In reference to the villagers that cut the pipe, they were caught (surprisingly), the village was visited by the engineer and District officials, and all was eventually sorted out…I won’t go into the details in this post.

A Special Thank You to Cindy Gering, her family and her Team for her very special donation.

The feast! They slaughtered a goat and a pig in appreciation. We supplied Beer Lao which is cheaper than water there and also the ice….I am not sure what they enjoyed more, the Beverages or the Ice. They have never had ice in the village before! In fact it was the largest celebration the village has ever had.

There wasn’t enough room under the tarp but they didn’t care. They found a tree to squat under.

This is the spiritual part of the ceremony….baci…not easy on the knees but certainly appreciated.

Kevin in the forefront with Siphan and the second chief behind him

After a well needed rest, we headed to one of our favorite villages, one in which I hadn’t visited this year and was concerned about two of the students that we are sponsoring through our generous sponsors, Art from North Carolina and Ian from New Zealand and Australia.

Sure enough, Doe and Tick were waiting for us on the other side of the river.  They were excused by their respective teachers for the day, to ensure we were well looked after.  Tick goes to secondary school in Meung Xuen (a village we must travel through to get to Ban Na Lea, our destination), and Doe who is in Primary 3.  The school was built by us, but sponsored by The Rotary Club of Toronto Twilight.  Both villages were recipients of water projects done by us, through the generosity of many Rotary Clubs over a two year period.

Part of our trip to Ban Na Lea – we used a tractor because of the heavy school supplies, again donated by Barbara and her team in Canada. We did trek back however because it was a little easier on our backs and butts…and more adventurous. Siphan and Cinzia posed for the picture but Siphan didn’t actually drive it and there is no way we really looked that happy while riding the tractor.

Barbara, in all her glory and big smile on her face as the students finish the art project.

Barbara, Kevin and Cinzia enjoying the teaching of Head and Toes, as much as the kids enjoyed learning it. Right after class, Barbara again gave every student a bag full of school supplies and canned fish.

Trekking back, Barbara was terrific on the parallel bars don’t you think?

I sure hated to leave the kids behind. It hasn’t been easy for these two orphaned brothers, always treading lightly around their foster parents.

Tick has had a really rough go of it. Last year he was sent to an orphanage due to foster family issues (infighting but not with Tick).  He was hungry all the time – they were fed two meals a day, one was just a handful of sticky rice and sometimes the other meal consisted just of fat soup.  Not very nutritious for growing students.  Fortunately he was successful in being accepted back to the foster family.  I wish I could have brought them home.  Next season, I might bring them down to Luang Prabang for a weekend of fun for them.  I hope that one or both sponsors will be able to join us for that time too, as they do come to Laos often.

Our final dinner with Barbara…sure am sad to see her go. She has been such an inspiration to the kids (and to me too! Where on earth do you get all the energy!) From left to right: Siphan, Bounmy (Siphans brother), Barbara, Oudone (university student in his last year), Tanh (Oudone’s brother going to Finance College) and yours truly.

To end our season, we had our last two groups of visitors arrive at the same time.  Rather than try to do both, I sent Siphan up north to Hatkham Village, past Nong Khiaw and by riverboat to review the status of a school we built a few years ago, now destined to be 75 feet underwater.  The school was primarily funded by Jai Lao Foundation, whose base is located just outside San Francisco.  They had a pretty busy schedule but I was able to have dinner with them, just before they left.

Meanwhile, three wonderful ladies from Calgary visited, Aline, Bonnie and Monica.  I invited Kevin along too since we were going to be going to a rural school outside of Luang Prabang to teach english and he was a master at it by now.

As we crossed the river, there were a few screams every time the boat tilted 1 degree but it was a shallow river and the boat was navigated and propelled with a long stick pushing along the bottom of the river.  I think the ladies enjoyed the excitement.  They had brought hundreds of toothbrushes, sponsored by Brentwood Village Dental in Calgary and toothpaste plus the two biggest bags of candy I have ever seen!

Beautiful kids and some big ones in the back.  In the back from left: Oudone, Bounmy, Monica, Bonnie and Aline.  I should note that Aline has been providing funds towards Oudone’s university course.

After class. students came up one at a time to receive their gifts for being so patient with the teachers…

Offering of gifts and sports items to the teachers

It was an extremely hot day so fresh coconut juice was the ticket, followed by a great lunch with a freshly killed chicken, finger potatoes and other goodies.

As this season winds down, I leave my heart here.  It is with sadness that I leave but I need to get next seasons fundraising activities underway….quite frankly though, I am looking forward to a Wendy’s hamburger with Frostie (maybe on the way home from the airport..haha) and I hope a turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy and so on…  I also need to get back before Lao New Years or the students will likely take my last dollar…

 

 

 

 

 

The Road to Paradise

It was so sad to see everyone leave a couple at a time but I suppose the highlight was when Dawn (my sister) and Beau managed to visit after o many years of hearing me talk about it.

While I was busily reporting to the donors, Siphan headed to a small village near the Plain of Jars, Ban Napia with or Italian friends to assist in the distribution of 62 water filters there.  As I understand, it went without incident although there was some heavy drinking afterwards with the villagers there.

Ban Napia water filters donated by the sponsors of Ink For Charity.

Ban Napia water filters donated by the sponsors of Ink For Charity.

So next up was to make another attempt at Thong Thuen.  The water filters were supposed to be there already but the rains had prevented the deliveries so they were stored at his mom’s house.  While our guests were here, Siphan had rushed down to Phonsavanh (Nambak District) while we were visiting Meung Ngoi, to relocate these filters yet again to his dormitory complex, for fear of theft.  The previous night his dad woke and found that the cover for the filters had been removed.  It was likely the thieves were interrupted before anything could be taken.  So now it was time to move the filters again to the final destination…with five truckloads, this was accomplished.

I managed to take a shot of one of the trucks as they whizzed by the guesthouse.

I managed to take a shot of one of the trucks as they whizzed by the guesthouse.

Hmmmm….I am wondering how to describe the road condition.  The main road was fine but about 20 minutes later, we turned off.  It looked like we were heading into a driveway full of huge potholes..gong about 3km per hour.  Most of you would not be able to imagine just how poor the road was.  Lots of muck in places, reasonably dry in others, steep inclines but the huge craters, potholes slowed us to a snails pace for abot 1 1/2 hours…but as the cloud deck rose, so did we.  Yes it was a bitch to get there but it was undoubtedly worth it.

I really hoped that our visitors could have experienced this view...just stunning and this was only half way.

I really hoped that our visitors could have experienced this view…just stunning and this was only half way.

I wish I cold have taken pictures of the actual road but it was so bumpy I am sure any attempt at aiming would have directed the camera to a tree of something.  We were on a constant incline too…so no stopping.  What a difference a year makes.  Last year we could have gone most of the way by minivan.

Upon our arrival, the three of us got straight to work, preparing the water filters for distribution, then went straight into training after a few announcements from the District Governor.  The village was so appreciative and obeyed our one order…to smile for the camera…perhaps the most fun loving bunch we have seen for a long time.  The last two filters were reserved for the bamboo school and for the teacher who was off somewhere during his day off….not impressed.  I had one of the villagers promise to go through the basic training once the teacher returned.

The school children posing with the water filters

The school children posing with the water filters

The first pouring of clean water

The first pouring of clean water

The first sampling....ok I lied.  I took the first sample so they could see it was safe.

The first sampling….ok I lied. I took the first sample so they could see it was safe.

Following this there was the usual baci celebration and ceremony…it was CRAZY!  There is no way anyone could take pictures during the string frenzy.  Siphan and I have been to a lot of baci ceremonies before but NOTHING like this.  It was like we were in the middle of a mob and couldn’t even see daylight!  LOL It was fun though and even better because we were all sitting outside on chairs!

146 famiies tried to put strings on our wrists at the same time...this is the result.

146 famiies tried to put strings on our wrists at the same time…this is the result.

Before we left however, we were updated on the progress of the huge water project.  This project involves the construction of a dam, 9km of pipe, a large tank and taps throughout the village spread over three hilltops…for 146 families.  We are building the tank to be large enough to run a pipe next year to a village further downhill into another smaller tank (to be constructed next year also) to fulfill the dreams of a Hmong village).  Here are some pictures;

Each family has been given the task of trenching a section of land for the pipe.  We do not allow the pipe to sit on top of the land because torrential rains can damage or destroy the connections.

Each family has been given the task of trenching a section of land for the pipe. We do not allow the pipe to sit on top of the land because torrential rains can damage or destroy the connections.

The District engineer standing by the water tank.  Today they have taken away the supporting wood and are building the top with access panel.

The District engineer standing by the water tank. Today they have taken away the supporting wood and are building the top with access panel.

As you can see, the water is already running...this was done first, to the euphoria of the villagers.

As you can see, the water is already running…this was done first, to the euphoria of the villagers.

It is hard to explain just how excited the villagers were to have water, for the first time ever in their village.  That was an exciting day and lots of celebration afterwards.  We received about a half dozen calls from the village to tell us just how happy they were.

The project should be complete in just a few weeks.  We are hoping to add an additional three taps but will see if the funding comes through.  Stay tuned…

And The Rains Came…

Who would have thought….in January, which is the dry season?  We had planned the itinerary for our many guests down to a tee and checked the forecast daily.  Experiencing no rain and beautiful temperatures since my arrival in November, I thought the coast was clear…until just 10 days before the first guest were to arrive…and the forecast kept getting worse!  We were expecting the temperatures to drop significantly like they did last year (down to -1 at night last year) but the temperature did not drop….but heavy rain came and came heavy, nonstop in the areas we would be travelling to.  It did let up in Luang Prabang and wasn’t as bad as the forecast but still, it made for major changes in our travel plans.  We even rented 4 x 4’s but the road to the main village located in the highlands, was simply impassable, even by tractor…so through lots of discussion and planning behind the scenes with our coordinator Siphan, we came up with B, even after delaying the road trip by a day.  The rain had stopped but it takes days for some of the roads to dry out so Thong Thuen was out of the question.

Our team consisted of some great Rotarians and friends from the Ladner, Delta, Vancouver area, 3 from Toronto and Richmnd Hill, Ontario and two from Italy.  Several have been with us before. What amazing people!

Not sure why this turned out blurry! This was the welcome dinner to sample the Lao BBQ. The vene was changed because another deluge of rain was expected and this was a covered patio. Fortunately the rain held off until we were all cozy in our beds.

Not sure why this turned out blurry! This was the welcome dinner to sample the Lao BBQ. The vene was changed because another deluge of rain was expected and this was a covered patio. Fortunately the rain held off until we were all cozy in our beds. From left to right is Siphan, Lola, Tamara, Sandra, myself, Kathy, Sonia, Juey (student), Mike, Tanh (student), Beau and Dawn…Lizzie got hit with a bad flu bug right after the flight so opted to stay in bed. Gary and Boun also opted out due to other commitments.

We started the trip by heading to Ban Xienga to distribute 60 desks on behalf of one of our amazing donors, Global Change for Children.  Our team was extremely generous in purchasing school supplies for every child in the primary school and we had a few things for the kindergarten children too, includng handmade buttons by grade 5 students in a primary school in Scarborough, Ontario.  What a treat! Here are some highlites;

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Sincere Thanks to Our Generous Donors, Global Change For Children, operated out of Vancouver, Britich Columbia.

Kindergarten student receiving school supplies and a special button

Kindergarten student receiving school supplies and a special button

Primary Student (Grade 1) with my sister Dawn. Sonia and Sandra are in the background handing out school supplies.

Primary Student (Grade 1) with my sister Dawn. Sonia and Sandra are in the background handing out school supplies.

Each Class of students went in order of Grade, with the youngest grades going first.

Each Class of students went in order of Grade, with the youngest grades going first.

The Team! Instructors, School Director, Village Chief and our amazing volunteers. I finally see Lizzie in the back right corner, second from the left...

The Team! Instructors, School Director, Village Chief and our amazing volunteers. I finally see Lizzie in the back right corner, second from the left behind Mike Storey.

The school also held a baci ceremony for us, in honour of our visit.

The string part of the ceremony begins...

The string part of the ceremony begins…

with a little pandamonium of course. I wish I could insert all the pictures...

with a little pandamonium of course. I wish I could insert all the pictures…

From Ban Xiengda, we continued our journey to Nong Khiaw, a fairly famous tourist outpost on the Ou River to spend the evening.  Siphan kept in touch with our utimate destination village of Thong Thuen meanwhile, hoping that the road would be dry enough to travel to.  Meanwhile, plans were in the works for plan B.  In the morning we headed up to Phou Luang to distribute water filters, feminine hygiene pads for the secondary school girls (our guys were not invited) and sports equipment to the boys so they wouldn’t feel left out.  Mind you, the boys wanted condoms…lol.  The culture is very different here and we would certainly not be welcome by promoting sex through their use.  Most students do not have their first experience until after they graduate high school or university.

The road was fine until we got to the bottom of the village, but there was heavy rain overnight.  Our vehicles couldn’t make it up the short but steep driveway because of the clay type mud…so we worked our way up the edges using the grass where we could find…one minor mishap though…one of our guests decided to see what the mud felt like on her butt.  Fortunately she did not hurt herself.

Here are a few of the water filters distributed with our visitors;

With Diana and Tamara

With Diana and Tamara

With Dawn and Beau

With Dawn and Beau

with Sandra

with Sandra

With Sonia

With Sonia

With Mike and Kathy

With Mike and Kathy

Afterwards, we headed up to Meung Ngoi, the last tourist outpost in the province to spend the night.  After breakfast we had time to head to the caves.  Our guests wanted to try a tractor ride, after hearing about our experiences the year before…soooo…we got one.

This was NOT what I was expecting..this was like the rolls royce of tractors...even benches to sit on!

This was NOT what I was expecting..this was like the rolls royce of tractors…even benches to sit on!

I didn't bother to take pictures in the cave - too dark with our little flashlights.

I didn’t bother to take pictures in the cave – too dark with our little flashlights.

After heading back to Nong Khiaw, we decided that Thong Thuen, the main feature, would not be possible.  Instead, the next day we headed to Ban Phone to distribute gently used clothing and inspect the site for a possible project to build a Cultural Centre.

At least the weather was perfect.

It was quite a long drive and there were a couple of ruts in the road but nothing difficult.  A couple of the guests were rather surprised at the big ruts so I am glad I didn’t actually take them to Thong Thuen afterall!  That was nothing in comparison with what I usually see.

Sonia did her best to try to keep order but after a while, it was just impossible so the villagers basically helped themselves…what mass pandamonium but it turned out quite well I thought.  There didn’t seem to be any other way to do it, or it would have taken us many hours to distribute.  I think everyone enjoyed the experience and realized just how impoverished these villagers were. Sincere thanks to the Malay Group who managed to bring all of these clothes from their homes in Johore, Malaysia. Thank YOU!!!

The kids posing just before the uprising...lol

The kids posing just before the uprising…lol

Here we go

Here we go

Dawn and Sonia attempting to assist

Dawn and Sonia attempting to assist

View from above

View from above

From there we headed back to Luang Prabang, just in time to freshen up and head out for the Farewell Dinner on the Mekong.  It turned out to be a beautiful night too.  Eric, the owner even made special Lao Lao cocktails to welcome them…

Everybody showing off their strings on the last evening together.

Everybody showing off their strings on the last evening together.

It was bittersweet end to the trip.  I will miss every one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.