Monday, December 27, 2010

Off the Plane and Into Northern Laos Villages

It's been four years since my last visit to Laos, and I must say I have been eager to get back ever since...and thanks to Steve Rutlege, a fellow-Rotarian from Ontario - there are reasons to be back here that can get some beneficial projects going for the small villages in the remote Northern hill villages of Laos!

Before you read on - check out Steve's Blog at:

Adopt a Village in Laos is a non-profit Canadian organization building wonderful schools and providing vital clean water to these small remote villages. We'll be seeing many of these projects and intended future projects - one of them being a VERY exciting prospect - A Muskoka School site in the village of Hat Kham, by the Ou river near the northern boundry line between Phongsali and Luang Prabang provinces. More on that project in future postings.

Pauline Johns and I spent a very special Christmas Day. We took a flight to Luang Prabang which saw us arrive there at 6pm. We were met by Steve and Mike and a host of friendly Laos friends who wisked us away to Steve's lovely house (The 'Hilton' compared to some of the villages we stayed at in Cambodia)here in Luang Prabang.

After a toast to the season, it was time to enjoy a restaurant celebatory meal. We all caught up on projects at hand in Laos and Cambodia, and it was about midnight until my mind settled down enough to sleep...I was just so wound up with all the plans ahead that could transpire into such meaningful projects for the children here.

Next morning, Steve had the day planned with our first trips into the villages. Laos has got to be one of the most beautiful countries on earth - these hills in the north are lush, water is abundant, and a climate that is much more bearable than Cambodia.

Rich in beauty, but unfortunately that's where the weath ends. Laos is a struggling developing country seeing far less organizations at work in the rural areas than it's surrounding countries. There is a serious lack of schools and many that are operating are unsafe for the children attending.

Our first visit was to Xieng Nguen District School. Over 1300 students attend there 3 wooden structures that have main beams so badly infested with termites, it will soon pose a danger to the students attending. Four of the classrooms have been 'added on' under the floor beams resulting in 4 dungeon classrooms where children can barely see the blackboard at the front of the school. Steve's got a great plan that will save these students from there presently over-crowded, unsafe classrooms.

Next, it was off to Na Dad village where Steve is investigating a possible solution for a clean water source for the families there. At the top of the mountain, water flows down the mountain into a generating station and then continues into a river which flows through small villages alongside the water. Halfway down the river, there is a pig farm! Every bacteria you can think of from that pig farm is flowing down that river and is the water source for the people living alongside!

Some of the villagers have dug rusty steel wells right beside the river. We suppose that they think that that is a clean source of water, but it really is only the same river water that is a few feet away!

Last stop of the day has been recorded on video, which I'll have linked up to this site soon. A visit to a thoroughly neglected district clinic.

Many challenges, most that can be solved through the provision of education, schools and provision of clean water.

So many children here need bicycles to get to school. Steve and I will be investigating the logistics to provide some future Rotary Wheels for Learning bicycles to the rural children here.

A Mine Free World Foundation Board Members, Pauline and I are here to also investigate the needs of landmine victims here. There is apparently a whole village of landmine survivors living together that we'll be visiting.

We are off to more nearby villages tomorrow, and then after that we'll be making a 3-day trek by land, water and foot into some more remote areas up the Ou river.

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