Friday, January 5, 2007

Making Connections in Laos

Today we met with Concern Worldwide’s country director for Laos, Phillip Miller, to learn how they approach their village projects and learn from their expertise. Concern is an international charity working to eradicate poverty in 30 countries, with a number of projects in Laos. Phillip, an Australian who has worked on development projects all around world, was incredibly generous with his advice and even gave us templates on how to set up our project reports and measurements. While we are in Laos, we plan to meet with as many experts in the field as we can in order to make sure we are developing schools in the most useful, sustainable and measurable way possible.

We also met with Rassanikone Nanong who trains village women in advanced silk weaving, then sells the resulting products around the world. The women are paid higher wages than regular weavers, and there is an environmental focus—all the dyes used are naturally sourced from roots, bark, etc. She won a United Nations award for her work. We met with her to discuss the possibility of selling the scarves in Canada to help raise money for the charity. This way we are helping the local women to build on a marketable trade and also helping the children at the same time (and providing our supporters with stunningly beautiful silk scarves at below retail prices!). For now, we only bought a few scarves to see how it goes. These scarves are made of the highest quality silk and the weaving is intricate. All woven silk scarves made in Laos take about one week to complete on a hand loom.

Finally, we spoke with the kindergarten director, Jok, at the Sunshine School, where we will be doing capacity development training with the teachers and everything is arranged. We have a full schedule running from 8 am till 4 pm on Monday and Tuesday, visiting classrooms and meeting with teachers and administrators. The teachers will arrive in town this Sunday evening. Also we have rented the van and driver that will take us (and the school supplies) down to Muang Khong on Wednesday (we’ll be leaving at 4 am!).

All is on track and we look forward to bringing you more exciting updates in the days to come!

Shawn & Thanou

No comments: