Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Building a Toilet for a Kindergarten School!

Imagine being five years old and having to go to the bathroom--but there is no bathroom, so you have to go out and find a private spot. There' s nowhere to wash your hands, so you get sick. And when the rains comes, you get parasites through your feet from stepping in other children's feces.

Building toilets isn't sexy or exciting--but they save and change lives. That's why we are building another toilet this year for a small kindergarten school in a remote village in Khong District (we had to travel hours by motorbike then take a boat just to get there).

As usual we are working in partnership with the village. This means that we are buying the supplies but they are providing the labour for free--the villagers will build the toilet. This creates a feeling of teamwork and contribution for everyone, which is integral to what we do.

Once we see how this project goes (depending on some managerial factors) we may also build a concrete floor for the kindergarten. They currently have a dirt floor that turns into muck in the monsoon season. Imagine trying to learn while sitting with your feet ankle-deep in muck. Or with dust everywhere in the dry season.

We are grateful to Jin and Joo Lee for helping to raise money for this project (as they did our last project--the Kindergarten Lunch Program). You guys are angels. Thanks a million!

Faye Jackson Volunteers at our Muong Khong Kindergarten Project

Early this year we had an awesome volunteer teacher--Faye Jackson from England--who stayed at the kindergarten school in Muong Khong for two weeks, acting as an observer for our organization and teaching the children some songs/dances etc. She had a blast. Here's the story of her experience...

Report by Faye Jackson

Arriving at the school on the first day was awkward to say the least--no one spoke English and my Lao was limited to "hello," "thank you very much" and "it's hot." I said that last one a lot as it was extremely hot! But once I sat in front of the children with their big brown eyes looking at me, hanging off my every movement, the awkwardness soon vanished!

The children are amazing and so happy to play and be silly (something I had no problem with!). The teachers have also been fantastic and, despite the language barrier, made me feel welcome with their warm smiles and patience; they even managed to teach me some Laos!

It gave me such a thrill to walk up to the gate of the school each morning and be greeted by the cry of "Sabaidee" and lots of happy faces coming to meet me! The children would walk me up to the building of the school, sometimes 2-3 in each hand and a couple dangling off each hip or leg--it was great to feel so welcome!
I managed to teach them how to count from 1-20 and recite their ABCs, which, by the Tuesday of the second week, I heard a couple of the kiddies singing as they played outside (apart from a couple of mis-pronunciations--they got it!). It was brilliant! I also taught them a couple of English songs, such as "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and "The Hockey Cockey." They loved these songs and got very excited when they knew I was about to sing them!

All in all, it was an amazing experience being part of their lives, even if it was just for two weeks. It's something I know will stay in my heart forever. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity by Shawn and Thanou at Jai Dee Children's Fund to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another Successful Project Done!

We're home from Laos and happy to report that the new kitchen we built was a huge success! The Kindergarten Lunch Program was officially launched, so now the children will be receiving at least one nutritious meal each day. This is important in a country where 40% of children are malnourished and many don't eat breakfast before heading out to school. The program will also encourage parents to send their children to school (many keep them home to help on the farm).

We want to begin by personally thanking some important people.

Our Generous Donors
Jin and Joo Lee Family Foundation
Aurora/Naperville Rotary Club
Jong-Ho and Duk-ja Choi

Here's the new kitchen (the smaller building in the background) from a distance. The high ceiling helps with circulation and to cool it down in the hot season. The floor is raised two feet so the water doesn't come in during the rainy season. Inside it has running water and electricity (for the stove--so they don't have to use charcoal, which is hard on the lungs). It also has all the equipment necessary to prepare food for 60 children.

Here's the Kindergarten Food Program in action!

Here's us with Jin and Joo Lee--two of our donors and also two of the most inspiring people we've ever met!

And here we are, standing in front of the kitchen. The Lao text behind us actually names all the donors on this project and the full cost in kip. Check out Thanou's rock-star hair! He got a haircut soon after that.

These adorable faces are the reason we do all we do. They are singing us a "thank you" song for building the kitchen and starting the lunch program.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 Project: Kitchen

Hi all,

We're in Laos right now at a tiny Internet cafe on Khong island.

The Kitchen Project

The kitchen we're building for the local kindergarten school is coming along great. We'll have an official opening ceremony next week when our major donors arrive.

This project couldn't have happened without our generous donors Jin and Joo Lee! They were also supported by their local rotary club, of which they are members. They'll be flying here next week to help us get supplies for the kichen and for the opening ceremony. We can't wait to meet them.

Here's the kitchen as it looks right now--almost finished!

Here's the fence we built two years ago (along with upgrades to the school) all standing strong.

Ban Dua Kindergarten

Yesterday we visited the kindergarten school we built last year for children on Ban Dua island--a small island with no electricity or running water. This was the first time we were able to see it completed and it looks awesome--definitely solid enough to withstand the monsoon rains that eventually destroyed the last school (which was made of wood). The local villagers were very grateful and are using the leftover materials from the old school to fix up the primary school next door.