A team of six, including TLCB member Bill Brown and I, returned from a successful trip to Nakhon Phanom and Ban Nahom, Laos.
The team departs Bangkok early in the morning for Nakhon Phanom. We spent the morning surveying the remains of the old Air Force base that has virtually been reclaimed by the jungle over the last 35 years. We found a few souvenirs but mainly what has survived are cement foundations, buildings, and hooches.
We were quite interested in seeing TLCB member John Middlesood’s work with the Thai schools. We were able to visit a school in session as well as have some time to play games with the children.
We were running out of time so we briefly visited another school where we viewed concrete lunch tables provided by the TLCB. The conditions were much improved in the Thai school from what we encountered in the villages of Laos however, the universal constant is the children and their laughter.
Finally! After several days of travel, the team crosses into Laos. The boats look rustic but very functional and have even been upgraded this year with seats, though I’d rather sit with the locals on bags of rice as we did last year.
After stamping out of Thailand, crossing the Mekong and stamping into Laos, we headed to the market and hardware store for supplies needed for this years projects. On the way to Ban Nahom, we stopped at the shop where desks (which the TLCB co-funded with the A1 Skyraiders Association) where being loaded onto trucks for the trip.
The team arrives in the village of Nahom late in the afternoon and settles in. Needless to say, we are the attraction, and the children are as eager this year to have their pictures taken as they were last year. Weather is much colder this year, and most of the team is unprepared for the colder climate. It makes the work in the schoolyard easier, but more blankets are soon needed to be able to sleep at night.
The teams first ful day in the village. Mornings tend to start early with villagers gathered around individual household fires. Team members usually oined the villagers during these morning gatherings to wake up, get warm, and enoy some interaction with our hosts.
After breakfast the team headed off to the school for TLCB-funded projects. The primary project was to get the first coat of paint on the school. We got most of the men in the village to pitch in and help with the painting, and by the end of the day we managed to get one coat of paint on the school.
That evening, we learned that a teenage girl from the village that had been injured by a bomb. The day before, this girl, with four of her friends built a fire outside the village to keep warm. Unbeknownst to them, they built ithe fire over a buried unexploded bomb. These bombs, left over from the war, still litter this area and are a danger to the villagers. Bill Brown and I cleaned and bandaged her wounds and prepared her for the ride to the hospital.
The nearest hospital was 4 hours away traveling over dark, dangerous roads and the only way she could travel is in the back of a truck-bed in the cold evening air. We made her as comfortable as possible and prayed for their safety.
When we left the village several days later we checked in on her at the hospital and were relieved to find out she was not only doing better, but well enough to travel home. I am certain that without our intervention she would have died from the infections in her legs.
The team concentrated on getting the other schoolyard projects completed. Those projects, also funded by the TLCB, include a teeter-totter, tetherball, basketball hoop and swing set. The villagers eagerly helped us with the construction. Later, we formally presented TLCB-funded desks and school supplies to the schoolmaster. He and the students were so appreciative of the new desks and supplies.
Our final full day in the village was spent playing games and doing crafts with the children. Simple games like Duck-Duck-Goose (or Duck-Duck-Pig since they didn’t know what a goose was) and Steal-the-Bacon were big hits with the kids, especially when the “older” folks joined in.
Later, the team visited a second school that supports this district (the school in Nahome is for 1st grade, the school in Thongkham is 1st-5th grades) and took Polaroid photos of siblings. The children then decorated picture frames during craft time and took them home to their families. This would be their very first self-portrait ever.
In the evening we had “Movie Night” where we provided dinner for the entire village. We set up a movie screen and used the new desks as tables where we all ate dinner together and watched the slide show and video of the past few days. The biggest hit was the close-ups of each person. They loved seeing themselves on the “big screen.”
Today we arose early, packed up and sadly said goodbye. The villagers all came out to say goodbye and thank us for all that we did.
The following is a list of accomplishments:
Delivered and distribution of school supplies:
- Desks (purchased with funds provided by TLCB and the A1 Skyraiders Association)
- School Textbooks (purchased with funds provided by TLCB)
- Started a Library (purchased with funds provided by TLCB)
- Reading Glasses that can be checked out from the library
- Notebooks (purchased with funds provided by TLCB)
- Sports Equipment
Built playground equipment (purchased with funds provided by TLCB):
- Basketball Hoop
- Swing Set
- Painted the school (purchased with funds provided by TLCB)
- Played games and made crafts with two schools’ chiildren
- Distributed toothbrushes and floss to each family
- Delivered blankets and sleeping mats
- Purchaed field clearing tools (for a future school and hospital in a nearby city)
- Purchased road-building tools (for a road that is half-way completed to the village)
- Bought dinner for the entire village for two days
- Provided medical assistance, transportation to the hospital and paid the bills for two bomb victims
It was a successful and wonderful trip. It was a team effort that involved many people and organizations including TLCB, A1 Skyraiders Association, and North-by-Northeast Tours. You are part of the team. You helped make an Impact in Laos.