Recently the volunteers who joined us in Luang Prabang have been able to experience a number of cultural and religious activities, which helps them to better relate to the students that they teach, strengthen their understanding of Laos culture and provides a different perspective of their students and surroundings.
GVI Laos partner and Luang Prabang entrepreneur, KK, gave a culture talk about women’s changing role in Laos. She detailed her story about searching for self-determination while living in a deeply traditional Lao society where the woman’s role is still often confined to the private sphere. Drawing on her story, she was able to give volunteers significant awareness regarding gender roles in Laos, and provide an understanding about the cultural and social barriers faced by women in relation to education and economic participation.
Ms. Keo is a Lao teacher who has joined us on the National Scholarship Program (NSP). Ms. Keo has been conducting Lao lessons twice a week for the volunteers. This rare opportunity to learn Lao from a native speaker has been a wonderful cultural experience and has allowed volunteers to put themselves in their students’ shoes; providing them with valuable insight into the difficulties of learning a language. Volunteers have then applied this new understanding to the lesson planning process and adjusted teaching techniques to reflect this.
Ms. Keo also gave a culture talk about the education system in Laos and the realities associated with balancing the pressure to securing basic needs and seeking an education in a developing country. Additionally, the volunteers also had the unique opportunity to visit Ms. Keo’s farm located in a village across the Mekong River where few tourists explore. They were shown around the farm; they learned about the process of growing mushrooms in a sustainable way, how to fish with a net, and discussed the benefits and difficulties associated with farming in Laos. They then received a Lao cooking lesson and left with full bellies, tired feet but happy hearts.
Finally, volunteers and staff were lucky enough to be invited to two temples. The first was at Wat Boupha Vipassnaram where they participated in the daily chanting and meditation. The second was at Wat PasaViet, where volunteers were invited by a student and ex-novice to attend their candlelight ceremony for the beginning of Buddhist Lent.
These experiences have allowed volunteers to better relate to their students and strengthened their understanding of religion and culture in Laos.
Thank you for your continued support!
From May 25th to 29th our in-country volunteers participated in our annual fundraiser for the GVI CharitableTrust. The goal was to raise US$4000 to enable GVI Laos to continue its valuable work sponsoring students who would otherwise not have access to education. The funds would also enable GVI Laos to continue providing support to the local community for small infrastructure projects, medical support and general needs. The students that are supported by the Trust come from varied backgrounds, some are novice monks, others are lay-people from the community who come to stay in Luang Prabang for a better education.
The volunteers, with the support of family and friends at home, participated in our '5am for 5 days challenge'. The challenge was to get up at 5am every day for five days to give alms to the Buddhist monks in our community. Many of the Buddhist monks and novices are also students the volunteers teach throughout the week. Participating in this challenge enabled the volunteer teachers a unique insight into the day to day life and spirituality of their students.
Alms-giving is a very important part of the Buddhist tradition and culture in Laos. Every morning monks and novices walk silently through the streets of Luang Prabang collecting food from local people. The food they collect is their only food for the day. Most locals get up early to cook hot sticky rice which they take in baskets either to the pavement in front of their homes or to the road outside their nearest temple. They kneel quietly, under an umbrella if it's raining, and as the line of monks pass by each receives a small handful of rice in his bowl. The local people who give alms do so to gain merit, also an integral part of Buddhism, by freely giving with no expectation of reward.
Each morning our volunteers travelled to various temples around town to give alms where our novice students live, as well as giving alms outside our volunteer home with the local women from our lane. Everywhere the volunteers went the local men and women welcomed them, showed them where to kneel and appreciated the effort they were making to behave properly while taking part in this daily ritual. Lao people love to share their culture with foreigners, and it was a special opportunity for our volunteers to experience authentic daily life in Laos. On some occasions, the novices stopped and chanted a short blessing for all those who had given.
By the end of the five days, the volunteers were tired but overjoyed to have reached the target! They all felt privileged to have taken part in the ceremony and agreed that it is an uplifting way to start the day.
A huge thank you to everyone who participated and donated, with your generous support our project is able to continue providing education and opportunities to the local community. Kop Jai Lai Lai!
Here at GVI Laos we’re always looking for ways we can use the skills of our wonderful volunteers to help grow the project and provide access to educational opportunities for our students. Whilst our project focuses heavily on English education we’re always open to other languages and decided to try out a class which has proved to be an on-going success.
In October 2014 we decided to utilise the skills of our volunteers and started a German class at the Children’s Library. This was a free class which was open to all novice monks who wanted to study German. For students in Luang Prabang learning other languages - especially English, Japanese, Mandarin, German and French - provides great opportunities for better employment, income and quality of life later on. Lao students love to study language as they find it interesting and engaging.
Since October, we have had German teachers from Germany and Austria teach a small class of novices. The students have learned the alphabet in German, basic conversation and have now moved up to learning tenses. Their current teacher Lara Schlereth is an intern on the programme and will be here for another 5 months.
We would like to thank all the German teachers for their hard work and dedication, you are the difference. Thank you Sarah, Juliana, Annika, Ammon, Anissa and Lara!
Thank you for your continued support on this project.
All the best
Happy New Year!
The project in Laos got off to a great start of the year thanks to your donations!
First off, $1050 has been used to sponsor 7 students for 12 months of English Learning. These English lessons, at the Mekong English Centre, increases access for these students to future employment opportunities and improves socio-economic status through improved English language skills. GVI Laos also strives to develop strong, mutually beneficial and sustainable partnerships with groups in Luang Prabang, such as the Mekong English Centre.
An exciting new addition to the educational support that GVI provides students in Luang Prabang was the creation of our first mathematics class. Held at the Luang Prabang Library, these classes have allowed GVI volunteers to broaden GVI’s educational impact beyond English teaching, while enabling GVI to utilise a new skill set identified within our volunteer team. Whilst December unfortunately saw the successful program draw to a close, we are extremely proud of what has been achieved through the year, and are confident about the possibility of this program returning in 2015.
Secondly, $450 of your donations was used for food for 9 sponsored children and their host family.Providing 30 kilogram bags of rice every 3 weeks to 9 GVI sponsored children and their host family reaches one of many GVI Laos goals: “To provide economic assistance for food support, medical aid and small infrastructure projects to vulnerable groups within the Luang Prabang community.
This has only been possible with your help and support so thank you.
We are excited to bring news in this report of how some recent funds have been spent!
As you can see, a little money goes a long way in Laos and thanks to your donations here, $1947 has changed the lives of 16 students as well as benefiting many more through the library. Thank you for continuing to support us.
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