And we’re off and giving….Well, in case you hadn’t heard, GVI Laos is running the most awesome Charitable Trust Challenge ever! 13 volunteers and staff are getting up in the dark at 5am to give alms to the passing parade of some 150 Buddhist monks and novices in the daily ritual known in Lao as Tak Bat. Why would they do it? To inspire their friends, family, colleagues and strangers to donate to the Charitable Trust Challenge, which in Laos raises money to provide educational sponsorships and scholarships to disadvantaged young Lao students.
So, how is it all going you ask? Amazing! Day One saw everyone up really early, dressed resplendently in their sins and scarves (traditional alms-giving attire). Local elder, Chanpheng, had laid out mats along the road and provided ritual silver bowls to aid in the alms giving. Volunteers were loaded up with biscuits to offer – sticky rice being just a little too challenging for the uninitiated! – and participants proceeded to drop the little parcels into the collection bowls of the passing saffron procession. Tak Bat in Luang Prabang is sometimes distorted by tourists who fail to show proper respect (http://landlopers.com/2012/05/27/alms-luang-prabang-laos/ ) for the tradition and instead use it as another tourist attraction to be exploited. GVI are proud to reverse that tendency by ensuring volunteers are dressed in traditional garb, seated properly, follow all protocols under the watchful eye of the village elders, and refrain from the photo circus so common during the ceremony. It’s a delight to see!
So Day Two of a total of 5 mornings has been ticked off, and volunteers were rewarded this morning with a stunning sunrise on the journey home. With merit-making in abundance and £2555 raised by volunteers and staff – representing 50 donations to date and 51% to target – it has been a successful Challenge so far and looks set to be one of Laos’ best yet!