Sunday, June 12, 2011

ban hat kham

over the next several days, i will post about the Jai Lao contest to build their fourth school in Laos. (see my previous post.) Jai Lao is doing awesome work in bringing education to young people in Laos, and they are sponsoring a contest to bring another school to Laos - and allowing supporters of Jai Lao to decide which village will have a school built. Four essays have been written asking for support.

if you "like" Jai Lao organization on facebook, you will then be able to help decide which of these villages will have their school built.

here is the first of four essays that are posted on the Jai Lao page:

Situated two and a half hours north of Luang Prabang then an hour and 45 minutes by boat further north up the river Nam Ou, Ban Hat Kham is built in mountain terrain and nestled in groves of trees. The village has no paved roads, no electricity, and no latrines. It is home to 53 Khmu families and has a population of 307 residents. Their homes, made of bamboo with mostly thatch or tin roofs, are perched on stilts and clustered close together.

The residents of Ban Hat Kham are extremely poor. Their estimated per capita annual income is a mere tenth of the meager $986 national average (U.S Department of States, November 30, 2010, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs). Their geographic location limits their economic mobility. They rely heavily on subsistence farming, gathering, hunting, trapping, and fishing for their survival. The villagers mainly barter for goods among themselves, although they occasionally earn cash by selling farm goods, basketries, and livestock to outsiders who pass through.

Ban Hat Kham needs a new school that will provide education to preschoolers through third graders. The village has a school teacher and 49 students but no school building. In 2010, monsoons destroyed the village school, a simple bamboo structure. The villagers salvaged a chalkboard, some desks, and a few wooden benches and tables. No textbooks exist in the village.

The residents want to build a two-room school but lack the funds. As a temporary measure, the local government allows the teacher to hold school in the village’s community center where village council meetings are held. The community center, an open structure with no windows or shutters, is not a suitable location. During the wet and windy season, which can last up to five months, classes are usually cancelled. This substantial gap in the school year disrupts the students’ educational progress.

Steve Rutledge, founder of Adopt a Village in Laos (AAVIL), a Canada-based nonprofit organization, obtained approval from the local government to build a two-room primary school and provide water purification systems and hygienic latrines. AAVIL had a donor lined up to fund the school. Unfortunately, the donor withdrew the offer when the Lao government announced a proposal to build a dam near the village. The dam proposal is in its early stages. If the project is eventually approved, which may take an estimated seven to ten years, Ban Hat Kham would be submerged in water, and the residents would be forced to relocate.

While the proposal creates a degree of uncertainty, the developers have promised to relocate the village and replace everything the villagers lose, including any buildings such as a school. The education of these children cannot be placed on hold while the decision is made. Most children in Laos do not make it past the 5th grade. A delay of a single year costs the children a large percentage of their potential education. They can’t afford to wait. They need a school now.

AAVIL does not currently have funding to build a school for Ban Hat Kham. A partnership with the Jai Lao Foundation is all it would take to make the dream of obtaining a new school a reality. Mr. Rutledge indicated that AAVIL is excited to collaborate with Jai Lao and has pledged to donate a water filter system to every family in Ban Hat Kham and to the school. In addition, the organization will provide school supplies and two toilets to the school when it is built.

According to Mr. Rutledge, the residents of Ban Hat Kham are eager to help build a new school. They have committed to supply wood and collect gravel and sand from the river. The villagers have shown initiative in cleaning the old school site and clearing debris to prepare for the new building.

Thanks to the preliminary work completed by AAVIL, Ban Hat Kham provides an opportunity for Jai Lao and its supporters to improve lives quickly. With so many deserving villages, deciding which one to assist will be difficult; however, I believe Ban Hat Kham is the ideal location for Jai Lao’s new school project.

this essay was written by a good friend of mine, daravanh! if you wish to vote for ban hat kham, "like" Jai Lao, then "like" essay #1.

1 comment:

D said...

i'm still waiting to see your've read all the essays, what r you thoughts?