LAOS – It had been a grueling motorbike ride to Nam Naen, a Thaidam ethnic village in northern province of Phongsaly, Laos. We were greeted and graciously hosted by a family in their home on stilts. We saw a young boy reading aloud to a younger boy, using a dim, overhead flashlight and the light of the fire. His determination to read to the younger child was moving.
As we prepared our dinner on the open-hearth fire, a young boy was reading aloud to a younger boy, using a dim, overhead flashlight and the light of the fire. His determination to read to the younger child was moving.
We learned that his name was Tao Huk. Now thirteen years old, Tao Huk had dropped out of school the year before when his parents divorced. Tao Huk’s mother had left and his father needed his young son to help plant rice and do household chores, a common scenario for many Lao children, especially in remote villages.
The next day, as we spoke with students to better understand the reasons for high levels of school dropout among 4th and 5th grade learners, we spied Tao Huk standing just outside the doorway, now with a baby cousin in his care.
When asked why he was standing in the doorway rather than joining the group of learners in the room, Tao Huk replied “I am not a student.” “Would you like to join and be a student?” we asked him. “You are welcome to join even if you’re not enrolled in school.”
Immediately, Tao Huk’s eyes brightened and he entered the classroom with the baby in his arms. To our delight, Tao Huk was very eager to learn and engage in the discussion. He was even appointed by his small group to share the children’s remarks at the conclusion of the session!
It was an empowering moment for Tao Huk — given permission and deciding for himself! It was also a moment of opportunity for the young learners and community adults to see the preciousness of the desire to learn both inside and outside the classroom. The community could see this boy’s desire to be a learner, despite his current circumstances. At the end of the school dropout reflection session, World Renew’s team encouraged the community members to explore ways they could help Tao Huk and others like him can continue their formal education.
The low level of government investment in education in Laos (only 3% of GDP) particularly limits education for the ethnic people in remote areas. World Renew’s mission in Laos is to help these most vulnerable people. We are grateful to God for the opportunity to make a difference in the life of Tao Huk of Nam Naen village and in the lives of over 2300 other children from rural communities. In 2018, we built 2 five-room schools in remote villages as well as dormitories for over 200 students. We also supported teacher training for teachers from 34 villages. In 2019, we hope to begin working in 12 new villages.
If this is a ministry you feel called to support. please pray with us and for us and help us financially as you are able. The desire of our heart is that all children remain in school and that, if they do dropout, they would find their voice and their way back to the classroom. The privilege of being a lifelong learner is for everyone in Laos!
Prayers for Laos
- On October 10, we met in Phongsaly with government stakeholders about plans for continuing our work in Mai district. The meeting went very well with government officials at village, cluster, province, and ministry levels all supportive of our continuing work in the Mai district. Now we begin to plan the project in detail and get official approval for those plans.
- December will be a busy month as World Renew Laos staff will be in both Phongsaly for the work described above and in Xieng Khouang for a project evaluation from December 11 to 24. An important meeting with all stakeholders is planned for January 22, 2019.
- We are still in the process of recruiting for a new Lao project manager to bring the Xieng Khouang project forward into its next phase. We appreciate your prayers to find the right person with a vision and heart for working in remote communities.
World Renew Laos