INTERNATIONAL TEAM - REPORT ON VISIT TO LAOS PROJECTS
Posted by Cecily NEIL
Director International, Rob Hines, reported to club meeting last Tuesday on the recent visit to the schools projects in Laos.
In March, Annie and Roy led a group of 16 including the Hines’ and Jones’ members plus 10 non Rotarians to Laos and Cambodia. Two days were taken to look at schools that had been previously funded by RCCMS, namely the primary schools at Ban Houai Yen and Ban Houai Thao and the Hue Khang High School.
The village of Ban Houai Yen has no vehicular access and can only be reached on foot or by boat. It has two school buildings, one renovated by Rotary and one by Rod Fraser.  Both are fenced and based on the design specified by the Laos Government. The Rotary funded building is of very good quality with good facilities. The other building however needs some renovation, as it lacks a solid partition between classes and is very hot in summer.
The village of Ban Houai Thao has a primary school similar to that of Ban Houai Yen, the renovation of which was funded by RCCMS . This year a new toilet block was funded by an individual member of RCCMS.
The Hue Khang High School has 10 classrooms, 3 of which were funded by the RCCMS in 2013. However, it still needs more classrooms.
Following the first two days, Ban Buam Aor was visited for a school opening ceremony attended by the District Governor and the village chief and elders.
The visitors were entertained by delightful performances of traditional dancing by the children. After the ceremony, books and pencils were given out to the children, who were very polite and pleased with their gifts.
Ban Huay Tan village was on the itinerary for the next day. The villagers are Hmong and have been resettled from the highlands as part of a government program to reduce the slash and burn agricultural practices – and opium cultivation - of the highlanders. Their original village is a 5 hour mountainous hike from the new location. The new village has only a makeshift school for their 25-30 primary school children and that is in desperate need of renovation. The International Committee will be asked to consider supporting this endeavour as a number one priority.
In Cambodia, Kampuchea House was visited. This is an orphanage that houses 15 children who are orphans or who cannot be supported in their village, as well as supporting a further 15 older children living in the village. As a consequence of past scams with some orphanages in Cambodia, the Cambodian government is now strictly regulating orphanages, and for the moment, no new children can be taken in. Kampuchea House, however, is particular good, and has a a very successful track record – one of the graduates is now studying medicine, while another is sous-chef at the foreign Correspondence Club.
While in Cambodia, Roy Garrett, David Jones and Rob Hines attended the regular weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Phnom Penh, where discussions took place regarding Non, a young boy seen by Roy Garrett 4 or 5 years ago in Ban Houai Yen. Non appears to be suffering from MEC, which is now affecting his eyesight, as well as being a cause of social exclusion. Roy has been trying for some time to get treatment for Non, and arrangements have now been made for his treatment in Phnom Penh, if CT scans confirm the MEC diagnosis.
Before concluding this report, Rob showed a letter from the Australian Ambassador expressing appreciation of the support that Rotary was giving to schools in Laos. A question was raised as to whether this could lead to DFAT funding for some Rotary projects.