Volunteering in Laos - disadvantaged communities in poverty

Volunteering in Laos

Sabaidee, I’m David from New Zealand (a kiwi) who’s passionate about supporting people in Laos (a beautiful, small, poor, landlocked country in South East Asia). The purpose of this blog is to write about life in Laos and provide updates on projects. I first came to Laos in 2011 and have returned regularly since 2013.

What I do

I share my skills and train Lao locals, develop ICT learning resources and setup computer infrastructure, so Lao teachers can teach Lao youth. Students then go on to get better jobs to support their families and the inspiration they gain encourages new students to learn and improve their lives too… so a cycle is born.

I help by

  • training people in computer skills.
  • giving and maintaining computer equipment and support.
  • supporting local communities, people and projects.

I volunteer at a charity school in Luang Prabang which teaches English and Computer Studies to 300 students from impoverished families.

There are many great projects taking place with minimal resources. Every bit of help counts and together we are making a real, positive impact on people’s lives. At times it feels the problems are so great thing will never improve, however, individuals, just like you and me, are achieving results and this is what spurs me on.

“Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean” – Ryunosuke Satoro

Background to Laos and poverty

Computer education in Laos

Sai bat (alms giving)

Lao people are a peaceful lot and Buddhism is at the basis of Lao culture. Most people live in rural villages clustered around a temple and education is limited yet is seen as a key step towards poverty reduction.

  • 1 in 10 Lao children never attend primary school or receive any formal schooling.
  • The average age of the population is 19 years and more than 40% of the population is under 15 years old.
  • Students often leave at an early age as they are required to work on the family farm and many teenage girls leave to have children.
  • Over 25% live in poverty and 75% of people suffer daily hardship.
  • 80% of the population are subsistence farmers. 32% live in urban areas and the rest in hard to reach mountainous places.
  • Healthcare is limited. Life expectancy is only 66 years. Laos is one of the world’s poorest countries.
  • Since the 90’s prostitution, drug use, and petty crime have increased due to a lack of economic opportunities for youth and poor access to education.
  • From 1964 to 1973, during the Secret US War, a planeload of bombs was dropped every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. One-third of the land is contaminated. 40% of deaths from bombs today are children.
  • Productivity is estimated to be about half what would be expected for a country at this level of development.
Students learning computers

Students learning computers

Who benefits from my efforts?

  • Youth between 16 and 22.
  • Lao teachers.
  • Families and the wider community.

How do people benefit?

  • I train and up-skill local Lao teachers so they can teach 300 students each year.
  • Students have an opportunity to learn in a structured environment with access to a teacher and technology.
  • Learning computer, along with English, skills improve job opportunities.
  • Siblings and other family members benefit by having access to technology or financially through the graduate getting work and earning money.
  • Communities benefit from outreach programmes such as supplying necessary clothing, bedding, skills and labour to improve facilities in rural villages.
  • Graduates gain confidence and go on to inspire others to learn and develop.

Without action, there is no outcome.

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