From Jai Lao Foundation:
Jai Lao embarked on our first humanitarian service mission to Laos from November 27-December 10, 2009. Five board members from California, Washington, North Carolina, Virgina and a few volunteers funded their own airfare, lodging accommodations, ground transportation, and food expenses to be a part of this special mission bringing Jai Lao love to six villages in the provinces of Salavan and Luang Prabang, Laos. We traveled one hour on a pothole ridden road, through a gushing stream to a remote village in Salavan province that was affected by Typhoon Ketsana in early November 2009. The villagers were happy and helpful as we spent the whole day handing out livestock (ducks and chickens), household kits, clothes, sticky rice, and ingredients (fish sauce, salt, sugar and spices) to 138 families.
Some of us felt as if we were going to pass out due to heat and having nothing to eat or drink all day, but the spirit of giving and serving sustained us and gave us physical energy. Having been prompted by the sweet spirit of the people, with their only wish being to have clean water to drink before they died, Jai Lao pledged to bring clean water to the villagers. The sight of little children meeting in a tiny house for school brought tears of sadness. We all silently felt the need to build a proper school, conducive to learning, for these children. Bringing this village clean water and a proper school are two of Jai Lao Foundation’s major goals in 2010.
Baan Paktapanh, the remote and quaint village by the Mekong River where Jai Lao first got its inspiration, received us in the warmest and most loving way possible. Because of the past projects we had done for this village, including the installation of a playground, bathrooms, and educational materials, for their school, they were ever so grateful and happy to see us again. Despite not having much for themselves, they pooled their resources and gave us a wonderful lunch to welcome us back. We came bearing donations of sports equipments for both the primary and secondary schools. We donated funds to install 18 ceiling fans and renovate the poor condition of the existing bathroom. In addition, we have promised to help build a two-room pre-school with a budget of $5,000. Any costs over $5,000 will be paid by the villagers and to reduce labor costs, the villagers have pledged to help with the construction. We think that this is a beautiful example of working together and the villagers doing their own share to be more self- reliant.
Our journey by van then took us north, to Vientiane and then to Luang Prabang. In Vientiane we visited the Disabled Center to visit the blind and deaf residents of the center, where we donated money and basic toiletry kits brought all the way from the U.S. That was perhaps the most tearful moment for our volunteers. Each of us shed tears of sadness when they sang a beautiful song asking people to have tender mercy for those who cannot see or hear life. We also visited and donated to the Children’s Music Center for impoverished, at risk youth in Laos. We were very inspired by Noi Sengsourigna’s love for these children and the way she helps shape their lives.
The drive on to Luang Prabang was both beautiful and sad. The children we met along the mountainous road were truly touching. It is so humbling to see how even a bag of candies can make them so happy and full of gratitude. Northern Lao villages tend to experience very cold winters and many villagers get very ill due to the lack of adequate warm apparel. Jai Lao visited two Khmu villages and two Hmong villages to bring warm blankets, winter hats, socks, and clothes to 240 families. One of the villages we visited was a Khmu village of 78 families that took us 3 hours to reach by boat. The people there were absolutely amazing. They were hunters and gatherers who are very reserved and the unity in their community was touching and inspiring. It was the children in all four villages who moved us and melted our hearts the most. The dirt on their faces could not hide their pure, sweet, and innocent eyes and smiles. We stood in great awe and admiration of the way a ten year old child can run her own business at the night market; or how a group of five to ten year olds form a team of workers carrying sand from the river to a home construction site in their village. We as mothers stood amazed, wondering how we can instill these values into our own Lao- American children back at home in the U.S.
The success of our first Jai Lao mission is due, in large part, to the generous contributions of our supporters. Their gently used clothing donations, in-kind contributions, Jai Lao apparel donations, and monetary donations have given warmth and smiles to over 2,000 people in six villages. We are grateful and cannot thank our donors enough for their generous support at our fundraisers and through online donations. Because our supporters trust us to do the right thing with their donations we are truly touched and humbled. We hope that our supporters will continue to trust Jai Lao and help with our mission of serving the good people of Laos, with continuing moral and monetary support.
Please help our cause by purchasing a 2010 Jai Lao Cuisine Calendar on our website www.jailao.org, by donating through Paypal or by mail. Calendar proceeds will help construct the two schools we have committed to build. Lastly, please save the date of June 12th, 2010 for our annual “One Night in Laos” charity dinner which will take place in the San Francisco Bay Area.
With warmest thanks for your support and involvement,