There has been a flurry activity over recent weeks, albeit with smaller volunteer teams. Due to the coronavirus scare, most of our guests decided it was best to stay home this year, understandably.
With fewer people, we added a number of village visits to our itineraries. Due to the success of our water filter donation program we were able to fulfill requests to individual families as well, located in more distant and remote areas. These families are located in Ban Na, Houn District of Oudomxay Province, Pak Seng in Pak Seng District (LPB Province), Viengkham, Phouluang and Houay Thong, Ngoi District (LPB Province). We hope to get back to these villages at some point to do the entire villages.
Meanwhile, our team did a four day field trip starting with a very easy day of driving to Nong Khiaw and relaxing for the afternoon at Viewpoint Resort with a magnificent view of the village. Early the next morning however, we loaded into a boat and headed downstream to the Village of Lath An and distributed Water Filters to 55 families.
With a short Baci celebration offered as their sincere thanks, we headed to the next village of Done Khoun. Done Khoun has 39 Families with a mix of Khmu and Lao families. What is unique about this village is that they have an extensive waterfalls system located about an hour hike from the village. A small charge by the village (with tour guide) and the help of funds from Tiger Trails, they were able to build this shelter for guests and community events.
After another baci celebration, we were able to return to our guest house just in time for sunset.
It had been quite some time since our last visit through Lao Sao, in the mountainous region east and south of Nong Khiaw, and as expected, once off the main road, the dusty, bumpy ride up to the village took a lot longer than it had previously, due to deteriorated road conditions. It started off like any other normal day, but as we got closer, the clouds rolled in and about 15 minutes from our destination, the rains came. With a little slipping and sliding during the final 5 minutes on what was by then getting close to a washout, the truck persevered!
About 60 villagers were waiting inside and under the overhang of the small community centre that had seen better days. Yes, we got wet, but it stopped raining about 15 minutes later, yet left us with a bigger problem, which was where to prepare the filters. It is normally done outside but there was mud everywhere and taking pictures with muddy filters for our donors, was not an option. The filters were located in the chiefs house so the training was done in the community centre and the filters were prepared and distributed one at a time from the chiefs house. It was sheer pandemonium with so many Hmong families with their children trying to help and so little space to take pictures.
Again we made it back just in time for sunset, in preparation for a very long day coming up, with 5 villages on the agenda.
With an early morning start the next day, we arrived at a school who had been requesting water filters for over two years. Ban Xang has around 300 primary school students with a pretty good mix of Khmu, Lao and Hmong.
Next up was Thong Loum. This was one of our main water projects for the year whereby two dams were built because of the drought conditions causing very low river flow, plus a water tank, lots of pipe and taps. Despite being way over-budget, there was cause for a lot of celebration in the village. We had no idea they would go to this much effort for us and they even slaughtered a pig.
A video will be prepared, showing the progress from beginning to end and it will be shared.
Now the fun part!
The celebration continued with the senior students performing dance for us, plus lots of food and drink, as a small gesture of the heartfelt gratitude and of course more dancing by the rest of us. It was sad that our Ladner/Burnaby Rotary visitors couldn’t join in the celebrations with us. It sure wasn’t the same without them.
Our small group left shortly after the village dancing started, because we still had to somehow visit 3 more villages. Fortunately , the first one was just 20 minutes away.
On to Meung Xuen. We were already late as we were told that the school would shut down at 3:30pm instead of 4pm, so they had to wait for us as we drove another 20 minutes south, loaded up the boat with feminine pads, headed across the river and trekked them to the school.
Our last stop included a short 1km trek to Ban Na Lea (Ngoi District). We had delivered fencing to surround a school that we had built (school sponsored by the Rotary Club of Toronto Twilight). Fortunately it had cooled down a little so the trek was pretty nice and so peaceful.