In rural Laos, a Food for Work program is helping families meet their food needs, while also uniting them on projects that will benefit entire communities for years to come.
Home to 6 million people, Laos is one the most disadvantaged nations in Southeast Asia. The majority of people live in rural villages, without access to basic facilities like clean water, healthcare, education and electricity.
Many families try to make a living from farming, but struggle to adequately feed their children. The land is rugged and the soil is littered with landmines and unexploded bombs left over from the Vietnam War.
In Khammouane Province, a Food for Work program funded by World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine is bringing local families together to work on community development initiatives. In return, each worker receives 6.5 kilograms of sticky rice per day for their family.
Roads and bridges constructed
Project participant Mr Bung says the project has given him hope for his children. In total, he has received 110 kilograms of sticky rice in exchange for working on road and bridge construction projects.
So far, in the district where Mr Bung and his family live, 4 bridges have been built, 11 kilometres of road have been constructed around 8 villages, and many rice fields have been expanded.
“The Food for Work program helps us develop our community with our own hands and build unity in the community as well,” Mr Bung explained.
It has also made a huge difference to his family’s food situation. Before, during the planting season, his children would become so weak from hunger that they often didn’t have the energy to go to school. As most families here rely on farming, they do not have money to buy food from the market when supplies run low.
Rice fields expanded
The Food for Work program is also helping families to expand their rice paddies so that they can produce enough rice to last all year round. As a result of this work, farmers such as Mr Kieng are now able to plant extra rice seed and they can now look forward to harvests of 900 kilograms or more.
Before, he struggled to produce just a small amount of rice that barely lasted his family until the following planting season. “My children were so hungry and it made me feel pain inside to see them that way,” Mr Kieng explained.
Now, Mr Kieng’s son Tar no longer misses out on school because of hunger. “I am so happy that I can go to school properly,” said Tar, who is in grade seven and wants to become a policeman when he finishes school. “My stomach is full and I can pay attention to my study.”
The entire community is involved in the program and there are plans to build new school buildings and hygienic toilets and to install water pumps in the coming months. Through contributions from the Australian public, World Vision can ensure that Food for Work programs continue to assist communities around the world to develop important infrastructure and access stable food supplies.