Laos: Seeing Sponsorship’s impact firsthand in the Phoukhoun project

By Narelle Bird, Laos Child Sponsor

Part of the reason my husband, two daughters and I chose to holiday in Vietnam and Laos was the desire we had held that if we ever went to that region of the world we would love to meet our sponsored child who we have been communicating with for seven years.

Beck, a sponsor visit consultant in Australia, gave valuable insights into the culture of Laos and the nature of the people. She explained how our visit would be a quiet affair, without the exuberance displayed by people in other cultures. The Laotian people are quiet, polite, reserved and very sweet natured.

Our day began when we were being picked up by a World Vision staff member and taken on a four hour trip up into the mountains to meet our sponsored child and their family.

Our first stop in the morning was the World Vision office in Luang Prabang where they gave us a formal briefing on the expected behaviours of foreign visitors to the area and what some of the local customs were. The staff member who was with us for the day was the most genuine, friendly man we could have hoped for. He explained many things to us about his country and its people, as well as the workings of World Vision in Laos.

We arrived at the mountain community and found it to be very well organised, with workers proudly and diligently doing their jobs. We then drove a little further higher up to the small community where our sponsored child and his family live. We were led down the track, meeting some community members on the way, and saw a woman and a small boy standing and looking at us. I realised it was him and his mother. She was smiling and we spoke to each other - with translation help from the World Vision staff member. His cheeky younger sister was also with them.



We then went to the community meeting hall, built through support from World Vision, and met the elders and the Chief. We all sat together, asking questions and listening to the staff explain many things about the projects in the area.

We then spent time looking at the various facilities that World Vision had assisted with, such as a green tea drying shed and a school administration office. World Vision has initiated several projects to assist the Phoukoun community over the years.

It was gratifying to see the green tea project would give the community income by growing, drying and selling green tea - a new initiative that went beyond subsistence farming. They were hoping to tap into the tourism market with this product.

We saw foundations for a new administration building at the school, another project supported by World Vision that also provided on-going educational support for the children.

Some women were washing their winter quilts at the water tap in the middle of the community. I couldn’t help but admire the way they tackled such hard jobs, without the help of any machinery or power. We learnt so much that day about life for the Hmong people.

When we all went out to lunch to a restaurant even higher up the mountain, it felt like a rare and special, yet happy, occasion, and everyone enjoyed the meal immensely.

Our visit experience was something we will never forget. I hope that our two daughters have learnt from this life experience and that this will develop their understanding of the lives and cultures of different people around the world.

Our experience has also reassured us about the fantastic and caring work that World Vision accomplishes. They are committed to positively helping minority communities who are socially and economically disadvantaged. We now understand their processes much more and were so impressed by the World Vision people who worked in Laos.

Thank you World Vision for caring about our sponsored child and his family. We now know that they are being supported in a positive and respectful way to have a more positive life experience than they may have had without community support.