Into The Project: LaosLaos
Laos looks beautiful from the outset. A country with a continuous flow of backpackers passing through, sturdy buildings placed together to create a bustling town, backed up by mountainous scenery. Night markets with wonderful handmade gifts, endless restaurants with a huge variety of meals and plenty of nice places to stay.
But behind all of this, 80% of the population live in devastating poverty.
To define the type of poverty, we just need to introduce you to Kelii*, a man living far into the rural villages, blinded as an adult and looking after his family. But his wife is blind too, and his daughter also has only one working eye since a piece of bamboo she was working with went into the other one and damaged it. And they are looking after her child while her husband works in the rice fields doing back-breaking work in the unbearable heat. They live in a grass hut, with no amenities in sight; no electricity or running water, and a severe shortage of food.
This is the true Laos. These are the people who need support in their situations. For someone to come alongside them. And yet despite their situation, they still insist on sharing their homes and food with us in a gesture of generosity which would shame most of the Western world. They give the little they have without question. And they help one another with selflessness and care, whether they know them or not.
Kelii wasn’t the only person we met who lives in these conditions. This is repeated across Laos; family after family, community after community, because they just don’t have the education or opportunities to improve their situation. It feels unjust; why should they live like this when we have everything we could possibly need? Why does Kelii get one large bag of rice to keep his family going for a month, whilst we can go to five different shops on our doorstep, all with 20 different types of rice, able to buy enough for months in advance?
The answer to these questions are not going to help Kelii and his family. ‘What’ should be our focus. What are the ways we can work with them to break the cycle of poverty? What skills do they need to improve their current situation? What are items we can provide them with to make life easier? What tools can we provide for them to develop their current expertise?
That’s how this wonderful programme in Laos has been built; what is the need and how can we serve them? Families needed income skills, so we supported the development of fish and mushroom farm training. Children in villages had no access to education, so we provided school fees and resources.
Young girls wanted a way to leave their villages in the mountains for better prospects, so we set up a training programme for 3 months of sewing skills. Mountain villages had a low rice harvest and families would go hungry, so we worked with them to start a pig farming programme to provide skills and food. Children in schools have one piece of uniform each, so we buy and give out extras.
These examples are just the surface of the work taking place here, and it’s all thanks to the donations of our supporters, the direction of our project partner, and the work of the team in Laos, guided and held in the hand of a loving Father God who cherishes each and every person.
- Rachel Faulkner
*name has been changed