Nong Tae is a rural village located between Pakse and Champasak in southern Laos. The village population is 2,653 and the residents support themselves with subsistence farming and casual work in the service sector. Therefore, rural community development in Laos is very dependent on outside funding sources. Additionally, the Laos government has very limited resources. As a result, the new Nong Tae primary school could only rely on foreign funding.
I became aware of the project through an NGO operating out of Thailand and I decided to provide funding assistance. Additionally, I had traveled extensively through Champasak Province and I was excited to contribute to new community development in the area which I had previous experience with. This was the first of two projects in Champasak Province for which I was a primary contributor.
Urgent Need for Community Development Projects in Laos
The Nong Tae village desperately needed a new primary school. The previous school was constructed in 1945 and had fallen into severe disrepair. Indeed, the Nong Tae villagers had tried their best to maintain it. However, this was not possible because of no outside support or funding.
There were many problems with the existing wooden structure because it was very old and it had also become infested with termites. As a result, the support beams were unstable and the building would sway when the wind blew. Additionally, the rusty corrugated roof leaked when it rained. Furthermore, there was no sound barrier between classrooms which created learning distractions.
Th e Nong Tae project would provide much needed rural community development in Laos. As a result, the new primary school would be very beneficial to the local Nong Tae community and also the surrounding area.
Joint Funding for Nong Tae, Laos Primary School
The 383 children from two villages who attended school there would no longer have a school building if no outside assistance was provided. Fortunately, a corporate donor from Thailand had already committed half of the funds necessary for the project. As a result, it was only necessary for me to provide the other half of the funds to build the new school.
Nong Tae School Project Outline
The new rural community development project would consist of 2 school buildings, 8 classrooms and 4 toilets. Imperatively, community involvement in the project encourages a sense of project ownership and inclusion.
Therefore, Nong Tae villagers would provide project support that was within their means. As a result, the Champasak area would be the source of wood for the project. Additionally, the contractors were local businesses. Furthermore, payment for the work was made in 4 installments contingent on progress and work quality. Also, the government would provide the teacher’s salaries and teaching materials after completion of the Nong Tae community development in Laos.
Community Development in Laos Opening Ceremony
The Nong Tae primary school project was initiated in September 2013 and construction was completed in the spring of 2014. However, the monsoon season delayed the opening ceremony until September 2014. Fortunately, I would be able to personally attend the opening ceremony.
Baci Ceremony at School Opening
The two donors for the new primary school were both in attendance for the opening ceremony and also the special ritual that the Lao villagers performed on our behalf.
“Baci (also spelt basi) is specific ceremony in Laos which has been practiced for hundreds of years. The term commonly used is “sou khuan” which means “spirit enhancing or spirit calling”. The ceremony involves the tying of white cotton strings around person’s wrists and the prayer saying or well wishing for the person that the baci ceremony is intended for.”