Rural Community Development In Laos
Nong Tae is 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.
Unfortunately, the Laos government has very limited funds for social programs. Therefore, outside funding would be necessary to complete this rural community development project. 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 development in an area I had previous experience with.
Urgent Need for New Primary School
The Nong Tae village desperately needed a new primary school. The previous school was constructed in 1945 and had fallen into severe disrepair. Although the villagers had tried their best to maintain it, this was not possible because of no outside support or funding.
There were many problems with the existing structure. The wooden structure had become infested with termites and it was unstable. Additionally, the rusty corrugated roof leaked when it rained. Furthermore, there was no sound barrier between classrooms and the wind caused the building to sway.
This would be an important rural community development project that would be very beneficial to the local community and also the surrounding area.
Joint Funding for Nong Tae, Laos School Project
The 383 children who attended school there would no longer have a school building if no outside assistance was provided. As a result, students from 2 villages would be effected. Although, I requested to fund the entire project, half of the funds had already been committed. So I decided to co-fund this rural community development project 50/50 with a corporation from Thailand.
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.
The Nong Tae villagers provided all the wood for the project and contractors were chosen from the Champasak area. In addition, payment for the work was made in 4 installments contingent on progress and work quality. Furthermore, 5% of final payment will be withheld for one year to guarantee work quality. Also, the government would provide the teacher’s salaries and teaching materials after completion of the rural community development project.
Project Completion and Opening Ceremony
Construction of the new primary school began in September 2013 and was completed in the spring of 2014. Therefore, the opening ceremony was held in September 2014. Fortunately, I would be able to personally attend the opening ceremony.
Baci Ceremony at School Opening
“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.”