Visiting a sponsored child in Laos

Stanislas is one of our overseas volunteers in Laos, he went to meet Nam Oï, a young woman from Laos, sponsored through Children of the Mekong. 

From left to right: Namthan, Nam Oï, her mother, La Ou

“My name is Stanislas and I am in charge of the coordination of the Vientiane and Paksane programmes. 

A few days ago, Viengxay the local manager who oversees one of the sponsorship programmes in Vientiane called me, asking if I wanted to join her to visit Nam Oï, one of the sponsored children. We went to her house by car, as she lives in the north of Vientiane, in the Dongdok neighbourhood, which is slightly remote from the city. The city of Vientiane is separated into districts, which can be considered as independent villages. It takes around half an hour to get to her house, from the centre of Vientiane. 

Nam Oï and her family at her mother’s stall

She welcomed us, together with her mother, her younger sister and her little brother. Their house is a very simple cement building, there is no ceiling in between the roof and the rooms, during the rainy season, water seeps into the house easily.

Nam Oï’s mother got divorced a few years ago, since then, she has been raising her 3 children alone. This year Nam Oï is in M6, the equivalent of Year 12 in the UK. She is a great student and does well in class. She would like to go on to university to study foreign languages, as soon as she passes her A-levels. At the moment, she only has 2 hours of English each week, and the level is very poor in most classrooms in Laos. Nam Oï wishes to study more and to improve her English to become a language teacher. 

Nam Oï’s high school is located one kilometre away from her house, every morning and every evening, her mother takes her three children to school. They only have a moped to get around, and while when her children were smaller, Nam Oï’s mother was able to bring them all at once, now that there are grown, she needs to go back and forth several times. 

Amusing picture of Nam Oi’s tee-shirt: it isn’t unusual to see tees with English writing in Laos.

For her 3 children, Nam Oï’s mother pays 1,260,000 Laotian kip in school fees, which amounts to around £115 each year. But there is also the uniform to pay for, as well as school supplies and transportation fees. To be able to send her children to school, their mother had to borrow money. Even today, she has debts.

To support her family, Nam Oï’s mother sells fruits and grilled meat. She sets up her stall in front of her house, for cars or neighbours passing by. The value of her stall is usually around 500,000 Laotian kip, or £45. On a good day, she can make a little bit of money, but she sometimes has to sell her products at a loss, as prices are very unstable in Laos. Every day, when they come back from school, her children help their mother sell produce in front of their house. 

When Nam Oï has a little bit of free time, she enjoys playing Badminton or Volleyball with her school friends and tries to play each sport every week. 

Although the family struggles financially and is great need of help, Nam Oï’s mother knows it is very important for her children to go to school. She knows it is the only way for them to get out of poverty. Viengxay, the local manager in Vientiane, often reminds Nam Oï that it is important she keeps her will and motivation to pursue her studies. 

The support from Nam Oï’s sponsor is undeniably necessary to the success of her studies.”

Stanislas, Overseas volunteer in Laos.