My parents and I are leaders for this trip to Laos where we are building a school and playground for some needy children. I have been organizing the details through emails with their local Catholic Relief Service (CRS) personnel for months. My mom and I arrived here three days before the rest of the team so that we can have an in-person meeting with the village school personnel, buy the building materials, and meet with the CRS reps.
The school we will be constructing is located in a small village about one hour’s drive outside of Vientiane, the capital city where we are staying. My mom and I were driven there yesterday morning, along with three CRS officials and a government guard official. When we arrived, we were greeted by the school’s principal, superintendent, PTA president, construction supervisor, and some teachers. The students are on a winter break and were not around. One of the CRS reps is very fluent in English, and she served as our translator.
The meeting was different than those I attend for my day job. Instead of stiff business men sitting around a long table drinking black coffee, we met with men casually dressed and sipping coconut milk through straws. It was so relaxed and calm.
Instead of having a business meeting with coffee, we all sipped coconut milk served in plastic bags.
We learned during the meeting that although this build has been in the works for almost a year, they did not have a plan on how to build the school. Yes, there are some cement support poles in the ground, and yes, we were sent a hand-written estimate of expensives, but there was no plan. If we had time they also said they would like if we helped to re-enforce an old rice shack that is now a classroom for the 4th grade and to build a playground.
Front of the old rice shack now the 4th grade classroom.
Back of the classroom. I am checking out the support under the building.
After we met for about an hour, we asked to see the blue-prints, and this is when we received the news. They told us to walk around for a while, and they would make a plan. We thought it was amazing that they could draw up plans for a school for 119 students in 60 minutes.
This is the start of a school, which was started over a year ago.
So, we took a walk on the school yard and looked at some of the decrepit buildings they have been using as classrooms and realized how badly they really need our help. At the end of the hour, we returned to the meeting, and guess what! Yep, There was a plan.
We will start building on Monday morning. There is a lot of work to do, but we are ready!!!