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Lao children voice hope for 2020
Publication Date : 10-09-2013
Through drawings and role play, children from provinces meet to express their vision for their villages by the time they reach the age of 20.
Luxon Keodavonh from Khammuan province's Xebangfay district wants to be a soldier when he grows up. He will be 20 years old in 2020.
“My two siblings and I are living with my mother in Khammuan. Our father left us for reasons I don't know. But, when I become a soldier, I will earn a lot of money and will give it to my mother to support us,” he told Vientiane Times.
He was one of 12 children from 11 districts and five provinces picked by World Vision Lao PDR (WVL) to join the ‘Hearing the hopes of children for Laos in 2020' forum in Vientiane last Tuesday.
They were selected as children's council members to tell WVL about life in their communities and what they wanted to achieve by the time they were 20. The forum gave children the “space to inform the direction of our programming,” the WVL said.
Using crayons and coloured pencils, the children made drawings to express how they envisioned their villages in the year 2020.
“The school in my village is very old; I want it to be fixed. My village also needs a hospital to treat sick people,” Luxon said, showing his own picture to participants.
National Leading Committee for Rural Development and Poverty Eradication Foreign Relations Department senior official, Khamphay Vilayvong, attended the forum along with representatives from government and non-government organisations and agencies.
Children also presented photographs they had taken in their villages.
Twelve-year old Chansy showed a padlocked toilet in her school in Seanmeuang village in Champassak province's Soukhuman district.
“We cannot use it because there is no water and we cannot keep it clean,” she said.
Vongphachanh, 13, and from the same village, showed a picture of a water pump.
“It's very difficult for us to use this,” he said. “We need a sustainable water supply.”
Lattana from Pakbok village in Ngoy district, Luang Prabang province, showed a photo of farmers on their cabbage farm.
“In the past, we grew a few vegetables only for us to eat but now we are growing vegetables in a very big field to eat and sell as well,” she said.
Photos taken by Phengkham from Samyaek village in Phoukhoun district, Luang Prabang province, show a market in her village and farmers climbing a steep hill while carrying huge baskets of vegetables.
She said the stalls in the market didn't have strong roofs, the place was not clean and her family needed a vehicle to transport their goods.
One photograph by Khamla, from Vangxieng village in Phonthong district, Luang Prabang province, showed two men riding a bamboo raft along a river. One man is holding on to his motorbike, while the other is maneuvering the raft.
“We need a bridge so we can cross the river more easily and in safety,” he said.
The group dramatised scenes of two families to show how parents can violate their children's rights by not sending them to school or by depriving their daughters of an education.
WVL National Director, Amelia Merrick, said she had felt discouraged hearing children's stories last year and had realised World Vision was not working fast enough to help the children in its 24 target districts.
She said it was around then her friend Sombath Somphone, a well-regarded Lao community worker who has been reportedly missing since December, told her stories of change.
“He told me, ‘I have seen it different in Laos, Amelia',” she said.
“Mr Sombath said our greatest hope is listening to the youth and listening to the children. He said the children in Laos are very smart and they have great ideas and want to be a part of the change in Laos.
“Today I believe that it is true because I have been inspired that it can be different.”
More than 46,000 children are enrolled in WVL's child sponsorship programme, which is run in rural communities in five provinces Luang Prabang, Borikhamxay, Khammuan, Savannakhet and Champassak.
Unlike Luxon's dream of becoming a soldier, Seua, who led the group in singing, wants to become a policeman in the future.
“But, I can also be a singer,” he said, showing his teeth in a shy grin.
The small boy sang along with the other children in a song honouring soldiers who fought for the country's freedom, while Vongphachan, 13, played a wooden beat box like a true professional.
Lorie Ann Cascaro of MindaNews is one of the fellows of the FK Norway (Fredskorpset) exchange program in partnership with the Vietnam Forum of Environmental Journalists. She's currently in Laos and hosted by the Vientiane Times.