During the October half term, ten students from Years 9-13, accompanied by Ms Delaney and Mr Fleming, travelled to a village in northern Laos for a charity service expedition to help build an eco-bungalow in conjunction with the organisation World-Volunteer. The students had worked hard in the weeks leading up to the trip, organising fundraising events such as ‘Sponge the Teacher’ and a cinema night for the Prep School, so they were eager and excited to see exactly where the money they had raised would be put to use.
The eco-bungalow is located in the hill village of Ban Nong Kwai, a one hour drive and three hour trek (uphill all the way!) from Luang Prabang. The building of the eco-bungalow allows the villagers to obtain a new source of income by hosting tourists. The money collected through the renting of the bungalow goes to a village fund which is then used to improve the village infrastructure, and the villagers’ overall living conditions, as there are on going difficulties with health, education and water access.
Sixty-seven families live together in Ban Nong Kwai, comprised of the minority groups of the Khamu and Hmong people. The village itself is remote and picteresque. Set in a valley of a lush green jungle near a beautiful lake, it was a privilege to wake up each morning in such a setting. In pairs, the students lived with a different family from the village, sleeping and eating in the families Khamu or Hmong style home. The food was basic but incredibly fresh and tasty, and meal times soon became the highlight of each day, especially after a hard morning or afternoon of building. The students also quickly became appreciative of the hard work that goes into producing meals cooking on an open fire. Eating together with the villagers allowed the students to get to know their host families better, using the Laos phrases they had learnt before leaving Hong Kong, but mainly through the universal language of smiling and laughter!
The students threw themselves enthusiastically into the building of the bungalow, using everything from machetes to paint brushes. One of the most sought after jobs was to make the adobe clay bricks for the walls of the bungalow with the local materials of clay, rice tusk and water. Once mixed together with the student’s feet, the mixture was poured into a mould and left to bake in the sun. Such a process left the students happy but very muddy, so it was then straight to the stream or one of the three stand-up taps in the village to shower before heading back to their family homes.
In the days after leaving the village, the students hiked to the beautiful Kuang Si waterfall, took a relaxing boat trip on the giant Mekong River, explored different temples and museums, as well as enjoying the local food and night markets.
It was a truly wonderful and valuable experience and the students were fulfilled to know that they made a lasting and positive difference to the lives of others in Northern Laos. The students, Ms Delaney and Mr Fleming would like to express their greatest thanks to Jesper, Paul and David of World-Volunteer for all their efforts, expertise and enthusiasm.