We’re delighted to bring some good news from northern Laos.
The project to build a dormitory for a high school in Pak Xeng district has been completed. The dormitory provides much-needed accommodation for the students who stay at the school during the week.
This is the culmination of a project that started back in 2018, with over $40,000 in funds raised through various activities.
The dormitory will have a lasting impact on the students, who now have a comfortable environment to enjoy their studies.
Back in 2018, at one of the regular meetings we attend with our local communities, the accommodation situation of the high school students was raised.
At Discova, we have partnered with several different communities across Asia. These are effectively business arrangements by which we seek to instil profitable, sustainable enterprises in these locations and aim to empower the local community in the process. We bring travellers on educational trips to enjoy meaningful learning experiences as part of these relationships.
Part of the agreement is to work together to allocate a portion of the profits to contribute to infrastructure improvements, educational efforts, healthcare, or anything else the community may need.
Our Educational Travel team has consistently worked with community leaders to help fund various projects that mutually benefit the hosts and visiting parties. Over the years, we’re very proud to have taken part in upgrading and building multiple facilities, as well as providing free health check-ups and book donations for local kindergartens.
Through the regular process of meetings and consultations, it was agreed that the dormitory situation must be addressed.
It was made clear that the students faced several challenges.
The school is located in a rural, remote area of Laos, around a 4-hour drive from Luang Prabang. With almost 1,000 students, it is the largest school in Pak Xeng district. Many of the students here commute a considerable distance from the ethnic hill tribe villages in the surrounding mountains.
Since they travel a long distance, they reside at the school during the week. In 2018, their accommodation during term-time consisted of bamboo huts adjacent to the school itself. Between 6 and 9m², these small huts leaked during the rainy season and got extremely cold during the winter.
What’s more, 114 of these small huts were home to nearly 400 students.
Some huts were even known to have been invaded by the local wildlife during the holidays. The upkeep of the huts was the parents’ responsibility. Family budgets are often stretched even before considering the cost of repairs for schooltime accommodation.
These huts were overcrowded, uncomfortable, and unsafe, not to mention the notion that these were supposed to be inviting spaces for students to socialise and engage with their studies in the evening.
This is why, in conjunction with the villagers themselves, we decided to work on a solution. We came up with the project to build a dormitory to provide suitable accommodation for these students. A local NGO committed to building a dormitory for the school’s female students while we would help to plan a dormitory for the boys.
In November of 2018, we started building the dormitory – a structure that would cost more than $40,000 to build.
The decision to undertake such a project is always a complex process: blueprints need to be drawn, documentation filled out, local suppliers organised, and, of course, donations need to be raised.
Fortunately, we benefit from an incredibly dedicated team of individuals who work tirelessly for their causes. We can also rely on the goodwill of plenty of our partners to engage with us on our projects to support local communities.
However, there have been stumbling blocks along the way.
The school’s remote location proved a challenge – the limited water supply to the village was not enough to provide both water usage for the locals and for mixing the concrete!
Also, of course, with our educational travel projects, some of the financial aid comes through traveller contributions. With this income source unavailable during the pandemic, revenue streams were not readily available.
The pandemic also meant that workers were in short supply, with builders occasionally needing to quarantine. Other restrictions meant materials weren’t delivered on time.
Yet, to these issues, solutions were found.
Given all the obstacles to overcome, while the initial timeline aimed for a May 2021 completion, we’re still happy to come in a little later at the beginning of 2022.
The building is ready for students to move into – the school expects all students to return to school in the next two months.
The principal is thrilled that all the students now have spacious, modern, and comfortable accommodation for those who stay during the week. To be safe and secure is an essential building block for learning, something many of us take for granted.
Since the dormitory for the girls has also been completed, there are now no students having to reside in the ill-equipped small bamboo huts.
For Chi Ngo and the rest of the Discova Educational Travel team, it’s the end of a long but rewarding process.
“The fact that the process has not gone smoothly makes the final outcome all the more rewarding. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished here and know that the lives of the students will be considerably improved with their new dormitory.”
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way – we coordinated initially with partner schools to raise most of the funding and had to reach out to our international partners more generally to get over the line. We are, of course, extremely grateful to all those who were able to contribute.”
“Never standing still, we’re looking ahead, excited to decide on the next way we can help this community.”
To hear out more about the work of our Discova Educational Travel team, or find out how you can become more involved, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at [email protected].
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