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Deak Kum Pa Orphanage School, Luang Prabang.

LAOS | Monday, 26 November 2012 | Views [3750]

Saturday 24th November 2012

We hire a couple of push-bikes from our hotel (Philaylack Villas), and cycle the 3 or 4km out of town to the Orphanage School.  We have arranged to meet Andrew Brown, an Australian, who has been helping and fund-raising for this orphanage for the past 5 years. There are 600 children here, aged between 6 to 18 (but some stay to the age of 21).  Although it is a government funded orphanage, the country is so poor, (1 of the top 20 poorest, in the world), that the funding only really covers the cost of the teaching staff, (school is run daily from 8am - 4pm with a 2 hour lunch-break) and rice!  Andrew has managed in the past 5 years to get sponsors to raise funds for the rest of the food needed -US$40,000, per year,  so the children here, now have a fairly balance diet. They grow their own vegetables, - when I say 'they', I do mean the kids, we saw kids as young as 6, picking veg for their lunch.  At weekends, the kids pretty much fend for themselves. They work in little groups together, building fires and cooking their own food. From what we can see, there is one big room, (difficult to call it a kitchen) where the sticky rice is cooked, then they add to it what they want. Empty tins of mackerel are seen everywhere, although, getting into them is interesting! - we saw one girl of about 14, trying to open one with a machete! Matt opened it for her, with his Swiss army knife.

This week, Andrew has a group of Australian school girls aged around 16-18 and a couple of doctors helping, for 10 days. The doctors have been coming for the last few years, and Evey year he gets students in to help. This week they were digging holes for new washing lines. The children all have to do their own washing, even the 6 year olds.

Andrew gives us a quick guided tour. While we are walking around, he asks one young girl how old she is, (she looks about 8,) she tells us that she is 10. Apparently, her father died, then her mother just left her, looking after her 5 year old sister and 18 month old brother!  Often in these circumstances, the villagers look after the family, but not is this case, so she they had been in the orphanage for the past year.  He then leaves us to wander around on our own, as he has to supervise the Ozzy help.

We wander around for an hour or so, then agree to go back the following day to help erect the washing lines.

The one thing we notice while we are wandering is that it's very peaceful considering there are 600 kids here.  Admittedly, some have gone into town, as it's the weekend, but even so(?). With no adult supervision, they play ball games, lounge around on their very uncomfortable looking wooden beds, some of the  girls are sewing and doing cross-stitch and we hear a guitar being played somewhere.  Some are doing their washing and showering (they don't have showers as we do, they have what is called a 'dip and pour' - jug's of  water (cold) that they pour over themselves) and some are gardening.  No-one needs to be told what to do, they just get on with it.  Can you imagine that in the UK? Children being left to their own devices, they would have the place burned to the ground, in no time!   The fact that they are Buddhist's, has a big influence on the atmosphere, they do not believe in aggression or arguments and they are all fairly shy.

We have an awful lot to think about that evening, as you can imagine, but we are looking forward to going there again.

Sunday 25th

I'm in fund-raising mode already! I have had a thought to make some Christmas and Birthday cards when we return, to sell for the orphans. So on our way to Deak Kum Pa, we stop at the stationary shop and buy some paper and coloured pencils.  We get the children to colour in the letters that spell 'Merry Christmas' and 'Happy Birthday', then get them to hold them up, (which was a challenge to get them all to stay still), then we take loads of photo's, thus, - the makings of our cards!

We get to work putting in the posts for the washing lines, a job that would take a couple of hours at home, takes us all day here.  The orphanage (and Andrew) have limited tools and what they do have, are pretty inadequate.  We have to wait for the local builder to bring some cement.  While we are waiting, I go and sit in the boys dorm, there are about 6 younger boys in there, some drawing and a couple playing a game on a small white-board with some stones.  I teach them how to play naughts and crosses, they pick it up really quickly.  There are some bright kids here. Andrew has set up some scholarship programs for kids to go to Uni, (if you know of anyone who would like to sponsor one, get in touch, I think he said it's about US$600 a year) and he has also got some young people on sponsored work programs, where they get support for 3 months, while they settled into a new home and job.

I watch kids gardening, washing clothes, lighting fires to cook their meals, climbing trees barefoot to hang their washing out to dry!! (which was pretty scary, as they were only about 7).  We were there for 7 hours, and I didn't see or hear one child cry.

The cement eventually arrives, so Matt gets to work with the help of some of the boys. They are a whiz with their machetes, seriously, it's amazing. They are fascinated watching Matt use a (very crappy) circular-saw, I don't think they have seen one before.  We do as much as we can, with the equipment we have.  Matt cuts some new seats for the swings that have broken too, so we didn't do to bad with our day, really. 

Andrew asks if we can come again the next day, but we really want to go to see another orphanage that he's trying to get involved with.  Its a lot, lot poorer than DKP, with their dorms virtually falling down and they only have rice to eat, most days.  Andrew has visited them in the past, when they were eating bamboo shoots, that had been boiled to a mush. The kids, unsurprisingly, wouldn't eat it!  He is having to be very careful not to upset or tread on anyone's toes though, but he feels a urgent need to get in there, to help them. They are using river water here, so he is desperate to get some water purifiers in there, like he has done at DKP, they cost $300 (I think).  There are 600+ kids here too.

We only have a 30 day visa and have already been here for 10 days, but we are still in the North of Laos, so we really need to get on the move again.  I really don't think that this will be the last time we will be here!

Unfortunately, Matt gets violently ill in the night, so our trip to the orphanage is postponed, we will have to book in for one more night, as we really feel the need to see the other orphanage.  We'll let you know how it goes.


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