This year’s project was based in Laos as opposed to Cambodia from previous years. We decided to repair the roof of an existing secondary school named Sithong Secondary School in Sithong, Vientiane. Sithong is the poorest area in the district of Vientiane. We were very fortunate to have collaborated with Aide et Actione, an international NGO with a base in Laos. AEA shared much of their expertise and manpower with us and hence facilitate a successful project which concluded with the 8-day service trip from September 6-13, involving 10 volunteers and 7 committee members (i.e. 17 people on the trip).
2. Fundraising: Repairing the Roof
For the 2013/2014 project, we opted for repairs to be done to an existing secondary school. AEA referred us to Sithong Secondary School, whose roof had substantial holes and therefore led to severe leakage. Students had to move around the classroom and squeeze into already cramped seats whenever it rained. A total of 8000 USD was raised for the roof of Sithong Secondary School. New steel plates replaced the old timber roof.
The teaching was conducted for around 90 students of ages ranging from 11 to 15 years old, comprising 2 classes. 3 full days of lesson time were given to CHOICE volunteers for English teaching. The volunteers were split into groups of 8 or 9 volunteers in order to plan and execute the teaching.
Different methods of teaching were employed such as singing songs, playing games and group teaching. The focus on small group teaching was particularly significant. Group sizes varied from 3 to 9 students. This allowed much more attention to be given to struggling students who may not be very engaged by “lecture-style” teaching.
At the end of each school day, volunteers would lead students into the playground for outdoor activities. These included “group games”, ball games and other sports like rope-jumping and football. This was a more relaxed part of the day where volunteers and students were able to bond outside the classroom environment – and many volunteers were defeated mercilessly and breathlessly in games that involved running due to the seemingly endless energy of the younger children.
There were 2 community visits planned: one to a student’s house, and one to a teacher’s house. Not only were volunteers able to better understand how Lao people lived, through question-and-answer sessions facilitated through AEA staff acting as translators, we were able to learn more about the daily routines, traditional practices, work of people living in Sangthong. The visits were informative and served as a basis for cultural exchange.
On one of the days, there were visits arranged to an AEA-run center specializing in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) so volunteers could get a feel of how younger children, and their parents, were educated and cared for. We were invited to play games with the children and bond with them.
3. Closing remarks
We are grateful to see the students in Sithong Secondary School were benefited by our visit. We heard from the school that this was a great opportunity for the students meet young foreigners who are energetic and encouraging. We served as role models to the students and showed them that learning English enables them to connect with the rest of the world. We also demonstrated to the teachers how students can be engaged by fun and interactive lessons.
CHOICE President 2013-2014