The Lao PDR is a developing country bordered by Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and China. It is known for its Theravada Buddhist temples and monasteries but not all of the many ethnic groups that make up the Lao PDR are Buddhist. Groups such as the Hmong adhere to Animism and have their own unique culture and traditions. Common to all Lao people is a friendly, laid back attitude and a welcoming smile.
Parents in the Lao PDR make great sacrifices to help their children receive an education. The children in turn work hard to help their entire family escape extreme poverty by studying and learning English. But they often need help to make the dream of an education a reality.
While the Pika Foundation's activities are primarily focused on education efforts in Bhutan, a project in Lao PDR naturally grew from visits to the area and volunteer work at monasteries and schools in Luang Prabang. The foundation's activities in Lao PDR focus on supporting English language learning and assisting with access to higher education. Read the profiles below to learn about the challenges facing these children and the lengths that they and their parents will go to to try to improve their lives. Also described below are our latest projects.
Vong is 21 years old and from a remote Hmong village in Northern Lao. His parents are subsistence farmers and they sold what little livestock they had to get the money to send Vong to Luang Prabang to attend secondary school. While attending secondary school he slept on the floor of his brother's auto garage business with his brother, sister-in-law, and baby nephew. He is now in his third year of studies at Souphanouvong University in Luang Prabang in the competitive IT program. He attends English classes every evening and has started teaching free English classes to children from the countryside who cannot afford lessons. Vong works very hard and he believes in giving back to his community. While he enjoys his annual trip to his village, he does not want to return there, citing the lack of electricity and running water, among other hardships. His parents, now in their 60s, are finding it difficult to continue living and working on the farm. We are working with Vong to find a way to move them into town.
Da is a 22-year old from a small village in the North. His parents have eight children and could not afford to raise him so he was sent to live with his grandparents as soon as he was born. At the age of 12 he was sent to the local temple to become a novice and he later transferred to a temple in Luang Prabang. After eight years as a novice, he left the temple to go to university. He is now in his final year of architecture studies at Souphanouvong University. He is particularly interested in modern architecture and would like to visit Malaysia if he has the opportunity to travel. While he is still learning how to deal with money, he has otherwise adjusted quite well to living as a layman.
Dormitory: In 2018 we started an ambitious project to build a dormitory to provide subsidized housing for up to 40 young people moving from remote Hmong villages to Luang Prabang. Moving to town gives them education and work opportunities that are non-existent in the countryside. The purchasing of the land and the construction of the dorm was overseen by our student, Vong, who did an outstanding job. He will also oversee the dorm's operation. It was completed in March 2019 and we look forward to welcoming new arrivals for many years to come.
English Language School: We are actively planning to build a small school just across the Mekong River from Luang Prabang to provide free English lessons to students coming from the countryside. As part of this effort, we will also be organizing girls-only lessons as it is very difficult to convince girls to participate in mixed-classes.