While I was finishing up breakfast Aunt Pik came by walk me to Houaylao Elementary School. The students were taking their first morning break at 9:00 AM when we were walking to the school. By the time we arrived they were back in their classroom and were busy with their lesson. I was glad to know the school is teaching AIDS to the fourth graders. The government of Laos is very supportive of NGOs with promoting AIDS awareness.
I informed the superintendent of the school about the purpose of the visit to check on the status of the book box library, donated by Nye Noona. I joined the fifth graders with their reading and story telling time and had a great time to be back in elementary school again. Later we all gathered outside under the shades to talk about the Book Box Library Project a few minutes before 10:00 AM (the second morning break). By this time Uncle Khao had shown up to take me to Phonsikhay Elementary School. I told the superintendent and the teachers of how I first knew about the Book Box Library from Peter Whittlesey, who is a librarian from California and through him Laoplanet.net sponsored the first Book Box Library. Since then we have sponsored 9 book boxes so far through the support of members and visitors of Laoplanet.net, which is now Laovoices.com.
I informed them about the various donors that have supported us all these years and how Vienne of Laocook.com was the one who came to Laos to ordered three book boxes for us. Then in 2007 I was fortunate enough to visit the National Library of Laos in person and ordered four book boxes with option to choose our own schools to donate the book box to (three schools in the south and one school in Vientiane). As for out 9th book box that was delivered to Houaylao Elementary School it was made possible entirely by Nye Noona. I told them while she is not rich, she has a kind heart and was able to fund the book box by making egg rolls and selling them to her co-workers. I then asked the superintendent his permission to visit the school again in November when I come back to Pakse with Nye Noona so she can visit the students and join them during their reading time.
The teachers told me about their lack of resources and how much they want their school to improve and to serve the community better. All of the teachers said they have opportunity to teach elsewhere but they love their village so much that they refused to leave and to do their best to educate the children. Right now what they need the most is electricity and even though the lines are only a few meters away, they can’t afford to pay for the installation. They said most families in the village are farmers and a few are brick makers but now the brick company is being forced to relocate due to the expansion of Pakse Airport. This means many people that can’t travel far for a job will have a hard time and that makes it even more difficult to collect the modest amount of student fee the school is collecting annually.
I asked how much it would cost to have electricity put in and the fourth grade teacher told me about $200.00 for the installation fee. I told them to go ahead and start on the paperwork and I will be by the next day to give the money. They were so happy and told me they would take care of the extra cost for the materials. I also told them about the additional $50.00 from Ai Amphone to buy some fans for the classrooms since they will need it in a few months.
Uncle Khao was rushing me because he wanted me to get to Phonsikhay Elementary School before their 11:00 AM break if I want to spend enough time with the students. I told him I will take whatever time I get since it is just the first visit and I will be back next month with Nye Noona and we can spend all day at the school if need to. I asked the fourth grade teacher if Houaylao Elementary School takes the same break as Phonsikhay Elementary School and she told me the younger children takes more break than the older ones. The students have their break at the start of each hour and then go home for a long break at noon. I told her how I have to wait for Aunt Pik to come home for lunch at noon since she is the fifth grade teacher there.
We were running out of time and I had no choice but to say goodbye to the teachers and the students and rushed off to Phonsikhay Elementary School.