Laos Clay School Community Project
WE DID IT!!!
* Nearly 6000 bricks were made by villagers and volunteers * Over 100 volunteers – with groups or individually, lent a helping hand * Cost of the school came out to around $15,000 USD (about 35% less than a 3-room standard cement school) * 7 new families moved to the village during construction * One new teacher was assigned to the school by the Nambak Education Department *
As of 7 April 2012, the primary school of the village of Naluang in Nam Bak District of Luang Prabang was deemed completed!! Along with the villagers of Naluang, Tiger Trail Fair Trek organized a grand opening of the first clay school in Luang Prabang Province (maybe even in ALL of Laos)!
See the progressof the Lao school project…
The villagers worked hard preparing for the event. They made a structure to house the school sign, made minor repairs to the school so it would look pretty, created a covered area next to the school to house the event, cooked for 2 days, made many preparations for the baci ceremony, cleaned the village, borrowed tables and chairs from other schools, and PROUDLY invited surrounding villages. You could tell from their anticipation and hard work that they felt a sense of fulfillment and were so very happy that the school is finally completed.
Tiger Trail had the sign made, rented a sound system, arranged for media (television, radio, & newspaper) to record the event, and hauled in as many Tiger Trail staff and family members as we could fit in a Hyundai, a minivan, and one truck.
The night before the grand opening, it rained particularly hard and long, which made us all worried about how everyone was going to get into the village. As the way to Naluang requires passage through a narrow, dirt road alongside a cliff, we were not sure if the vehicles would make it in. Regardless, the ceremony of handing over the school to the village was going to happen rain or shine! In the end, some dedicated folks walked in while others were driven in by the only 4WD vehicle that we own.
The ceremony was emceed by one of the Nam Bak Education Office officials. Speeches were given by the Naluang village head, Tiger Trail’s own Markus Neuer and Mr. Khamchaen, and an official representing the Nam Bak school district. Gifts and awards were exchanged in representation of the gratefulness of each involved entity.
The baci ceremony was AMAZINGLY done! The pha kwan was beautifully decorated with flowers that were picked by the children from local fields. Around the base of the pha kwan were boiled sweet rice covered in sugar and fresh shredded coconut alongside fresh bananas. When the mohkwan (ex-monk) finished his chanting, everyone spread out to give well wishes to each other. At the end, our wrists were about 2 inches thick with blessing strings!!
Finally, the eating, drinking, and dancing started! This celebration is likely the biggest of its kind that the village has ever experienced. That is why they put so much heart and soul into making it successful. They wanted everyone to know that their village could pull together to make something great happen!
Thank you again for everyone involved!!! This includes Lao Project Group, a local organization that helped us fund and build the foundation and roof AND provided 6 groups of volunteers. Along with 2 groups, World Volunteer brought in funding for materials and labor, which ensured completion of the school. Incheon Center for International Cooperation and Exchange donated a lot of practical supplies to the village with their group of volunteers from South Korea. We also received generous donations from Friends of Lao and the German Lions Club International. Last, but NOT least, we (and the villagers) would like to thank Ms. Non of Earthen Adobe for her creativity and expertise on clay building.
Active participants in building the school… Pictured here is Ms. Non, the clay wizard, and three of our trusty guides (Bounhome, Kor, Bounsou):
Some group pictures of volunteers that we managed to capture during their time on the project:
Should you meander over to Luang Prabang, our Fair Trek Culture Lodge tour includes an overnight stay in this clay school village! Everyone is invited to come over and check it out! Pound on the walls to feel its stability. Breathe the cool fresh air of the room when you step in from a long journey in the sun! Although it resembles all other schools in Laos, you will know that it is something special the moment you step inside and smell the dirt walls!
If you would like to see more projects like this happening, contact us and let us know how you can help! In the future, we’d love to do more of these sustainable building projects. Alternatively, maybe the village of Naluang has taken something away from this experience and one day we’ll see some clay houses pop-up in the village!!