My First Field Visit: An Experience to Remember

After 7 weeks sitting at a desk, I was finally asked to spend 5 days in the northern part of Laos, working in the rural villages of Hongsa reporting on the successes and challenges Save the Children is having with Child Protection and Child Rights.

Sayaboury Province, Hongsa village
Sayaboury Province, Hongsa village

Over the last 5 days, I had the opportunity on talking and interviewing local villagers (parents, youth volunteers, and children) about the progress Save the Children and the government are making when it comes to giving children a voice, protecting them from neglect, and abuse. The program was implemented about one year ago, and the objective was for me to gather enough information to produce six case studies they can use to report back to donors and request more funding. At times, it was really sad to hear children (6-11 yr. olds)say that their parents used to slap them, or leave them home alone for 2-3 days when it was rice cultivating season. Now, their parents understand about child protection, and they should not hit them nor leave them home alone. Just a brief synopsis, Save the Children in partnership with the government established Child Protection Member Networks (CPN) within several villages as a pilot program. The CPN members get together monthly with their community, parents, teachers etc… and spread the word about child rights, and child protection. To date, it has been very successful, children are saying their parents are taking better care of them, they are not being beaten up, and they are happy. One 11-year-old girl told me “Save the Children is here to protect us, and they help me have a better life” So these 5 days overall professionally made me feel very grateful for the once in a lifetime opportunity GSK has given me and to help make a difference in someone’s life. The case studies I will write will be used to give to donors and other members an update on the progress with the hope that we can secure additional funding to spread the program into other areas.

Primary School in Hongsa District
Primary School in Hongsa District

The villagers and children I met, were all very welcoming and most children have never seen a Western face before, so it was like I was a celebrity. I met some very high-ranking village officials from the Head Chief of village, Head of Social Welfare, Head of Education, etc.. They wanted a group photo so here it is:

018

Spending 5 days in the rural villages was way out of my comfort zone!
Accommodations to say the least were very basic, but safe. Cleanliness on the other hand is another story. Has this ever happened to you, when you are on a hotel bed (guest house) and you sleep like a robot? I did not move my head or body. I just laid there without moving! Luckily, it was bug free! There was only one restaurant (if you can call it one) in town. With a very limited menu: Rice, pork, eggs, and beer, cola. I don’t eat pork, so for 5 days, I had fried rice, or plain steamed rice with an oily fried egg. Next time, I will bring bread, and cookies to eat. I don’t think I lost any weight, because this weekend I splurged and ate very well! As in all my posts… I always leave something to share with all of you. My husband flew from New York to spend the weekend with me (he has a meeting in Tokyo) so next week will be our 18th wedding anniversary. The hotel we stayed in over the weekend surprised us with:

137

Until next time…

9 comments

  1. Wow, that must have been great to not only see Mike but to experience a little luxury at the same time. Your reporting has been informative and so happy for you that you seem to be having a great time!

  2. Well you certainly are not letting grass grow under your feet.

    What next on the agenda of this adventurous sojourn?…working the rice paddy fields?..Happy Anniversary to you and Mike. Did you get married at 14?

    Love reading your blog and living vicariously thru you. Continue to have fun, to grow spiritually and to open your heart.

    Miss you…Michele

  3. Hi Sharona,
    Had to be difficult to hear from the children on how they had been treated prior to Save the Children and the government stepping in as a voice for these children.
    I talked to your Mom and Zach yesterday when they were walking the dogs. Your mom had my girlfriend Olivia who was a bit quiet but, looked great. She is such a character. She told me as Mike did b4 he left that he was on his way to see you. So Happy Anniversary a few days late to you and Mike.
    Tao also wanted me to tell you she said Hello.
    Keep enjoying your time there.
    Denise

  4. Hi Sharona! What an incredible experience!! I’ve also had a chance to go out into the field to interview a school principal’s experience in partnering with Save the Children so writing the case study as we speak. Would love to see the case studies you come up with! Glad you had a chance to go out into the field! Happy Anniversary!! What a special way to spend a special day… 🙂

  5. Wow 5 days on rice! I am sure that you took a lot of pictures of the village and where you statyed. I love seiing and learning about other cultures and the environments that they live in. It makes us realize how fortunate we really are. The picture of the hotel bed put tears inmy eyes….so Sweet of Mike! Congratulations!

  6. What an unbelievable 5 days you experienced out in the field with the children .Bet you won’t be eating much rice after this! Happy Anniversary to you and Mike I can’t believe it’s already been 18 years!!! Where has the time gone? Looking forward to seeing you in October!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s