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.
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.
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:
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:
Until next time…