Category 4 Flood (1-severe thru 5 being very small) so definitely not on a grand scale like the Philippines. Just to be clear.
As Save the Children’s Communication coordinator, this was my true test to see if I can create additional awareness for Save the Children in Laos across its members and donors. Luckily, I had some emergency training in July when I went to Cambodia. On Sept.1, a team of 5 (including me) set out on a 10 hour drive (2 days) in not the best conditions. Roads in rural areas here are not paved, consist of clay and stones. Plus, the driver had to constantly honk his horn so cars coming the opposite direction could slow down. I thought great a 10 hour drive, sweet I can relax, read or take a nap. No way!! The ride was so bumpy and I wanted to be awake if something happened. I warned our driver Khamla that as long as he does not run over any dogs or cats we will be okay.
Before I tell you about my findings, I want to remind everyone that during my 1st field trip back in August, I ate only chicken and fried rice. So this time I brought with me peanut butter, cookies, and gross granola bars that were inedible. Smart thinking, because for dinner all I ate were eggs and rice. Only one restaurant (if you can call it that) in town so you eat whatever is prepared that day. So my co-workers had turtle soup, intestines, pig liver, and pork. They were quite happy to flaunt it and attempt to gross me out.
So what was my responsibility during the assignment? I needed to complete two case studies for our donors explaining the situation and its impact on families and children. As always, I had two government officials with me along with a co-worker who acted as a translator. I won’t go into full detail on the case studies, but when you hear an 11 year old tell you that his parents leave him alone for 2-3 days at a time and no one cooks for him it breaks your heart. It was very difficult asking the parents what they are feeling after hearing their child say this. They have no choice, they make their livelihood as maize(corn) farmers and can not come home everyday during cultivation season. Sadly, this child was home alone during the flood. The child tried to swim (which is a NO!NO! during a flood)and got swept away. He/she managed to latch on to a papaya tree and survived. The house and all its belongings got swept away. So overall, the objective of the case study is to take the reader on an emotional journey, or at least get a sense on what is happening. We interviewed this family because they were one of the most vulnerable and marginalized families in the village. T
The rest of the team conducted an initial assessment to see what damages occurred, and who the beneficiaries are. Within the next two weeks the team will head back there for the handout of aid (money, and supplies).
On our last night there, government officials were so grateful for our help they invited all of us to play patong ( Bocce?) and they had a surprise for me!
On my behalf, they surprised me with serving only chicken, chicken soup, omelets, veggies, and rice. I was asked to sit in the middle, and received a toast on being able to work hard during the week, and have fun and let loose at night playing patong, and drinking soda (everyone else drank plenty of beer!). It was a very fun night, and I was glad to be apart of it.