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Pictures from Laos: Beginn of the second project phase (February 2014)

Nongfa (15.02.2014)

This is one of our 13 new project villages. But it is only one part of the village because most of the people have moved to a new place along a bigger road. During our first visits the villagers told us that it is impossible to reach this part of their village by car but I guess they didn’t know yet what our Landcruiser is capable of. The people here live quite isolated, up to now they had a very poor access to education or health care. Even the Lao language is a major challenge for them. But they received us well and we are excited to see how they will respond to our activities and new ideas.

Lamong (15.02.2014)

This is „Lamong“, also one of our new project villages. As many other, also this village is situated in a very remote area. Many houses are still done completely by bamboo and often without using any nails. For our health survey in the beginning of the project we visited all participating families in their homes but here it was not possible to reach some of them by car. Therefore we had to walk on that day many kilometers while carrying all the equipment needed for the survey.

Buffaloes (15.02.2014)

Buffaloes are still one of the major saving methods for the Lao people that don’t live in bigger towns. At first glance these mighty animals appear to be pretty dangerous but in reality they seem to have a rather peaceful character. Even the small kids here aren’t afraid of them and thus they are often used as toy or playmate.

Lavae (15.02.2014)

This woman belongs to the ethnic group of the Lavae. The older generation used to pierce the earlobe of small girls in order to enlarge it step by step with pieces of wood. Today these huge earlobes can be only seen in elderly women.

Poor Family (15.02.2014)

In this house lives a family with 3 kids. Especially in the beginning of the project we visit all poor families in each village in order to see if and how we could help them. But sometimes it is difficult, like this family e.g. who doesn’t own any land because in the past they sold everything for food. Another organisation has ever given them some iron sheets for roofing their house but just a few weeks later they had also sold it in order to buy food. They are completely occupied with pure survival and therefore it’s very difficult to stop the vicious cycle of poverty. We have to see if we can find a way to help them in the long run…

Upland rice cultivation (15.02.2014)

In the mountain regions it is most of the time not possible to grow the normal wetland rice because it’s simply to dry. But there is another rice variety, the dry or upland rice, which grows like other cereals with not too much water. But in order to cultivate this rice, the villagers need to slash and burn every year huge amounts of forest because the rice can be grown only once in one area. After that the land needs to rest for 3-5 years. For the local people this means a lot of work and for the nature it is really bad but rice is the main food of the Lao people and this is difficult to change.

Bridge (15.02.2014)

This bridge we need to pass when we want to go in one of our project villages. The only alternative during the rainy season is the mud puddle that you can see on the next picture. When we went there for the first time I hesitated long time to take the decision. But the mud puddle was for sure impossible to pass therefore we finally took the bridge.

Mud puddle (15.02.2014)

I let all people go out of the car and passed the bridge alone with the empty car. Once again everything went well. By now the road is already dry and we can pass in the river under the bridge but this will last only until the next rainy season then we will have to think and decide again!

Rice (15.02.2014)

This is a rice plant. Everyone that doesn’t have any irrigation system here (like most of the population), can grow rice only once a year in the rainy season. During that time he needs to harvest so much that it can cover the needs of his family for the whole year. But unfortunately only few families manage to achieve this. If the rice is not enough they need to sell animals in order to buy rice in town and families that don’t have animals very often just live from what they can find in the forest. A flooding as 2013 and 2009 has therefore often catastrophic consequences, especially for poor families.

Open well (15.02.2014)

The underground water level in this village is very close to the surface. Some of the families used this for building their own open wells. They dug10-15 meter deep by hand! This is really dangerous. If the land slides down while someone is digging the chance of survival is not very good. But afterwards it is a luxury to have access to water directly at home.

Mobile clinic (15.02.2014)

As soon as the villagers learn that we come with drugs and a doctor, lots of patients come to see us every time we go to the villages. Very often the hospital is far away and it is expensive to get treatment there while we take only the real costs for the drugs and nothing for the consultation.

Handicapped child (15.02.2014)

This young boy is physically handicapped and cannot walk. The whole day he sits in front of his family’s house and watches everything. His father asked us for a wheelchair but we don’t know yet where to find one and we are also not sure if it would really help the boy on this rough and stony paths. Altogether we see rather few handicapped people in the villages. Probably most of them just don’t survive the childhood.

Shoe game (15.02.2014)

This is a poplar game among children: one shoe (mostly flip-flops) is thrown as far as possible. Then all children try to hit it with their own shoes. The one who is closest gains a point. The meaning of shoes is maybe missed with this game but at least the kids have a lot of fun!

Stool analysis (15.02.2014)

The next step after the needs assessment is the health survey in all project villages. We do this in order to gain an impression of common health problems and also to allow a comparison of the health status in the target population before and after the project activities. Part of the survey is always the microscopy of stool samples. We do this directly in the village because the distances are too far to bring the samples to the laboratory in Attapeu.

Stool analysis 2 (15.02.2014)

This is one of the stool samples taken through a microscope. The round and oval structures are eggs if intestinal parasites. This patient is infected with 2 different worms. In most of our villages people have a very high worm burden which can cause different health problems like anemia and malnutrition.

Attapeu (15.02.2014)

One weekend we did a small trip to a mountain next to Attapeu town. It was not so easy to climb up the big stones and afterwards I had muscle ache for a whole week. But the view up there is beautiful. In the background you can see Attapeu nearly completely enclosed by the Sekong river.

Boatfestival (15.02.2014)

Every year in November the big boat festival takes place. One weekend rowing competitions are held all over the country. Here in Attapeu it is one of the biggest happenings in the year. A big market is built up next to the Sekong river and on the second evening people put these small candles and flowers on the water. It looks beautiful when the whole river is covered with small lights.

Petanque (15.02.2014)

In May last year I had to move to a new house. The landlord of my former house wanted to increase the rent to 300 USD which I found too expensive. The new house is very nice but in the beginning I had to work a lot because it was very, very dirty. In front of the house I made a place to play „petanque“ a game that is very popular here in Laos. Now we play frequently with the team during the weekends. It’s always a good time to relax and enjoy together.

Groupdiscussions  (15.02.2014)

At the beginning of the project we did an analysis of the strengths and needs in each new project village. Part of this primary assessment is always group discussions with different participants from the village. This one is the women group in one village. In this activity we learn a lot about the life of the people and the problems in each village.