Butterfly Children's Development Center News

March 2020 Visit

posted Apr 1, 2020, 5:52 AM by Bryan Watt

The Butterfly Children’s Development Center offered visions, hopes, and dreams for the children’s future. They perfected their surgical skills at the center, then confidently demonstrated heart surgery to a team of visiting doctors and received accolades from one of the country’s top surgeons. Now the children are growing up, and two of them are continuing their education in health sciences at medical schools in Laos and China.

Although we left seven years ago and the center closed, we return every year to keep their dreams alive. This year, we continue our support by offering scholarships to seven young women with good grades and from poor families.

After we left Laos, the children finished primary school and began studying at secondary school. Some of them continued in school as far as they were able then dropped out. Now they sell snacks by the roadside, work alongside their fieldworker parents, or help sell things in Chinese owned shops. A few are married and have children, and sadly, some are already divorced. But fortunately, most of the students are doing well.

We bring hard-working students sets of school textbooks so they have study materials. Students whom we are most concerned about send us a picture of their class grade sheet every month. Many of their parents, most of whom have never been to school, don’t understand academic performance or its significance. They cannot encourage their children, recognize their potential, or communicate any hope or belief in their future. We encourage everyone to do their best, study a little harder, spend more time studying, ask more questions in class, and review their textbooks before lectures. Education gives them the best chance to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

We have already provided scholarships to three students who finished secondary school last year. One of them has always been a business person. As a child, she sold snacks to her neighbors at village festivals. Now she is studying business at a college in Vietnam. The second student is a pharmacy major at the medical school in Vientiane. The third student is studying Chinese in China for one year in preparation for medical school. We will continue to support these students until they complete their education.

This year we identified seven additional students for scholarships. They are completing their final year of secondary school and will graduate in June. We promised one of them a scholarship several years ago. Her parents prefer her to leave school and work to support the family, creating drama at the beginning of every school year. Her life has always been a struggle, so we provide encouragement by supporting her school expenses. She tells us that without our financial support, she would have been forced to drop out of school.

Immediately after we offered to help another scholarship student, she called her parents to ask for their permission. They told her it was her decision. Then, for the first time ever, looking upwards with a smile on her face, she thought about the possibility of continuing her studies.

Another student told us she would like to be a teacher. Her mother died when she was a young child, so she received permission to study from her father. However, her older brother says he will forbid her from leaving to continue her studies. She told us that if she doesn’t study now, she will regret it for the rest of her life.

One of the students informed us that people from her ethnic group never study beyond secondary school. We hope this student will be the first. She is considering law, medicine, or information technology.

One of the students comes from a family of five sisters living together in a tiny one-room house. Her father is a truck driver. She would like to study medicine, business, or agriculture.

Over the years, we have encouraged children’s dreams, and now we see that without further help, these dreams, hopes, and goals would remain unfulfilled. Continuing their education will help bring them nearer to the achievements they have dreamed about. These students already stand out from their peers by completing secondary school despite family issues and obligations, peer pressure, and uncertainties. Scholarships will provide opportunities otherwise impossible. Perhaps some of these students would find a way to continue their education without our support. However, for young women with younger brothers, there is a common belief in the villages that education is more important for boys, who are more likely to receive family support.

This year, we visited with several scholarship students who have graduated and begun their careers. One of them is employed by the government and currently studying for a master’s degree in China supported by the Lao government. Another one has a respected position in the provincial forestry department. One is employed in an insurance office, and another reporting and announcing for a radio station. One student in their last year of university is working as a receptionist in an upscale international hotel. A scholarship student who formerly volunteered at the children’s center is now teaching Lao language at a secondary school where they are one of the most favored teachers. We were not able to see one of our first scholarship student, who is a doctor in the local hospital, because he was attending a continuing medical education course in Thailand.

We are very proud of these students’ successes and watch them advancing and contributing to their communities. They validate our belief in the value of education and encourage us to support additional students. The Butterfly Children’s Development Center’s tagline continues to be, “Where dreams have wings.” We have contributed to their dreams, and now we must help them fly.

2019 Visit

posted Oct 20, 2019, 7:24 PM by Bryan K Watt

We had a wonderful visit to Vientiane and Muang Sing earlier this year to visit friends, neighbors, and colleagues. The Butterfly Children are now in their last years of secondary school or have already graduated. The deaf students and the blind student are now self-sufficient. We are currently supporting one secondary school student and four university students. We are very proud of all of them. We are continuing our relationship with Health Frontiers, and they help distribute funds directly to our scholarship students.

Visit to Muang Sing December 2016 through March 2017

posted Mar 30, 2017, 8:57 PM by Bryan Watt   [ updated May 22, 2017, 6:46 PM ]

We visited Muang Sing December 2016 through March 2017 and are happy to share this update with you.

The Butterfly Children are growing up and are now about half way through secondary school. The best students are continuing to do well and are still in school. We continue to help them with English and mathematics.

I discovered the Khan Academy Thai Language website with mathematics, chemistry, and physics videos and was able to download and save them to students' and teachers' computers. Even though the students do not speak the Thai Language, they can understand a little, especially solving math equations.

We also studied mathematics using the excellent www.ixl.com website. It includes the USA K-12 math curriculum. One student was selected by her teachers to represent her secondary school grade in a district mathematics competition. We practiced as much as possible and tried to cover material from previous years that was not well learned. Although she scored as the top girl for math in the district at her grade level, she came in fourth place. Three boys from better schools did better on the examination. Unfortunately, smaller schools in rural areas have fewer class hours because teachers have other commitments such as meetings. We are very proud of her. I recommend www.ixl.com for any students you might know.

We are celebrating the fact that our model for the Butterfly Children's Development Center proved to be sustainable, and the center continues in our absence. The teacher, with whom we worked and traveled to Poland for Brave Kids, was transferred to another school in a nearby village where he lives on the school grounds with other teachers. Her students and their parents appreciate her. On her birthday each student contributed $2.50 and prepared a meal for her, and we brought a birthday cake. After school and on weekends her students help her with her chores like doing dishes and sweeping, so she has more time to teach and play games with them. We continue to provide her with learning materials and supplies and help with learning activities.

Thank you to everyone who donated their old used laptop computers for the Butterfly Children's Development Center computer lab. The teacher is using the computer we gave her in 2013 when we left. At least two of the teachers at the school have computers, and the school has a desktop computer and a printer. The teachers generated Lao Language worksheets for the students and wanted to substitute the letter "x" as a placeholder in the Lao fonts. They had been asking their colleagues but had not found a solution. I contacted a Lao Font expert, Dr. John Durdin. After several iterations, he created a special purpose version Lao font for them. I hope that teachers throughout the country can utilize this font.

We gave the additional computers to children who served as computer lab assistants. Most of the computers are still working, and are typically used to play music videos. We added anti-trafficking information, Lao Language health materials from the Hesperian Foundation, and Khan Academy Thai Language videos to the hard disks on the computers. We also shared DVDs with these files.

The school building built with the generosity of the Brooks Institute of Photography and our friends is an asset to the primary school in our village. Enrollment at the school has increased through the years with over 300 students now. After school and on the weekends the school attracts children from the community who go there to play on the playing field and in the covered area. The school building is benefiting the children providing them with five good classrooms for learning.

Some of the Butterfly Children have already dropped out of school. Some are staying at home helping their families, some work in restaurants, and some work in the fields alongside their parents. Some were forced to leave school by their parents and family needs, and sometimes it was their choice. We help motivate secondary school students to stay in school by providing school uniforms and school textbooks, so the families will not have to find the money to buy these items.

All of our scholarship students are doing well in school, or have graduated and are now working. Our last university student who graduated is working at the local radio station and hopes to be transferred to a school as a teacher. The local economy appears to be thriving with lots of agricultural labor needed. Many new houses and businesses are being built. Two of our deaf student graduates are working in restaurants in the capital city where they went to school, and two of them are still in school. One of the deaf students stayed at home with learning difficulties that could not be accommodated for, and sadly another died at home from a fever during his school break. The blind student is now mainstreamed and living at the blind school. He is number one in his mainstream class. We doubt the blind and deaf students will return to their villages, choosing instead to live in Vientiane as part of their school community.

The emphasis during our visit is to encourage and motivate the students we know to stay in school and do well. We spent as much time as possible with the students. When we leave, we regret not visiting some of our friends in the surrounding villages, but we never regret spending as much time as possible helping the students.

Many girls believe that secondary school is a dead end. Even if they finish and graduate, there are no nearby colleges or universities and their families cannot afford to send them elsewhere. We promise them that if they are good students, we will help support their education past secondary school. We are currently aiding two female students. One is studying IT and English at the National University in Luang Prabang, and the other is studying tourism at a business college in Vientiane. Everyone knows we are helping them, so they know they can believe in our promises. Our third university student is studying forestry at the National University in Vientiane. He is of the Akha minority ethnic group and part of a small group of Akha university students.

One of the students we helped became the first Akha doctor in Laos and in Thailand. He told us he needs to do well because all the Akha people are watching him. After working at the district hospital, he is now continuing his studies in China with governmental support.

We have appreciated your support over the years. Even though we left Laos in 2013, we have been returning every year. Our primary objective now is to motivate girls to stay in school and to help the teacher who volunteered at the Butterfly Children's Development Center with her after-school work.

Our top expenses for the next 12 months will be to support our three university scholarship students, provide transportation for the deaf students, and purchase secondary school textbooks. These costs for the previous 12 months totaled $4000. We expect to be supporting additional university or college scholarships next year, and will not decline anyone we feel is deserving.

At the end of April, our Muang Sing Outreach Fund at Health Frontiers balance was $1986 USD. After scholarship expenses in September, the balance will be depleted. All of the funds go directly toward helping individuals. There are no administrative or overhead expenses. Health Frontiers is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered in Minnesota.

This month we spent $170 for transportation for an adult to bring the two deaf students home for the school holiday. One of their fathers does not speak Lao, and the other father died, so one of scholarship graduates accompanies them. We are grateful for his help.

If you choose to direct your support elsewhere, we urge you to support education and health for children. We can provide you with names of other organizations whom we have visited and seen their work.

We miss everyone in our village and are looking forward to visiting again later this year and making progress toward fulfilling our commitments and obligations.

Information on how to donate can be found here www.healthfrontiers.org on their donate page or on the donate page of our website. Please direct your donation to "Muang Sing Outreach."

Visit to Muang Sing January - March 2015

posted Mar 22, 2015, 1:23 AM by Bryan Watt

We had a wonderful visit to Muang Sing. It felt like coming home again. We visited the children who used to attend the Butterfly Children's Development Center and the teacher who helped us. We also went to nearby villages to follow up on former patients, and parents of our scholarship students who study in Luang Prabang and Vientiane. We also visited our former scholarship student who is now working in a government office and is helping to support his family. The Provincial Education Department presented us with a Governmental Congratulatory Certificate for the Butterfly Children's Development Center and building the school building. "Thank you for making school a fun place and for making children want to come to school."

The children were pleased to receive clothes and art supplies from WIG in Vientiane and school textbooks from us. Thank you also to WIG and the Bridge the Gap surgical team for helping the cleft lip baby from our village. We have another baby for you next year.

We promised we would return again next year.

Visit to Vientiane January 2015

posted Feb 4, 2015, 9:08 PM by Bryan Watt

We are back in Vientiane after being away for one year. We visited colleagues, friends, and of course our scholarship students. The young man graduated from deaf school. He married his long time girlfriend, another deaf student. They work together in the same restaurant. It's wonderful to see him so happy.

Our deaf scholarship student is now mainstreamed in a primary school. He lives at the blind school and walks there every day with two other boys. It's frightening to see them with the white canes walking along the busy roads in Vientiane.

The baby and little girl next door from where we lived in 2002 are now all grown up. They receive good support from their parents are both doing well in school.

December 27 1014

posted Dec 27, 2014, 2:01 PM by Bryan Watt

We promised the Butterfly Children we would return to see them in January 2015. They last saw us when we visited them in March of this year. We have our ticket to Laos leaving at the beginning to January and we can't wait to see them. We have a busy schedule in Laos, first helping a visiting team of surgeons with their patients, then visiting the children, then attending the pediatric conference. We think we will leave Laos sometime in the middle of March and head for Cambodia.

We will visit our scholarship students whom we promised we would continue to support. These include one university student, four deaf students, and one blind student. We are excited about seeing how they have progressed while we were away. The support for all of these students totals $2000 a year. Right now with this month's donations we have $947.28 in our fund. So we need about another $1000 to cover our expenses for next year at our present level of commitment. We would appreciate your help. Please click here to to our Donate page and make a big difference in their lives!

Return to Muang Sing

posted Mar 31, 2014, 1:13 AM by Bryan Watt

We returned to Muang Sing in February 2014 after being away for five months. It was a homecoming for us. The Butterfly Children are doing well. We had many visits together with their families.  The teacher who worked with us was transferred to a neighboring school so the Butterfly Children's Development Center has unfortunately closed. Some of the children visit her where she is staying at the new school and play games with her.

Almost all the computers we left in the village are working and being used. We updated them while we were there. One lucky girl received the computer that Leila's brother gave to them. They continue to use the computers to learn English and mathematics.

The mother of one of the first Butterfly Children whom we sent to the Don Khoi Children's Development Center in Vientiane for three weeks was very proud to tell us her daughter was studying in Japan. She is studying agriculture at a vocational school and was one of 22 agriculture students in Laos selected to learn agriculture in Japan for three weeks. We saw the babies of some of the other Butterfly Children who have already dropped out of school.

We also visited former patients to follow up on their care. Other former patients and their families saw us at the market or on the streets and stopped to say hello.

We saw three of the deaf scholarship students. Their school closed for the New Year so they had to return to their villages for two weeks. One of their fathers took on the responsibility of traveling with them to school. He is confident and makes all the arrangements. We continue to support their travel costs. Here is one of the deaf girls showing us how she can translate Lao language into sign language. We saw three of them off at the bus station on their way to school. The fourth student was waiting by the side of the road for them.

We look forward to visiting everyone again in 2015!

Return to Laos!

posted Jan 12, 2014, 3:00 AM by Bryan Watt

We have returned to Laos to follow up on our patients, scholarship students, friends, neighbors, and colleagues; and of course the Butterfly Children. We will be here for two months. Today in Vientiane we visited two scholarship students. One of them them who finished school and is now working. We are so happy that they are doing well and happy. Their pictures are on the two most recent posts just underneath this one.

Follow up on our former deaf scholarship student

posted Jan 12, 2014, 2:53 AM by Bryan Watt

We went to one of the most popular tourist restaurants to visit our former deaf scholarship student. He graduated from the deaf primary school in Vientiane three years ago and did not want to continue his education. He has been working at this restaurant for three years now and is a part of the deaf community in Vientiane. He is a good representative of the deaf community, and now there are three other deaf employees at the restaurant.

He told us he has a girlfriend in Luang Prabang whom he texts with everyday and that he occasionally speaks sign language with international visitors to the restaurant.

Follow up on our blind scholarship student

posted Jan 12, 2014, 2:34 AM by Bryan Watt

Today we visited our blind scholarship student who is now studying at the blind school in Vientiane. This is his third year there. When we asked him if he misses his village, he told us that he would like to visit there, but that he wants to play with the children in our village. He also told us he does not like to study easy things, only hard things. He will return to his village as usual in June for the school holiday.

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