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."

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