The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Learning to dream

Children in Laos 'see' a better life

Some 230 children attend the school in Donkoi, Laos, a rural village of 2,500 outside the capital of Vientiane. The first- through fifth-graders—immaculate in their white and blue uniforms—sit quietly at shared desks in classrooms with “windows” that are just cutouts in the cement walls. They’re studying the basics—reading and arithmetic.

Concentration and flexibility both
Concentration and flexibility both are necessary as girls learn the intricate movements of traditional Lao dance during the after-school program in Donkoi, a rural village outside the capital of Vientiane. The program takes place in a center built with funds from Church World Service and much community cooperation.
But the school day doesn’t end with this. Planting trees, weaving, dancing, repairing chairs and tables, writing stories, even building a flush-toilet are part of an after-school program where youth learn to dream. And they learn that by working together they can achieve those dreams.

“Everything begins with a dream,” said Xuyen Dangers, a social worker with Church World Service in Laos who introduced these activities here in 1998 and, later, at three other schools.

The government requires schools to offer after-school programs, she said, but doesn’t provide funding. When the Donkoi village president asked Dangers if she could help, she stepped up with her own dream and CWS resources, which included a $30,000 grant from the ELCA Ministry Among People in Poverty funds.

Tending the school grounds and building in this rice-farming community where municipal funds are scarce was the original goal of the after-school hour. But a tidy courtyard was just the start.

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February issue


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